Congress, U.S. President

Manchin, Capito celebrate inclusion of MVP pipeline into debt ceiling bill

MORGANTOWN – Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito are pleased that the MVP pipleline has been included in the debt ceiling deal expected to pass both houses of Congress this week.

“I applaud both sides,” Manchin said during a Tuesday press conference with West Virginia reporters of the debt ceiling legislation that must clear the House first then move over to the Senate and pass before Monday’s deadline.

He commended President Biden for finally agreeing to negotiate despite pressure from the left to hold out for a clean bill with no spending restrictions, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his staff for staying the course.

Some won’t vote for it no matter what, he said. (News reports point to opposition from the left and the far right.) “When push comes to shove, what was negotiated … will be accepted as they negotiated it.”

The MVP project that has suffered years of delays and cost escalation from legal challenges and judicial obstruction, 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 — $6.2 billion instead of $3.5 billion. It’s just three to four months from completion if it can move forward.

While the federal Fourth Circuit Court’s rules require judges to be randomly assigned to permit cases, the same three judges have voided six of the seven MVP permits issued and heard at least six separate cases on MVP permits.

Manchin said the debt ceiling bill – the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 – blocks further judicial review of MVP permits, and will lead to dismissal of the current suit against it. It also requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to approve within three weeks all outstanding permits.

Manchin said that completing the project will create 2,000 construction jobs. When finished, it will provide West Virginia $40 million per year in tax revenue and generate $300 million for royalty owners.

Completing MVP, he said, will quickly put 2 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas into the market, some of which could be exported to European allies who’ve been dependent on Russian fuel. “This is the only thing that can give that type of relief so quickly.”

While some have complained of potential environmental damage from the pipeline, Manchin said court delays have stopped its builder, Equitrans, from reclaiming and reseeding the pipeline pathway. This legislation will allow them to do that.

Capito has worked with Manchin to move permitting reform legislation and to end the MVP boondoggle. She said in a statement, “After working with Speaker McCarthy and reiterating what completing the Mountain Valley Pipeline would mean for American jobs and domestic energy production, I am thrilled it is included in the debt ceiling package that avoids default. Despite delay after delay, we continued to fight to get this critical natural gas pipeline up and running, and its inclusion in this deal is a significant victory for the future of West Virginia.”

The Dominion Post contacted Rep. Alex Mooney for his thoughts on the legislation and inclusion of the MVP. His office said, “Rep. Mooney is still reviewing the legislation and we will issue a formal statement when he takes an official position.”

The Gas and Oil Association of West Virginia also had words of praise on Tuesday.

“An abundance of clean burning natural gas is one of the most important resources we’re blessed with in America. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is key to bringing more of this energy produced in the Appalachia Basin, the largest source of natural gas in the country, to users across the nation while lowering energy costs and supporting job creation in West Virginia,” Executive Director Charlie Burd said. “Affordable and clean energy, good-paying jobs and protecting the communities where we live and work are shared goals that will finally come to fruition once this pipeline is officially placed in service.”

Not everyone is pleased. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said Tuesday, “The MVP does not pose a national security issue that requires it to be crammed into the debt ceiling deal. A federal court last year rescinded certain authorizations for the MVP only after finding agencies gave short shrift to serious factual issues that needed review.

“Meanwhile,” IEEFA said, “the domestic energy system targeted by the pipeline has continued to function for almost a decade without the project, and international export of gas is trending toward a glut rather than a shortage. The ill-advised plan to override the MVP public permit process and the right to judicial review undermines U.S. government principles. It’s a bad way to make decisions on a gas project.”

And the West Virginia Rivers Coalition also is not thrilled. “This legislation says to West Virginians that our water and our communities are not deserving of equal protections,” Executive Director Angie Rosser said. “Congress needs to ensure that environmental laws are applied consistently and fairly, and no communities should be made more vulnerable by giving a pipeline project that hasn’t been able to comply with the laws a free pass.”