Manchin’s big energy deal is pulling back many Dems

WASHINGTON (AP) – Democrats desperately needed the vote of Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to get their statutory signature priority on target. So they did what Washington does best: they made a deal.

To gain his support for a bill hailed by advocacy groups as the biggest investment ever to mitigate climate change, Manchin said he received a commitment from President Joe Biden and Democrat leaders to move forward with permit reform…

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WASHINGTON (AP) – Democrats desperately needed the vote of Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to get their statutory signature priority on target. So they did what Washington does best: they made a deal.

To gain his support for a bill that is being hailed by advocacy groups as the biggest investment ever to mitigate climate change, Manchin said he had a commitment from President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders to pass a permit reform package before Sept. 30 Getting energy projects through Congress at the end of the current fiscal year.

Now the climate law is law, and Manchin is ready to enforce it. But key Democratic constituencies oppose the proposal, calling it bad for the country and the climate. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and dozens of members of the House of Representatives agree.

The rift could complicate the party’s efforts to keep the focus on the big victories in the legislature this summer, leading up to November’s midterm elections that will determine which party controls the House and Senate. More immediately, the rift will test Schumer and Pelosi’s ability to retain enough Democrats to avoid a partial government shutdown at the end of the month.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., keeps pushing. He said this week he would attach Manchin’s preferred measure to must-pass legislation that would keep the federal government running until mid-December.

To convince skeptics, some Democrats emphasize that Manchin’s proposal to streamline environmental assessments for energy infrastructure projects would also be good for renewable energy.

A summary of the proposed legislation has been circulating among Senate Democrats for the past few days and was sourced from The Associated Press. It said the package being developed is key to meeting climate goals by developing interstate transmission lines that will, for example, carry power from wind farms in the Midwest to major cities on the East Coast.

“Unfortunately, these longer, higher voltage lines across multiple jurisdictions are not being built today,” the summary said.

The summary says about 20 major transmission projects are poised to move forward with some federal support.

“Reforms to address permitting, location and cost allocation issues are key to building these projects,” the document said.

In interviews, key Democratic senators emphasized a similar message, calling the energy proposal a complement to the massive climate package passed last month.

“Right now there are just too many delays in solar, wind and geothermal, so I want to speed up renewable energy permits at every opportunity,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said the permitting effort is about making sure basic environmental laws are followed in a more timely manner, such as: B. through simultaneous reviews by government agencies, rather than one agency starting work after another has completed.

Schatz said the “old environmental movement” was built on stopping inappropriate projects. But the “new environmental movement” is built on building an unprecedented amount of clean energy.

“To do that, we’re going to run into the same regulations that have stopped bad projects for a number of years,” Schatz said. “If we’re actually going to meet our clean energy goals, we need to build big projects to save the planet, and that means the federal regulations that are slowing them down need to be looked at very carefully.”

Legislative text detailing Manchin’s priorities has not yet been released, but among the goals it has set is setting a maximum time limit for approving reviews, including two years for major projects and one year for lower-impact projects. Manchin also wants a statute of limitations on filing lawsuits in court and language that would strengthen the federal government‘s authority over interstate power transmission projects determined by the Secretary of Energy to be in the national interest.

Finally, he wants to require all relevant authorities to take the necessary steps to permit the construction and operation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 303-mile (487-kilometer) pipeline that is mostly complete and would transport natural gas through West Virginia .

The proposed route crosses more than 1,100 streams and will disturb 6,951 acres (2,813 hectares) of land, including 4,168 acres (1,686.7 hectares) that have the potential for severe water erosion. When fully completed, the pipeline will deliver up to 2 cubic feet (0.06 cubic meters) per day of natural gas to the mid-Atlantic and Southeast markets.

Legal disputes have delayed completion by nearly four years and doubled the pipeline’s cost, now estimated at $6.6 billion. Manchin also wants the federal appeals court in Washington to have jurisdiction over any further litigation related to the project.

More than 70 House Democrats signed a letter Friday urging Pelosi to keep the approval requirements out of the spending law or any other legislation due to pass this year.

“We remain deeply concerned that these severe and adverse permit provisions will significantly and disproportionately affect low-income, Indigenous and people of color communities,” lawmakers wrote.

Sanders focused his anger primarily on efforts to open the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Speaking in the Senate, he cited the litany of climate catastrophes happening around the globe — from record-breaking droughts in the West and China to massive floods in Pakistan to melting glaciers, which he says earn big US citations could be underwater in the coming decades.

“At a time when climate change is threatening the very existence of the planet, why would anyone be talking about significantly increasing carbon emissions and expanding fossil fuel production in the United States?” Sanders said. “What message does this send to the people of our own country and to the suffering people around the world?”

Schatz called the Mountain Valley Pipeline a “different animal” that he wouldn’t normally accept, but “we made a deal with Joe Manchin.” He said that deal, which led to the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act last month, put the US on track to achieve the most emissions reductions in the nation’s history.

This bill uses tax code changes to push the US towards cleaner energy sources. It offers tax breaks for consumers who buy electric vehicles, solar panels and more energy-efficient devices, and also provides financial incentives for manufacturers of such products. Also, the bill spends billions of dollars on things like converting the U.S. Postal Service’s fleet to electric vehicles.

Supporters believe the bill puts the US on track to cut emissions by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030.

“It’s not scarce on the net,” said Schatz. “…I don’t like this pipeline, but it’s not the biggest environmental problem on the planet. The biggest environmental problem is that we don’t use enough wind and sun. And now we’re going to see wind and solar power take off like a rocket.”

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