Manchin is pushing to fast-track energy permits to reappear in 2023 | Daily News Byte

Manchin is pushing to fast-track energy permits to reappear in 2023

 | Daily News Byte

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A push by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin to speed up permits for natural gas pipelines and other energy projects has failed in the current Congress, but could return as soon as next month.

The Senate rejected the permit proposal Thursday night, ending Manchin’s months-long effort to fast-track approval of a number of energy projects — including a planned pipeline in his home state and Virginia.

The 47-47 vote was far short of the 60 votes Manchin needed to attach it to the defense policy bill that Congress approved and sent to President Joe Biden. Ten Democrats voted against the plan from Manchin, a conservative Democrat who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and has often clashed with his own party over his strong support for coal and other fossil fuels.

In a statement after the vote, Manchin blasted Senate Republicans for opposing the plan despite earlier promises to support efforts to streamline energy licensing. Only seven Republicans voted for Manchin’s amendment.

“Once again, Mitch McConnell and the Republican leadership have put their political agenda ahead of the needs of the American people,” Manchin said, singling out the Kentucky GOP leader.

As energy costs continue to rise and Russian President Vladimir Putin “arms energy” with his war in Ukraine, McConnell and other Republicans “voted against legislation that would have completed the Mountain Valley Pipeline and quickly delivered natural gas to market, reducing home heating costs for families and make America more energy secure and independent,” Manchin said.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a nearly complete gas pipeline from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia. The 300-mile project is fiercely opposed by environmental groups that say it would pollute land and water and continue a legacy of energy projects that treat Appalachia as a “sacrifice zone.”

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who was one of 10 Democrats who opposed Manchin’s plan, said that “giving the green light to the MFA goes against the spirit of allowing reform. Such deliberate action by Congress to put its thumb on the scale and simply approve this project, while eliminating opportunities for full administrative or judicial review, runs counter to the bipartisan desire for a more transparent and workable permitting process.

Limiting judicial review in particular would “set a dangerous precedent that could easily lead to abuse and even corruption in the future,” Kane said.

Manchin called the pipeline — and the larger issue of speeding up federal permits for energy projects — “essential to ensuring America’s continued (energy) security and independence.”

While denouncing “Washington’s political games,” he vowed to continue his efforts to strengthen the pipeline and push for faster permits for energy projects, which can now take up to 10 years.

Some Democrats supported Manchin’s efforts, noting that the plan would also speed up renewable energy projects such as wind farms and solar farms.

“There is a bipartisan interest in common sense permitting reform to safely and quickly build the clean energy infrastructure of the future,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Ph.D. I., climate hawk.

Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, another Democratic climate hawk, said “allowing for reform is essential to our climate goals.”

Last summer, Manchin secured a commitment from Biden and Democratic leaders in Congress to support the permit package in exchange for his support for landmark climate change legislation.

Biden renewed his support Thursday, saying in a statement that Manchin’s proposal would “lower Americans’ energy bills, promote U.S. energy security and increase our ability to build energy projects and connect them to the grid.”

Under current law, “too many projects face delays — preventing us from generating critical, cost-saving energy needed by families and businesses across America,” Biden said. “It is an obstacle to our economic growth, job creation and reducing our reliance on foreign imports.”

But in the months since Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law in August, many Democrats and environmental groups have stepped up their opposition to the permitting plan, calling it bad for the country and the climate. Manchin agreed to remove the bill from the temporary spending bill approved in September in the face of fierce opposition, but tried to revive it as a defense measure, only to run into resistance from the same groups.

“Manchin’s efforts to tie his dirty work to any legislation that must be passed is undemocratic and potentially devastating to the planet,” said Ariel Moger of the environmental group Friends of the Earth.

Ann Clancy, associate director of climate policy for the nonprofit progressive group Indivisible Project, said House and Senate Democrats understood that Manchin’s plan “bets against our future and threatens the historic progress Democrats have made on the climate crisis.”

Although defeated in the current legislative session, the permit plan is likely to resurface in January when Republicans take control of the House.

Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., the incoming chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, pledged to “maximize energy produced in America, reduce reliance on foreign countries and lower energy costs nationwide.” Under GOP leadership, the House will move quickly to “open access to our abundant natural resources, reform and streamline the permitting process, and encourage innovation,” he said.

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