Congress, Energy, Environment

Manchin permitting reform legislation fails again; tie vote keeps it from attaching to National Defense Authorization Act

MORGANTOWN — Sen. Joe Manchin is disappointed that his effort to pass permitting reform legislation again failed in the Senate.

Manchin had hoped to attach his permitting reform legislation as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act early Thursday evening, but the move failed in a 47-47 vote — needing 60 votes to move ahead.

Manchin chose to make it a party issue in scathing comments issued after the vote.

“Once again, Mitch McConnell and Republican leadership have put their own political agenda above the needs of the American people. Energy costs continue to rise as we move into the winter months and geopolitical uncertainty continues to test the strength of international bonds while Putin weaponizes energy.

“Despite these challenges,” Manchin said, “Mitch McConnell and his Republican caucus voted down a bill that would have completed the Mountain Valley Pipeline and quickly delivered natural gas to the market, lowering home heating costs for families and making America more energy secure and independent.”

In fact, Manchin’s fellow Democrats helped tank the amendment. Eight Republicans, including Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, voted for it. But nine Democrats and one Independent (Bernie Sanders) voted against it. Six Republicans didn’t vote.

Manchin commented, “I believe anyone who voted against permitting reform has failed to act in the best interest of our country as they dismissed the opportunity to strengthen our nation’s economic and energy security. Permitting reform and the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline are essential to ensuring lasting American security and independence. Continued inaction will be felt by every American in every part of the country. … What crisis will have to occur to spur bipartisan action?”

But this isn’t the end of the road for the bill, Manchin said. “As frustrating as the political games of Washington are, I will not give up. As I have said from my first day in office, I serve West Virginians and the American people with an independent voice, not a political party.”

Capito told West Virginia reporters before the vote on Thursday that she expected the move to fail. Certain measures in it were facing opposition.

“We need permitting reform. We needed it several years ago,” she said. “We’re never going to power this nation properly if we don’t address this permitting issue.”

And like Manchin, she won’t give up, she said. “We’ll just have to keep following it. … I don’t think it’s dead. I think it’s something we’ll have to come back to time and again until it’s successful.”

Manchin and Capito both said the legislation doesn’t erase any environmental reviews — it just expedites the reviews, trimming a 7-10 year process to about two years.

Manchin said, “We’re asking the courts to expedite when they take this under consideration because of the environment. The environment is near and dear to all of us, and we all have a responsibility. What we haven’t taken into consideration is if we don’t do this, we will not be able to maintain energy independence, which means energy security, which means national security.”

Manchin’s legislation also included completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, of which 283 miles is finished, out of 303. “You have LNG for all of our allies who are in desperate need of it. So much has been done and it’s been so politicized. If you want to know why people are upset, watch this place operate for a while.”

NDAA passes

While permitting reform failed again, the National Defense Authorization Act as a whole passed.

Capito said, “After too long a delay, I am pleased that Congress has finally passed legislation that demonstrates our continued support of our military, especially during these challenging times. We have to ensure our military is best equipped and prepared to face whatever challenge it may have to face, and that our personnel and equipment are able to meet those pressing needs in defense of our nation and our allies. This legislation accomplishes that goal.”

Among the measures in the bill:

  • Includes the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act, legislation Capito co-authored, that authorizes key projects and studies to tackle water resources challenges across the country.
  • Promotes efforts at Green Bank Observatory to develop the Next Generation Very Large Array (ngVLA) and a new high-power radar transmitter for the Green Bank Telescope.
  • Recognizes the West Virginia National Guard’s Army Interagency Training and Education Center and encourages the Defense Department to assess the expansion of AITEC’s mission capabilities to include combating cyber threats to critical infrastructure.
  • Prohibits the Air Force from reducing the number of C-130 transport planes assigned to the National Guard.
  • Authorizes $847 billion, reversing proposed cuts by the Biden administration, for national defense programs, military construction projects, and nuclear weapons programs under the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Removes a mandate for COVID-19 vaccines for troops, which has hindered recruitment and retention.
  • Includes a 4.6% raise for service members, the largest pay raise in 20 years.
  • Requires the U.S. military to implement plans to eliminate the use of Russian energy at U.S. bases in Europe.
  • Requires a review on military suicides — the second-leading cause of death among military personnel — to help prevent future service member suicides.

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