Joel B. Stronberg
8 min readMay 18, 2023

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The Two Joes and What They Mean for US Climate Policy

At least one-half of last year’s Washington power couple — Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) — has taken to holding hostage the other Joe’s climate plans and promises.

Manchin has vowed to stonewall President Biden’s nominees for executive positions at the Environmental Protection Agency as well as having issued not so veiled threats to vote with Senate and House Republicans on the matters of the national debt and the whittling down of the Inflation Reduction Act’s (IRA) climate-related provisions.

The Mountain State senator again has it in his head to bring the Biden administration and progressives to heel over a variety of climate and energy-related programs and policies — not the least of these being a makeover of the federal energy project permitting process. It is even reported that Manchin’s proposed permitting bill will be woven into the budget deal. However, that may be a bridge too far sort of prediction.

Manchin’s Building American Energy Security Act is similar to the one he introduced in the 117th Congress following the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Many on Capitol Hill — both Republican and Democrat — believe the nation’s long overdue for a streamlined approval process for energy projects. Support for changes to the permitting process — including the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) — comes from multiple quarters.

Understandably, there are significant differences between what the climate community and the fossil fuel industry believe is good policy. Senator Angus King (I-ME) explains that “any permitting legislation needs to include deadlines for reviewing proposed projects, limits on how long litigation can take, and one-stop shopping for agency reviews.” King has also said —

“In order to achieve our environmental goals, we have to build things. You cannot love EVs and hate lithium mines.”

House Speaker McCarthy (R-CA) has indicated that Republican conditions for lifting the borrowing cap include clean energy spending cuts and a permitting overhaul prioritizing fossil fuel development.

The point here isn’t about the final terms and conditions of any permitting reforms. It is that there appears to be bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for some type of

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Joel B. Stronberg

Stronberg is a thought leader in the climate community with over 40 years of experience covering environmental and sustainability issues as a freelancer.