Manchin Is Coming Up Short on GOP Support for Energy Permit Bill




  • In World
  • 2022-09-22 19:35:27Z
  • By Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Democratic Senator Joe Manchin struggled on Thursday to win the GOP backing needed for his legislation to fast-track energy projects, with some senior Republican senators declaring it dead on arrival.

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Some Democrats are balking at the plan, and the lack of GOP support could doom Manchin's effort to speed the federal approval process for both clean and fossil energy projects, as well as getting federal approval of Equitrans Midstream Corp.'s stalled $6.6 billion natural gas pipeline running through his home state of West Virginia.

While Manchin's bill won the backing of his West Virginia GOP colleague, Senator Shelley Moore Capito, who also wants to see the Mountain Valley Pipeline completed, other Republicans dismissed that as regional politics.

"Between Republicans who are not inclined to help Senator Manchin out of a bind and Democrats who are going to vote no, it doesn't stand a chance," said Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican.

Manchin has said he may need as many as 20 GOP votes to counter Democratic defections on the measure, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had promised to include in must-pass government funding legislation set for a vote next week. That was part of a deal Schumer made to win Manchin's support for the scaled-down version of President Joe Biden's economic agenda, which passed on a party-line vote in August.

Manchin's 91-page bill would establish new deadlines as short as one year for some federal environmental reviews, set time limits on court challenges and expedite Clean Water Act permits needed for pipelines and other projects, according to the bill summary.

But the effort has been criticized by a number of Republicans, who say it falls short without major changes to bedrock environmental law. They also have voiced concern it could add new layers of bureaucracy and deadlines that are unenforceable.

"I think it does as much harm as good if it does any good at all," Senator Kevin Cramer, a Republican from the oil and gas state of North Dakota, said in an interview Thursday. "If you own a pipeline in West Virginia it's really great. Other than that I don't see a lot of value to it."

Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, is among other GOP senators who said Thursday they remain undecided, but the math not in Manchin's favor.

Manchin said he's counting on other senators to give his plan a fuller assessment.

"Everybody's reading," he said. "They finally got what they wanted and they're reading and we're just anxious they'll come to common sense."

Tellingly, the legislation received a non-committal reaction from the American Petroleum Institute, the nation's largest oil and gas trade group, which represents companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. That comes even after Manchin met with members of the Washington-based group Friday, according to people familiar the matter.

Manchin's bill is also facing opposition in the House, where some 80 Democrats have balked at adding the measure to government-funding legislation, according to Representative Raul M. Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat who chairs the Natural Resources Committee.

"If you want to avoid the drama, if you want to avoid trauma, then separate them," Grijalva said Thursday.

The Senate's No. 2 Democratic leader, Dick Durbin of Illinois, said if the permitting proposal can't get the 60 votes needed to survive on the stop-gap measure that Democratic leaders will have kept their commitment to Manchin, but there isn't a plan at this point to try to move it another way.

"The commitment was to offer his bill on a must-pass bill," Durbin said. "And that's the plan."

The Senate plans to hold its first vote to begin debate on a combined stopgap spending bill and energy permit measure on Tuesday evening after the Jewish New Year holiday is over. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that if the stopgap spending bill gets hung up in the Senate, the House will be prepared to quickly move to prevent an Oct. 1 government shutdown.

Negotiations are still under way on the level of aid to Ukraine to be added to the bill. A deal has been reached to add a provision reauthorizing Food and Drug Administration user fees for five years to the bill, though some details are still being worked out. Any disaster funding for Puerto Rico to respond to Hurricane Fiona damage is likely to wait until a full assessment is made since the federal disaster relief fund is not close to being depleted, lawmakers said.

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