Lengths of pipeline wait to be laid in the ground along the Mountain Valley Pipeline under construction near Elliston, Virginia, on September 29, 2019.
Charles Mostoller | Reuters
AND bipartisan debt relief bill struck by the president Joe Biden and House Republicans will fast-track approval of all West Virginia pipeline permits over the weekend and limit environmental reviews under one of the nation’s landmark environmental laws.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline, championed by Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., would transport natural gas 303 miles from West Virginia to the southeast, with part of it passing through the Jefferson National Forest. Construction of the $6.6 billion pipeline is nearly complete, although plans have been delayed for several years due to legal hurdles.
Climate and civil rights activists and some state Democrats strongly opposed the pipeline. Scientists have repeatedly warned that the country must stop approving new fossil fuel projects and accelerate the transition to clean energy to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
While the Biden administration has implemented an aggressive climate agenda, the president has also taken steps to increase fossil fuel production, working with Manchin and Republicans who have argued that the president’s climate agenda threatens US energy security.
Critics of the Mountain Valley Pipeline say it will pass through largely rural, low-income indigenous communities and undermine the country’s efforts to curb fossil fuel emissions and pollution, disproportionately harming environmental communities.
“The dirty debt ceiling deal is basically an attack on our climate and working families. It’s a climate bomb … and a health threat to every community in its path,” Jean Su, energy justice program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said during Tuesday’s call. “It is incredibly important that Congress vote on a clean debt deal.”
Proponents say the pipeline is vital to bolstering U.S. domestic energy security and that the plan was almost complete and ready to move forward.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) about his agreement to raise the United States’ debt ceiling at the White House in Washington, May 28, 2023.
Julia Nikhinson | Reuters
The debt relief bill speeds federal pipeline permitting and limits judicial review. However, the project could still be delayed or blocked by litigation.
American energy company Equitrans Midstream Corporation he said earlier this month it expected to complete the pipeline by the end of the year, but added that “significant risk and uncertainty remain, including current and likely litigation.”
“President Biden protected his landmark climate legislation, prevented House Republicans from clawing back record funding for environmental justice projects, and secured a deal to bring hundreds of clean energy projects online faster while maintaining full environmental controls,” said Abdullah Hasan, White. The Speaker of the House said.
“We believe this is a bipartisan compromise that Democrats in Congress can be proud of and that will advance our clean energy goals and climate agenda,” Hasan said.
The deal would also streamline the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a landmark environmental regulation, to limit its requirements for some projects.
The agreement would designate a “single lead agency” to develop environmental assessments to speed up the process and shorten the time it takes the federal government to analyze the environmental impact of a proposed plan.
Environmental groups argued that NEPA’s provisions would further limit the public’s ability to provide information about fossil fuel projects that would harm overburdened communities. Letter from 175 groups on Tuesday called on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and members of Congress to vote on a clean debt ceiling bill.
Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, which represents oil and gas companies, said in a statement that reforming the NEPA analysis is “extremely important to getting the country back on the path to energy dominance.”
“This is a strong first step toward enabling America’s energy infrastructure faster, reducing costs for taxpayers and alleviating high energy prices for consumers,” Sgamma said of the debt ceiling deal.
Congress is expected to vote on the legislation as early as Wednesday. The bill needs support from both Republicans and Democrats to pass. The agreement must pass the Senate by the June 5 deadline set by the Ministry of Finance.