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Manchin Rides Alone on Environmental Permitting

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., on August 1.


Bill Clark/Zuma Press

West Virginia Sen.

Joe Manchin

learned Thursday that his Democratic colleagues couldn’t care less about permitting reform. Or at least he should have. Not one joined him in voting for Alaska Sen.

Dan Sullivan’s

Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to reverse a Biden rule that raised regulatory roadblocks to public works and private projects, including fossil-fuel development.

The resolution passed 50-47 with Republicans voting unanimously in support. Two Democrats and a Republican were absent. The CRA allows a simple majority of both chambers to pass a resolution of disapproval to kill a rule recently finalized, but the resolution must still get the President’s signature.

Mr. Sullivan’s resolution will likely be dead on arrival in the House since Speaker

Nancy Pelosi

won’t bring it to the floor. But it’s all the more revealing that no Senate Democrat besides Mr. Manchin voted for it when it was essentially a free vote. Can they really be counted on to vote next month for a package of permitting reforms that he claims to have negotiated with Democratic leaders?

The Biden rule finalized in April reverses some modest Trump reforms to permitting that limited environmental reviews, under the National Environmental Policy Act, to the “reasonably foreseeable” impacts of projects. Under the Biden revisions, federal agencies will have to consider the “cumulative” and “indirect” impacts too.

These revisions will drag out reviews and give project opponents more ammunition for lawsuits. While the Trump reforms were helpful at the margins, they didn’t go nearly far enough. That job lies with Congress. What’s needed are wholesale revisions to the nation’s half-century-old environmental laws that limit litigation and government obstruction.

Mr. Manchin on Thursday called the Biden Administration’s approach to permitting “dead wrong” and said the CRA vote was “a step in the right direction.” Yet what does it say that his Democratic colleagues won’t take even this baby step? Does he really expect them to take bigger strides that would expedite his Mountain Valley Pipeline and other fossil-fuel projects?

Democratic leaders may attach Mr. Manchin’s so far unspecified reforms to a continuing budget resolution to fund the government in September, which suggests they will rely on Republican votes to pass them. But don’t discount the odds that Nancy Pelosi and

Chuck Schumer

will use even de minimis permitting changes as a bargaining chip for more spending.

Journal Editorial Report: The Week’s Best and Worst from Jason Riley, Mary Anastasia O’Grady, and Kim Strassel. Image: Associated Press

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Appeared in the August 6, 2022, print edition as ‘Manchin Rides Alone on Permitting.’


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