[Debt Ceiling Legislation Passes Congress, Expiditing Mountain Valley Pipeline Construction and Cutting SNAP] - Common Dreams

After thwarting a last-minute bid to strip out language mandating approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the U.S. Senate late Thursday passed legislation that would raise the debt limit and avert a default.

But congressional Republicans ensured that preventing an economic catastrophe would come at a significant cost for vulnerable people and communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis—and the Biden White House ultimately acceded to some of the GOP hostage-takers’ demands, declining to use its executive authority to continue paying the nation’s bills.

The legislation that the Senate approved by a vote of 63 to 36 could put 750,000 older adults at risk of losing federal nutrition aid, deepening the nation’s hunger crisis.

Most alarming, from the perspective of climate campaigners, is the measure’s provisions weakening the bedrock National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and expediting construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 300-mile fracked gas project that could have the emissions impact of dozens of new coal-fired power plants.

One of the fossil fuel industry’s top allies in Congress, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), reportedly helped Republicans push the White House to include the Mountain Valley Pipeline language in the final legislation.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline has been tied up in litigation for years, delaying construction as the project’s owners struggle to obtain the permits necessary to run the fracked gas infrastructure through waterways and wetlands. Last month, as Common Dreams reported, the Biden administration handed the pipeline’s backers a huge victory by granting approval for the project to cross the Jefferson National Forest.

The debt ceiling legislation, formally titled the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, would run roughshod over local and national opposition to the pipeline, ordering federal agencies to issue all permits necessary for the project’s completion.

The bill, which now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk, also states that “no court shall have jurisdiction to review any action taken” by federal agencies to clear the way for the pipeline—and any dispute over that provision will be under the “exclusive jurisdiction” of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Update: The Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 was signed into law on June 3, 2023.

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Locations: Jefferson National Forest West Virginia 

Organizations: Republican Party (GOP) 

People: Joe Biden Joe Manchin 

Tags: Climate Change Environmentalism Hunger Legislation SNAP Debt Ceiling National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) National Debt Mountain Valley Pipeline Fossil Fuel 

Type: Headlines