Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — Republicans show appetite for permitting reform

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)
Greg Nash
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) makes an opening statement during a hearing to discuss federal regulatory authorities governing the development of interstate hydrogen pipelines, storage, import, and export facilities on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.

Several Republicans are showing a desire to work with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on permitting reform, though it’s not clear if they’ll be able to put a package together in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is apparently backing a fossil fuel phasedown in global talks, while major economies are reaffirming their support for limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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Some in GOP want to work with Manchin. But when?

A handful of Republican lawmakers appear open to working with Sen. Joe Manchin on his push for permitting reform despite tensions between the West Virginia Democrat and the GOP caucus.   

Manchin has been pushing for policies that speed up the approval process for energy projects in order to build out more energy infrastructure. His last attempt ran into opposition from both Republicans — who said it didn’t go far enough — and progressives, who said it could harm communities who live near the projects. 

Republicans were also not inclined to help Manchin after many felt spurned by his support for the Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act. The deal was announced after Republicans backed a separate semiconductor bill.  

In recent weeks, Manchin has engaged in talks with Republicans in the hopes of finding a lame-duck agreement on permitting reform.    

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) told The Hill that getting permitting reform done was “really, really, really important” and that he believed there is an appetite for it.   

“Our country needs energy, all kinds of energy: oil, gas, renewables — we need critical minerals,” he said. “All of those things get boxed out by a broken, dysfunctional permitting system that pretty much everybody knows is broken.”  

So, how are the talks going?  

  • He said there was “slow but steady progress being made” and that he hoped to close what he described as “loopholes” on time limits in the energy project approval process that he said were a part of Manchin’s initial proposal.  
  • Asked whether something could come together in the next few weeks, Sullivan said: “Maybe.”   

What do other Republicans have to say? Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who has in the past expressed support for Manchin’s proposal given its inclusion of help for a natural gas pipeline running through their home state, similarly noted the importance of the policies to Republicans.   

But, she said, “The devil’s going to be in the details.” 

Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) also said that he and Manchin “agreed to try to work together” on the permitting issue, but appeared skeptical that it would get done in the lame-duck session.  

Instead, he said a reform package could come together next year in a divided Congress split between a Democratic Senate and a GOP House.    

Manchin has said that he hopes to see the legislation included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a must-pass military funding bill.   

  • But Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was “not optimistic” about the permitting bill’s chances of making it into the package.    
  • “My focus is to get the NDAA done,” he said.   

Read more about the political dynamics around permitting here.  

TRUMP HITS BIDEN ON CLIMATE, ENERGY 

In announcing his 2024 White House bid on Tuesday, former President Trump criticized the Biden administration on its climate and energy policies.  

He claimed that the Biden administration was focusing too much on the threat of climate change and not enough on global conflict.  

“The Green New Deal, and the environment, which they say may affect us in
300 years is all that is talked about,” Trump said.  

Having already warmed more than a degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), the world is already facing impacts of climate change like melting glaciers. Those impacts are only expected to worsen in the coming years as the planet gets even hotter.  

During his presidential campaign, Biden stopped short of explicitly endorsing the Green New Deal, but his climate plan did call it a “crucial framework.” 

In his speech, Trump also hit the Biden administration’s appeals to other nations to pump more oil. 

  • “There are lots of nations that hate us gravely. And that’s the problem when they look at us in disarray like we are right now when we go to them begging for oil and we have more liquid gold under our feet than they have,” Trump said. “It’s crazy what’s happening.” 
  • Biden has also called on U.S. companies to produce more oil.  

US to back ‘unabated’ fossil fuel phaseout 

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said Wednesday that the U.S. will back proposals to phase out the use of “unabated” fossil fuels at the ongoing COP27 climate summit. 

  • “It has to be unabated oil and gas,” Kerry told Bloomberg in Egypt Wednesday. “Phase down, unabated, over time. The time is a question, but ‘phase down’ is the language we supported.”
  • The “unabated” distinction will open the door to continual operation of fossil fuel developments that offset their greenhouse gas emissions with technology like carbon capture. 

The Indian delegation to the conference has called for phase-down plans to be expanded beyond coal to other fossil fuels like oil and gas, and Kerry’s remarks make the U.S. one of the wealthiest nations to throw its support to the idea. The European Union and the U.K. announced their backing Tuesday.  

However, it is likely to encounter severe opposition from major oil producing nations like Saudi Arabia. 

Last year’s global climate conference in Glasgow called for a phasedown of unabated coal, but did not call for reductions in the uses of other fossil fuels like oil and natural gas that are also major contributors to climate change. Calling for reductions in the use of the fuels would be a significant step farther.  

The U.S. is the world’s largest producer of oil and gas.  

Read more about Kerry’s comments here.  

G-20 reaffirms desire to limit warming to 1.5 degrees 

The Group of 20 (G-20) large world economies is reaffirming its commitment to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) as some countries allegedly want to back away from the target at a global climate summit. 

“Noting the [United Nations’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] assessments that the impact of climate change will be much lower at a temperature increase of 1.5°C compared with 2°C, we resolve to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C,” said an official statement from the leaders of the G-20 nations.  

The leaders met in Bali, Indonesia, prior to the statement’s release. 

The statement comes after U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry said that “a few” countries have resisted putting the 1.5 degree target into whatever agreement comes out of the COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt.  

The inclusion of the target in the G-20 statement may bolster its stature at COP27. The 1.5 degree target was set out in the Paris climate agreement.   

What else did the G-20 say? 

  • The G-20 statement also reiterates the countries’ commitments to the “phasedown” of  “unabated” coal power — that is, coal power whose planet-warming emissions are not prevented from entering the atmosphere.  
  • The countries additionally said they would “increase” their efforts to phase out “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies.  

Read more about the statement here.  

ON TAP TOMORROW

  • The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on Puerto Rico’s post-disaster reconstruction and power grid   
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on Energy Department nominees.   
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is slated to hold a hearing on nominees for the Chemical Safety Board.   

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Black communities in Louisiana more exposed to pollution (NOLA.com
  • As scientists warn Brazil’s rainforest is nearing a point of irreversible decline, Lula makes ambitious deforestation pledge (CNN
  • Sustainability group pulls lobster certification over whales (The Seattle Times) 
  • One man’s lonely quest to save the world’s corals draws a following (The Washington Post
  • La. legal showdown may preview national battle over hydrogen (E&E News)

ICYMI

❓ Lighter click: Mink and you’ll miss it

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.  

Tags Biden Bruce Westerman Joe Manchin Shelley Moore Capito Trump

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