- Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, has long pushed for a controversial gas pipeline.
- The 303-mile pipeline, which also runs through Virginia, has faced a slew of legal challenges.
- The debt ceiling deal will likely force federal agencies to approve the project’s remaining permits.
Sen. Joe Manchin looks like he’ll be getting a long-sought win out of the debt ceiling fight.
The Democrat and his fellow West Virginia lawmakers have for years pushed for the completion of a controversial 303-mile pipeline that would carry Appalachian shale gas from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia.
The $6.6 billion project, which has been under construction for more than five years, has been slowed by lawsuits and other complications.
In an effort to find a bipartisan agreement on a debt ceiling deal, President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy included a provision in the deal that would force federal agencies to approve all the remaining permits the project requires. It would allow the project, which has run into a slew of legal troubles, to bypass the courts and fast-track construction.
Manchin praised House Republicans for joining his effort in a Sunday statement that notably didn’t mention the president.
“I am pleased Speaker McCarthy and his leadership team see the tremendous value in completing the MVP to increase domestic energy production and drive down costs across America and especially in West Virginia,” he said.
A spokesperson for Manchin didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Environmental groups and Democratic lawmakers have taken issue with the climate and environmental impacts of the pipeline, which cuts through national forest land and key bodies of water, and with congressional efforts to exempt it from judicial review.
The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has repeatedly tossed out permits for the project for violating environmental regulations. Last month, the court rejected a key water quality certification the pipeline needed in West Virginia and found that it violated the Clean Water Act.
Virginia’s Democratic lawmakers are staunchly opposed to the pipeline provision.
The state’s Democratic House delegation introduced an amendment on Tuesday to remove the pipeline language from the debt limit bill. Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner have also both condemned the provision and Kaine has said he’ll propose an amendment to strip it from the debt deal. It’s unclear if efforts to strip the pipeline permitting from the bill will succeed, given the short timeline needed to pass the debt ceiling deal before the US defaults as soon as June 5.
—Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan (@RepMcClellan) May 30, 2023
“Senator Kaine is extremely disappointed by the provision of the bill to greenlight the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia, bypassing the normal judicial and administrative review process every other energy project has to go through,” a spokesperson for Kaine said in a statement to Insider. “This provision is completely unrelated to the debt ceiling matter. He plans to file an amendment to remove this harmful Mountain Valley Pipeline provision.”
Kaine has repeatedly publicly opposed the pipeline, citing his constituents’ concerns with land being taken by eminent domain for its construction.
The White House didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment about Democratic opposition to the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s inclusion in the debt limit deal. But White House climate adviser John Podesta told members of Congress on a call earlier this week that the pipeline would’ve been completed regardless and the provision “doesn’t have much of an effect” on that outcome, The Washington Post reported.