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Joe Manchin, at clean energy event in Pittsburgh, says U.S. needs permitting reform to compete

Says 'you can’t do' clean energy projects if they take too long to build 

  • Reid Frazier
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) speaks at the Global Clean Energy Action Forum in Pittsburgh on Sept. 23, 2022.

Reid R. Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) speaks at the Global Clean Energy Action Forum in Pittsburgh on Sept. 23, 2022.

manchin

Reid R. Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) speaks at the Global Clean Energy Action Forum in Pittsburgh on Sept. 23, 2022.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin told a clean energy conference in Pittsburgh that his permitting reform bill before congress is necessary to preserve the United States as a world superpower. 

Manchin, a Democrat, made the comments Friday at the Global Clean Energy Action Forum, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and Carnegie Mellon University. 

Before he could make his comments, Manchin was heckled by a group of protesters in colorful masks because of the bill’s provisions that would speed the development of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. That pipeline would bring gas from West Virginia to states on the eastern seaboard. 

Manchin didn’t mention the Mountain Valley or any of the other pipelines that would be helped by passage. But he hinted that he wasn’t ready to abandon fossil fuels, even as the U.S. seeks to lower its carbon emissions. 

“You cannot get rid of the horsepower that runs our country,” he said. “You cannot remain a superpower of the world if you don’t have energy independence and energy security.” 

The bill would benefit oil and gas pipeline projects, by making it harder for states, citizens, and environmental groups to slow them down in courts. It also sets tighter deadlines for federal agencies to produce environmental impact reviews.

A group of 400 scientists, doctors, and nurses petitioned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to reject the bill. 

We need to leave oil, gas, and coal in the ground and turn off the spigot of carbon pouring into the air in the form of both carbon dioxide and methane,” the letter said. “Advancing legislation that in any way facilitates additional fossil fuel extraction…takes us in exactly the opposite direction.”

The American Petroleum Institute said it was reviewing the bill but was “encouraged that both sides of the aisle recognize the need for permitting reform for critical energy projects.” 

The renewable energy industry could also benefit, because less time would be required to build its projects. 

Many renewable energy projects are on hold or of limited use because they lack adequate electricity transmission to get their power to market. 

A recent Princeton University report found the U.S. needs to build transmission lines at twice the speed as it is doing today, in order to achieve long-term climate goals. 

Scientists say lowering carbon emissions is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Manchin said that a transition to cleaner energy sources, like renewables or the zero-carbon fuel hydrogen, will be harder to achieve if projects take decades to build. 

“You can’t do it if it says, ‘Well, we’re not going to be able to take that energy to market because we can’t build a transmission line or we don’t have a hydrogen pipeline. It’s going to take us seven or eight years to get permitted, another four or five to build it.’ And you’ve missed a window completely.”

The permitting bill was part of a bargain Manchin struck with Senate leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to gain Manchin’s approval of the Inflation Reduction Act, which included $369 million in clean energy funding, the largest ever climate commitment in the U.S. 

Manchin told the audience work on that bill was done “in silence” because he wasn’t sure it would come to pass. 

I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I don’t want get anybody’s aspirations and all their excitement and then it fall and not happen,” Manchin said. 

Manchin said he hoped the permitting bill would come together soon. But it faces opposition from some Democrats as well as Republicans. Manchin said voting on the legislation should begin Tuesday. 

“By next week,” he said, “we will either have a permitting process that accelerates and lets us compete on a global basis of how we do things, and bring things to market… or not.”

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