Republicans Secure a Substantial Gas Pipeline Approval in Debt Ceiling Deal

The greatly-anticipated debt ceiling package President Joe Biden and Republicans in the House announced on Sunday includes a provision that fast-tracks a massive 303-mile Virginia-to-West Virginia natural gas pipeline project for approval.

The unexpected approval of the billion-dollar Mountain Valley Pipeline — which is already 94% complete but has been bogged down in the lengthy permitting process for several years — was promptly cheered by lawmakers in West Virginia who have touted the project’s expected economic benefits for years.

The pipeline is predicted to create $40 million in new tax revenue for West Virginia, 2,500 construction jobs, $10 million in new tax revenue for Virginia, and as much as $250 million in royalties for landowners in West Virginia.

“After working with Speaker McCarthy and reiterating what completing the Mountain Valley Pipeline would mean for American jobs and domestic energy production, I am thrilled it is included in the debt ceiling package that avoids default,” said GOP Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, in a statement.

“Despite delay after delay, we continued to fight to get this critical natural gas pipeline up and running, and its inclusion in this deal is a significant victory for the future of West Virginia,” added the senator.

According to Capito’s spokesperson, the pipeline’s approval was ultimately earmarked in the debt ceiling bill because she personally engaged with Speaker McCarthy about its importance. The spokesperson added that the entire West Virginia congressional delegation had pushed for its inclusion in the package.

Democrat Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, also applauded GOP Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy for ensuring the project was included in the deal. Manchin’s attempts last September to fast-track the pipeline in the budget package and in a defense spending package in December failed to gather enough support.

“Last summer, I introduced legislation to complete the Mountain Valley Pipeline,” said Manchin 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.”

He added, “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.”

The pipeline is projected to transport around 2 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas from West Virginia to consumers in the South and Mid-Atlantic.

Budget deal clears the way for outstanding permits to be awarded and the pipeline to be completed

The budget deal comes just a week after the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management provided the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s developer with necessary authorizations to proceed with the construction along the Virginia-West Virginia border through a three-mile stretch of Jefferson National Forest.

However, both agencies said pipeline construction in the forest area wasn’t allowed until all outstanding permits were awarded. The project has not yet received authorization from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently being challenged in court, with environmental groups vowing to litigate the project further.

“Since coming to Congress, I’ve worked tirelessly alongside my West Virginia colleagues to complete the Mountain Valley Pipeline,” said Republican Representative Carol Miller of West Virginia. “Finally, Republicans and Democrats are coming together for finish the Mountain Valley Pipeline which will create more jobs, lower energy costs, and protect our environment. This bill is a bipartisan win for every American.”

The budget deal now must be passed in the Senate and House to avoid a U.S. default. The deal will likely face some blowback from Democrats and eco groups who have opposed the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
President Biden said Sunday that neither side got everything they wanted out of the deal, that was the “responsibility of governing.”

“The agreement also represents a compromise, which means no one got everything they want,” said the president. “And then — this is a deal that’s good news for, I believe you’ll see, for the American people.”