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Energy & Environment — Manchin charts next steps on permitting reform

The Hill logo The Hill 12/8/2022 Rachel Frazin
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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) looks for other means to pass permitting reform. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has a new proposed rule for federal building emissions, and the first West Coast offshore wind lease sale wraps up. 

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Someone forward you this newsletter? Sign up here or in the box below.

Permitting nixed from NDAA, Manchin pushes on

Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) push for permitting reform was excluded from a major defense spending bill on Tuesday night, but on Wednesday, the senator announced a new plan. 

The released text of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual military funding bill, did not include Manchin’s provisions after both left- and right-wing opposition to his policies that are aimed at speeding up the country’s energy approval process.  

While the senator slammed that decision in a Tuesday evening statement, on Wednesday, his office announced that he’d try to pursue the policies as an amendment. 

  • “The Senate must vote to amend the NDAA to ensure the comprehensive, bipartisan permitting reform our country desperately needs is included,” Manchin said in a statement.
  • His office also released text of what that amendment would look like, including some changes from his prior proposal that appear aimed at garnering GOP support.  

But, it may not be enough to get skeptical Republicans on board: “It’s a nonstarter for me, it’s a nonstarter for our conference,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told The Hill.  

Barrasso particularly expressed concerns with a policy aimed at giving federal regulators the authority to direct the construction of electric transmission lines. 

  • The amendment scales that provision back by allowing states one year to block a proposed transmission project.  
  • But, Barrasso said that’s not good enough, saying the provision needs to be removed altogether.  

Some of the other changes: 

  • Republicans previously complained that the package’s time limits for environmental reviews were not solid enough. The newest version replaces language that called for agencies to consider major projects for an average of two years, instead setting a two-year deadline for such projects. 
  • It also gives companies the right to seek a court order requiring agencies that have missed deadlines to make a decision, and requires the courts to expedite such requests.  

Read more about the exclusion of permitting reform from the NDAA here and read more about Manchin’s latest move here.

Energy rule cuts government building emissions 90%

A new proposed rule from the Biden administration would cut emissions from new federal buildings 90 percent from 2003 levels in the next two years. 

Under the proposed rule, new or renovated federal buildings would be required to reduce emissions from the 2003 baseline by 90 percent beginning in 2025. Beginning in 2030, the rule would make new buildings and major renovations fully carbon-neutral, according to the Energy Department. 

  • “Ridding pollution from our buildings and adopting clean electricity are some of the most cost-effective and future-oriented solutions we have to combat climate change,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.
  • “For the first time ever, DOE is establishing a firm timetable to reduce the government’s carbon footprint in new and existing federal facilities—ensuring the Biden-Harris Administration is leading by example in the effort to reach the nation’s ambitious climate goals.” 

About a quarter of federal emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels in government buildings. The proposed rule is estimated to cut federal buildings’ emissions by about 1.86 million metric tons and 22.8 thousand tons in methane emissions in the next three decades. 

Not everybody’s happy: “Eliminating natural gas in federal buildings is an impractical, unscientific and expensive idea that will have no environmental benefit. In reality, the demand for electricity fueled by natural gas will only increase and the costs will be borne by every taxpayer,” American Gas Association President and CEO Karen Harbert said in a statement. 

Read more about the proposed rule here. 

West Coast’s first offshore wind sale tops $750M

The first auction for wind development off the country’s Pacific coast concluded on Wednesday — raking in a total of $757.1 million after two days of fierce bidding. 

  • The auction, which was the third major offshore lease sale this year, will enable five companies to develop about 4.6 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity, or enough to power more than 1.5 million homes, according to the Department of the Interior. 
  • It also constitutes a significant leap forward in efforts by President Biden to promote wind energy. Biden had set a goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030.  

“The Biden-Harris administration believes that to address the climate crisis head on, we must unleash a new era of clean, reliable energy that serves every household in America,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. 

The auction was also the first U.S. sale to support the development of commercial-scale floating offshore wind, which is a relatively new technology. 

Because West Coast waters deepen much quicker than those off the East Coast, using floating infrastructure is more practical than attaching foundations to the seafloor, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. 

Read more from The Hill’s Sharon Udasin.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Climate foes push Great Reset conspiracy theory (E&E News
  • Vanguard Quits Net-Zero Group, Marking Biggest Defection Yet (Bloomberg
  • The COP15 UN conference in Montreal will be a massive moment for nature (Vox
  • Climate change effects hit farmers in US, rice, citrus, almond crops (USA Today

ICYMI

🤔 Lighter clickHair-d to argue with that.

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow. 

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