On Wednesday, the White House approved Sen. Joe Manchin III’s plan to accelerate approval of certain fossil fuel projects in order to also expedite construction of new transmission lines essential to achieving President Biden’s climate goals.
John Podesta, President Biden’s senior adviser on clean energy innovation, said the stumbling block in congressional efforts to streamline permitting rules for energy projects, a process that could drag on for years, has hurt efforts to boost wind, solar and other clean energy.
“Right now, the authorization process for clean energy infrastructure, including transportation, is beset by delays and bottlenecks,” Mr. Podesta told an audience at the Center for Bipartisan Politics, a Washington-based think tank. “We have to solve this problem now.”
The White House announcement sparked swift opposition from several environmental groups, who remain angry at the administration’s support for the Alaskan Willow Oil Project.
In his support for the plan advanced by Mr. Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who is a staunch supporter of coal and gas, Mr. Podesta stressed that the senator played a crucial role last year in passing Mr. Biden’s climate bill with $370 billion in clean energy. Tax incentives.
Manchin’s permit plan will ensure completion of West Virginia’s long-delayed gas pipeline, the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Environmentalists, civil rights activists and many Democratic state lawmakers have opposed the project for years.
“The president, frankly, doesn’t like everything in the bill, but we support it because that’s what a settlement is all about,” Podesta said.
The olive branch came amid tense negotiations between Biden and the Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, about raising the debt ceiling before the June 1 deadline, after which the US government could default.
As a condition of raising the borrowing cap, House Republicans have sought to cut clean energy spending and permit reform that prioritizes fossil fuel development. Mr. Biden insisted that lawmakers should raise the cap without conditions.
A spokesman for Mr. McCarthy said in a statement that the Republican debt-ceiling package’s let-down plan would “get our economy back on track, lower costs and streamline the production of clean, affordable American energy.”
Mr. Manchin on Wednesday sidestepped questions about whether he would bring comprehensive permitting reform into the debt ceiling vote, saying, “Where we can get permitting reform, I will.”
In addition to fast-tracking the Mountain Valley pipeline, which would run from West Virginia to Virginia, Manchine’s bill puts a two-year limit on environmental reviews of major federal energy projects, including those related to fossil fuels. He also directs the president to designate at least 25 high-level energy projects and give priority to licensing.
Mr. Manchin noted on Wednesday that, despite some opposition, his permitting proposal was the only one with bipartisan support.
“Just sitting down to negotiate is what needs to be done now,” he said.
On Wednesday, the White House also issued an order directing agencies to make it easier to locate and allow interstate transportation links until the legislation is passed.
It also listed 11 priorities Mr. Biden wants in the new permit law, including helping clean energy projects like wind and solar get to the grid faster and setting new goals for renewable energy development on federal lands. In addition, the White House urged the development of new hydrogen and carbon dioxide infrastructure, the elimination of redundant environmental reviews and the improvement of community participation.
Some environmental groups attacked the administration’s announcement, saying Manchine’s bill would lead to more oil and gas development even as scientists say the window for reducing emissions from fossil fuels is closing fast.
Mr. Biden Pledge To help limit overall global warming by no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to pre-industrial temperatures. This is the threshold beyond which scientists say the potential for catastrophic effects increases dramatically. But the International Energy Agency warned that the target could not be achieved if countries continued to agree to develop new fossil fuels.
Appearing at the Washington think tank, Mr. Podesta criticized environmental groups that often sue to block the construction of new facilities. He said these efforts risk hurting progress in addressing climate change.
“We’ve been so successful in stopping projects that we’ve forgotten how to build them,” said Mr. Podesta, who was a senior adviser on climate change to President Barack Obama and founded the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
“It is a shame that John Podesta thoughtlessly echoes the fossil fuel playbook and positions the frontline communities that have been hit hardest by fossil fuels as the enemy of the future of renewable energy,” said Brett Hartle, director of government affairs at the Center for Biological Diversity. .
The group was one of about 300 environmental organizations that sent a letter to Mr. Biden and Democratic leaders in CongressHe urged them to reject Mr. Manchin’s plansaying that while it would help “marginally” renewable energy development, it was “dwarfed significantly” by accelerated oil and gas projects.
Other groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, have praised the White House’s priorities but said they still oppose Manchin’s plan.
Clean energy organizations said their industries depended on swift action by Congress.
“Expanding and modernizing our national energy grid is pivotal to achieving our pressing climate and energy security goals,” said Gregory Whetstone, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy, a trade group.
Podesta said the White House, while seeking a compromise with the Republicans, had one red line: “No more climate denial.” Many Republican infrastructure acceleration efforts will allow agencies to ignore climate change when evaluating the environmental impacts of new projects. “No more looking the other way,” Mr. Podesta said.