Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., sponsored Democrats’ new spending bill shortly before party leaders promised to expedite permits for crucial energy infrastructure; however, the arrangement easily could fall apart as little protections exist to make permitting reform a reality.
President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised Manchin that they would pass speeded-up permitting for pipeline projects, particularly for the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia, in addition to their $369-billion climate and tax package, Reuters reported Monday. Despite the party’s promises, though, permitting reform will not be easy to institute, and even if the Democrats cooperate, the companion bill still will face numerous legal and legislative challenges.
“He has not guaranteed anything,” Steve Milloy, a former scholar at the Competitive Enterprises Institute and member of former President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency transition team, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Manchin’s deal with his party will make sure appeals go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit instead of the 4th Circuit, which blocked Mountain Valley’s permits in February, according to Bloomberg Law.
However, since legislators potentially could be directing the judiciary to permit the project, the action could face further legal challenges, Bloomberg reported. Moreover, climate activists, who previously helped obstruct Manchin’s pipeline, pledged that they would pressure Democrats to kill the companion bill.
“Even if you have the permits or guarantee that federal permitting is going to happen, green activists can still sue and there’s nothing to stop them from keeping everything stuck in court,” Milloy said. “There are no provisions constraining green lawsuits or judicial review in the bill, the very things holding up the Mountain Valley Pipeline that he claims to want.”
Manchin defended his support of the bill and touted the advancement of “commonsense” permitting reform that would protect American energy security in a press release last week.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., in a press conference Tuesday, emphasized examining whether the exact text of the bill would enable a final vote on permitting reform.
“Let’s see the legislative text as to what they’re going to do,” Capito said.
“I’ve never seen anybody here that can actually guarantee a final vote … on permitting reform,” she said of the Democrats’ alleged deal.
Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., also expressed doubts about Manchin’s pipeline permitting deal in a podcast last Friday.
“Here’s the problem with permitting reform, it takes 60 votes not 50 to pass … even if we had a vote on it,” Cramer said. “You cannot trust the left with permitting reform … they will never do it.”
Some provisions that could accelerate pipeline projects “include codifying permitting reforms like the Trump administration’s One Federal Decision rule, which allows infrastructure projects to be completed in a more expeditious manner,” Cramer’s office told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It also allows for expedited permitting of gathering lines on federal land and energy-producing tribal land for those who choose to participate.”
The White House and the offices of Manchin, Pelosi, and Schumer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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