Commentary

Evslin: Despite Bernie’s opposition, Manchin energy reform bill must pass

by Tom Evslin

Cold War 2.0, the environment, and the economy require passing West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s permitting reform. Republicans must save it from Progressives even if Democrats get the credit.

Senator Manchin’s own explanation of the reform and the urgent reasons for it are in op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. The Journal article is behind a pay wall but the content is the statement of a public official so I’m posting it here to make sure you can see it.

Both Parties Should Support My Permitting-Reform BillIt will help secure our energy future by slashing the time it takes to build critical infrastructure.

by Sen. Joe Manchin

Congress votes this week on the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022. It’s a defining moment. Will we promote energy security and independence, or will we allow extreme ideologies and politics to embolden our nation’s enemies? Will we allow toxic tribal politics and the Vladimir Putins of the world to dictate our future, or will we protect our nation’s energy security?

We are in the midst of a global energy war, and the American people—Republican, Democrat and independent—are paying the price. Contrary to the radical agenda of Sen. Bernie Sanders and his allies, who seem oblivious to the reality of the global and domestic energy challenges we face, the common-sense permitting reforms contained in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022 will help cut costs and accelerate the building of the critical energy infrastructure we need. Some have said the legislation was crafted without Republican input or that it would make it harder for fossil fuels to be permitted. They are simply wrong. They aren’t being honest about what’s in the bill and how it came to be.

Democrats and Republicans, along with leaders in the energy industry and stakeholders of all stripes, were instrumental in the substance of this balanced legislation. These essential reforms have been advocated by developers of all types of American energy—oil and gas, electric transmission, mining, solar and wind, and more. In fact, it is the kind of balanced and all-of-the-above energy approach America needs if we are to defend this nation’s energy security from those who seem hell-bent on weakening it.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022, and the permitting reform it lays out, will help secure America’s energy future more quickly by setting deadlines and requiring simultaneous agency reviews, something we did for public-works projects in the bipartisan infrastructure law. This reform will reduce timelines for building critical infrastructure down to three years or less from the current five to 10 years (or more). This will bring the U.S. more in line with our allies in Canada and Australia.

Speeding up the permitting process is an idea that countless Democrats support when it comes to clean energy. Many of my Republican colleagues signed up for it earlier this month as cosponsors of the Simplify Timelines and Assure Regulatory Transparency Act. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022 also shortens unnecessary litigation delays by capping how long plaintiffs have to bring lawsuits and requiring agencies to act within six months on permits that have been sent back by a court.

Permitting reform has long been a priority for advocacy groups representing a diverse mix of energy companies and stakeholders across the political spectrum. During my 12 years in the Senate, trade groups have urged Republicans and Democrats to join forces and speed up the permitting process in a responsible manner to ensure America’s energy independence and security. Now’s our chance. Whether you support more clean energy, more fossil fuels, or a balanced approach as I do, this reform will help the U.S. achieve it. It’s time to bring forward smart bipartisan ideas to produce the energy we need to continue to be the superpower of the world.

Even during this historic moment, some say it isn’t enough. They stand in the way of major progress on realistic reforms. Instead they offer a wish list with no chance of passing an evenly divided Senate. We’ve seen this story before, and inaction is no longer an option, for the energy crisis will only get worse the longer we wait. If we’re truly interested in addressing the energy challenges facing our country, then it’s time to live in the realm of the possible instead of continuing to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

When looked at objectively, this legislation and the underlying reforms should be a unifying moment for both parties. Instead, extreme politics are blinding some to the realities of what we must do to keep our energy future secure for generations to come. What else could possibly explain why any Republican would even consider supporting the same position as Sen. Sanders when it comes to energy?

At such a consequential moment in our nation’s history, now is the time for those fortunate enough to be elected leaders to push away the noise of partisan politics that is drowning out common sense. We must ignore the toxic “all or nothing” legislative approach that has made it hard to discern what is truly essential for our nation. Passing the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022 is essential, and not only because it includes smart ideas and proposals that both my Republican and Democratic colleagues have championed for years, but also because it will send a message to the world that the U.S. won’t let anyone threaten or undermine its energy security.

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