WASHINGTON – Democrats desperately needed the vote of Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to get their top legislative priority across the finish line. So they did what Washington does best: cut a deal.

To drum up support for the bill, which advocacy groups have billed as the single largest investment in the fight against climate change, Manchin said he had secured a commitment from President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders to move a package of permitting reforms for energy projects through Congress by Sept. 30. , the end of the current financial year.

The climate bill is now law, and Manchin is poised to enforce it. But key Democratic constituency groups are lining up against 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 focus on key legislative victories this summer ahead of midterm elections in November that will determine which party controls the House and Senate. More immediately, the division tests the ability of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, R-Calif., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, R-Calif., to hold on to enough Democrats to avoid a partial government shutdown at the end of the month. .

Schumer pushes ahead. He said this week that he would attach Manchin’s preferred measure to mandatory legislation that would keep the federal government open until mid-December.

To win over skeptics, some Democrats are stressing that Manchin’s proposal to streamline environmental reviews for energy infrastructure projects would also be good for renewables.


A summary of the proposed legislation has been circulated among Senate Democrats in recent days and was obtained by The Associated Press. It says the package being developed is key to meeting climate goals by developing interstate transmission lines that would transport electricity from Midwest wind farms to major cities on the East Coast, for example.

“Unfortunately, these higher voltages and longer lines are not being built in various jurisdictions today,” the summary said.

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

“Reforms to address issues of permitting, location and cost sharing are key to creating these projects,” the document says.

In interviews, key Democratic senators echoed a similar message, calling the energy proposal an addition to the broad climate package that passed last month.

“There’s too much of a backlog in solar, wind and geothermal right now, so I want to speed up renewable energy permitting every chance I can,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.


Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said the permitting effort is aimed at making sure major environmental laws are enforced in a more timely manner, such as simultaneous inspections by state agencies, rather than one agency starting its work after how else to finish.

Schatz said the “old environmental movement” was built around stopping inappropriate projects. But the “new environmental movement” is built around the creation of unprecedented amounts of clean energy.

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

The legislative text containing Manchin’s priorities has not yet been released, but among the goals he has set is to establish a maximum time limit for permit reviews, including two years for major projects and one year for projects with lower impacts. Manchin also wants a statute of limitations for filing lawsuits and language that would expand the federal government’s authority over interstate transmission projects that the energy secretary says are in the national interest.


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

The proposed route crosses more than 1,100 streams and would disturb 6,951 acres (2,813 hectares) of land, including 4,168 acres (1,687 hectares) that could cause severe water erosion. When fully completed, the pipeline will deliver up to 2 billion cubic feet (56 million cubic meters) of natural gas per day to markets in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

The legal battles delayed the completion of construction for nearly four years and doubled the cost of the pipeline, which is now estimated at $6.6 billion. Manchin also wants to give a federal appeals court in Washington jurisdiction over any further litigation over the project.


More than 70 House Democrats signed a letter Friday urging Pelosi not to include the authorization provisions in the spending bill or any other legislation that must be passed this year.

“We remain deeply concerned that these severe and harmful permitting provisions will materially and disproportionately affect low-income, Indigenous, and communities of color,” the lawmakers wrote.

Sanders directed his anger mainly at efforts to open the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Speaking on the Senate floor, he mentioned a list of climate disasters happening around the world, from record droughts in the West and China to massive floods in Pakistan and melting glaciers, which he said could lead to the destruction of major US cities under water in the next few years. decades.

“At a time when climate change threatens the very existence of the planet, why would anyone talk about massive increases in carbon emissions and expansion of fossil fuel production in the United States?” Sanders said. “What message does this send to the people of our country and to suffering people around the world?”


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

This bill uses changes to the Internal Revenue Code to transition the US to cleaner energy sources. It gives tax breaks to consumers who buy electric cars, solar panels and more energy-efficient appliances, and provides financial incentives to manufacturers of such products. The bill also spends billions of dollars on things like converting the US Postal Service fleet to electric vehicles.

Human rights activists believe that the bill would allow the US to reduce emissions by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030.

“It’s not that close on the gridiron,” Schatz said. — … I don’t like this pipeline, but it’s not the main environmental problem on the planet. The main environmental problem is that we don’t make enough wind and sun. And now we’re going to see wind and solar take off like a rocket ship.”



Follow AP’s coverage of climate-related stories at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment.


This story has been corrected to show that the pipeline would deliver 2 billion cubic feet, not 2 cubic feet, of natural gas per day.

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