Energy & Environment — Manchin releases permitting reform proposal


Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) is providing more details on his approval proposal. Meanwhile, the Senate has approved a climate deal that calls for phasing out powerful greenhouse gases that the country is already on track to phase out.

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news on energy, the environment and more. For The Hill, I’m Rachel Frazin. Someone forwarded this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

Manchin details allow changes under skepticism

Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) released the text of his proposed changes to the country’s energy project approval process, trying to get his point across to skeptical lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Manchin’s text includes several provisions previously outlined in a fact sheet, including those that would benefit a controversial natural gas pipeline running through his home state known as the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

  • The legislation would also limit the deadlines for environmental assessments, which are part of the permitting process, to two years for major projects and one year for less significant projects.
  • In addition, the President must maintain a list of 25 energy projects of strategic national importance for ten years.

Some new information: The new legislation states that in the first seven of those years, five of the 25 projects must involve either fossil fuels or biofuels, six must relate to clean energy and four must relate to critical minerals.

Manchin’s move has met with some opposition from Democrats and Republicans.

Democrats have expressed concern that speeding up the permitting process could undermine environmental inspections of potentially polluting projects. They are also concerned that the proposal could make it easier to advance fossil fuel infrastructure.

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Several Republicans have said that Manchin’s proposal may not be strong enough to win her vote and have also expressed anger at how Manchin’s deal came about.

Most Republicans support an alternative bill by Senator Shelley Moore Capito
(RW.Va.), which also aims to speed up the schedule for environmental assessments.

A little comparison and contrast:

  • Capito’s bill goes even further, including provisions that would prevent the federal government from restricting fracking and allow states to take over federal powers over power generation on public lands.
  • Both the Capito and Manchin proposals also aim to limit state authority to block energy projects that pass through its waters, give them only one year to do so, and limit the grounds on which states make their decisions can justify. However, Capito’s legislation would also codify a Trump-era rule restricting which bodies of water are subject to federal protection, something Manchin’s bill does not.
  • For the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Manchin bill requires federal authorities to issue permits for construction and operation within 30 days. It also states that these acts are not subject to judicial review. Capito’s proposal is similar but would give agencies 21 days.

Read more about Manchin’s proposal here.

RELATED: MORE DEMOCRATS SAY NO TO MANCHIN

Other Senate Democrats have opposed Senator Joe Manchin’s push to change the energy project permitting process.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) led a letter calling for the permit reform message to be separated from a government funding action known as a rolling resolution.

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Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (DN.J.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also signed the letter.

But lawmakers stopped specifically saying they would vote against government funding to prevent the deal from going through.

The letter was first reported by Politico. Merkley’s office confirmed The Hill’s accuracy of this report.

Read more about the letter here.

Senate climate agreement OK in largely symbolic vote

The Senate on Wednesday voted to ratify a climate deal that limits the use of potent greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), though the US has already taken steps to comply with the deal’s terms.

By a vote of 69 to 27, the Senate voted to ratify the Kigali Amendment, which calls for a phasing out of HFCs. Commonly used in appliances like air conditioners and refrigerators, HFCs can warm the planet thousands of times more than carbon dioxide.

While approving the treaty is a huge symbolic move, the country has already enacted similar legislation.

  • In 2020, the US passed bipartisan legislation mandating a gradual 85 percent reduction in HFCs over 15 years compared to a baseline.
  • This measure was seen as a rare bipartisan climate victory pushed through by Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.).

One reason such a measure could potentially gain bipartisan traction is the support of industry, which has already switched to alternatives.

Wednesday’s action was also bipartisan, with 21 Republicans joining Democrats in support.

And while the US is already moving towards the treaty’s goals, Barry Rabe, a professor of environmental policy at the University of Michigan, said Wednesday’s move could give the US more credibility on climate issues on a global scale.

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“Just in the early years of this decade, the US has really started to move from being a global laggard, certainly in HFCs and certainly in methane, to more of a leadership role, and I think that would further solidify or underscore that will be ratified by Kigali,” said Rabe.

He also said it is important to maintain trading partner credibility going forward.

Read more about voting here.

ON TAP TOMORROW

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing on energy storage technology

WHAT WE READ

  • Revealed: the ‘shocking’ levels of toxic lead in Chicago’s tap water (The Guardian)
  • World Bank President Not Sure Climate Change Is Real (Quartz)
  • Duke Energy is emitting a powerful climate-warming gas more than five times faster than other utilities (Inside Climate News and NBC)

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Visit The Hill’s energy and environment page for the latest news and reports. we will see you tomorrow

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