Wednesday, November 29

Analysis | ‘An uphill climb’: Manchin’s permitting bill faces tough path forward

Good morning and happy Hump Day! 🐪 Vanessa Montalbano, the Climate 202 researcher, and Leigh Ann Caldwell, the co-anchor of The Early 202, helped report the top of today’s newsletter.

Tonight, your Climate 202 host Maxine Joselow will speak on a panel at the National Clean Energy Week Policy Makers Symposium. But first:

‘An uphill climb’: Manchin’s permitting bill faces tough path forward

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) on Tuesday asked Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to pull his controversial permitting bill from a government funding package — a stark acknowledgment that the proposal lacked the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and avert a government shutdown.

“A failed vote on something as critical as comprehensive permitting reform only serves to embolden leaders like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin who wish to see America fail,” Manchin said in a statement Tuesday. “For that reason and my firmly held belief that we should never come to the brink of a government shutdown over politics, I have asked Majority Leader Schumer to remove the permitting language from the Continuing Resolution.”

Manchin now has a couple of options for attempting to revive the permitting bill before the end of the year: He could make some tweaks in an effort to garner more Republican support during Congress’s lame-duck session, or he could try to attach the bill to another must-pass measure such as the annual National Defense Authorization Act.

However, such attempts would face the same — if not greater — political head winds, said Christi Tezak, managing director at ClearView Energy Partners, an independent research firm.

“Given the pushback on Manchin’s permitting proposal, the inclusion of his package in the NDAA appears to still be an uphill climb,” Tezak said.

Before the permitting bill was pulled from the funding package, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rallied his caucus to oppose Manchin’s bill and to instead support a competing proposal from Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).

“My colleague, Senator Capito, has introduced a strong, robust package that would actually move the ball forward,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon. “What our Democratic colleagues have produced is a phony fig leaf that would actually set back the cause of real permitting reform.”

Unlike Manchin’s bill, Capito’s proposal would not seek to accelerate the approval process for new clean energy projects. But in a twist, Capito said last week that she would vote for Manchin’s bill because it would expedite the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a long-delayed natural gas pipeline through their home state of West Virginia.

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In recent days, Manchin tried to attract other GOP votes by removing contentious language that would have changed the way states issue Clean Water Act permits, according to a person close to the negotiations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly. Some Republicans had voiced concern about the provision, which could aid the Biden administration in crafting a clean water rule they oppose.

While the controversial language was dropped overnight Monday, the effort failed to shore up more GOP support. And Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) told reporters Tuesday evening that he doubts Manchin could alter the bill in a way that satisfies more Republicans without alienating more liberal Democrats.

“It would have to be a big tweak,” Cramer said. “I mean, I would love to work with him on something that’s actually meaningful and has enforcement teeth in it. But of course, if we made it a bill that would really be useful, it’s hard to see how Democrats could ever support it.”

Unsurprisingly, liberal firebrand Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) slammed the idea of making the bill more friendly to fossil fuels to appease Republicans.

“If we’re talking about expediting clean energy projects, sure, I’m willing to work on that,” Sanders said. “But the last thing that this country, this world, needs right now are more fossil fuel projects.”

Drama over the defense bill?

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) told reporters Tuesday that he thinks the National Defense Authorization Act is the “most likely next viable vehicle” for Manchin’s bill.

  • The defense bill, considered one of the few must-pass measures each year, is supposed to direct the Pentagon‘s funding. But in recent years, it has become a regular forum for policy disputes that are peripheral to national security.
  • In 2019, for instance, it included language guaranteeing 12 weeks of paid parental leave for all federal workers.

However, Sen. James M. Inhofe (Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has voiced opposition to including permitting reform in the defense bill.

Manchin and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who chairs Armed Services, both demurred when asked Tuesday about attaching the permitting proposal to the defense measure.

“I have no idea on that; I can’t speculate,” Manchin said, although he added that he is exploring “other avenues.”

