why does it matter: Biden needs Manchin, and Manchin needs fossil fuels.
The Mountain Valley pipeline has been opposed for years by environmentalists, civil rights activists, and many Virginia Democrats. The scientists also warned that states must stop approving new fossil fuel projects if they want to limit global warming, something President Biden has said is a top priority.
But while Mr. Biden has set out an ambitious climate agenda, he needs Mr. Manchin, as well as moderate Republicans, to achieve his goals. It is considered key to passing legislation the White House says is needed to speed up construction of new wind, solar and other renewable energy projects.
In recent months, Mr. Biden has taken steps to boost fossil fuels and appease centrists, while also trying to deflect Republican criticism that his climate policies hurt American energy security. His administration has approved a massive willow oil project in Alaska, as well as increased LNG exports from Alaska. Both bills have been supported by Mr. Manchin and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska who is also an important likely vote for Mr. Biden.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
backgroundThe project faced years of delay.
Equitrans Midstream, the Pennsylvania-based company building the pipeline, says construction is nearing completion. But the project has been mired in legal delays for nearly four years.
Courts have twice denied the Forest Service’s attempts to authorize a Mountain Valley pipeline to be built through the Jefferson National Forest. Last year, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the government’s environmental reviews were deemed “insufficient” Drift effects, among other issues.
The national forest is home to five protected species, including the endangered candy grouse, colorful freshwater fish, as well as old-growth woodland. Environmentalists have fiercely opposed the project, arguing that it would destroy sensitive lands and ecosystems.
Jessica Sims, Virginia Field Coordinator for Appalachian Voices, an environmental group that opposes the pipeline, said the Biden administration’s decision “drastically underestimates the permanent environmental damage from the project.”
What thenMore legal action and more regulatory decisions.
The Mountain Valley pipeline is not a done deal. New lawsuits challenging the Forest Service’s decision are expected. There is also a lawsuit pending over a decision that recently allowed the Fish and Wildlife Service in favor of the pipeline.
Other regulatory hurdles remain. The Bureau of Land Management, which is responsible for approving pipelines that cross state lines, must decide whether to issue the required permits.
“While I am pleased with the announcement from the Forest Service, the job is far from over,” Mr. Manchin said in a statement, “and I will continue to push the department and everyone involved to complete the last 20 miles of this vital pipeline.”