LOBBYING:

Chamber ads target energy permitting, 'green tape'

You've heard of the NIMBYs, but their next-door neighbors, the BANANAs, are the new bane of the business community.

Government "green" tape and lawsuits by environmentalists are blocking everything from new coal power plants to offshore wind farms, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce charges on its new "Project No Project" Web site.

In the coming weeks, the nation's largest business group will rally its 3 million members to put pressure on Congress to streamline permitting for energy projects, officials said today.

"It's not just the 'Not in My Backyard' people anymore; people have gone BANANAs -- Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything," said Janet Kavinoky, the chamber's director of transportation and infrastructure. "If the answer is always 'no,' then we're not going to do what we need to do with our infrastructure and make sure we can keep moving our economy."

Next week, the chamber plans to run a newspaper advertisement, charging that the NIMBYs, BANANAs, NOPEs and CAVEs on the block cannot be left to set the nation's energy agenda. For the record, the chamber defines the NOPEs as "Not on the Planet" and the CAVEs as "Citizens Against Virtually Everything."

Project No Project features a state-by-state list of 112 energy projects that the chamber charges have been delayed or stopped during the past few years. The business group defines 62 of the projects as renewable energy, 18 as natural gas, 15 as transmission lines and 17 as nuclear power plants.

Chamber officials soon plan to add 170 coal power plants to the list. It will eventually include a backlog of general infrastructure projects and forests that are off-limits to logging, noted Bill Kovacs, the chamber's vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs.

"We need as much as much energy as we can get anywhere," Kovacs said. "If you really look, you find a concerted attempt across the United States to limit the use of green energy just as you would for other types of energy -- and it's a very well-funded movement, very sophisticated."

Kovacs did not name any NIMBYs or BANANAs, but he said they have an arsenal of weapons to scuttle energy projects.

"They use lawsuits; they challenge the permits; they fight over the aesthetics," Kovacs said. "They virtually will do anything to delay a project until the financing drags out."

The chamber wants to blunt the attack by getting Congress to pass legislation that would "fast-track" permits for new energy projects, Kovacs said.

"We want regulatory certainty," he explained. "We want some time limit in which the environmental compliance has to be achieved or it has to be killed."

This is not the first push by the Washington-based business group to streamline energy permitting processes.

Last fall, the chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy sent President-elect Obama and Congress a list of 88 policy recommendations. The "Securing America's Future" transition plan called on policymakers to expand domestic oil, gas, coal, nuclear and renewable energy production, as well as reduce "overly burdensome" regulations and opportunities for "frivolous" litigation (E&ENews PM, Nov. 17, 2008).

Some environmentalists take umbrage to the chamber's assault of acronyms.

Working with Google Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council recently developed an interactive map of the western United States. The map, which is designed to help project clean-energy project developers navigate the permitting process, shows lands where development is prohibited, restricted or "should be avoided."

"NRDC is working with businesses, unions and other environmental groups to bring smart energy projects to life," said Jenny Powers, an NRDC spokeswoman. "Building 19th century smokestacks cannot be the priority anymore. We want to see America harness clean technology that will move us toward a safer brighter energy future."

Want to read more stories like this?

E&E is the leading source for comprehensive, daily coverage of environmental and energy politics and policy.

Click here to start a free trial to E&E -- the best way to track policy and markets.