Project No Project

Mar 10, 2011

By Bill Kovacs

Today, the Chamber released a first-of-its-kind study that assesses the economic impact of a broad range of energy projects that are being stalled, stopped, or outright killed nationwide due to “Not In My Back Yard” (NIMBY) activism, a broken permitting process and a system that allows limitless challenges by opponents of development.  The study is part of the Chamber’s Project No Project initiative.

Project Denied: The Potential Economic Impact of Permitting Challenges Facing Proposed Energy Projects is quite revealing. It shows that 351 delayed or cancelled energy projects nationwide are costing the American economy $1.1 trillion in GDP and 1.9 million jobs a year during the construction phase alone. Moreover, once built, the operation of these projects could generate $145 billion in economic benefits and involve 791,000 jobs every year.

One of the most surprising findings is that it is just as difficult to build a wind farm in the U.S. as it is to build a coal-fired power plant. In fact, roughly 45% of the challenged projects identified in the study are renewable energy projects.

Often, many of the same groups urging us to think globally about renewable energy are acting locally to stop the very same renewable energy projects that could create jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. NIMBY activism has blocked more renewable projects than coal-fired power plants by organizing local opposition, changing zoning laws, opposing permits, filing lawsuits, and using other long delay mechanisms, effectively bleeding projects dry of their financing.

Lawmakers and the American public should come to understand that our permitting process is broken. It is denying projects across the country the opportunity to be fairly considered on their merits so that sound projects can be constructed and operated within a reasonable period of time. To be clear, we are not saying that ill-conceived projects should be allowed to move forward. The study includes a sensitivity analysis that examines the jobs and economic data if only some of the 351 projects were approved. However, all projects should be given a fair chance to prove their worth in the market within a reasonable period of time. And if a project is worthy, it should receive a permit. It is harmful to our economy to have needed projects stopped by regulatory inefficiencies or because a few individuals and entities oppose building anything anywhere.

The numbers in the study speak for themselves. Millions of jobs and hundreds of billions of dollars in potential economic value are sitting on the shelf.  This is not good for the nation’s well-being.

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