American Energy Alliance to Senator Manchin: You’re Not Helping

WASHINGTON DC (05/02/2023) – Today, Sen. Joe Manchin (D. W.Va.), once again, introduced legislation that will do little to actually solve our nation’s permitting issues, and, in many cases, it might actually make them worse. The measure seemingly seeks to reform the federal permitting process, but mainly is a vehicle to congressionally authorize the West Virginia Senator’s pet project, the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

AEA President Thomas Pyle issued the following statement:

The American economy needs meaningful permitting reform. This legislation from Senator Manchin is certainly not that. The measure is insufficient at achieving actual permitting reform and contains provisions that do the bidding of environmental groups who seek to expand the powers of the federal government to override states and localities with respect to transmission projects.

The time limits and page counts in Manchin’s bill are meaningless unless the underlying issues with NEPA are addressed (which this legislation does not do). Setting time limits without meaningful reform of NEPA could perversely increase problems because anything that is left out of an environmental review to meet the deadline could then become grounds for NEPA litigation. The long timelines for NEPA reviews are a symptom of the dysfunction, not the cause. Any permitting reform legislation must clarify the scope of NEPA and the role of courts in those reviews.

The Mountain Valley part of the legislation sets a terrible precedent. If it requires an act of Congress to approve individual pipelines, we will never get any more pipelines built.

Giving FERC greater power to override state objections to transmission lines is a bad policy. When it comes to electricity transmission, states that get forced into participating in these projects end up having to bear the costs in rate charges. Thus, FERC can effectively force unwilling states into participating in whatever electricity projects the FERC chooses to approve. There was a state AG letter opposing this last year that explained it like this:

“The Act contains three interrelated provisions that, particularly when taken together, eviscerate states’ ability to chart their own land-use and energy policies. First, it would authorize private companies to use eminent domain against state land. Second, it would authorize FERC to command utilities to construct entirely new transmission facilities whenever and wherever FERC deems necessary. And third, it would authorize companies to spread the costs of constructing new transmission facilities onto residents of other states, requiring citizens of one state to subsidize the agenda of politicians and bureaucrats in other states. These provisions eviscerate state sovereign authority, commandeer companies to carry out the will of a three-vote majority of FERC Commissioners, undermine the power of each citizen’s vote to decide policies at the state level, and inevitably force the citizens of our states to subsidize the costs of expensive and unreliable energy policy preferences of California and New York.”

The parts of the Manchin legislation that are incremental improvements in permitting are not enough to justify passage. Congress is famous for passing inadequate legislation and then is content to move on without addressing meaningful and necessary changes to federal programs. This measure is a trojan horse for Senator Manchin’s pet project, the Mountain Valley pipeline.”

Additional Resources:
The Plugged In Podcast #95: Kenny Stein on H.R. 1

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