Schumer-Manchin Permitting Deal Met With Bipartisan Opposition Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., left, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
By Charlie McCarthy | Wednesday, 17 August 2022 10:27 AM EDT
Members from both major political parties are unhappy about a permitting reform deal tied to the climate and health care legislation signed by President Joe Biden.
An agreement between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., produced what Democrats are calling the Inflation Reduction Act that Biden signed Tuesday.
That deal was tied to "comprehensive permitting reform legislation" to be passed before Oct. 1, the start of a new fiscal year.
The permitting reform, Schumer and Manchin say, would support more speedy permitting for green energy and fossil fuel projects, including the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline in West Virginia.
Although Democrats used reconciliation to pass the Inflation Reduction Act with a simple majority vote, the permitting reform legislation will require at least 60 votes to avoid a Republican filibuster.
Republicans and Democrats have expressed opposition to the legislation, the Washington Examiner reported.
Most Republicans generally support permitting reforms. They've blamed the Biden administration for adding to project delays by pulling back some Trump-era reforms and broadening the scope of agencies' environmental reviews.
However, some GOP lawmakers are upset that permitting reform was tied to climate and health care spending.
"Sen. Manchin, if you think you're going to get 60 votes to get the sweeteners that can't be done in reconciliation, you need to think long and hard about what you're doing," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said during a Aug. 5 press conference.
Some environmentalists are accusing Manchin — who held up Biden's climate and social spending bill for nearly eight months — of dragging out negotiations. They lobbied for new penalties on fossil energy as part of the climate legislation but lost out to Manchin's more centrist pro-fossil fuel preferences.
Jamal Raad, executive director of environmental NGO Evergreen Action, issued a statement Monday saying that the permitting proposal would "gut America’s bedrock environmental laws."
"There is simply no excuse for Democrats who care about the climate to support a toxic giveaway that amounts to little more than a fossil fuel wish list," Raad said.
Evergreen backed the Inflation Reduction Act, but Raad said Congress's climate proponents "don't owe Joe Manchin their votes on this backroom scheme."
Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter called the permitting agreement an "awful side deal to fast track fossil fuel permitting" that would "doom any progress that might result from the passage of [the IRA],” the Examiner reported.
The permitting reform legislation includes a provision that directs the president to designate a list of at least 25 high-priority infrastructure projects for which permitting should be prioritized because they are deemed to be of "strategic national importance."
The deal also proposes a statute of limitations on litigation against projects, something environmental groups have used to delay new oil and gas projects.
Also, Manchin proposes to require relevant federal agencies to approve permitting the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which nearly is complete and connects West Virginia's shale gas to neighboring Virginia.