Energy & Environment — Manchin releases permitting reform proposal

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is releasing more details on his permitting reform proposal. Meanwhile, the Senate approved a climate treaty that calls for the phasedown of potent greenhouse gases that the country is already on its way toward phasing down.

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

Manchin details permitting changes amid skepticism 

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) released the text of his proposed changes to the country’s process for approving energy projects, seeking to make his case 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 that runs through his home state known as the Mountain Valley Pipeline.  

  • The legislation would also limit the timelines for environmental reviews that are part of the approval process to two years for major projects and one year for those that are less significant. 
  • It further requires the president to keep a list of 25 energy projects of strategic national importance for 10 years. 

Some new info: The new legislation specifies that for the first seven of those years, five of the 25 projects must be related to either fossil fuels or biofuels, six must be for clean energy and four must be related to critical minerals.  

Manchin’s push is facing some resistance from Democrats and Republicans. 

Democrats have expressed concerns that speeding up the approval process could undercut environmental inspections of potentially polluting projects. They are also worried the proposal could make it easier to advance fossil fuel infrastructure.   

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

Most Republicans are backing an alternative bill from Sen. Shelley Moore Capito
(R-W.Va.) that also aims to speed up the timeline for environmental reviews.  

A little compare and contrast:  

  • Capito’s bill goes further, with provisions that prevent the federal government from restricting fracking and allowing states to take over authority from the federal government for energy production on public lands. 
  • Both the Capito and Manchin proposals also both seek to limit state authority to block energy projects that run through their waters, giving them just a year to do so and limiting the reasons states can use to justify their decisions. Yet Capito’s legislation would also codify a Trump-era rule that limited which waters are subject to federal protections, something Manchin’s bill does not do.  
  • For the Mountain Valley Pipeline, Manchin’s bill specifies that within 30 days, federal agencies need to issue authorizations for its construction and operation. It also says that these actions aren’t 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  

Additional Senate Democrats have come out in opposition of Sen. Joe Manchin’s push to change the approval process for energy projects.  

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) lead a letter calling for the separation of the permitting reform message from a stopgap government funding measure known as a continuing resolution. 

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

But the lawmakers stopped short of explicitly saying they would vote against funding the government in order to stop the deal from going through.  

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

Read more about the letter here.  

Senate OK’s climate treaty in largely symbolic vote 

The Senate on Wednesday voted in favor of ratifying a climate treaty limiting the use of highly potent greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), although the U.S. has already taken steps to comply with the terms of the accord.  

In a vote of 69-27, the Senate voted to ratify the Kigali Amendment, which calls for phasing down HFCs. HFCs are frequently used in appliances such as air conditioners and refrigerators and can be thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide in terms of warming the planet. 

While the approval of the treaty is a big symbolic step, the country already has laws in place along similar lines. 

  • In 2020, the U.S. passed a bipartisan bill that requires phasing down HFCs by 85 percent over 15 years when compared to a baseline level.  
  • That measure was seen as a rare bipartisan climate win, pushed through by Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.).  

One reason such a measure may have been able to gain bipartisan traction is support from industry, which has already been transitioning toward alternatives.  

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

And while the U.S. is already moving toward the treaty’s goals, University of Michigan environmental policy professor Barry Rabe said that Wednesday’s move may give the U.S. more climate credibility on a global stage.  

“Just in the initial years of this decade, the U.S. has really begun to move from the position of a global laggard, certainly on HFCs and certainly on methane, into more of a leadership role and I think that would be further cemented or underscored by ratification of Kigali,” Rabe said.  

He also said it’s important to maintain credibility for trading partners going forward.  

Read more about the vote here.  

ON TAP TOMORROW

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

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Revealed: the ‘shocking’ levels of toxic lead in Chicago tap water (The Guardian
  • The president of the World Bank isn’t sure climate change is real (Quartz
  • Duke Energy Is Leaking a Potent Climate-Warming Gas at More Than Five Times the Rate of Other Utilities (Inside Climate News and NBC)  

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.  

VIEW FULL VERSION HERE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.