Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) has restarted talks with fellow Democrats about reviving the party’s climate and social spending bill, according to two people familiar with the matter, as administration officials search for oil and gas policies that could make the measure more palatable to him.
Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has said that he wants the bill to take an “all-of-the-above” approach to energy policy, these people said, and that it’s still possible to reach a deal that includes billions of dollars’ worth of provisions to tackle climate change, cut prescription drug costs and update the tax code.
He has also indicated that he wants the Biden administration to make some concessions related to oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and natural gas exports, they added. The current five-year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing in federal waters expires June 30, and the Interior Department is running behind schedule in drafting a new one, which has frustrated drilling proponents.
Without a new five-year plan, the federal government cannot auction off oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico once the current one expires. Administration officials are looking at what policies aimed at boosting domestic energy production they can offer to win over Manchin’s support, according to one of the individuals familiar with these discussions, including possible offshore lease sales that Interior has said can move forward in light of a recent appellate court ruling.
A spokeswoman for the Interior Department, Melissa Schwartz, declined to comment.
Manchin spokeswoman Sam Runyon declined to say whether the senator was open to restarting negotiations over the bill, which President Biden had named the Build Back Better Act.
“Senator Manchin is always willing to engage in discussions about the best way to move our country forward,” Runyon said in an email. “He has made clear that we can protect energy independence and respond to climate change at the same time.”
Manchin’s still-strained relationship with the White House could complicate any negotiations, according to the individuals briefed on the talks. The relationship soured dramatically in late December, when White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain had a hand in drafting an unusually bitter statement excoriating Manchin for coming out publicly against the social spending bill.
It is unclear whether a deal can take shape by the end of July, after which point it will become difficult to move major legislation in advance of the midterm elections. And the Senate’s attention is occupied by the confirmation hearings for Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy on Thursday said Biden is ready to reengage with Manchin on tax credits and other policies aimed at boosting clean energy and electric vehicles.
Biden will “talk to Senator Manchin and anybody else” about the provisions, McCarthy said at an event hosted by the American Council on Renewable Energy, adding, “I am optimistic, but I am not naive. I think we’ll have an ability to move this forward.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), one of Congress’s most vocal climate advocates, said in an interview Wednesday that Manchin appears to be onboard with the clean energy tax credits as well as a fee on emissions of methane, a potent planet-warming gas.
Manchin spent last Friday with Haaland and Granholm as they promoted provisions in the bipartisan infrastructure law in his home state of West Virginia.
Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) — who had tried unsuccessfully to win Manchin’s support for a program shifting power companies away from fossil fuels — said she was encouraged to hear of the “good discussion” on Friday between Manchin and Granholm, who both traveled to Paris this week for the International Energy Agency’s ministerial meeting.
“There seems to be the contours for a good agreement, especially on the clean energy tax credits,” Smith said in an interview Wednesday.
Manchin on Friday praised the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for reconsidering a policy launched last month to evaluate how pipelines and other natural gas projects affect climate change, and its approval of three new pipeline projects.
“Energy security for America and our allies is dependent on FERC’s ability to move much needed energy infrastructure projects forward,” he said in a statement. “To do so they must maintain clear and predictable policies that strike the right balance between energy security, affordability and environmental considerations.”
Biden administration and European officials also announced a new partnership Friday to redirect gas exports to Europe, part of a broader push to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy amid the war in Ukraine. Under the agreement, the United States will work with other nations to increase liquefied natural gas exports to Europe by at least 15 billion cubic meters this year, with the aim of providing larger shipments in the future.
Pager reported from Brussels.
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