Legislation requiring pipeline approval prompts strong reaction

Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 7:53 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WDBJ) - Legislation that would clear the way for completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline prompted a strong reaction, after the text of the measure was released this week.

And with a vote expected in Congress before the end of the month, it’s unclear if the measure has enough support to pass.

Negotiations between US Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Democratic leaders produced the legislation that would streamline the permitting process for fossil fuel projects. It would also require federal approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

“The Mountain Valley Pipeline - nothing puts more product into the market quicker that helps relieve the shortages that we have right now,” Manchin said during a news conference Tuesday. “That pipeline’s gone from $3.3 billion to 6.2 or 6.4 billion, just because of the permitting process they’re going through.”

“It is as bad as we thought it could be,” said David Sligh, Conservation Director of the group Wild Virginia.

An opponent of the 300-mile natural gas pipeline, he said the text of the legislation is disturbing.

“It’s unthinkable that we would allow the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and National Environmental Policy Act to be just voided for this one company,” Sligh told WDBJ7 in an interview. “And that’s what this bill seems to do.”

US Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said he supports permitting reform and found some good ideas in the proposed legislation, but not in the final section that deals specifically with the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

“To take one named project in my state out of all of the permitting improvements and just say they get permits and nobody can review them and we’ll strip jurisdiction away from the hometown court that has been supervising this case, it’s just a bridge too far,” Kaine said during a teleconference with reporters Thursday morning. “And I’m going to oppose it.”

A vote on the Manchin proposal could come in the next week, as lawmakers try to pass a continuing resolution that will keep the government operating through mid-December.

A spokesperson for the Mountain Valley Pipeline provided the following comment on the permitting legislation and the provision involving the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

“By providing a timely and certain permitting process, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022 will benefit all energy infrastructure projects, which is just as important for renewable energy infrastructure projects as it is for oil and gas. This new legislation creates a very defined set of rules that provides for the continuation of a thorough review and approval process, which is led by the expertise of federal agencies and provides best practices for public participation. Permitting reform is essential to address issues that have presented costly, time-consuming delays in the construction of energy infrastructure and supports Americans’ demands to execute a timely transition to clean energy, while at the same time ensuring energy reliability and affordability.”

“As it relates to the Mountain Valley Pipeline project, MVP is being recognized as a critical infrastructure project that is essential for our nation’s energy security, energy reliability, and ability to effectively transition to a lower-carbon future. With total project work roughly 94 percent complete, Mountain Valley remains committed to working diligently with federal and state regulators to secure the necessary permits to safely and responsibly finish construction, and we remain committed to bringing the pipeline into service in the second half of 2023.”

Pipeline opponents dispute the claim that the project is 94% complete. In a written statement, Mountain Valley Watch Coordinator Russell Chisholm said the group will oppose the legislation.

“For eight years we have tirelessly fought the Mountain Valley Pipeline and other fossil fuel projects in West Virginia and Virginia. Nearly a decade of our lives and our health has been shaped by fighting these unnecessary projects as the climate crisis escalates and pummels our homes with intensified storms and floods. Manchin’s dirty pipeline deal is an insult to his constituents and furthers a fossil-fueled death sentence to many people and the planet. We demand more public input and a livable future. That is why we are mobilizing to stop this bill.”