Senate Democrats are set to act on a short-term financing plan next week to avert a government shutdown. Still, they have dubious prospects due to a controversial proposal to speed up energy project permits.
By approving a House bill that will be used as a short-term continuing resolution to extend existing funding levels until mid-December, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) took the first step toward avoiding the shutdown. The fiscal year ends Friday.
Schumer has offered to attach Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D., W.Va.) permitting overhaul measure to the government-funding resolution, drawing bipartisan opposition. Sixty votes are needed to pass the resolution, and Schumer hasn’t specified what he’ll do if he can’t pass the resolution.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) suggested Thursday that Congress can act fast on financing. She wouldn’t say if enough House lawmakers would vote for the resolution with the new changes.
As a condition of his backing for the Democrats’ climate, healthcare, and tax agenda, Manchin insisted the permitting law be linked to a must-pass bill. With the Inflation Reduction Act now law, he’s failed to rally support for permission, despite a potential federal shutdown.
Mr. Manchin claimed that an “overwhelming majority” of Democrats support his bill Sunday. He is telling them to use the chance you finally have to make things happen in America, he said on “Fox News Sunday.” The law would hasten clearance for energy-related projects across the country, including natural-gas pipelines, electrical transmission lines, wind farms, and solar-power installations. It would establish a two-year timetable for the most extensive NEPA evaluation.
The law would also require the White House to prioritize 25 projects that reduce energy prices, increase energy dependability, and reduce carbon emissions, placing pressure on U.S. authorities to speed up evaluations. It alters Clean Water Act provisions that let states and tribes object to pipelines and other energy projects due to pollution concerns, restricting their veto ability on water-quality problems.
Some Democrats oppose the plan. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) urged legislators to oppose it, arguing it would undermine environmental laws.
Congress shouldn’t pass Senator Manchin’s terrible side agreement to let the fossil fuel industry pollute and destroy the planet, Sanders stated.
Sanders and seven Democratic senators, including Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.), Cory Booker (D., N.J.), and Edward Markey (D., Mass.), begged Schumer not to allow modifications to the federal funding measure. Putting it on a must-pass bill like government financing would encourage both parties to pass it.
The day after Mr. Manchin’s plan was revealed, over a dozen environmental and community advocates were charged with unauthorized entry. That nightfall, they were released. One Republican senator, West Virginian Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.), said she would vote for Mr. Manchin’s plan. Ms. Capito had a permission bill. Both ideas attempt to speed up the completion of the 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would transport natural gas from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia.
Neither proposal overlapped much. Ms. Capito’s measure would give states greater discretion over oil and gas production, delay mandated air-quality upgrades when firms grow, and abolish federal monitoring of smaller waterways.
Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) backed Ms. Capito’s measure before Mr. Manchin’s release. Mr. Manchin’s plan hasn’t been discussed.
Other Republicans have voiced concern, fearing Democrat-led moves before the midterms. Mr. Manchin has grumbled about bipartisan backing for his bill, which he says advances Republican and Democratic agendas.
Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan says he’s still reviewing Manchin’s measure and hasn’t decided how he’ll vote. According to Sullivan, many senators realize that permitting reform is vital to oil, gas, and renewables, and revitalizing America requires allowing reform.
The oil-and-gas industry agrees. American Gas Association President Karen Harbert stated both West Virginia lawmakers deserve praise for focusing on permitting reform. Renewable energy groups favor a permitting change, saying it will ensure solar and wind projects that gained a lift from the new climate law’s tax credit provisions don’t become stuck.
Environmental organizations reject the permitting revamp. While Mr. Manchin’s plan doesn’t impair environmental requirements mandated in the National Environmental Policy Act, it speeds up such evaluations.
Hastening reviews will lead to less inspection, the organizations claimed, placing neighborhoods and ecosystems at danger of contamination.
Mr. Manchin’s idea may speed up big transmission projects by rerouting approvals via the federal government.