Bipartisan Debt Limit Bill to Expedite Approval of West Virginia Gas Pipeline

Bipartisan Debt Limit Bill to Expedite Approval of West Virginia Gas Pipeline

Over the weekend, President Joe Biden and House Republicans struck a bipartisan debt limit bill that would expedite the approval of all permits for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a West Virginia natural gas pipeline. The pipeline would transport natural gas 303 miles from West Virginia to the Southeast, with part of it crossing through the Jefferson National Forest. The construction of the $6.6 billion pipeline is nearly complete, although plans have been delayed for several years due to legal setbacks. Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has been a supporter of the pipeline, which has faced opposition from climate and civil rights activists, state Democrats, and scientists who have warned that the country must halt approvals for new fossil fuel projects and quicken the transition to clean energy to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Expediting Federal Permits and Limiting Environmental Reviews

The debt limit bill would expedite the pipeline’s federal permits and limit judicial review. The bill would also streamline the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a landmark environmental regulation, to limit its requirements on some projects. The agreement would designate “a single lead agency” to develop environmental reviews to speed up the process and shorten the time the federal government takes to analyze a proposed plan’s environmental impact. While proponents say the pipeline is vital to bolstering U.S. domestic energy security and already near completion, critics argue that it will run through predominantly rural, low-income Indigenous communities and will undermine the country’s efforts to curb fossil fuel emissions and pollution that disproportionately harms environmental justice communities.

Clean Debt Ceiling Bill and Environmental Justice

Environmental groups argued that the NEPA provision would further curtail the public’s ability to provide input on fossil fuel projects that would harm overburdened communities. A letter from 175 groups on Tuesday urged Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and members of Congress to vote on a clean debt ceiling bill. The legislation would protect the full scope of environmental reviews and prevent the curtailment of requirements for projects that would harm overburdened communities. The bill would also ensure that the public has the ability to provide input on fossil fuel projects that would affect their communities.

President Biden has imposed an aggressive climate agenda, but has also taken steps to boost fossil fuel production and work with Manchin and Republicans who’ve argued that the president’s climate agenda is endangering U.S. energy security. Abdullah Hasan, a White House spokesman, said in a statement that the deal was a bipartisan compromise that Congressional Democrats could be proud of and that would accelerate the clean energy goals and climate agenda. Congress is set to vote on the legislation as early as Wednesday. Both Republican and Democratic support is required for the bill to pass, and the deal must pass the Senate before the June 5 deadline set by the Treasury Department.

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