Biden supports Manchin's permitting bill, adviser Podesta says

WASHINGTON, May 2 (Reuters) - The White House will support Senator Joe Manchin's bill introduced on Tuesday to speed energy project permits, because it would help clean power companies use vast incentives in President Joe Biden's climate law, adviser John Podesta said.

Despite recent calls by Manchin, a conservative West Virginia Democrat, to repeal parts of Biden's Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that has $369 billion in clean energy and electric vehicle tax credits, the White House will work with him on passing permitting legislation after similar bills failed last year, Podesta said.

"We supported it last year, we'll support it this year," Podesta, who directs implementation of the IRA law for Biden, told Reuters reporters in an interview. Podesta spoke alongside White House Senior Adviser and Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu hours after Manchin introduced his bill.

"It's a high priority for us to try to find a path forward on bipartisan, permanent reform," Podesta said. He and Manchin talk frequently and the senator will "continue to squawk when he doesn't like something that we've done."

Manchin had sharp words for Biden Monday, demanding he "show true leadership and finally put politics aside and the well-being of our nation first" as a debt ceiling deadline inched closer. He has played a frequent spoiler on Biden's legislative priorities, blocking some presidential nominations and torpedoing spending plans.

The Biden administration is willing to pressure some fellow Democratic lawmakers to support the permit bill. Last year Senators Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, and Jeff Merkeley said Manchin's bill gave away too much to fossil fuel interests.

"We're willing to take on some of our friends, in terms of pushing them hard to say we need to build things again in America," Podesta said.

Podesta also said compromise can be found with Republicans after Biden issued a veto threat of a permitting bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in March.

Manchin's legislation sets a two-year limit on environmental reviews of major federal energy projects and one year for smaller ones and directs the president to designate at least 25 high-level energy projects and prioritize their permitting.

The bill calls for completion of the $6.6 billion Equitrans Midstream Corp's (ETRN.N) Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would run through Manchin's state.

Environmental groups and some Democratic lawmakers had slammed his previous permitting bills as handouts to fossil fuel companies. Republicans who were angry with Manchin for supporting Biden's climate legislation also voted against his bill.

Podesta said permitting reform, an issue he told Reuters "keeps him up at night," is needed to ensure that the U.S. can speed up the construction of high-voltage transmission across the country that is needed in order for companies to take advantage of the tax credits.


Landrieu and Podesta said the IRA and the 2021 infrastructure bill created a growing demand for skilled workers.

"This challenge is ubiquitous across the country, irrespective of what sector of the economy we're talking about. We don't have enough people properly trained to do the job in the place where the jobs are. But the jobs are coming so now the challenge is how do you marry those two things up?" Landrieu said.

So far, the administration has directed over $210 billion to 25,000 infrastructure projects and created 12 million jobs, he said.

He said despite a huge initial request for workforce training in the infrastructure bill, only $800 million was approved. He said the White House has been pulling in the Department of Labor, business executives, labor unions, and technical and community colleges to fill the new workforce needs.

Landrieu and Podesta said they talk with governors across the country on getting the infrastructure and IRA money to states. Landrieu said he has asked every governor to appoint an infrastructure coordinator to coordinate state agencies to develop plans for spending federal money.

Despite the fact that the bills passed with little or no Republican support, some Republican governors have "leaned in" the most when it comes to taking advantage of the bill's benefits.

"Red state governors, like (Brian Kemp of) Georgia, the governor of Oklahoma (Kevin Stitt) - you start to see them really lean into clean energy execution, because on the ground where it matters, they're actually seeing this," Landrieu said.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Lincoln Feast.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Valerie Volcovici covers U.S. environment and energy policy from Washington, DC. She is focused on climate and environmental regulations at federal agencies and in Congress. She also covers the impact of these regulatory changes across the United States. Other areas of coverage include plastic pollution and international climate negotiations.

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Timothy reports on energy and environment policy and is based in Washington, D.C. His coverage ranges from the latest in nuclear power, to environment regulations, to U.S. sanctions and geopolitics. He has been a member of three teams in the past two years that have won Reuters best journalism of the year awards. As a cyclist he is happiest outside. Contact: +1 202-380-8348

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Jeff Mason is a White House Correspondent for Reuters. He has covered the presidencies of Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden and the presidential campaigns of Biden, Trump, Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. He served as president of the White House Correspondents’ Association in 2016-2017, leading the press corps in advocating for press freedom in the early days of the Trump administration. His and the WHCA's work was recognized with Deutsche Welle's "Freedom of Speech Award." Jeff has asked pointed questions of domestic and foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's Kim Jong Un. He is a winner of the WHCA's “Excellence in Presidential News Coverage Under Deadline Pressure" award and co-winner of the Association for Business Journalists' "Breaking News" award. Jeff began his career in Frankfurt, Germany as a business reporter before being posted to Brussels, Belgium, where he covered the European Union. Jeff appears regularly on television and radio and teaches political journalism at Georgetown University. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and a former Fulbright scholar.