It was another concession from the White House to Manchin, who has long fought the 303-mile pipeline that would carry West Virginia shale gas to the East Coast, but has been dogged by dozens of environmental violations and court battles. Environmentalists have been fighting the plan since its inception, and the new rules are aimed at preventing them from challenging all government permits to cut federal forests and dozens of waterways in Appalachia’s hilly, wet landscape.
It was one of the few energy and climate provisions to make the deal, drawing ire from pipeline opponents and climate activists. The bill proposes the landmark National Environmental Policy Act to limit its requirements on certain projects and study the nation’s grid’s ability to transfer electricity from region to region.
Republican leaders have been working with the White House on how to speed up large electricity transmission projects — key to Biden’s goal of moving away from fossil fuels — but such provisions were excluded from the deal. The White House also said it blocked efforts to spend billions from key legislation won by Biden last year, including a roughly $370 billion package that funded his climate agenda.
That’s not enough to please environmental groups. The Sierra Club on Monday called on Congress to reject it.
“Any deal that tries to fast-track the fracked Gas Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would undermine environmental protections and make life harder for already struggling workers and families, is a bad deal for the country,” its executive director Ben Gelus said in a statement.
Many climate advocates have criticized Biden for supporting the administration’s approval of a giant oil project in Alaska earlier this year called Willow, and its reluctance to help stop other pipeline projects. Climate activists have tried to block the Mountain Valley Pipeline, also known as MVP, as a way to limit the supply of cheap natural gas, and local residents have been frustrated by frequent construction accidents.
But it’s a first for Manchin, who last year sought legislation to help the plan as part of his support for a larger climate package. Manchin may be needed again, along with Capitol Hill, to pass a new deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, and Democrats have tried to help him. A tough re-election bid to secure his Republican Senate seat.
“I am pleased that Speaker McCarthy and his leadership team see tremendous value in completing the MVP to increase domestic energy production and reduce costs across the United States, particularly in West Virginia,” Manchin said late Sunday in a statement that did not mention Biden. President from own party. “I am proud to have fought for this important project.”
MVP is a joint venture between some of the largest gas companies in Appalachia and NextEra Energy, the nation’s most prestigious power company. Its largest investor is Equitrans Midstream, a spinoff of EQT and MVP, America’s largest natural gas producer, which links Marcellus Shale sweet spots to EQT and other drillers in West Virginia as an East Coast distribution hub.
Manchin has said it is critical to the nation’s energy security, especially in getting gas supplies from his home state to major demand centers. He complained that the management did not give permission for the rest of the work, with only 20 miles to go.
But construction for Mountain Valley relies on eminent domain to seize private property, repeatedly violating clean water laws. Billions of dollars Over budget. It committed more than 500 violations in both states, according to a count by the environmental group Appalachian Voices.
On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must grant the project further environmental review, which could push back its completion until 2024, according to independent research firm Clearview Energy Partners.
The new law could overturn that decision and other pending court orders, experts said. Legislative language prohibits court review of MVP permitting decisions from FERC and other federal agencies. Congress approves all permits and gives the Army Corps of Engineers 21 days after the bill is passed to issue those permits. Only that statute can be challenged in the DC Circuit.
“Electing winners on the court and losers for Congress is terrible public policy,” said Peter Anderson, Virginia policy director for Appalachian Voices. “One company gets a pass, and everyone else has to play by the rules.”
What House officials say is that it blocked Republican efforts to cut last year’s climate spending bill and add a package Manpower 1, It would have made major changes to air pollution, clean water and chemical safety laws.
“President Biden defended his historic climate legislation,” White House spokesman Abdullah Hassan said. “We believe this is a bipartisan compromise that congressional Democrats can be proud of and that will accelerate our clean energy goals and climate agenda.”
White House officials also said the MVP could already be completed on time, with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management issuing key permits earlier this month.
“It’s a matter of great interest, but as a practical matter, I don’t think the provision has much effect,” White House climate adviser John Podesta said in audio of a call with House Democrats. Retrieved from Washington Post.
A spokesperson for Equitrans said the company plans to complete the pipeline by the end of 2023. He said the agency is grateful for the support from the White House and congressional leaders of both parties.
“The MVP is one of the most environmentally scrutinized projects ever to be built in this country and is subject to an unprecedented level of legal and regulatory review,” spokeswoman Natalie Cox said in an email.
The project’s delays have put it in the middle of a debate over how long it will take to allow energy infrastructure since last year. A natural gas pipeline takes about three years to build; Electricity transmission is often slow, taking eight to 15 years to build, a problem that White House officials have warned could block the benefits of last year’s climate-spending package if not fixed.
Environmentalists say the change in the National Environmental Policy Act will help speed up other pipeline projects. But the deal does little to help customers get renewable energy from the plants that produce it.
In Thursday’s talks, it rejected measures to encourage the creation of transmission lines to require regions to exchange at least 30 percent of their peak electricity needs with each other. The transmission study included in the deal could take years to complete, and the legislative language for it has “technical issues” that could prevent it from surviving, said Rob Gramlich, president of the consulting group Grid Strategies.
Jason Grumet, chief executive of the American Clean Power Association, a renewable energy industry group, called the measures a mere “down payment.” It would introduce shorter timelines for reviews and empower a lead agency to make decisions among other moves, but that would not be enough, he said.
“It’s critical that Congress take these initial steps,” Grumet said. “Without significant progress in setting up and building new clean energy transmission capabilities, our nation will fail to meet critical economic, national security and climate goals.”
Jeff Stein and Mariana Sotomayor contributed to this report.