Energy & Environment

Manchin permitting reform cut from spending bill

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Tuesdasy asked Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to remove permitting reform language from a stopgap government funding bill, bowing to the reality that there was too much opposition to the measure.

Republicans in the Senate along with Democrats in the House had voiced opposition to the language, and Senate Democrats did not appear to have the 60 votes necessary to proceed.

Liberals disliked the measure for policy reasons. Republicans also voiced policy disagreements, but many also said they didn’t want to provide Manchin with a big political win.

Schumer, in a floor speech, blamed Republicans for the measure’s failure.

“Senate Republicans have made clear they will block legislation to fund the government if it includes bipartisan permitting reform, because they’ve chosen to obstruct instead of work in a bipartisan way to achieve something they’ve long claimed they want to do,” Schumer said, according to a transcript of his remarks. 

“Because American families should not be subjected to a Republican-manufactured government shutdown, Sen. Manchin has requested, and I have agreed, to move forward and pass the recently filed continuing resolution legislation without the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022,” he said. 

In his own statement, Manchin did not explicitly blame either party, saying “It is unfortunate that members of the United States Senate are allowing politics to put the energy security of our nation at risk.”

“A failed vote on something as critical as comprehensive permitting reform only serves to embolden leaders like Putin who wish to see America fail. For that reason and my firmly held belief that we should never come to the brink of a government shutdown over politics, I have asked Majority Leader Schumer to remove the permitting language from the continuing resolution we will vote on this evening,” he added. 

Schumer and Manchin had previously agreed to include the reforms in the stopgap funding bill, called a continuing resolution, as a condition of Manchin’s support for Democrats’ climate, tax and health care bill, the Inflation Reduction Act.

That larger piece of legislation was signed into law in August after Manchin’s dramatic announcement of the deal with Schumer.

But the political win left a bad taste with Senate Republicans.

Republicans said they felt betrayed after Manchin and Schumer announced an agreement on the Inflation Reduction Act, which was moved under special rules sidestepping a filibuster.

GOP senators had threatened to oppose a bipartisan semiconductor bill if Democrats moved forward with the larger bill. The deal between Schumer and Manchin was announced shortly after the semiconductor bill was passed by the Senate, providing a sting to the GOP.

The changes to the environmental inspection process also met resistance from progressives, who argued that it would speed up the production of fossil fuels and undercut important reviews for projects that could cause pollution and harm local communities.

Dozens of House Democrats had voiced their opposition to the language.

The spending bill is now likely to move through the Senate and House this week.

What happens next with Schumer’s promise to Manchin is much less clear.

Lawmakers may try to add it to a different piece of legislation later this year, but this month’s stalemate shows that won’t be easy.

Manchin’s proposal would have sought to speed up the timeline for environmental reviews, required the president to select 25 priority projects to be expedited and given the federal government more authority over electric transmission lines. 

It also was expected to secure the approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would carry natural gas from Manchin’s home state. 

Some of the permitting reform opponents celebrated its removal from the funding bill. 

“All across the country, poor communities, communities of color, and Indigenous communities have been repeatedly burned by polluting industries’ shortcuts and broken promises. Having to vote for a bill that would worsen that status quo by gutting public input and fast-tracking dangerous projects like the Mountain Valley Pipeline would have been unconscionable,” said a statement from Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) who led progressive opposition in the House. 

“I look forward to voting on a clean Continuing Resolution to keep our government open. There is a lot of work to do to keep moving forward with the Biden administration’s momentum on tackling climate change and environmental injustices. We don’t have time to waste on unnecessary shutdown standoffs,” he added. 

Updated at 5:50 p.m.

Tags Charles Schumer Charles Schumer continuing resolution joe manchin Joe Manchin permitting reform Vladimir Putin

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