RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia wants Congress to vote on his proposal to remove the Mountain Valley Pipeline provision from the debt ceiling deal.
The bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), which passed the House on Wednesday, includes a provision that greenlights the controversial pipeline project.
The deal would expedite the 303-mile natural gas pipeline by approving all required permits and letting developers avoid lawsuits challenging the project.
“I think it’s frankly an outrageous giveaway that is unjustified and really, nearly unprecedented in what Congress would do,” Sen. Kaine (D) told reporters in a Thursday conference call.
Kaine warned of the provision’s far-reaching implications, saying Congress would insert itself into a permitting process that should only be overseen by regulators with proper judicial review. The move, Kaine said, could open up members to potential corruption.
“If you put pipeline permitting in the hands of Congress, then people will try to buy Congress off,” Kaine said. “And members of Congress thinking about routes will look at real estate and say ‘Well, here’s a county where nobody votes for me let’s put the pipeline through there.’ A pipeline project isn’t built in the air. It involves taking people’s land.”
Kaine said he doesn’t have a stance on the project, but that it has “nothing to do” with raising the debt ceiling and that it would hurt Virginians who own land in the project’s path. Kaine said he’s waiting to learn if his amendment would get a vote in the Senate, which would require the House to vote on the bill again.
The senator would not say whether he would vote for the deal if the Mountain Valley Pipeline provision remained in the bill but did say doing so would “go against a position” he’s consistently held for a decade.
Virginia’s other U.S. senator, Democrat Mark Warner, said Thursday that he opposes the Mountain Valley Pipeline provision being added to the bill and plans to back Kaine’s amendment but that he will still vote for the deal.
If approved, the agreement would also give the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit jurisdiction over any appeals, taking it from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.
The 4th Circuit has denied multiple efforts from the pipeline’s developers to move the project forward. Kaine said it would be a “rebuke” of the 4th Circuit from Congress if the bill is approved with the Mountain Valley Pipeline language.
“No everyday person ever, ever gets a deal like this. No criminal defendant gets a deal like this. No civil rights plaintiff ever gets a deal like this,” Kaine said Thursday. “And I’m amazed frankly that the operators of this pipeline had the temerity to ask for it but I’m even more amazed and disappointed that a deal was negotiated that gives it this.”
Natalie Cox, a spokeswoman for Equitrans Midstream, the pipeline’s operator, said in a statement that the company is “grateful for the full support of the White House” and Democrats and Republicans in Congress for recognizing it as “a critical energy infrastructure project.” Cox did not respond to Kaine’s comments.