U.S. House Democrats in the dark about Schumer-Manchin permitting deal, Hoyer says

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Scenes on Capitol Hill in the U.S.

By Moira Warburton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House Democrats do not know the details of a deal between top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer and Senator Joe Manchin to include changes on permitting for energy projects in a stopgap government funding bill, Democratic House Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters on Wednesday.

"There was an agreement between Mr. Manchin and Mr. Schumer to do something. We don't know what that is," Hoyer said. "But obviously there are a lot of concerns about what that will do with environmental protections."

Schumer and Manchin agreed in August to reforms of energy project permitting in the United States - a long-held goal for Manchin, whose state of West Virginia is the second-largest producer of coal in the country.

They agreed to include these reforms in a stopgap government funding bill that must be passed before Sep. 30, before the U.S. government runs out of money.

Their agreement garnered Manchin's support for the Inflation Reduction Act, a budget bill passed in August that achieved many of President Joe Biden's goals, including expanded funding for climate initiatives and tax hikes on the wealthy and corporations.

Progressive lawmakers in the House have decried the agreement as easing the path for more fossil fuel projects in the United States. But climate hawks in the Senate have said the price of potentially expanding fossil fuel development is worth it to ease bureaucratic barriers to climate-friendly energy projects, as well as passing the Inflation Reduction Act with its climate funding.

Hoyer's comments that House Democrats still had not seen the wording of the agreement - and had apparently not been consulted at all - cast some doubt on whether Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi would be able to corral her caucus into supporting the stopgap funding bill in less than two weeks, should it include permitting reforms.

Democrats hold a slim majority in the House, and cannot afford to have large numbers of their members vote against the party.

Hoyer cautioned that Democrats are committed to passing a stopgap funding bill, known as a continuing resolution, before the Sep. 30 deadline.

But, he said, "it's simply a fact that this is not our agreement."

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Washington; Editing by Mark Porter and Deepa Babington)