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Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) at the Capitol.
| Francis Chung/E&E News
Sen. Joe Manchin’s buy-in on the climate bill comes with a time-delayed string attached: easing permitting for fossil fuel projects.The West Virginia Democrat made several demands in negotiations with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) over the $369 billion party-line clean energy deal.Permitting reform is the only one not included in the bill itself. Instead, lawmakers plan to attach it to a government funding bill in September. That measure must pass by Sept. 30 to keep the government running, and Democrats hope the permitting bill can hitch a ride.But what exactly the permitting package contains is up in the air, and it could be a difficult political road to the necessary 60 votes in the Senate.Why does permitting matter?To become reality, energy projects of all stripes must navigate a host of federal and state environmental rules in a process that can take years. Manchin is particularly interested in clearing the backlog for fossil fuel projects, but clean energy developers have to go through the labyrinth, as well.That’s the hook for many Democrats. While they’re not eager to ease the path for fossil fuels, they are talking up the prospect of eliminating bureaucratic hurdles for clean energy and transmission.That could be important, since the proposed investment tax credit for power line projects fell out of the final climate deal.The political outlookRepublicans, meanwhile, have long supported permitting reforms, and the eventual bill could mirror proposals that date to the Trump administration.GOP lawmakers haven’t closed the door, but they’re bitter that Democrats may succeed at passing the Manchin-Schumer clean energy bill. They’re also waiting to see whether the contents of the bill line up with their views.”If it’s passed to something else that we’re going to vote for, and otherwise that bill stands on its merits, of course I’d support it,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said last week.The permitting deal also could end up in tension with progressives’ goals for environmental justice: giving communities more input on where polluting facilities are located and better ability to sue if something goes wrong.That is unlikely to derail the legislation. Still, House Natural Resources Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said he would try to influence a bill that he worries could hurt communities in the scramble to build energy projects.”You want to sweetheart somebody to get a vote, I understand that,” he said. “But don’t take the rest of us down with you.”
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This Is Climate Change
A firetruck drives along California Highway 96 as the McKinney Fire burns Saturday in Klamath National Forest, Calif. | Noah Berger/AP Photo
A wildfire burning in Northern California blew up over the weekend to more than 52,000 acres, according to the U.S. Forest Service, becoming the state’s largest wildfire so far this year.The McKinney Fire burning in Klamath National Forest has forced some 2,000 evacuations. Two people were found dead in a car off California Highway 96 in the fire’s path, the Siskiyou County Sheriff said.Extreme drought fueled by climate change contributes to the lengthening wildfire season across the West. Persistent dry conditions and gusty winds helped the McKinney Fire grow over the weekend, the Forest Service said.
Claudine Hellmuth/E&E News (illustration); Lindsey White/Pixabay (thermometer); S. Nagel/Pixabay (transmission tower)
Heat threatens the gridExtreme heat around the country this summer is straining the grid, offering a look into new risks for the nation’s power supply in a hotter world, write a team of five E&E News reporters.High temperatures can cause trouble for both fossil fuel and renewable power generation. Drought also curbs hydroelectric generation and means less freshwater supply for coal, nuclear and natural gas plants that need it to cool and generate steam. Read the story h …