Republican senators, Manchin vote to revive Trump-era energy reform

Jack McEvoy, DCNF

The Senate voted to reinstate rules helping expedite the construction of energy infrastructure that persisted under former President Donald Trump, eliminating a final rule that was previously imposed by the Biden administration.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Joe Manchin of West Virginia joined a united Republican caucus to pass a Resolution of Disapproval in a 50-47 vote by using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to nullify the Biden administration’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations, according to Senate logs. The move will accelerate federal permitting for the development of crucial future energy, mining, and infrastructure projects.

The vote will return the NEPA process to the 2020 Trump-era provisions that curtailed regulations, making sure that fossil fuel projects were only studied for their individual environmental impact and not for the eventual effects of the energy that would be produced by the infrastructure, according to documents. The Biden administration, which often prioritizes climate and environmental issues, found Trump’s reforms objectionable and finalized a new rule that neutralized them in April 2022.

Despite the 2020 rule’s ability to expedite oil and gas pipelines, the removal of NEPA regulation applies to all infrastructure on federal lands and can also help green energy infrastructure or rare earth mineral mines, essentially for the production of EVs to be built faster, according to CEI.

Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska originally proposed the vote that will also prevent the reissuing of a similar rule in the future unless Congress authorizes it.

Republicans unanimously voted to overturn Biden’s permitting regulations, while Manchin was the only Democrat to support the move.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, as well as Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, were absent from the vote.

The vote comes after President Joe Biden and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York promised Manchin that they would help pass permitting reform on Monday. The president can still use his powers to veto the effort.

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