Congress, Government, Latest News

Manchin says he’s not giving up on permitting reform for energy projects

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is continuing to push for permitting reform language for projects like the Mountain Valley Pipeline after the proposed policies were left out of a broader spending bill.

Manchin is urging senators to support amending the policies to streamline the permitting of energy projects into the annual National Defense Authorization Act.

“Failing to pass the bipartisan, comprehensive energy permitting reform that our country desperately needs is not an acceptable option,” said Manchin, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, in a statement this week.

“As our energy security becomes more threatened every day, Americans are demanding Congress put politics aside and act on commonsense solutions to solve the issues facing us. The Senate must vote to amend the NDAA to ensure the comprehensive, bipartisan permitting reform our country desperately needs is included.”

Manchin has been pushing the “Building American Energy Security Act of 2022” for months. The permitting policies have sometimes been described as the senator’s “side deal” in reference to attempts to gain his support for a package of Biden Administration policies that were called “Build Back Better.” The climate, tax and healthcare bill came to be called the “Inflation Reduction Act.”

Congressional progressives objected to the permitting bill, contending it would weaken environmental standards, while Republicans objected to being left out of the broader discussions and suggesting the changes would not go far enough. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., this week said the policies would amount to permitting reform “in name only.”

“House and Senate Democrats are still obstructing efforts to close out the NDAA by trying to jam in unrelated items with no relationship whatsoever to defense,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

When permitting reform was left out of the text of the National Defense Authorization Act this week, Manchin’s initial statement expressed disappointment and frustration.

“Our energy infrastructure is under attack and America’s energy security has never been more threatened,” Manchin said.

“Failing to pass bipartisan energy permitting reform that both Republicans and Democrats have called for will have long term consequences for our energy independence. The American people will pay the steepest price for Washington once again failing to put common sense policy ahead of toxic tribal politics. This is why the American people hate politics in Washington.”

One of the goals of the permitting reform is to prompt completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would extend 303 miles to transport West Virginia natural gas into southern Virginia.

Developers say the pipeline construction is almost complete, but it has faced a series of delays over permitting and court challenges. Earlier this year, federal regulators granted the project four more years to move toward completion. The $6.6 billion pipeline project first got authorization from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2017.

Groups like Appalachian Voices, which has been fighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline, objected to bringing up the fast-track permitting policies again.

“Following two failed attempts, Biden, Manchin, Pelosi and Schumer should stop trying to advance a bill written behind closed doors that weakens essential environmental protections, gives communities less say on energy projects in their backyards, and attempts to exempt the dangerous Mountain Valley Pipeline from long-standing environmental laws and judicial review,” said Chelsea Barnes, legislative director for Appalachian Voices.

“If legislators are serious about modernizing the grid to bring clean energy on faster, they need to hold open hearings and listen to communities impacted by energy projects.”