(Bloomberg) -- An amendment to strip language from the debt-ceiling bill expediting approval of a multi-billion-dollar natural gas pipeline failed a Senate vote Thursday, ensuring the contentious measure remained in the must-pass legislation.
The measure proposed by Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat who would see Equitrans Midstream Corp.’s Mountain Valley pipeline cut through his state, failed on a 30-69 vote. A simple majority was needed for passage.
Had Kaine’s amendment passed in the Senate, the revised debt-ceiling legislation would have needed to go back for a second vote in the House.
Language in the debt-ceiling bill would require federal agencies to issue the remaining permits needed for the 303-mile (488-kilometer) natural gas pipeline and shield those approvals from legal challenges, enraging environmentalists and progressive Democrats. The $6.6 billion project, which is years behind schedule and would provide drillers in the gas-rich Appalachian Basin with much-needed takeaway capacity, has been repeatedly stalled by challenges from climate advocates.
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“All pipeline permitting should be done by regulatory agencies,” Kaine said in an interview Thursday. “Congress shouldn’t put their thumb on the scale to say ‘yes or no.’ Mountain Valley should be treated like every other applicant. They shouldn’t be given a special deal and just have all judicial review and administrative process waived away.”
The language supporting the pipeline was slipped into the must-pass debt-limit legislation at the behest of Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who provided the pivotal vote on President Joe Biden’s massive climate law in the evenly divided Senate last summer.
“This has been reviewed more than anything in the United States of America,” Manchin said of the project, in remarks on the Senate floor before the vote. “This will be up and running in six months.”
In addition to Equitrans Midstream, other companies with a stake in the joint venture include NextEra Energy Inc., Con Edison Transmission Inc. and WGL Midstream Ltd.
(Adds details of vote from first paragraph, comment from Manchin in penultimate paragraph.)
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