Sep 28, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Making sense of the Senate permitting collapse

Illustration of legislation being pierced with fountain pens.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A mix of politics, policy divides and a ticking clock thwarted legislation to speed permitting for energy projects ranging from fossil fuel pipelines to power transmission to renewables.

Catch up fast: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Tuesday threw in the towel for the moment.

  • Democratic leaders stripped his proposal from the bill to continue government funding past Sept. 30 after it became clear the measure lacked votes.

Why it matters: Renewables industry groups called the proposal needed to realize the goals of the climate bill, which invests in a huge buildout of wind, solar and other low-carbon energy.

  • But climate activists opposed making it easier to build oil-and-gas infrastructure — and specifically the bill's approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline gas project. A number of progressive Democrats sided with them.
  • GOP lawmakers also want faster permitting, but some argued was too meager. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was in no mood to give Manchin a political win.

The bottom line: Add it together and there just wasn't a viable political coalition.

What we don't know: Whether efforts to revive the plan, which the White House publicly supports, have a political pulse.

  • Manchin — in a statement arguing lawmakers are putting politics before energy security — vowed to keep pushing, as did Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
  • The White House — in a statement that blamed Republicans but stayed silent on Democratic opposition — also said it would keep seeking a way to move the measure.
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