US Senator Joe Manchin on Wednesday released an energy permit bill to accelerate fossil fuel and clean energy projects.
The bill is expected to be attached to a measure to temporarily fund the government that Congress must pass by Oct. 1.
The legislation requires the federal government to issue permits for Equitrans Midstream Corp’s long-delayed $6.6 billion Mountain Valley pipeline to take natural gas between West Virginia, Manchin’s home state, and Virginia.
The broader financing bill must be passed by the House and Senate and signed by Joe Biden to become law. Manchin’s staff told reporters he believed the financing bill would get the 60 votes it takes to pass the Senate with the attached permitting measure.
Manchin, a centrist Democrat and a key vote in the 50-50 Senate, would commit Biden to designate 25 energy projects of strategic national importance for a rapid federal review.
The US power grid needs to be expanded and repaired as some of the main transmission lines are 50 years old. Improving transmission lines would help sustainable projects such as wind and solar farms in rural areas to get clean power to cities.
The bill also establishes a two-year target for environmental assessments of energy projects to be completed by more than one federal agency.
Progressive lawmakers and environmental groups were concerned that the bill would speed up fossil fuel projects while undermining U.S. environmental laws. In the House of Representatives, 77 Democrats this month asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to keep the side agreement out of the financing bill.
Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, said after the bill was released that he could not support the “highly unusual provisions” regarding the Mountain Valley pipeline.
Kaine said they are “eliminating any judicial review” for key parts of the pipeline approval process and removing jurisdiction from a US appellate court for cases involving it. He said he was not involved in talks about the measure, although 160 km of the pipeline would run through his state.
While the bill would speed up processes required by a fundamental U.S. green law called the National Environmental Policy Act, which mandates revisions to major projects, it “does not change the underlying statutes,” a Manchin employee told reporters in an appeal. .
Getting at least 10 Republican senators to back the measure could be complicated after Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from Manchin state, this month passed her own bill that favors fossil fuels.
Some Republicans were also concerned because Manchin voted in favor of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which included $369 billion for climate and energy security.
Speaking about the reluctance of some Republicans to support licensing, Manchin said on Tuesday: “If they’re willing to say they’re going to shut down the government because of a personal attack on me, or by not looking at the well-being of the country, that’s which makes people sick of politics.”