May 22, 2023

ICYMI — Manchin: Permitting Reform Necessary for America’s Future

Wheeling, WV — This weekend, The Wheeling Intelligencer published an op-ed from Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The full op-ed is below. To read the piece in The Wheeling Intelligencer, please click here.

Chairman Manchin wrote:

America’s permitting process is broken, consumed by bureaucratic delays and endless litigation at every turn. Our inability to permit projects in West Virginia and across the country on a timely basis is not only harming our energy security and ability to provide for ourselves, it’s also hurting our national security and ability to reduce our reliance on foreign adversaries who do not share our values. We only have to look at Putin’s ability to cripple much of Europe by cutting off Russia’s energy exports to see what happens if we continue down this road of, or open up the door to, dependence on countries like China, Russia, Iran, and other bad actors for our energy. 

For years, I have been working in a bipartisan way to address our country’s broken permitting system. Over the past year, as West Virginia’s senior senator and the chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, I have been proud to reignite and lead the effort on bipartisan, comprehensive permitting reform, and I continue to work with the president and congressional leaders to secure the enactment of commonsense permitting reforms. Because of the crippling impacts of a broken system, I continue to urge my colleagues to come together around a bipartisan solution as quickly as possible.

Last summer, after securing a commitment to get permitting reform done, I introduced legislation that would enable the United States to build the infrastructure we need to ensure our energy and national security. Throughout the fall, I worked with a bipartisan group of senators to make adjustments that incorporated feedback from my Republican colleagues. As a result of these compromises, 40 Democrats and seven Republicans voted to include my comprehensive, and truly bipartisan, energy permitting reform legislation in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. Notably, that legislation was also supported by the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

While we need 60 votes in the U.S. Senate to enact a law, when you can get 47 bipartisan senators to agree on anything, it’s a sure sign that Congress knows there’s a problem we need to fix. That’s why I have reintroduced that legislation, the Building American Energy Security Act of 2023, to restart conversations around permitting reform. As the only comprehensive Senate permitting bill to have received bipartisan support, it is a great starting point.

For generations, West Virginians have been proud to punch above our weight to mine the coal that forged the steel that built the tanks and ships that powered our nation to greatness. West Virginia coal miners and their families have sacrificed so that our country could industrialize and grow to become the superpower of the world. An improved permitting process will ensure West Virginia is able to continue reliably powering the rest of the nation like we have proudly done for hundreds of years. 

As all four Federal Energy Regulatory Commission commissioners testified before the Senate Energy Committee, we cannot eliminate coal today or in the near future if we want to have a reliable electric grid. I also continue to work to ensure that newer energy industries like hydrogen and advanced nuclear see the tremendous benefits that investing in West Virginia will provide. 

It’s for that reason that I provided $8 billion for hydrogen hubs through my committee, ensuring that one must be in the Appalachian region, and have authored bipartisan laws to help bring advanced nuclear to re-power coal plants that have closed and provide jobs and economic opportunities to these communities. But this is all for nothing if we can’t get our permitting processes to work for us, not against us.

Unfortunately, in West Virginia, we’ve seen up close the consequences of our broken permitting system through the drawn-out permitting process for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. With only 20 miles left until the pipeline is finally finished, the project has been undergoing litigation and permitting re-dos for more than eight years, including six Environmental Impact Studies and nine court cases in the Fourth Circuit. 

This delay is preventing 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from entering the market that would help keep global supply and demand balanced, bring in $40 million annually in new tax revenue for West Virginia and bring in more than $300 million more per year in royalties for West Virginia landowners. That’s on top of the approximately 2,500 construction jobs that are on hold while the Mountain Valley Pipeline is litigated over and over again.

And MVP is just the tip of the iceberg. All across our great nation, all types of energy and mineral projects — including fossil fuels like natural gas, oil, and coal, but also wind and solar and critical minerals projects that will be needed for new energy technologies of the future — are tied up in unnecessary litigation and a disjointed, lengthy and repetitive permitting process that subjects vital projects to rounds and rounds of red tape and reviews that only solidify our reliance on foreign supply chains. 

As chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I held a hearing last week to look at opportunities for Congress to reform the permitting process and it became clear: just as we did with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, we all need to sit down and negotiate in good faith to do what our country needs and craft a truly bipartisan permitting reform bill instead of focusing on whose name is on the bill.

To continue making the case to the administration and congressional leaders, I will hold more sector-specific energy permitting hearings in the weeks ahead to learn more about the issues these projects face and inform our work. Make no mistake, actually getting something done will require compromise and prioritization. Many ideas that are priorities for some senators are strongly opposed by others. But we cannot let the pursuit of the perfect bill mean we fail once again in getting a good, impactful bill signed into law.

Americans of all walks of life expect the lights to turn on when we flip the switch. We expect the gas station to be able to sell us fuel to get to work. And why shouldn’t we? America is the superpower of the world, the richest nation in history, and yet, our electric grid and the reliable energy supply that all Americans count on is being threatened because it takes five, 10, or even 15 years to build the infrastructure we need to produce and transport energy across our great nation. Without comprehensive permitting reform we risk jeopardizing the energy security our country needs to be the superpower of the world.

Let me be clear: the road ahead to enact meaningful permitting reforms is not easy, but if we put partisan politics aside and truly work on behalf of all West Virginians and the American people, like they deserve, then we can find a solution that strengthens our energy security and ensures America remains a global energy leader.