W.Va. vs. Va. : Allow to revise a fight in the yard

Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) wants a disputed gas pipeline in his state to be part of his permit reform effort. But Virginia lawmakers who might generally support a permit overhaul are balking at the deal, in part because of the pipeline that would connect the two states.

The problem is the route of the 303-mile pipeline from Mountain Valley. Virginia’s two Democratic senators were cautious in authorizing the reform, with one saying Thursday that congressional action could unfairly enter into the complicated political battle over the pipeline in his state.

“For years, I’ve argued with both pipeline opponents and supporters that Congress shouldn’t make pipeline decisions,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) told reporters. “We should have a licensing process in place that works and then run any project through them.”

Kaine added that when a deal is finally released, “I wouldn’t like to see something forcing Congress to do that.”

The West Virginia-Virginia split is a crucial part of the licensing debate rocking Capitol Hill. Democratic leaders in the Senate are seeking to build support for authorizing the reform as they seek to ram the measure through with an interim government funding bill. But Democrats across the political spectrum are balking at the deal.

According to legislative frameworks and Manchin statements, the yet-to-be-released permitting measure, which would streamline environmental reviews of energy projects, would also direct federal agencies to prioritize finalizing permit approvals for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The deal would bring changes to the arena where pipeline legal challenges would be filed.

Progress hampered

As proposed, the project would move natural gas from West Virginia to a compressor endpoint in Pittsylvania County, Va., after crossing six other county lines.

The developer behind the project claims that the project is nearly 95% complete. Opponents, however, say the figure fails to take into account the complexity of the remaining work and intense land restoration efforts pending.

Although it won approval in 2017 from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the pipeline has been mired in setbacks and slowdowns as legal challenges to permits and environmental reviews have hampered progress.

Many of these court rulings have come from the 4th United States Circuit Court of Appeals, located in Richmond, Virginia. for this court (thread of energySeptember 15).

A shift away from the venue is among the issues Virginia lawmakers are concerned about.

“I don’t know exactly what the end result of this will be, but I would have deep concern about removing jurisdiction from the 4th Circuit this way or any other way,” Kaine added.

Kaine said he was due for a briefing on Thursday afternoon to get a better sense of what is contained in the actual language of the proposed licensing reform bill. He also said he had discussed his concerns with Schumer and wanted to speak with Manchin in the future.

While Kaine balked at the pipeline, Republican Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin backed him up. According to a July 29 letter he sent to FERC, the governor argued that increasing the availability of natural gas would go a long way to helping the state bolster its electricity supply and serve as a transitional fuel. .

“I don’t think it’s in the interest of Virginians to condemn this project in the spirit of reducing carbon emissions when this project is in fact essential to continuing to meet emissions reduction targets in the Commonwealth,” Youngkin wrote.

Manchin also touted the project’s ability to help move more American energy to global markets, where market shocks from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have had European allies scrambling to access energy. energy.

Not just Kaine

However, concerns about the bill aren’t just about Kaine. They also come from other Virginia lawmakers who support an overhaul of permits.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) — long seen as a proponent of permit reform and a central cog in the moderate-led bipartisan infrastructure law last year — held up approval of the deal permit until he better understands what is in the text.

“Do I support license reform? Yes, because it’s the idea of ​​starting the permitting process simultaneously rather than sequentially, especially when we’re going to have to build things like offshore wind plants,” Warner told E&E News. “On [Mountain Valley pipeline]I want to see the details, because it’s already halfway through.

Meanwhile, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), a vulnerable moderate whose district spans southern Virginia, also expressed reservations about the legislation authorizing, though she did not specifically cited Mountain Valley.

Spanberger joined a group of 78 other House Democrats urging House leaders to drop the rolling license reform deal on the government’s next draft funding resolution set to be considered in the coming weeks.

“For me to push it into must-have legislation, I don’t think is appropriate because we’re not doing the due diligence to actually discuss reforms,” ​​Spanberger said, adding that she didn’t want to risk a government shutdown for a “tangential”. process change.

GOP reproaches

Representative Morgan Griffith (R-Va.).
| Francis Chung/E&E News

A key Republican where the pipeline crosses is also against the Mountain Valley effort.

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) said he wouldn’t support the legislation if it focused on accelerating pipeline construction, including changing the courts.

“If they reduced it to Mountain Valley, I would think some of my colleagues would realize that I’m against it, and maybe they would be too,” he said.

Griffith, a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigative Subcommittee, is also closely tied to fossil companies. Although he supports authorizing the reform, he said there is near-universal opposition to the pipeline among voters in his district, where the pipeline would be routed.

“Virginia Tech liberals are against it, and conservative farmers are against it,” he said.

Griffith said the opposition is the result of poor communication and coordination by pipeline builders with local communities and officials.

For example, he said he has heard complaints from farmers about their land being surveyed without the builders telling them first. In another case, he said the route was proposed near a daycare centre.

Kaine described similar complaints.

“Some of the legal issues they’ve had are due to poor performance,” Kaine said. “I’ve never done a poll or seen a poll on this, but it’s a project that’s been somewhat mixed. And while some would suggest, “Oh, it’s because the courts are bad now,” it was crossed over due to some operational challenges.

Journalist Marc Heller contributed to it.

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