Controversial Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has urged President Joe Biden to use the Defense Production Act (DPA) to complete construction on a pipeline in his home state of West Virginia to ease skyrocketing gas prices.
Just as Biden has imposed more energy sanctions on Russia due to the conflict in Ukraine, which by the president’s own admission will make gas prices worse, Manchin has called on Biden to invoke the DPA if necessary to complete a US natural gas pipeline following the ban on oil imports from Russia.
During a hearing of the Senate Energy Committee, which he chairs, Manchin called the 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline “the quickest thing that we can get, it’s more energy into the market that’s going to be needed.
“I’ve been preaching to the heavens for a long time on this one. It can be done with the Defense Production Act,” Manchin added.
“What we do know is that Russia has weaponized energy. They have used it as a geopolitical weapon. The thing I know about an adversary or a bully is if they have a weapon, you better have one that will match it or be better than theirs. And we do; we just haven’t used it,” Manchin said in reference to American energy stores.
Manchin was a leading proponent of the US barring Russian oil imports after the nation invaded Ukraine, a step the Biden administration eventually took last week. Manchin, a pivotal vote who has frequently bucked his party’s legislative agenda, called the Biden administration’s opposition to the energy sanctions at the time “so wrong.”
The Mountain Valley Pipeline began construction in 2014 and, once completed, is set to carry natural gas between southwestern Virginia and northwestern West Virginia. Manchin said at the hearing that the pipeline could be completed in four to six months and added that he has also introduced legislation to remove regulatory hurdles.
Under the DPA, which Biden has previously used for matters relating to wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, the president can direct private companies to prioritize developing materials crucial to national defense interests.
As gas prices spike, environmentalist groups, and Democrats to Manchin’s left on climate issues have also called on Biden to invoke the DPA to deploy renewable energy. Press secretary Jen Psaki was asked at a recent White House press briefing whether the use of the law is under consideration to increase oil production domestically, and she suggested the administration was not inclined to pay oil companies for “what they probably already have the capacity to do.”