The final text of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, was released Tuesday, and absent was Senator Joe Manchin’s so-called “Dirty Deal,” a set of provisions he was promised in exchange for his support for the Inflation Reduction Act (a bill he massively watered down).
Now Manchin is trying yet again to include his provisions, this time as an amendment to the annual defense spending bill. Manchin released his amendment Wednesday, with various concessions to try to appeal to Republican support instead of members of his own party. Nevertheless, he seems unlikely to garner enough support.
The bill would weaken environmental review processes and fast-track the permitting process for energy projects, including pipelines and fossil fuel infrastructure.
Manchin’s bill seeks to clear the path for the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline, a West Virginia project opposed by several community and environmental groups, facing lawsuits in state and federal courts, and even invalidated by an appeals court.
Federal agencies would be called to proceed in issuing permits and leases, superseding citizen challenges and clearing the path for the legally and communally opposed fossil fuel project.
But the effort failed for a second time Tuesday, after Manchin previously attempted to attach the bill to the September continuing resolution that avoided a government shutdown.
Manchin’s provisions were not all inherently bad. They sought to promote construction of new electrical transmission lines, which are urgently needed in order to reach net-zero emissions. And to be fair, opposition to energy infrastructure projects can be rooted in Nimby-esque rationales; expedited permitting can help push forward the construction of urgently needed green infrastructure.
But Manchin’s approach, foregrounded by his thirst for a natural gas pipeline, did not capture those potential benefits. Democrats don’t have to trash the entire bill, but they also ought not leave the fight for permitting reform to the most conservative Democrat in Congress.