Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) side deal with Democrats on permitting reform is continuing to break down, as Republicans are now signaling their opposition.
In exchange for his vote on the Inflation Reduction Act, Manchin struck a deal with Democratic leadership to include a bill reforming the energy permitting system in a stopgap government funding bill. House Democrats already signaled their opposition to the provision over concerns about the climate impacts of new energy projects. But Senate Republicans made opposition to Manchin’s proposal bipartisan, and are now advancing a bill of their own.
“If you’re now looking for Republicans to support and give you more cover than you have right now, you’re not going to find it with us,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) told reporters this week, via The Hill.
Prominent Republicans in both chambers of Congress are skeptical of Manchin’s side deal, and wary that he will have to make concessions to appease progressives. “We’ve seen permitting reforms that happened around the highway bill, infrastructure bill, and the administration just kind of swaps them off and ignores them,” Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) said at a press conference Tuesday, via The Hill. “So the question is, are their teeth in these reforms?”
“So far what Joe’s put out is a one-page template — I haven’t seen anything else — and like I said, it’s not very ambitious in my view. It’s not enough for me to get to ‘yes,’ because frankly I don’t know why I would want to facilitate mediocrity,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) told The Hill.
“Republicans historically have strongly supported permitting reform, but the permitting reform text in the CR hasn’t been released and it may favor Green New Deal projects to appease [Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl M.] Grijalva and the 70+ Democrats who’ve pledged to vote against it,” House Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks (R-IN) said in a memo to his colleagues discussing expectations for the rest of Congress’ term, adding that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) needs the votes of those 70 Democrats to pass any government funding bill.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) also opposed the proposal being tacked onto a budget resolution. “I think putting it on a CR is problematic,” Collins told The Hill. “It’s a major policy issue.”
Instead, Republicans in the Senate have proposed their own legislation to reform the permit system. Barrasso and fellow Wyoming Senator Cynthia Lummis introduced the Simplify Timelines and Assure Regulatory Transparency (START) Act Tuesday. The bill codifies much of the Trump administration’s streamlined environmental regulations, prohibits the Biden administration’s much higher estimates for the “social cost of carbon” in new energy projects, and gives states much more power to grant energy permits and develop new energy projects within their boundaries, including on federal land. The bill also includes expedited approval for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, one of the priorities in Manchin’s proposal.
Manchin’s “side deal” showed its first signs of falling apart last week, when more than 70 House Democrats signed a letter voicing their opposition to permitting reform. The Democrats said in the letter that the proposed reforms were “anti-environmental and anti-environmental justice,” and that they would negatively impact so-called “frontline” communities of color. The same day, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) voiced his opposition to the deal in a floor speech. “I am urging all of my colleagues to … reject this dirty side deal,” he said.