Energy

An end to the Manchin show?


Tuesday night was a one-two punch to Joe Manchin, all but spelling out the end to the West Virginia senator’s permitting proposal and outsized influence in the Senate.

The final House draft of the National Defense Authorization Act came out Tuesday night — without the conservative Democrat’s permitting overhaul. That omission in the must-pass defense bill was followed by the news that Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock had won Georgia’s runoff, which is certainly good news for his party but heralds a diminished position for Manchin come 2023.

First, let’s dig into the failed permitting push.

The must-pass defense bill was likely Manchin’s best shot at passing his proposal to fast-track energy and infrastructure projects through federal environmental reviews. Conservatives like Manchin have long complained that the permitting pipeline is clogged by slow-walking bureaucrats and activist opposition to fossil fuels.

Democratic leadership had promised to advance a version of Manchin’s permitting wish list in exchange for his voting “yea” for the Inflation Reduction Act earlier this year. Now progressives, who’d seen the bill as a free pass to carbon-intensive projects, are celebrating the NDAA omission as a death knell for permitting during this Congress.

“House Democrats can now close out the year having made historic progress on climate change without this ugly asterisk,” said House Natural Resources Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a prominent opponent of Manchin’s permitting push, in a statement.

The proposal didn’t go down just because of progressive option, though. An unexpected counteroffensive against the reforms was launched by the unlikely coalition of progressives and conservatives — some of whom had complained the reforms didn’t go far enough.

All is not lost for the Appalachian Democrat. Manchin released the full text of his permitting bill, the “Building American Energy Security Act of 2022, with a push for colleagues to put it back in the NDAA through an amendment.

But that shaky ground is a hell of a way to close out a congressional session in which Manchin enjoyed an outsized prominence.

In the meantime, the $847 billion NDAA moves forward with enough time to get final votes from both the House and Senate by the Dec. 16 deadline for fiscal year 2023 funding.

The defense spending language that could land on the president’s desk before year’s end includes several climate and energy provisions of note, including $1 billion for critical mineral stockpiling and a requirement, with some waivers, that the Department of Defense’s nontactical vehicles be “alternative fueled” by 2035.

Lost leverage: As the NDAA news was filtering through Twitter, Manchin’s position of power in the Senate took another substantial hit in the South due to Warnock’s ability to fend off former NFL running back and Republican challenger Herschel Walker in the Georgia runoff.

It’s now official: The Democrats will have a 51-49 majority come January, diminishing the role Manchin has played since 2021 as a critical Democratic swing vote in the evenly split Senate. The Appalachian lawmaker wielded that position to give fossil fuel industries an easier time in the administration’s climate policies — to the fury of many Democrats, progressives and climate activists.

It’s Wednesday! — Thank you for tuning into POLITICO’s Power Switch.  I’m your host, Heather Richards. Arianna will be back soon! Power Switch is brought to you by the journalists behind E&E News and POLITICO Energy. Send your tips, comments and questions to [email protected]

Today in POLITICO Energy’s podcast: POLITICO’s Doug Palmer talks about whether the United States and the European Union can work through their electric vehicle differences to avert a trade war. The cross-Atlantic loggerheads follow months of talks sparked by the Inflation Reduction Act’s EV tax credit, which European officials see as a threat to their auto industry.

Coal for Christmas? Coal has held on as the largest source of electricity in 15 states, including Michigan, New Mexico and West Virginia, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s review of last year’s data.

But the onetime power forward for the nation’s boilers has lost much of its ground in the South and Northeast to natural gas and in the Midwest to onshore wind.

The fall of coal, a powerful contributor to climate change due to its release of carbon dioxide when burned, from the No. 1 fuel in 32 states in 2001 to its current position, is a well-known downward trend. Coal collapsed due to the United States’ switch to cheaper natural gas after the fracking revolution and to a lesser extent the growth of wind power.

But here are some particulars from the EIA: Ohio and Pennsylvania saw the biggest drop in coal generation compared with 20 years ago in a switch to natural gas. Other states with the largest increases in gas power include Texas, Florida and California.

Three states — Iowa, Kansas and South Dakota — went from majority coal to majority wind between 2001 and 2021.

Four states are still overwhelmingly dependent on coal. They are West Virginia, which got 91 percent of its power from coal in 2021; Missouri, which got 75 percent of its power from coal; Wyoming, with 74 percent; and Kentucky, with 71 percent. With the exception of Missouri, these states also produce much of the United States’ coal.

The U.S. coal story echoes a global shift. In a report released today, the International Energy Agency estimates that renewables will replace coal as the largest power source globally by 2025, according to The New York Times.

Get your gas here: U.S. natural gas producers will be encouraged to send more of their liquefied product to the European Union via U.K. ports in a deal between President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. The country’s three LNG ports have become critical conduits for bringing U.S. gas to the continent since Russian supplies have waned during the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine, writes Charlie Cooper.

Victory dance for the dead: The GOP plans to disband the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis next year, but lawmakers used its final hearing to celebrate what was an unprecedented approach for Congress to explore climate impacts. Many of the panel’s recommendations in a 2020 majority staff report ended up in the Inflation Reduction Act, a show of the panel’s relevance even though it was never a legislation machine itself, writes Nick Sobczyk.

Risky business: Gunfire damage to North Carolina substations, that knocked out power for 35,000 customers, underscores the vulnerabilities of the gird to physical attack — and the need for utilities to do more to safeguard infrastructure, writes Miranda Willson.

Kentucky’s orphan well problem: Despite millions in federal funding, Kentucky is struggling to plug its orphaned oil wells — abandoned infrastructure that can leak gases like methane into the atmosphere and pose public health hazards — because companies aren’t always bidding on contracts. A state official blames the dearth of interest on the added requirements of the federal program, which he says are pushing up the costs of cleanup in the state, according to reporting from Western Kentucky University’s public radio station, WKU.

A well-funded war on climate action: The Austin-based Texas Public Policy Foundation is orchestrating a national influence campaign against climate policies in favor of fossil fuels, with funding from the oil and gas sector and Republican donors. Their efforts include financial support for fishermen suing the Interior Department over the first-ever offshore wind farm approved in the United States, according to reporting from The New York Times.

The organization’s ties and intent were also explored in a piece last month in the climate newsletter Heated.

It’s trivia day, folks!

What sweater-wearing president first put solar panels on the White House? Who took them down? Who put them back up?

Know the answer? Send it to [email protected] with “Question Corner” in the subject line.

Big oil adverts: yea or nay? The exit of climate editor Bill Spindle from news startup Semafor shook up energy, climate and journalism Twitter after Spindle took to the social media site to link his departure to a topic du jour in those circles: journalism organizations’ acceptance of advertising dollars from fossil fuel companies.

Boogie-woogie: The Biden administration announced a proposed path Wednesday to electrify new federal buildings — which account for 25 percent of all federal emissions — and slash energy use in existing federal facilities. The Department of Energy proposes that starting in 2025 all new or newly renovated federal buildings would have to reduce on-site emissions from energy consumption by 90 percent.

Wind bonanza: The Biden administration’s first-ever offshore wind sale in the Pacific brought in more than $700 million, another high earner for the climate-focused White House. Bidders exercised restraint despite a competitive contest to keep bids from soaring to the heights of an $4.4 billion offshore wind sale earlier this year off the coasts of New York and New Jersey, fearing inflated project costs as a result.

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading!





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