Manchin vociferously argued that his persistent advocacy for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) led to its inclusion in the legislative agreement rather than the GOP's maneuvering.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline, a vast 303-mile infrastructure project extending from West Virginia to Virginia, has been beleaguered by extensive permitting procedures and ongoing legal battles with environmental groups. Despite being 94% complete, the project's conclusion has been persistently delayed. Since 2022, Manchin has been lobbying for the pipeline on the national stage, often finding himself in the crossfire of criticisms and opposition.
When asked about the ongoing dispute over who should receive credit for the pipeline's federal endorsement, Manchin offered a somewhat cryptic statement. He stated, "What's the problem here? They're afraid of who gets credit for it? You know, what we said before — success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. Well, I guarantee you, I was an orphan there for a long time because I was the only one on the front taking all the spears and everything, taking point on this."
Moreover, Manchin noted his satisfaction with the pipeline's progress and readiness to share its success. "I think everybody knows how this happened," the West Virginia senator continued, referring to the contentious process of getting the pipeline approved. He recollected a grueling year of relentless political skirmishes surrounding the pipeline project.
The recently announced debt ceiling accord, a bipartisan agreement struck between House Republicans and President Biden, does include a provision to expedite permitting for the MVP. This move was celebrated by Republican leaders, who claimed to have successfully influenced the White House to incorporate it into the bill.
However, information from insiders close to the negotiations presented a different account. According to these insiders, the Republicans only implored Manchin to request the White House's retraction of its opposition towards the end of the discussions. While Manchin did commend the Republican leaders for their support of the pipeline, he maintained that his consistent advocacy for the project ultimately swayed the White House's stance.
Manchin responded emphatically to allegations of the GOP's role, describing the assertions as "bulls---." He argued that the Democrats in the Senate and the White House have consistently supported the MVP project. He pointed out that when the MVP proposal was voted on, it was the Democrats who contributed the majority of the votes in favor.
He further highlighted that it was the Republicans who significantly hampered the initial vote, contributing only seven votes to its favor. "The Republicans have always supported permitting. The only reason they wouldn't support that is because of the Republicans being upset about the [Inflation Reduction Act]. That's it. So it got caught in the politics," Manchin explained.
The Inflation Reduction Act is a climate and tax bill that Manchin helped devise and present in August. The original bill contained broad provisions for federal infrastructure and energy permitting reforms and specifically supported the MVP project. However, this section was detached from the account due to congressional reconciliation rules.
With the backing of President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Manchin introduced the isolated provisions, including the MVP clause, as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act in December. Despite this effort, the amendment failed to reach the requisite 60-vote threshold for approval, amassing only 47 votes in favor, of which a mere seven were from Republicans.
Nonetheless, Rep. Carol Miller, a Republican from West Virginia and a fervent advocate for the pipeline argued that the MVP's inclusion in the debt ceiling agreement was due to the efforts of the Republican majority in the House.
Miller issued a statement on Thursday stating, "As I've said from the beginning, the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline is a product of the bipartisan, bicameral work done by the entire West Virginian delegation. When Republicans took back the House of Representatives, we made finishing the Mountain Valley Pipeline a top priority, something that wasn't able to be accomplished when Democrats had full control of the government."
She further credited Speaker McCarthy and the Republican leadership team for recognizing that the Fiscal Responsibility Act was the way forward to complete the MVP. Miller expressed that completing the pipeline would significantly contribute to West Virginia's economy and boost the country's energy production.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from West Virginia and the Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member echoed the sentiments. She praised the Republican leadership for incorporating the pipeline into the debt ceiling package, expressing her excitement over its boost to American jobs and domestic energy production.
Chief Deputy Whip Guy Reschenthaler, a Republican from Pennsylvania who played a part in the debt ceiling negotiations, also insisted that it was a "bipartisan, bicameral effort" that included the pipeline provision. Rep. Garret Graves, a Republican from Louisiana and a negotiation team member, however, disclosed to reporters that it was the White House that first introduced the project during the talks.
Corroborating Manchin's claims were Tom Karam, the CEO of MVP's developer, Equitrans Midstream Corporation. Karam identified Manchin as the key "quarterback," ensuring the pipeline was integrated into the debt ceiling bill. He credited Manchin for reaching out in February 2022 after a critical MVP permit was revoked by an appeals court, asking how he could help push federal approval for the pipeline.
Karam stated, "It was from that point that he really took up the mantle and championed Mountain Valley Pipeline as a critical infrastructure issue." He highlighted Manchin's pivotal role in gathering bipartisan support, involving both chambers of Congress and the White House, to render the MVP provision a viable addition to the debt ceiling legislation.
Moreover, Karam stressed his involvement in lobbying for the pipeline amid the debt ceiling discussions, having held 13 separate meetings last week to underscore the pipeline's importance.
If completed, MVP, according to Equitrans Midstream, will convey approximately 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas daily from West Virginia to consumers in the Mid- and South-Atlantic regions. The project is predicted to generate $40 million in new tax revenue for West Virginia, $10 million for Virginia, and up to $250 million in royalties for West Virginia landowners.
Nevertheless, the pipeline's journey has been marred by a protracted permitting process. While the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service recently granted it necessary authorizations, it still awaits a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit. Environmental groups have also vowed to contest tickets in court, a pledge that continues to shadow the project's progress.