Manchin unveils permit reform bill with fossil fuel provisions the left opposes


SFr. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on Wednesday released his long-awaited and politically contested permit reform bill, which aims to reduce the lengthy environmental review and permitting process for energy and other projects infrastructure, but faces challenges from lawmakers on both sides.

The authorization proposal, which arose out of a deal between Manchin and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in exchange for the West Virginia senator backing the Cut Inflation Act, was crafted to allow builders of everything from roads to renewable energy projects, natural gas pipelines and electric power lines to more quickly obtain the necessary federal permits. Schumer intends to tie the bill to a continuing ‘pass’ resolution to fund the government later this month, but Democrats and Republicans have slammed the effort and signaled they won’t support it. .


Manchin’s bill, which follows a one-page outline of the arrangements agreed between him and the leaders and circulated in early August, would ask the president to create a list of “strategically important” energy and mining projects whose reviews would be priorities. The list should include critical minerals, fossil fuels, biofuels, non-fossil fuels, electric transmission and other projects.

This would expand the government’s licensing power for power transmission lines, which are needed to accommodate the burgeoning renewable energy resources being added to the grid across the country.

The bill would also establish two-year timelines for major projects requiring an environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act, which Congress has already implemented for major transportation projects. in the bipartisan infrastructure law. For projects requiring a less rigorous environmental assessment, a one-year deadline would be established.

Manchin’s bill would also direct federal agencies “to take all necessary actions to permit the timely completion of the construction and operation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline” and issue all necessary permits within 30 days. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a natural gas pipeline from Manchin’s native West Virginia that is nearing completion but has been blocked by multiple litigation.

The bill gives lawmakers a clearer picture of what they will be asked to support in service of the Manchin-Schumer deal.

Manchin’s efforts have been rebuffed by liberal Democrats and environmental groups who oppose any measures that would support the development of fossil fuel infrastructure. The Liberal Democrats in the House have called on leaders to ensure that any action to fund the government is separate from the authorization legislation so that members do not have to choose between an unsavory authorization bill and government funding.

Republicans, who broadly support allowing the reform, said they supported specific elements of the Manchin proposal but largely rejected it.

Senate Republicans instead presented their own counterproposal, led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), which also calls for the completion of the Mountain Valley pipeline.

However, the GOP differs in some respects. It would codify several changes to the National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act regulations as enacted during the Trump years. For example, it would codify the Trump Environmental Protection Agency’s definition of “United States waters,” which limited the federal government’s ability to regulate small water bodies and streams.


The Democratic proposal does not affect United States waters.

Environmental groups criticized Manchin’s bill on Wednesday, calling it a document for fossil fuel interests.

“There is no compromise or window dressing that can fix this nasty disaster of a deal,” said Karen Orenstein, director of climate and energy justice at Friends of the Earth. A vote for the bill “is a vote for environmental racism, classism and climate catastrophe,” Orenstein said.

Green energy business groups offered their support.

“As renewable energy projects become more prevalent and federal involvement likely increases, we must consider sensible permitting reforms that preserve the substance of fundamental environmental laws while expediting the review process under them- ci,” said Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association.


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