Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer agreed last month to support Sen. Joe Manchin's (D-WV) energy project permitting reform bill. With government approvals of vital energy infrastructure taking more than three times as long as it did a half-century ago, many senators on both sides of the aisle say action is needed. Even many environmentalists back reform, since permitting delays are holding up the conversion to green energy.
Manchin’s 91-page bill would:
- Require the president to designate and periodically update a list of at least 25 high-priority energy infrastructure projects and prioritize permitting for them
- Require a balance between nuclear, fossil fuel, electric transmission, renewables, and other projects in this high-priority list
- Set maximum timelines for government permitting reviews
- Set a statute of limitations for court challenges to energy projects
- Complete the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which is stalled with 95% already completed
Even though many members of both parties support these measures, Manchin’s bill faces a tough fight. Many of his Republican colleagues do not want to put a Democratic measure over the top— meanwhile in the House, about 80 progressives have come out against the bill.
Manchin’s home state colleague, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), has introduced a competing permitting reform bill. It is shorter than Manchin’s, and does many of the same things, but Capito’s bill goes farther than Manchin’s in several key respects:
- Both bills would limit states’ authority to block projects that run through their waters, but Capito’s would also write into law a Trump-era rule limiting which waters are subject to federal protections.
- Capito’s bill would write other Trump National Environmental Policy Act regulations into law, limiting the ability of federal and state agencies from blocking energy projects.
- Capito’s bill would prevent the federal government from restricting fracking, putting this entirely in the hands of the states. This would include decisions on fracking on federal lands within the states.
- Capito’s bill would let states take over authority for energy production on public lands; Manchin’s leaves this with the federal government.
- Manchin’s bill requires agencies to issue certain authorizations regarding the Mountain Valley Pipeline within 30 days. Capito’s bill has similar language, but would give the agencies just 21 days.
If the Manchin bill is fighting an uphill battle, the Capito bill is facing a nearly impossible one. Capito’s bill cannot meet the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to advance, and cannot pass in the House. If desperately needed permitting reform is to advance this year, Manchin’s bill is the only game in town.