Joe Manchin: Voter dissatisfaction with high energy prices and anxiety about reliance on Russian energy has given Sen. Joe Manchin leverage to push for more domestic fossil-fuel production measures in the Democrats’ new climate legislation and possible executive steps.
According to lobbyists and congressional officials familiar with the situation, Mr. Manchin’s interests include financial and permitting assistance for natural-gas exports and oil and gas pipelines, as well as rules that make it easier for businesses to drill more on federal land.
In recent years, more Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have attempted to move the country away from fossil fuels in order to combat climate change. However, in a Senate that is deeply divided, Democrats need Mr. Manchin’s support to resurrect clean-energy initiatives. They were included in President Joe Biden‘s Build Back Better bill, which Manchin helped sabotage last year.
Voters are dissatisfied with inflation, which is fueled by high energy prices, according to polls, putting more pressure on Democrats. Given the likelihood that Republicans will recapture House and Senate majorities in this year’s midterm elections, some Democrats may be willing to accept a compromise that benefits the traditional energy business in order to enact a climate law while they still have the opportunity.
“Basically, this is going to be the Manchin bill,” said Edward Hild, a former chief of staff to Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and now a lobbyist for the law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. “Everyone is aware.”
Several acts that Mr. Manchin has shown support for would very certainly have to go through the executive branch rather than the legislative branch, implying that Mr. Biden would have to sign orders and take actions on his own alongside the approval of a budget bill as part of any arrangement.
According to lobbyists and aides who have spoken with Mr. Manchin and his office, they have yet to identify the measures he needs to vote for an energy and climate plan.
According to people familiar with the situation, the new package being discussed would reshape climate-related elements of the failed Build Back Better legislation to include more measures aimed at helping Western nations wean themselves off energy products supplied by Russia and other authoritarian regimes.
Supporters in Congress, including Mr. Manchin, have argued that such measures would improve energy security for the United States and its allies across the world.
They would assist Western countries with both short-term steps to increase natural gas, gasoline, and other fossil fuel supplies, as well as long-term initiatives to create cleaner alternatives like wind and solar power.
According to Joseph Majkut, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ energy-security and climate-change program, combining some domestic fossil-fuel development with clean-energy measures helps Congress address climate change and the energy vulnerabilities exposed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mr. Majkut stated, “If this problem escalates, energy security, economies, and human wellbeing are all in jeopardy.” “What you do to address one of these crises is, in many ways, also an answer to the other.”
One of the persons said that Mr. Manchin’s aides have looked into legislation to help European allies build additional terminals to take more US-produced natural gas.
Another proposal his team is considering is giving the energy secretary the authority to expedite the equivalent of free-trade status for members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and other US allies who want to buy American natural gas but don’t have free-trade agreements, according to this source.
Some Democrats are anticipated to oppose Mr. Manchin’s efforts, claiming that the Biden administration has already strayed too far from its goal of weaning the United States off fossil fuels.
When asked for comment, the White House cited a number of recent statements from administration officials, including one from principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who stated that the administration is working to increase short-term gasoline supplies while continuing to push for a clean energy transition.
“Addressing the emergency supply shortage while boosting renewable energy efforts is completely compatible with the logic of the case and what we’re attempting,” she added.
According to Justin Guay, head of global climate strategy at the Sunrise Project, climate activists are anticipating compromise. However, they are expected to draw a line at gas export terminals and other large infrastructure that might lead to years of increased fossil-fuel consumption.
“A climate bill cannot be used as a cloak for unscrupulous opportunism and fossil fuel subsidies,” he stated.
According to Rhodium Group, an independent research group, Democrats may secure an agreement that meets some of Mr. Manchin’s requests, including pipeline assistance, and still make the progress they need if the clean-energy provisions are strong enough.
Mr. Manchin wrote a letter to President Joe Biden on March 31 with Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) encouraging him to launch a new five-year drilling program for the Gulf of Mexico to replace one that is set to expire this year. He toured oil-sands operations in Canada earlier this month, backing a drive for additional Canadian oil exports to the United States.
Mr. Manchin has stated in recent public appearances that the White House should support stalled pipeline projects to transport natural gas and oil from West Virginia and Canada, notably the Keystone XL pipeline project, for which Vice President Biden denied a critical permit last year.
Mr. Manchin has stated publicly that one of his main requests is for the White House to use wartime powers to resolve permits and legal issues that have stymied the completion of a critical pipeline out of his home state.
He wants Mr. Biden to use the Defense Production Act to push the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which will transport natural gas from shale formations in northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia, to completion.
“Right now, there’s so much we could be doing.” The Marcellus Shale will not support a 42-inch pipeline. Mr. Manchin remarked at a recent industry gathering, “It’s ludicrous.” “So I call the White House and ask, ‘What can we do to assist you?'” ‘Build the dang line,’ I said.