WASHINGTON — Despite the apparent death of Sen. Joe Manchin III’s permit overhaul legislation before it even got a vote, there are bipartisan ingredients that could be blended into a bill to change how large construction projects such as power lines and highways are greenlighted in America.
Republicans often view a permitting overhaul as a way to cut through environmental reviews, while Democrats think of it as a way to speed low-carbon power projects into existence and decouple from fossil fuel-generated electricity.
Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who frequently argues that fossil fuels will continue to play an important role during a transition to zero-carbon energy, withdrew his permitting overhaul proposal from the must-pass spending bill as opposition from both parties appeared insurmountable. Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said he would proceed with a spending bill to fund the government into mid-December without Manchin’s provision.
In particular, Manchin’s inclusion of language to approve the Mountain Valley Pipeline, an unfinished gas project in his state that broke ground in 2018, drew condemnation from climate action advocates and property owners along its path.
Schumer said he would push to pass legislation changing permitting law before the end of the year, though a route to passage through both chambers remains narrow and would have to overcome a series of objections including those from rural Republicans over property rights, environmental justice advocates over local pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from climate groups.
“Sen. Manchin, myself and others will continue to have conversations about the best way to ensure responsible permitting reform is passed before the end of the year,” Schumer said on the Senate floor after the withdrawal of Manchin’s provision.
Manchin said Tuesday in a statement that removing his permitting-and-pipeline language from the spending legislation — an agreement he and Schumer reached to secure the West Virginian’s vote on Democrats’ climate, health care and tax law — “only serves to embolden leaders like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin who wish to see America fail.”
Said Manchin: “It is unfortunate that members of the United States Senate are allowing politics to put the energy security of our nation at risk.”
The U.S. is the No. 1 producer of oil and gas in the world, according to the Energy Information Administration, and has seen an uptick in gas production in recent months, with more natural gas rigs operating in September than before the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.