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Meanwhile, White House press secretary Karine JeanPierre said in a statement Tuesday evening that President Biden “supports Senator Manchin’s plan” and will “continue to work with him to find a vehicle to bring this bill to the floor and get it passed and to the President’s desk.”

House Science Committee lawmakers unveil three bills targeting methane leaks

Lawmakers on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee on Wednesday unveiled three pieces of legislation aimed at cracking down on methane emissions from oil and gas operations. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is more than 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide during its first 20 years in the atmosphere.

The legislation comes after the Science Committee released a June report concluding that oil and gas companies in the vast Permian Basin are significantly underreporting methane leaks.

  • The Methane Emissions Research Act of 2022 from Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.) would require the Environmental Protection Agency to measure and quantify all methane leaks from domestic oil and gas operations.
  • The Methane Super-Emitter Strategy Act of 2022 from Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) would direct NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and other federal agencies to create a joint methane super-polluter detection strategy.
  • The Methane Emissions Mitigation R&D Act from Reps. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) and Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) would establish a research, development and demonstration program at the Energy Department to support technologies and methods that detect, quantify and significantly reduce methane emissions.

Hurricane Ian barrels toward Florida after knocking out power in Cuba

Hurricane Ian is approaching a Category 5 storm as it barrels toward Florida’s western coast, where it is expected to make landfall by Wednesday afternoon with maximum sustained winds of almost 155 miles per hour, The Washington Post’s Scott Dance, Jason Samenow, Andrew Jeong and Ellen Francis report.

The National Hurricane Center warned early Wednesday that the storm will cause “catastrophic storm surge, winds and flooding in the Florida peninsula.” More than 2 million Florida residents are under evacuation orders. 

While the brunt of the storm is expected to hit southwest Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said the entire state is at risk of hazardous conditions including power and water outages, disruptions in fuel supplies, torrential rain, triple-digit force winds, surging floodwaters and isolated tornadoes, The Post’s Karin Brulliard, Scott Dance, Lori Rozsa and Reis Thebault report.

On Tuesday, the entire island of Cuba lost power after Ian slammed into the western province of Pinar del Rio as a Category 3 hurricane, Matthew Hay Brown and Ana Vanessa Herrero report for The Post. Authorities began bringing electricity back to the island of 11 million people early Wednesday but warned restoring it would be slow. At least two people died in the massive storm, authorities said.

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European countries blame Russian ‘sabotage’ after Nord Stream explosions

European officials said Tuesday they think dual explosions that damaged pipelines meant to carry Russian natural gas to Europe were deliberate, with some leaders blaming the Kremlin, The Post’s Meg Kelly, Michael Birnbaum and Mary Ilyushina report.

The pair of explosions Monday produced leaks in all three of the Nord Stream pipelines that connect Russia and Germany, causing massive plumes of gas to rise to the surface of the Baltic Sea. The damage did not have an immediate impact on Europe’s energy supplies, since Russia cut off flows earlier this month, and European countries had scrambled to build stockpiles and secure alternative energy sources before that.

Some European leaders said they suspected Russia was behind the incident, although they cautioned that they did not yet have any direct evidence of Moscow’s involvement.

“We do not know the details of what happened yet, but we can clearly see that it is an act of sabotage,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters Tuesday.

Russian authorities denied responsibility for the damage. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday the Russian government was “extremely concerned,” adding that “this is an unprecedented situation that needs to be dealt with urgently.”

Germany and Canada call for more money to help poor nations address climate change

Germany and Canada are urging developed nations to follow through on their commitments to help poorer countries, which are less responsible for rising global temperatures, finance their fight against climate change, German climate envoy Jennifer Morgan said at a World Energy Council conference in Berlin, Petra Sorge reports for Bloomberg News.

At the end of October, Germany and Canada plan to publish a joint report outlining the progress that developed countries have made on their promise to provide $100 annually for climate adaptation and clean energy in developing nations.

Wealthy countries have been slow to contribute those funds, with Morgan saying that “it is not acceptable that this $100 billion goal is not yet reached.” The issue is expected to take center stage at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt in November.

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