US energy permitting reform bill fails by bipartisan opposition

Ruth Liao

27-Sep-2022

HOUSTON (ICIS)–A sweeping energy infrastructure permitting bill proposed by Joe Manchin (Democrat-West Virginia) was blocked from key members, putting further doubt into the fate of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in the Appalachians.

Late on 27 September, Manchin’s continuing resolution attached to the sweeping federal Inflation Reduction Act signed into law on 16 August was removed, as a growing number of both Republican and Democrat senators opposed it.

Senator Tim Kaine (Democrat-Virginia) has pledged to oppose the bill, as well as Mitch McConnell (Republican-Kentucky).

Kaine said in a 27 September statement that the Virginia senator strongly opposed the provision that would fast-track the stalled Mountain Valley Pipeline, an approximately 303-mile (488km) natural gas pipeline between West Virginia and Virginia that has been halted in construction due to legal and environmental opposition. Work has been halted on the pipeline since 2019.

Mountain Valley is a joint venture of EQM Midstream, NextEra Capital, Con Edison Transmission, WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream. The project could start up by late 2023, although the pipeline approvals has been bogged down in pending court appeals.

The interstate pipeline project was envisioned to bring Utica and Marcellus shale gas down to the southern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the US.

In his statement, Kaine said that he would vote against Manchin’s proposal and urge his colleagues to do the same.

Manchin’s energy permitting bill was introduced as a continuing resolution to the Inflation Reduction Act. The act also contains parts of the federal budget and an aid package for Ukraine, which could be stalled as a result of the debate over the permitting provisions.

On 21 September, McConnell said in a statement that the Inflation Reduction Act was a “gigantic party-line bill that raised taxes on reliable domestic American energy” and that the permitting reform proposed was only in name.

The energy permitting provisions would look to streamline federal permitting regulations, particularly in setting timeline for federal reviews.

The proposal would also clarify Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)’s purview over proposed hydrogen projects. The FERC already has oversight over natural gas infrastructure projects.

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