The Senate voted down Sen. Joe Manchin’s amended permitting reform bill in a 47-47 vote Thursday evening, meaning that Democratic leaders failed to honor an agreement made to the West Virginia Democrat to secure his support for climate spending legislation.
“I don’t know how we can explain it if we vote against it,” Manchin said in a Senate floor speech Thursday evening, calling on lawmakers to approve the updated bill as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which is considered must-pass legislation. Sixty votes were required to approve Manchin’s amendment.
The amended permitting bill is the third attempt by Manchin to pass the legislation, meant to speed up the environmental review and permitting of energy infrastructure and to put a fence around litigation against such projects, after it was rejected in the House in September.
Many Democrats oppose the bill because it would facilitate new fossil fuel infrastructure, including by ordering relevant agencies to complete the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a mostly constructed natural gas pipeline traversing West Virginia that’s been held up in court and strongly opposed by environmental groups.
Most Republicans have also opposed the bill for a variety of reasons. Some expressed frustration about being left out of the bill’s writing.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Tuesday that the chamber would vote on Manchin’s amended, renamed permitting reform legislation, which seeks to speed up the commission of energy infrastructure projects after Manchin’s earlier bill failed.
Schumer agreed to support permitting reform in August in exchange for Manchin’s “yes” vote on the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes $369 billion in climate and clean energy spending.
Earlier versions of Manchin’s permitting reform legislation failed to advance due to opposition from many liberal Democrats, as well as Republicans.
Manchin then regrouped and asked colleagues to support his updated, renamed text as an amendment to this year’s NDAA.
The amended bill sets stricter deadlines for the completion of National Environmental Policy Act reviews and gives states one year to act before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can intervene on interstate transmission projects that are deemed to be of “national interest” by the secretary of energy.
Still, it maintains provisions that would direct relevant federal agencies to “take all necessary actions” to issue new permits for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
President Joe Biden announced his support for the plan earlier Thursday.
“Today, far too many projects face delays — keeping us from generating critical, cost-saving energy needed by families and businesses across America,” Biden said in a statement. “That’s an impediment to our economic growth, for creating new jobs, and for lessening our reliance on foreign imports.”