WASHINGTON – Centrist Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin III has made a condition of his support for a major Senate Democratic measure that would impose deadlines on federal agencies responsible for approving energy projects in an energy permitting proposal, according to the text of the measure released Wednesday night.

Congressional Democrats are deeply divided over Manchin’s authorization account, with some on the left worried that it would lead to communities not being able to oppose projects that have a big impact on the environment. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grialvo of Arizona criticized Manchin’s plan Wednesday night, saying, “My colleagues and I don’t want it.”

A provision in the legislation approving the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia and Manchin’s home state of West Virginia also riled Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, who said he was not consulted and voiced strong objections.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, is launching a letter from progressives in the Senate calling for separate votes on the temporary spending measures and the spending authorization legislation, Politico reports.

Adding to the problems, the top Senate Republican on the House Appropriations Committee told State Newsroom on Wednesday afternoon that the inclusion of the authorization measure and other provisions could render the stalled bill unworkable.

But Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer continued to say Manchin’s plan would be included in a temporary spending bill to keep the government open after the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

Details of Manchin’s plan

Manchin account does not waive any federal permit requirements.

Instead, it provides timelines for completing reviews by federal agencies, including a two-year goal for National Environmental Policy Act reviews of major projects. Such inspections could take up to 10 years, Manchin said.

The bill includes a section that would require federal agencies to approve the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would send natural gas from West Virginia to Southern Virginia, which upset Kaine.

The bill also sets a five-month limit on subpoenas and requires federal agencies to act within six months of a court ruling.

Manchin’s proposal would also designate a lead federal agency to coordinate project reviews. The lead agency will monitor the requirements and deadlines set at the state level.

Manchin and other supporters of the measure said it would be needed to deliver energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

“If you’re going to build a wind farm or a solar farm in the middle of the desert where there are no people … you need permitting reform to do that,” Manchin said Tuesday. “You won’t be able to deliver the energy that people need.”

Progressive opposition

But members of the progressive wing of Senate Democrats have for weeks criticized the concept of authorizing the reforms, which they say would disempower local communities seeking to challenge pipelines and other projects.

Merkley, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Panel on Interior and Environmental Agencies, along with Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who is running in a Democratic caucus, all, reportedly signed a letter calling for separate votes on the authorization bill and the suspension bill, which would allow senators to come up with a clear position on Manchin’s plan.

A spokeswoman for Merkley confirmed the report to Politico but declined to comment further or provide a copy of the letter Wednesday.

“We’re making it clear that we want a separate vote — a separate discussion and a separate vote — on the permitting process,” Warren told reporters Wednesday.

More than 70 Democrats of the House of Representatives sent a similar letter leader of his group earlier this month.

Grijalva, who led the letter of House Democrats, issued a strong statement opposing Manchin’s proposal.

The measure shortens public comment periods, gives communities fewer ways to oppose projects and weakens enforcement of key environmental and health laws, the Arizona Democrat said.

“These dangerous permitting shortcuts have been on industry wish lists for years,” he said. “And now they’ve added the approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline as a rotten cherry on top of the pile.

“The very fact that this fossil fuel brainchild is being coerced into compulsory public funding is indicative of its unpopularity.”

Kaine, a would-be proponent of permitting reform more broadly, took issue with the Mountain Valley Pipeline approval provision.

Kaine said he agreed “with the need to reform our broken infrastructure permitting process” but disagreed with congressional approval of the pipeline, a provision he said he was not consulted on.

“The green light of the MVP goes against the spirit of the reform authorization,” he said. “This deliberate action by Congress to put its thumb on the scale and simply approve this project, closing off opportunities for full administrative or judicial review, runs counter to the bipartisan desire for a more transparent and efficient permitting process.”

U statement Accompanying the bill’s announcement, Manchin reiterated that Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House had agreed to pass the legislation as part of a deal this summer to adopt a huge package of climate, health and tax measures.

Democrats who oppose the bill have not threatened to vote against the combined measure and risk a government shutdown.

Cost pitfalls

With annual government funding set to run out at the end of the month, Congress is expected very soon to consider a short-term bill to keep the government open for the coming months.

Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he and other GOP lawmakers could derail a short-term government funding bill that would need Republican support if Democrats add too many additional provisions.

That means they will fall short of the 10 Republican votes needed to advance any legislation in the evenly divided Senate.

“What might be telling is if Schumer puts the legislation on the floor and there’s a motion to continue, subject to debate, subject to 60 votes — that vote will be an indication of what can happen when he loads it up with extraneous stuff,” Shelby said. “It probably won’t be that good.”

Asked about Manchin’s then-unreleased authorization reform bill and Schumer’s commitment to add it to the state funding bill, Shelby said, “I think it’s going to be difficult to do.”

“We didn’t see the language,” he said. “But it’s a rough political deal.”

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