Manchin tries reviving permitting reform with amended bill

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
FILE – Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks during a news conference on Sept. 20, 2022, at the Capitol in Washington. West Virginia Republican U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney is facing Democrat Barry Wendell in the race for a seat representing the state’s 2nd Congressional District. But Mooney hasn’t shown any interest in debating or even engaging with Wendell. The congressman is more interested in talking about the last Democrat Sen. Manchin. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File) Mariam Zuhaib/AP

Manchin tries reviving permitting reform with amended bill

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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) released an amended version of his permitting reform legislation Wednesday morning, urging his fellow senators to approve it as an amendment to must-pass defense legislation after his earlier bill failed.

Manchin is trying to keep his permitting reform effort alive after congressional negotiators excluded his legislation, designed to speed up the commission of energy infrastructure projects, from a final bipartisan legislative agreement reached late Tuesday on the annual National Defense Authorization Act.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman had sought for the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022, his permitting reform bill released in September, to be attached to the text of the defense bill, but Republican negotiators and many liberal Democrats opposed its inclusion for various reasons.

ENVIRONMENTALISTS WILLING TO GIVE UP ON RENEWABLES TO FOIL MANCHIN PLOY ON OIL AND GAS

Manchin, not taking no for an answer, said the Senate “must vote to amend the NDAA to ensure the comprehensive, bipartisan permitting reform our country desperately needs is included.”

“Failing to pass the bipartisan, comprehensive energy permitting reform that our country desperately needs is not an acceptable option,” he said Wednesday.

The new bill, dubbed the Building American Energy Security Act of 2022, includes multiple changes from the bill text released in September.

For example, one provision in the previous bill would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission new authority over interstate transmission projects deemed by the secretary of energy to be in the national interest.

The new bill would give states a year to issue, deny, or not act on relevant permits before the FERC can step in. The previous bill lacked such language, and Republican attorneys general opposed it on federalism grounds.

The NDAA amendment approach is the third go-around for Manchin’s permitting reform effort. Manchin, who struck a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to advance permitting reform this year, had earlier gotten his measure tacked on to a government funding bill in the Senate but later asked leadership to remove it after bipartisan opposition.

Schumer agreed to support permitting reform in exchange for Manchin’s vote in favor of the Inflation Reduction Act, the Democrats’ green energy and healthcare spending bill passed in August.

Dozens of Democrats have opposed Manchin’s bill because it would facilitate fossil fuel energy projects, along with renewable and other zero- and low-carbon energy projects.

One of the most controversial provisions in the initial bill would direct relevant federal agencies to approve permits for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a mostly constructed natural gas pipeline crossing West Virginia. The new bill maintains the provision.

It also maintains provisions moving federal appellate court jurisdiction for any claim involving the pipeline, which has been held up under decisions from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, to the D.C. Circuit.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) slammed the provision as amounting to “judge shopping.”

“This is the type of changes to environmental law that deserve committee analysis, deserve to be on the floor as a separate bill, not jammed through on something that is considered an unstoppable train,” Merkley told reporters Tuesday before the NDAA text was released without Manchin’s permitting language.

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Republicans in Congress widely advocate reforms to environmental laws to speed up energy projects, especially oil and gas pipelines, and have sought reforms even more aggressive than Manchin’s proposal in some cases.

Some GOP lawmakers who opposed Manchin’s bill, especially during his first attempt to tack the bill on to a continuing resolution to fund the government back in September, said they weren’t interested in serving his legislative deal with Schumer.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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