Manchin Rejects Democratic Plan to Ban New Offshore Drilling, Sources Say – World News

Manchin Rejects Democratic Plan to Ban New Offshore Drilling, Sources Say

WASHINGTON — A provision to permanently ban new offshore drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts has been stripped from a $2.2 trillion climate change and social spending bill after objections from Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, according to two people with knowledge of the latest draft of the bill.

Mr. Manchin has also raised concerns about a provision that would cancel drilling leases and block future oil and gas extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, although that remained in the draft legislation as of Thursday, according to those familiar with the draft.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Manchin did not respond to a request for comment.

In addition to being a priority for Democrats, the offshore drilling ban also drew some support from coastal Republicans concerned about the potential for oil spills to damage their tourism and fishing industries.

Environmental activists called it the latest blow to climate provisions in the spending package, known as the Build Back Better Act, that have been excised because of objections from Mr. Manchin. In a Senate that is evenly split, he holds a swing vote and has single-handedly set the limits for the president’s climate agenda.

“This is a tragic milestone in the seemingly inevitable dismantling of the Build Back Better Act,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Why Senator Manchin wants to poison our coasts while he lives the good life in his landlocked state only shows just how out of touch he is with the overwhelming public support for ending offshore drilling.”

A version of the bill that passed the House last month would permanently ban new offshore oil and gas leasing along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as well as in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. It would not have halted existing offshore drilling activity.

The House version also revokes a program that opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, following a 2017 vote by Congress to allow drilling in one of the last remaining wilderness areas in the country. Home to migrating waterfowl, caribou and polar bears, the refuge could lie over as much as 11 billion barrels of oil. Democrats and Republicans have fought over whether to allow drilling there for more than four decades.

As chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee, Mr. Manchin is responsible for writing the Senate version of parts of the Build Back Better Act, which dropped the offshore drilling ban.

According to one person who was briefed on Mr. Manchin’s thinking, he retained the drilling ban in the Arctic but remains concerned about it.

Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, said allowing continued oil and gas drilling in the oceans imperils the planet. “We’ve got to be aggressive in transforming our energy system,” he said.

In May, the world’s leading energy agency warned that governments around the globe must stop approving fossil fuel projects now if they want to prevent the pollution they produce from driving average global temperatures more than 2 degrees Celsius above with preindustrial levels. That’s the threshold beyond which scientists say the Earth will experience irreversible damage.

Mr. Manchin personally profits from investments in a family coal brokerage and has resisted entreaties from his Senate colleagues and the president to support provisions in Build Back Better that are designed to wean the country from coal, gas and oil.

Mr. Manchin rejected part of the bill that would have been the single most effective tool to reduce greenhouse gases, a clean electricity program that would have rewarded power plants that switched from burning fossil fuels to solar, wind and other clean sources, and punished those that did not. He has pushed to remove a provision that would impose a fee on emissions of methane, a powerful planet-warming pollutant that leaks from oil and gas wells. And he has objected to a provision that would give tax credits to consumers who purchase electric vehicles produced by union labor.

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