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Senate Fails to Strip Manchin Pipeline Deal From Debt Bill

By Ari Natter

Vote failed to remove language on natural gas project approval Manchin is seeking to expedite approval of natural gas project

An amendment to strip language from the debt-ceiling bill expediting approval of a multi-billion-dollar natural gas pipeline failed a Senate vote Thursday, ensuring the contentious measure remained in the must-pass legislation.

The measure proposed by Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat who would see Equitrans Midstream Corp.’s Mountain Valley pipeline cut through his state, failed on a 30-69 vote. A simple majority was needed for passage.

Had Kaine’s amendment passed in the Senate, the revised debt-ceiling legislation would have needed to go back for a second vote in the House.

Tim Kaine at the U.S. Capitol on June 1. Photographer

Language in the debt-ceiling bill would require federal agencies to issue the remaining permits needed for the 303-mile (488-kilometer) natural gas pipeline and shield those approvals from legal challenges, enraging environmentalists and progressive Democrats. The $6.6 billion project, which is years behind schedule and would provide drillers in the gas-rich Appalachian Basin with much-needed takeaway capacity, has been repeatedly stalled by challenges from climate advocates.

Read More: Key Takeaways From Biden-McCarthy Deal to Avert US Default

“All pipeline permitting should be done by regulatory agencies,” Kaine said in an interview Thursday. “Congress shouldn’t put their thumb on the scale to say ‘yes or no.’ Mountain Valley should be treated like every other applicant. They shouldn’t be given a special deal and just have all judicial review and administrative process waived away.”

The language supporting the pipeline was slipped into the must-pass debt-limit legislation at the behest of Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who provided the pivotal vote on President Joe Biden’s massive climate law in the evenly divided Senate last summer.

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