Politics

Dem senator unloads on White House for agreeing to fast-track gas pipeline in budget deal

Democratic Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine blasted the White House for not consulting him before agreeing to include a provision in the debt ceiling bill to fast-track permitting for a natural gas pipeline that runs through his state.

Kaine said Wednesday that he was surprised to see the provision green-lighting the 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) project, which runs from West Virginia to Virginia, in the legislation, according to Associated Press reporter Seung Min Kim. The Virginia senator suggested that the White House consulted Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on the provision while ignoring him.

“I mean, look, I want Joe Manchin to do well. I don’t want him to falter,” Kaine reportedly said. “I want Joe Manchin to do well, but I mean, this is a Virginia project, and they didn’t even bother to pick up the phone and call me. Have I made them mad? No, I’m the one they call to try and get Cabinet secretaries confirmed. ‘Go talk to your colleagues, they’re not yet going to vote for Julie Su. Go talk to somebody else because they’re not going to-‘”

“They call me and ask me to help out. So, like, what did I do wrong all of a sudden? And it’s not about me — this is about taking people’s land. People talk about a pipeline as if it builds in midair. No, it’s taking people’s land in the poorest part of my state. Lands is the only thing they have sometime. It’s been in their family for generations.” 

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On Sunday evening, House Republicans released the text of the legislation to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a potentially catastrophic default. The MVP provision came as a surprise for lawmakers and environmental groups who opposed the project.

Republicans and Manchin, though, applauded the provision and took credit for ultimately securing it in the legislation. They said the pipeline has a wide range of economic and energy security benefits, and that it had been caught up in a long burdensome years-long permitting process.

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“Last summer, I introduced legislation to complete the Mountain Valley Pipeline,” Manchin said Sunday. “I am pleased Speaker McCarthy and his leadership team see the tremendous value in completing the MVP to increase domestic energy production and drive down costs across America and especially in West Virginia.”

“I am proud to have fought for this critical project and to have secured the bipartisan support necessary to get it across the finish line,” he added.

Still, Kaine said Wednesday that he is an “energy moderate,” but remained concerned about other aspects of the project.

“I’m an energy moderate. I’m not an energy — I’m not left on energy issues. But there’s a reason you have a process. You put it with administrative agencies so folks can’t buy off Congress,” Kaine added. “You know, somebody said that the White House might have made a commitment to Joe in the IRA. Well, I made a commitment to people. My voters.”

According to its developer Equitrans Midstream, MVP would transport approximately 2 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas from West Virginia to consumers in the Mid- and South Atlantic. The pipeline is projected to generate $40 million in new tax revenue for West Virginia, $10 million in new tax revenue for Virginia and up to $250 million in royalties for West Virginia landowners.

However, the pipeline, which has been 94% completed, has been slowed by a lengthy permitting process. While the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service recently provided the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s developer with key authorizations, it is still awaiting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit and environmental groups have vowed to challenge permits in court.

The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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