West Virginia’s senators are sending out messages of disagreement with President Joe Biden’s climate policy.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., addressed a letter to fellow Democrat Biden on Tuesday in which he reaffirmed his support for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, asking the president to reconsider his executive order revoking a cross-border permit for the pipeline that was planned to carry about 800,000 barrels of oil daily from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast.
Meanwhile, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, voted against the committee advancing Biden’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency for consideration by the full Senate.
Manchin has long supported the Keystone XL pipeline. The new chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources was one of 45 senators to introduce legislation that died in 2012 that would have approved the Keystone XL pipeline project. He also supported bills to approve it in 2014 and 2015, the latter of which was vetoed by then-President Barack Obama.
Biden’s executive order revoking the Keystone XL permit said that leaving it in place would undermine U.S. leadership in fighting climate change as the administration looks to lead the country toward reducing emissions and creating clean-energy jobs.
“The United States must be in a position to exercise vigorous climate leadership in order to achieve a significant increase in global climate action and put the world on a sustainable climate pathway,” Biden wrote in his executive order. “Leaving the Keystone XL pipeline permit in place would not be consistent with my Administration’s economic and climate imperatives.”
Manchin wrote: “Pipeline infrastructure projects already undergo a rigorous permitting process that allows experts to weigh in on the security, safety, and environmental impacts of the project. I encourage you to let these processes proceed as intended and to not let politics drive the decisions on the development and operation of our nation’s vital energy infrastructure.”
Manchin argued that pipelines are a safer mode of transport than truck and rail, referencing a 2019 U.S. Department of Transportation finding that rail incidents involving crude oil happen once every 50 million gallons of crude oil shipped but just once every 720 million gallons of crude oil for pipelines.
Projects like the Keystone XL and the unfinished Mountain Valley Pipeline — planned to run from Northwestern West Virginia to Southern Virginia and provide up to 2 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations to markets in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern regions of the United States — are crucial for the country to achieve energy security, Manchin said, viewing them as conducive to Biden’s economic recovery plan.
“[T]he development of infrastructure, like the Keystone XL and Mountain Valley pipelines, [is needed] to get this energy to market in the safest and most environmentally responsible way.”
Conservationists have opposed construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline through West Virginia and Virginia, and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection made public a consent order last week that would require the five-company joint venture that owns the pipeline to pay a $303,706 fine for violating permits by failing to control erosion and sediment-laden water.
The pipeline’s owners have touted what they say would be an economic boost for West Virginia, estimating that its counties along the route — Wetzel, Harrison, Doddridge, Lewis, Braxton, Webster, Nicholas, Greenbrier, Fayette, Summers and Monroe — would receive close to $17 million in tax revenue once the pipeline, long delayed by legal and regulatory challenges, is operational.
Capito voted in the minority in a 14-6 vote on Biden’s nomination of Michael S. Regan, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, to be the EPA’s administrator. Regan’s nomination now heads to the Senate floor for a full vote.
Capito said Regan did not sufficiently rule out reviving Obama-era environmental policies that she says were bad for West Virginia’s economy.
“He has not committed to a different policy course,” Capito said.
Asked by Capito during his nomination hearing if Biden intends to “come back with a new version” of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan that reduced carbon emissions from power plants and drew the ire of the coal industry, Regan was noncommittal. The Trump administration replaced the Clean Power Plan with the 2019 Affordable Clean Energy rule, a less-strict regulation that a federal appeals court struck down last month.
Under Regan, North Carolina environmental regulators denied a key water quality certification for an extension of the Mountain Valley Pipeline after issuing the same certification for the later-canceled Atlantic Coast Pipeline project.