Congress, Energy, Environment, U.S. President

Capito promotes permitting reform, Mountain Valley Pipeline completion during talk with West Virginia press

MORGANTOWN — Permitting reform remains alive and well in the U.S. Senate, despite two previous failed bills.

“Permitting reform is front and center on my agenda,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito told West Virginia reporters on Thursday afternoon. All kinds of projects — energy, water, broadband— are “stymied in a ping pong of regulatory mayhem.”

Capito is ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which held its first hearing on the issue on Wednesday. She also discussed permitting reform during a Senate GOP leadership press conference on Wednesday.

At the GOP press conference, she cited the Biden administration’s Build Back Better effort, but said, “You can’t build back anything better because you can’t build it.”

Her message was the same in all three instances. A bipartisan reform agreement needs certain critical components. One, it has to be fuel-neutral and project-neutral. “It has to be a fair process that treats every project fairly.”

Two, reform must include enforceable timelines with clear limits and predictable schedules for environmental reviews and judicial reviews — without cutting any environmental corners. These reviews can add years and costs to projects, she said. Agencies must face consequences when they fail to act within the time frames.

Whenever possible, she said during the GOP press conference, permitting responsibilities should be pushed to the states, which know their own needs and issues the best.

During the EPW hearing, Capito questioned Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, who told Capito that 74% of its members said permitting reform would be helpful to their company and cited permitting as a problem in terms of slowing down projects.

“As you just mentioned, it does have an impact, but it has an impact on communities, has an impact on businesses, it has an impact on workers. The longer it takes for an investment to be made, the longer it takes to put a shovel in the ground, the more delay there is for the great jobs, jobs that pay more than any other sector of the economy, to be realized,” he told Capito.

Capito also had an exchange with Marty Durbin, senior vice president of policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who said a green energy transition isn’t possible without permitting reform. “You can’t get there if we can’t get the projects in the ground, the technology, the transmission lines, all of that. We can’t get to those if we don’t have a permitting process that facilitates a faster process.”

Mountain Valley Pipeline

Here in West Virginia, one project that has suffered years of delays and cost escalation from legal challenges and judicial obstruction is the Mountain Valley Pipeline, of which 283 miles are finished out of 303. It was expected to be complete in 2018 and now will come in at twice the price — $6 billion instead of $3 billion. It’s just three to four months from completion if it can move forward.

Capito and Sen. Joe Manchin have both been pushing for MVP completion, and Capito fielded a question on the project appearing to find an unexpected ally in Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, who sent a letter about it to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last Friday.

She said she knows FERC has completed its regulatory authorizations and requests it proceed expeditiously on any further actions.

“Energy infrastructure, like the MVP project,” Granholm wrote, “can help ensure the reliable delivery of energy that heats homes and businesses, and powers electric generators that support the reliability of the electric system. Natural gas — and the infrastructure, such as MVP, that supports its delivery and use — can play an important role as part of the clean energy transition, particularly with broad advances in and deployment of carbon capture technology facilitated by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act.”

Pipeline infrastructure is also needed to transport hydrogen fuel, and carbon dioxide to carbon capture sites.

Capito said that while Granholm’s letter wasn’t a full endorsement, she found it very encouraging. It recognizes, she said, that “safe pipeline construction is absolutely essential to the energy security of the country,” and that West Virginia plays a big role. “We’re going to keep the foot on the pedal for MVP as we move through permitting reform.”

Inflation Reduction Act

On a separate but related issue, The Dominion Post asked Capito about Manchin’s threat issued Monday to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act if the Biden administration doesn’t honor its intent.

Manchin told FOX News’ Sean Hannity, “They broke their word to the American public. … This legislation was balanced. In the next 10 years, we are going to have enough fossil fuel to run our country and to help our allies around the world. We will also be investing in new technology for the future. Now, the Biden Administration has disregarded this completely. This was about energy security and we have not heard a word about energy security out of their mouths since it was passed. It’s all about the environment.

“Let me be very clear,” Manchin said, “if the administration does not honor what they said they would do, and continue to liberalize what we are supposed to invest in over the next 10 years, I will do everything in my power to prevent that from happening. And if they don’t change, then I would vote to repeal my own bill.”

Capito said that Biden’s approach has been lopsided in terms of emphasizing green at any cost, and it’s been expensive. She would support repeal. But, “I don’t think that anybody really believes that would happen,” or that Biden would sign it.

Manchin had made his support for the IRA conditional on passage of his permitting reform bill — which Capito voted for but which failed to gain support from members of both parties.

She said she wondered if Manchin is experiencing buyer’s remorse. In any case, “The damage is already starting to manifest itself.”

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