Sen. Joe Manchin Friday lauded the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for reversing a February policy statement on gas pipelines, after slamming it and demanding its chairman do his "damn job" earlier this month.
"Today’s unanimous vote during FERC’s open meeting was a course correction from their previous partisanship and I appreciate their willingness to address the significant concerns raised by many members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee," Manchin said in a Friday morning statement.
"I was also pleased to see them approve three additional pipeline projects. Energy security for America and our allies is dependent on FERC’s ability to move much needed energy infrastructure projects forward," Manchin added. "To do so they must maintain clear and predictable policies that strike the right balance between energy security, affordability and environmental considerations."
FERC last month issued a policy statement regarding natural gas pipelines that would have increased scrutiny of "environmental impacts" and "potential impact on climate change" of new pipeline projects. The statement also highlighted considerations of "the interests of landowners and surrounding communities, including environmental justice communities."
At its meeting Thursday, FERC's commissioners voted to make that policy statement and one other "Draft Policy Statements," instead, FERC Chairman Richard Glick tweeted.
FERC Thursday also approved the expansion of three natural gas pipelines.
Manchin was incensed by the initial move in February and hauled FERC's commissioners before a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on March 3. In that hearing, he blasted regulatory moves by Glick and his fellow commissioners as "beyond the pale" amid Russia's war against Ukraine.
"To deny or put up barriers to natural gas projects and the benefits they provide while Putin is actively and effectively using energy as an economic and political weapon against our allies is just beyond the pale," he said.
Glick defended his agency's move the next week at the CERAWeek by S&P Global energy conference in Houston, when asked about his exchange with Manchin by Fox News Digital. He said it's important to ensure pipeline projects are done "right the first time."
A proper process, Glick added, can avoid "years of litigation and ... hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars of extra cost."
"Well, speak up and help us, Mr. Chairman Glick. Speak up and help us," Manchin said the next day at the conference when asked by Fox News Digital about Glick's comments.
The senator said FERC is intentionally withholding guidance from permit seekers. When he was West Virginia's governor, Manchin said, he told state regulators, "If you go out with a cease and desist order before you try to help someone do something right and tell them what they’re doing wrong, shame on you. Shame on all of you."
Environmental activists, meanwhile, panned FERC's Thursday decision.
"The fossil fuel industry and the politicians they finance are pitching a fit because they’re worried FERC’s modest proposed policy changes might mean they no longer have free rein to build as many polluting pipelines as they want with no regard for the impacts on communities or the climate," Sierra Club Senior Director of Energy Campaigns Kelly Sheehan said.
"The commission’s draft policy statements are just a small step towards doing what’s legally required of them and building a fairer system, but FERC’s approval today of fracked gas pipelines makes it painfully clear that FERC has not changed course," Sheehan added.
FERC's change of course comes amid as momentum builds in the U.S. to increase domestic energy production and exports, in particular to Europe amid Russia's war on Ukraine. One consequence of the war was that Germany froze action on the controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia.
FOX Business' Breck Dumas and Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.