WASHINGTON - Today, Representatives Scott Peters (D-CA-50), Marc Veasey (D-TX-33), and Tony Cárdenas (D-CA-29) introduced the House companion of the Facilitating America's Siting of Transmission and Electric Reliability (FASTER) Act. The FASTER Act addresses key obstacles slowing down the siting, planning, and permitting process. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the bill in the Senate last month.
Currently, it can take a decade or more to build new high-voltage, interregional transmission lines. Fragmented state, local, and federal jurisdiction over transmission siting, lack of coordination and communication between cooperating agencies, inadequate staff resources, failure to secure buy-in from local community stakeholders, and incomplete applications are among the top factors slowing down interregional transmission development.
“The climate crisis requires us to move faster than ever to meet our goals and avoid catastrophe. No is the second-best outcome for a project. The worst outcome is waiting over a decade for an answer until a project is canceled. The FASTER Act will help us meet our goals by speeding up the process to evaluate projects while maintaining the strongest environmental protections in the world,” said Rep. Peters.
“The FASTER Act will enact a proactive and forward-thinking approach to address our nation's energy needs. This legislation paves the way for a more efficient 21st-century grid by streamlining the decision-making process and incorporating lessons from successful transmission projects. The legislation will also spur job creation across our country by enabling us to meet our climate goals while bolstering access to affordable and reliable electricity for people like my constituents who are all too familiar with an outdated grid. I am proud to introduce this bill today because it will drive sustainable progress in our nation's energy sector," said Rep. Veasey.
“To meet our nation’s energy goals and deliver clean, reliable, and affordable energy, we must modernize the permitting of transmission lines. As we do so, we cannot sacrifice community engagement. I am proud to partner with Representatives Peters and Veasey to address the range of obstacles that have historically lengthened the permitting process while expanding opportunities for community input and preserving environmental review,” said Rep. Cárdenas.
The FASTER Act builds upon the best practices established by Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act to expedite transmission siting and permitting practices, without compromising environmental standards. It provides certainty to transmission project developers, requires meaningful engagement with private landowners, and delivers tangible economic benefits for local communities, states, and counties.
The FASTER Act includes the following key provisions:
- Gives the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) siting authority and establishes it as the lead agency to coordinate state, local, and federal authorizations for National Interest Electric Transmission Facilities, defined as 345 kV or 750 MW, crosses two states, or a designation from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that the route proposed by a developer is consistent with the purpose of a National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor.
- Requires FERC to approve or deny an application from initial pre-filing application to notice-to-proceed within three years.
- Incentivizes communities and project sponsors to negotiate an enforceable Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) and ensures greater community engagement by developing clear protocols to help communities negotiate a CBA.
- Streamlines the grant application process for the Department of Energy’s $760 million Transmission Siting and Economic Development Grant program for communities that negotiate a CBA.
- Currently, the Transmission Siting and Economic Development Grant (TSEDG) program is only available to states, counties, and tribes. Under FASTER, the CBA acts as a public-private partnership, allowing a project sponsor to apply for, on behalf of, or jointly with the CBA party.
- Allocates $532 million from the TSEDG program to fund economic development initiatives and provide direct support to communities that are among the most significantly impacted by project development, construction, or local operations activities.
- Allocates $228 million from the TSEDG program to fund state and county siting activities, such as analyzing the benefits of proposed interregional transmission.
- Directs transmission easement payments on Federal lands to counties, communities, and states: 25 percent to the state where development occurs, 25 percent to the counties of origin, 15 percent for more efficiently processing permit applications and reducing the backlog of renewable energy permits, and 35 percent deposited into a fund for conservation purposes.
The FASTER Act has garnered widespread support from the power industry, construction trades labor unions, community stakeholder groups, and environmental organizations, including the National Association of Counties (NACo), the Americans for a Clean Energy Grid (ACEG), the Clean Energy Buyers Association (CEBA), and Jobs to Move America.
“Our lives and livelihoods depend on a robust and reliable electricity grid. Unfortunately, serious obstacles stand in the way of the grid we need to power a prosperous future. ACEG strongly supports Senator Heinrich’s FASTER Act, which would accelerate the buildout of much-needed transmission by requiring good faith engagement with affected landowners and communities and dramatically improving the existing permitting processes. There is no time to waste when expanding our grid. This bill will help create better systems that avoid costly and time-consuming litigation, leading to better outcomes for all Americans,” said Christina Hayes, Executive Director of Americans for a Clean Energy Grid.
“The Clean Energy Buyers Association (CEBA), representing more than 400 companies and organizations, would like to thank Senator Heinrich for his work on the Facilitating America’s Siting of Transmission and Electric Reliability Act of 2023 (FASTER Act of 2023). The FASTER Act modernizes, resources, and streamlines federal permitting for transmission projects without compromising the integrity of environmental review and recognizes community engagement is critical for the development of clean, affordable, and reliable energy. CEBA encourages members of Congress to work in a collaborative, bipartisan manner to ensure any permitting reform package includes provisions that accelerate the development of transmission, increase reliability, and reduce cost for consumers," said Bryn Baker, CEBA’s Senior Director of Market and Policy Innovation.
"This bill contains strong language requiring enforceable community benefits agreements between transmission line developers and the communities they will be impacting. Community benefits agreements are a powerful tool to ensure that communities share in the rewards of big developments in their area and are a way of holding developers accountable to meeting their needs. When done correctly, as this bill encourages, they can be a win-win for all involved in the agreement,” said Miranda Nelson, National Director at Jobs to Move America.