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West Virginia Senators Manchin, Capito introduce permitting bills; U.S. Energy Secretary signals support for MVP

WASHINGTON (WV News) – West Virginia’s U.S. Senators, Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, have each recently introduced bills aimed overhauling the permitting process for federal energy projects.


Both Manchin and Capito have been involved in multiple attempts over the last year to pass a permitting bill that would aid the completion of the long-delayed Mountain Valley Pipeline project.

“We’ve been working this issue for months now,” Capito said. “We have major differences — no doubt — we’re going to try and iron out some of those differences.”

Capito, ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, put forward the Revitalizing the Economy by Simplifying Timelines and Assuring Regulatory Transparency (RESTART) Act.

Speaking during a recent media briefing, Capito said she and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. have been working with the chairs of their respective committees to try to get to a “bipartisan, regular-order permitting bill.”

“We see so many projects held up, abandoned or not being able to get completed because they can’t get the permits,” she said.

Barrasso, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has also introduced the Spur Permitting of Underdeveloped Resources (SPUR) Act.

“American energy can no longer be held hostage. That’s exactly what’s happening under the Biden administration. Environmental extremists are manipulating a broken permitting process. The bills Sen. Capito and I are introducing will fix this problem,” Barrasso said in a statement.

It is “possible” a permitting bill could be attached to a Senate bill related to current debate over the nation’s debt ceiling, Capito said.

The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce issued a statement Thursday afternoon applauding the promise of the RESTART Act.

“Sen. Capito has always been a leader in bringing together senators from both parties in a bipartisan fashion, and this bill promises to be one of those issues where real progress can be made to improve the lives of our citizens,” Chamber President Steve Roberts said.

Manchin, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced the Building American Energy Security Act of 2023.

He attempted to attach an identical bill to a defense spending package at the end of last year, but it was ultimately removed.

The Building American Energy Security Act is intended to “serve as a starting point for upcoming conversations in the Senate around reforming energy permitting to ensure American energy security and independence,” according to a statement from Manchin’s office.

“I am introducing the Building American Energy Security Act today to restart the conversation in the Senate about accelerating our permitting process as the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee continues to discuss, consider and act on advancing this critical topic,” Manchin said.

“There is overwhelming bipartisan recognition that our current permitting processes aren’t working, and equally bipartisan support for addressing it through comprehensive permitting reform legislation,” Manchin said.

According to information from Manchin’s office, the Building American Energy Security Act of 2023 would:

  • Set maximum timelines for permitting reviews, including two years for National Environmental Policy Act reviews for major projects and one year for lower-impact projects
  • Address excessive litigation delays
  • Designate and prioritize projects of strategic national importance
  • Clarify the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s jurisdiction regarding the regulation of interstate hydrogen pipeline, storage, import and export facilities
  • Enhance federal government permitting authority for interstate electric transmission facilities that have been determined by FERC to be in the national interest
  • Complete the Mountain Valley Pipeline
  • Establish that a right of way granted by an Indian tribe on tribal land does not require approval of the secretary of the interior
  • Allow FERC to act more quickly to implement competitive salary provisions from the Energy Act of 2020

Appalachian Voices, an environmental organization opposed to the MVP project, issued a statement condemning the Building American Energy Security Act.

“While some updates to energy regulations are needed to expedite the transition to clean energy, gutting environmental protections and granting special favors for a major polluting project isn’t the way to do it,” said Executive Director Tom Cormons. “Like other ‘permitting reform’ proposals before it, BAESA favors fossil fuel and mining projects over the interests of communities that are directly affected by energy projects, and attempts to put Mountain Valley Pipeline above the law. The Senate should once again reject Manchin’s dangerous bill.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm recently sent a letter to the FERC all but urging the body to aid the completion of the MVP.

Read the Letter Here

“While the Department takes no position regarding the outstanding agency actions required under federal or state law related to the construction of the MVP project, nor on any pending litigation, we submit the view that the MVP project will enhance the Nation’s critical infrastructure for energy and national security,” Granholm wrote. “We appreciate the Commission’s prompt actions to fulfill its regulatory responsibilities regarding natural gas infrastructure under the Natural Gas Act, and the interagency coordination it provides as the lead federal agency for the project under FAST-41.”

Granholm’s letter argues the MVP project will help assure the nation’s energy independence and security.

“(The MVP) can also help unlock additional natural gas supplies and delivery, which, in turn can enhance regional and national energy security,” Granholm wrote.

Granholm’s comments are a welcome development for the embattled project, according to Capito.

“I thought the comments Secretary Granholm made on the MVP pipeline were very encouraging,” she said. “She didn’t full-out, fully endorse (it), because she probably can’t. There are certain decisions I would imagine flow from her department, but I would say this is a recognition by the Biden administration that safe pipeline construction is absolutely essential to the energy security of this country and that West Virginia plays a big role, and West Virginia companies play a big role here.”

Regulatory impediments are slowing down more than just the natural gas projects, Capito said.

“It’s manufacturing projects. It’s water projects. It’s broadband projects,” she said. “All of these projects have to be permitted before they’re allowed to be built.”


Story by Charles Young, The State Journal


Read the Story Here

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