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SAN DIEGO — Rep. Scott Peters (CA-50), who spent more than a decade working as an environmental lawyer, is now using his experience to push for a change in laws that will impact every American. 

He is warning that the United States will fall behind in the race for clean energy if changes aren't made soon.

The race for renewable energy has one towering roadblock, and that is the need to triple the size of the electric grid over the next three decades, which is a daunting task as it requires adding 200,000 miles of wires, said Peters, citing this source.

That is a daunting task, he said, when you consider that in the decade from 2010 to 2020, the U.S. only built 18,000 miles of new transmission lines, which Peters says is unacceptable. 

"This is a break-the-glass emergency moment, right? If we're talking about climate as an emergency, that is unacceptable and we've got to do better," he said. 

Peters explained that if the grid is not expanded, we'll encounter reliability issues with blackouts and brownouts, and there are other risks. 

"If things don't change, you might be in a neighborhood that has a lot of particulates and asthma because we're still using dirty energy," Peters said. 

"I can't get you cleaner air unless we do all this work. If you're concerned about the cost of natural gas, wouldn't you like to have alternatives in place?,” he added. He believes those additional options will drive down the cost for consumers. 

Peters is now on a mission to speed up the process of expanding the energy grid. He places part of the blame on NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act enacted in 1970, which he said is an old law that needs to be amended. 

"I can't imagine we can achieve our goals with NEPA as it is. So I think at least it has to be amended," Peters said. 

He said, while NEPA has ensured projects have been implemented with environmental foresight through the years, the problem is that NEPA is “the most litigated federal environmental statute. The report can take four years to consider. When you add on the lawsuits, it's years and years and years of delay.” Peters said due to litigation, it can take ten years to build one transmission line. 

Peters points out that we will lose if we continue at this pace. 

He said in the last ten years North America has built seven gigawatts of inter-regional transmission, South America has built 22, Europe has built 44, and China has built 260. 

He said if the grid is not expanded, we will be wasting most of the $360 billion allocated for energy and climate change, which President Biden signed into law last year. 

"It's not getting the money, the money's there. We got a ton of money there to help build out solar, to help build charging stations for electric cars. What is it? It's the permitting… It's the litigation. It's the arguing. We have to figure out a way to cut that out," the Congressman said.

Peters said his plan is to come up with a permit system that would l allow for these projects, without project by project litigation. He said it’s imperative that there is more certainty upfront. 

“I don't want to reduce environmental review, I just want to get it done more quickly,” Peters said.

Peters knows he must have bipartisan support to change legislation. He acknowledged there is skepticism from some environmental groups and understands people are resistant to change. 

“It's a huge risk to do something differently, but our job as legislators and as leaders is to bring them along and make sure we come up with something that's good. So we'll go engage with everybody now and throughout this whole process to make sure that we're getting the right results. But at the end of the day, we've got to take these climate actions with taxpayer money in a way that means something. We can't waste the money and leave it in a bank account instead of putting it into the ground,” Peters said. 

He hopes leaders will make it a priority to develop a quicker process. 

"We don't have a lot of time to solve the problem," he warned. 

Peters represents California's 50th District, which includes the cities of Coronado, San Marcos, Escondido, and coastal San Diego. 

WATCH Full Interview | Rep. Scott Peters warns U.S. will fall behind in clean energy race without change


Source: CBS 8