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Manchin, Capito Want Permitting Reforms, But How Will It Happen?

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Curtis Tate
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito both want changes to expedite permitting of energy projects. But the two West Virginians find themselves in opposite corners on how to get it done.

In negotiating what became the Inflation Reduction Act, Manchin got the support of leading Democrats in Congress and President Joe Biden for permitting reforms.

They promised Manchin the measures would be attached to a spending bill lawmakers must pass to keep the government open after Sept. 30. Manchin said that’s the only shot lawmakers have to get the reforms in place.

“If we don’t do it now, within the next two weeks, it will not be done,” he told reporters in a conference call Thursday.

The problem is the evenly split nature of the Senate, with 50 votes on both sides of the chamber. Even when Democrats are unanimous, they need at least 10 Republicans to pass anything under conventional Senate rules.

Manchin said he’s counting on Capito to corral a sufficient number of Republican votes for what’s called the continuing resolution, or CR.

“I think she has the clout and the respect in the Republican caucus to hopefully bring 15 to 20 Republicans with her,” Manchin said. “That’s what I’m hoping for.”

Not so fast, Capito said. Capito introduced her own bill with very similar permitting measures. It has 45 Republican co-sponsors. Under the same Senate rules, she’d need Democrats to get it passed.

Even though both senators want the same thing, Capito said she needs to see Manchin’s version before she commits to support it. She also says there may be another opportunity if this one falls through.

“I think if it doesn’t make it on the CR like he says, I wouldn’t throw the towel in,” Capito told reporters in a separate conference call Thursday. “I understand why he’s saying that, because it puts more force into being able to garner the votes to get that done.”

Another thing both senators want: The Mountain Valley Pipeline, which has encountered delays in permitting and is currently tied up in court.

“I want the Mountain Valley Pipeline,” Capito said. “There’s no question about that.”

Capito says lawmakers will be talking through the weekend to see if they can reach a deal.

Energy & Environment Reporter, ctate@wvpublic.org, 202-679-8470, @tatecurtis

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