Manchin enlisting oil CEOs to get GOP support for permitting bill

Ari Natter September 14, 2022

(Bloomberg) — Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is enlisting the help of energy-industry executives to marshal Republican support for his plan to speed up the process of getting federal approvals for energy projects, according to people familiar with the matter.


The outreach, which has included companies in the mining, utilities and oil-and-gas industry, underscores the fraught political path for his permitting-overhaul bill. Passing the legislation would mark a big win for the industry and its long-sought efforts to accelerate permitting and scale back environmental reviews that can take years.

Among projects that could benefit is a stalled $6.6 billion Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline -- which would help to unlock more supplies of the fuel from the Marcellus shale. Reform could also expedite the approval of new clean energy projects spurred by the climate package enacted last month.

Manchin has said privately he thinks he needs more than 10 Republicans in the Senate to support the measure, which is still being drafted, the people said. He is also concerned that a separate GOP permitting-reform bill, introduced Monday by his Republican West Virginia colleague Senator Shelley Moore Capito, and backed by 38 of her GOP colleagues, could strip needed Republican support for his version, according to the people. Manchin’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Manchin is set to address chief executive officers at the Washington-based Business Roundtable’s quarterly meeting later this week, one person said. 

The legislation is slated for inclusion in a must-pass government funding bill, as part of a deal that Manchin and the Democratic leadership made in exchange for his pivotal vote last month for President Joe Biden’s slimmed-down economic and climate agenda.

If passed, the legislation is expected to deliver speedier approval for Equitrans Midstream Corp.’s Mountain Valley gas pipeline, which runs from West Virginia to Virginia.

It could also make changes to bedrock environmental laws, by putting two-year time limits on project reviews and limiting the power of states in Clean Water Act approvals.

While the changes align with many long-held energy-industry priorities, it’s faced opposition from some senior Republicans who are angry that Democrats jammed a massive climate spending bill through the Senate on party lines with Manchin’s support. Others have been lukewarm to the package out of concern it won’t make the more sweeping reforms they feel are needed.

Progressive Democrats have also voiced opposition to the package, which has enraged environmentalists who see it as a betrayal. 

Senator Bernie Sanders said last week he’d vote against the stopgap government-funding bill if Democratic leaders added the permitting plan, and more than 70 Democratic lawmakers wrote to House leadership in opposition to the package, hinting they’d be willing to shut down the government over it. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he is waiting to see the final text of the Manchin measures before drumming up votes for the overall legislation.

“We will have to convince our members if it is included,” Hoyer said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. He added that the plan is for the Senate to vote first on a bill combining stopgap funding and the permits measure, then send it to the House.

For its part, the White House continues to support the agreement made with Manchin, which enabled “the biggest step forward ever on climate,” according to Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

“We support that deal and that vote and we will work with Congress to determine the best pathway forward” Jean-Pierre said Monday when asked about threats to sink the government-funding bill. 

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