Why is Biden backing Manchin’s pet pipeline?
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The Biden administration is supporting an embattled natural gas project championed by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin — angering climate advocates and prompting some Capitol Hill Democrats to question the president’s motives.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm voiced support in a letter to regulators this week for the $6.6 billion Mountain Valley pipeline, which would carry gas 303 miles through West Virginia and Virginia to mid-Atlantic and Southeastern markets.
It’s not sitting well with progressive lawmakers and environmentalists, who are still burning after the administration approved a massive oil project in Alaska. They call Mountain Valley a climate and health hazard.
The project, which would cross hundreds of bodies of water and private land parcels, would release roughly 40 million metric tons of planet-warming pollution — the equivalent of more than 10 coal plants’ annual emissions.
Some lawmakers smell chicanery.
“This has all the hallmarks of a backroom, Faustian deal with Joe Manchin,” Rep. Jared Huffman of California, a senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, told Emma Dumain and Miranda Willson.
The Energy Department declined to comment on Granholm’s letter.
Wheeling and dealing: Because the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has already approved Mountain Valley (though it’s held up in legal proceedings), critics say Granholm’s letter of support could be an olive branch to Manchin.
The West Virginia Democrat, who chairs the Senate energy committee, has stalled the confirmation process for FERC’s fifth commissioner, leaving the agency vulnerable to political stalemates on critical decisions. Additionally, President Joe Biden needs all Democrats — including Manchin — to stand united against Republican attempts to extract concessions in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. On the GOP wish list: repealing key sections of Biden’s landmark climate law.
Manchin has repeatedly trashed the administration’s implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act. He agreed to vote for the climate bill last year only after Democratic leaders promised to pursue a permitting overhaul to fast-track energy projects, including Mountain Valley. But the deal quickly fell apart after opposition from Republicans and progressive Democrats.
Manchin’s still unhappy: Granholm’s support for the pipeline doesn’t appear to be persuading Manchin, who has continued to disparage the administration’s rollout of the Inflation Reduction Act. On Monday, he said he would vote in favor of its repeal if the White House continues its “radical climate agenda.”
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