Members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation say they support a federal debt ceiling deal in part because the legislation includes measures to speed up approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
Congresswoman Carol Miller gave a very direct answer.
“Support,” said Miller, R-W.Va., speaking today on MetroNews’ “Talkline.” “Number one, of course, is Mountain Valley Pipeline.”
Miller’s congressional counterpart, Republican Alex Mooney, didn’t comment right away on the pipeline or the debt ceiling deal.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, several times commented that “I am thrilled it is included in the debt ceiling package that avoids default.”
The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a proposed 303.5-mile interstate natural gas pipeline that would cross nine West Virginia counties to transport natural gas to East Coast markets. The pipeline’s developers have said they intend to bring the pipeline into service in the second half of 2023.
The $6.6 billion pipeline project first got authorization from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2017, but its completion has been delayed by regulatory hurdles and court challenges.
Expedited permitting for Mountain Valley Pipeline is specified in the debt ceiling deal hammered out by the president and House Republican leaders.
The section of the debt ceiling bill dealing with the pipeline says, “The Congress hereby finds and declares that the timely completion of construction and operation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline is required in the national interest.”
That section goes on to say Congress ratifies and approves all permits and other approvals required for construction and initial operation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The section specifies that the approvals should occur no later than 21 days after passage of the bill. The bill goes on to say that no court would have jurisdiction to review the federal regulatory actions.
Senate Energy Chairman Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has been pushing for completion of the pipeline. Speaking on “Talkline” today, Manchin said he supports the bill.
“All parties that were negotiating agreed that Mountain Valley Pipeline is in the national interest,” Manchin said. “That’s the most important thing. We need it. That product needs to be in the marketplace for the security of energy in our country.”
Manchin said the running gas through the pipeline will result in about $40 million in annual tax revenue to the state and $300 million a year to royalty owners.
Environmental groups contend the pipeline will affect forest habitats, result in runoff to streams and disrupt outdoor recreation. There’s also an overriding concern about the effects of fossil fuels like natural gas on climate change.
Maury Johnson, a Monroe County resident who lives near the pipeline’s route, has pushed back on the project by working with groups like the Indian Creek Watershed Association and Preserve Monroe. He called the pending congressional legislation a “Super Corrupt, Probably Illegal Dirty Deal.”
Johnson said if the deal goes forward, “President Biden will have revealed himself to be weak, spineless and untruthful to his campaign, inaugural and recent promises to take action.”
“As for, Manchin, he has clearly revealed that he is nothing more than a high paid lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry. While I have supported both of them in past elections, I can never do that again unless they make a quick u-turn in their actions.”
Nationally, Sierra Club executive director Ben Jealous also called expedited approval of the pipeline a bad deal.
“Any deal that attempts to expedite the fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline, that rolls back bedrock environmental protections, and makes life harder for workers and families already struggling is a bad deal for the country,” Jealous said.
Equitrans Midstream Corporation, the developer of Mountain Valley Pipeline, expressed gratitude for the project’s inclusion in the debt ceiling bill.
“MVP is among the most environmentally scrutinized projects to be built in this country, having been subject to an unprecedented level of legal and regulatory review,” stated Natalie Cox, a spokeswoman for the company.
“With a capacity of up to 2 billion cubic feet per day fully subscribed under long-term contracts, the MVP will serve as essential energy infrastructure that will ensure American families have reliable, affordable access to domestic energy, while also assuring national energy security and helping to achieve state and national goals for lowering carbon emissions.”