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A drilling platform is pulled into the Gulf of Mexico

Tug boats tow a semi-submersible drilling platform into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. (Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Climate Coalition to Biden and Schumer: Reject 'Fossil Fuel Expansion' in Manchin Deal

"Permitting new fossil fuel projects will further entrench us in a fossil fuel economy for decades to come," more than 350 environmental and social justice groups wrote in a new letter.

Kenny Stancil

A climate justice coalition sent a letter Friday imploring President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to reject any proposed fossil fuel expansion during negotiations over the latest iteration of the Democratic Party's reconciliation bill.

"The unnecessary fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline and further drilling in Alaska and the Gulf are not foregone conclusions."

"Permitting new fossil fuel projects will further entrench us in a fossil fuel economy for decades to come—and constitutes a violent betrayal of your pledge to combat environmental racism and destruction," more than 350 organizations representing millions of people wrote to Biden and Schumer, the powerful Democrat from New York.

Any new fossil fuel projects, the groups added, will "lock workers into a dying industry and delay the growth in sectors that will support jobs of the future."

The letter calling on Biden and Schumer to "hold the line against fossil fuel expansion" comes in the wake of this week's surprise announcement that conservative Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W-Va.) has agreed to support a filibuster-proof economic and climate package known as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

While the IRA would unleash $369 billion in climate-related public funding over the next decade in the form of subsidies for clean energy production and tax incentives for carbon capture and other contentious technologies—an unprecedented sum yet a miniscule fraction of the nation's annual military spending—it also includes significant giveaways to Manchin's allies and financial backers in the oil and gas industry.

Some progressive campaigners have cautiously welcomed news of the spending deal that Manchin and Schumer say would reduce peak U.S. carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 while others have been more critical and vowed to fight the bill's most harmful provisions.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Climate Justice Alliance, Food & Water Watch, Greenpeace USA, Indigenous Environmental Network, Our Revolution, the Sunrise Movement, and other groups behind Friday's letter to Biden and Schumer wrote that "any approval of new fossil fuel projects or fast-tracking of fossil fuel permitting is incompatible with climate leadership."

"Oil, gas, and coal production are the core drivers of the climate and extinction crises," states the letter. "There can be no new fossil fuel leases, exports, or infrastructure if we have any hope of preventing ever-worsening climate crises, catastrophic floods, deadly wildfires, and more—all of which are ripping across the country as we speak," the letter continues, echoing numerous expert warnings about the need to keep polluting fuels in the ground to have a chance of averting the planetary emergency's most dire impacts.

"We are out of time," the letter adds. "Therefore, we're calling on you to fulfill your promise to lead on climate, starting with denying approvals for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, rejecting all new federal fossil fuel leases onshore, in the Gulf of Mexico, in Alaska, and everywhere else, and preventing any fast-tracked permits for fossil fuel projects."

"Lawmakers who support real climate solutions should reject this deal until the fossil fuel handouts are removed."

Some of the IRA's most egregious "poison pills" would mandate oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska, reinstate the 2021 Gulf lease sale that was deemed illegal, and require that millions more acres of public lands be auctioned for drilling before any new solar or wind energy projects could be constructed on public lands or waters, the coalition explained in a statement.

"This compromise," said John Beard, founder and CEO of Port Arthur Community Action Network, "uses people as pawns in a high-stakes political gamble involving our lives, health, and the climate."

Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, emphasized that "we can't let the renewable energy transition be held hostage by fossil fuel companies."

"The Manchin bill is a devil's bargain that ignores science and locks us into at least a decade of new oil and gas extraction," said Hartl. "There's a way forward that doesn't spew more greenhouse gas pollution into the air and harm frontline communities, and it means eliminating these giveaways to the fossil-fuel industry."

Food & Water Watch policy director Jim Walsh said that "locking in more drilling and fracking on public lands and waters, billions in subsidies for the myth of carbon capture, and fast-tracking permit approvals for gas pipelines and exports are exactly the policies fueling the climate crisis and harming public health with increasing pollution in our air and water."

"Lawmakers who support real climate solutions," he added, "should reject this deal until the fossil fuel handouts are removed."

The IRA is "a far cry from what’s actually needed to address the climate crisis," said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. "The investments in renewables, energy efficiency, and Superfund clean-ups will make a difference, but communities and the climate continue to be sacrificed to Sen. Manchin's fossil fuel demands."

The climate justice coalition told Biden and Schumer that "you cannot address the climate emergency by sacrificing communities."

"Here in Appalachia, we refuse to be sacrificed for political gain or used as concessions to the fossil fuel industry in this so-called deal," said Grace Tuttle of the Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights Coalition. "The unnecessary fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline and further drilling in Alaska and the Gulf are not foregone conclusions. There's no effective climate legislation that allows for new fossil fuel infrastructure, period."

The signatories to Friday's letter, like other advocates this week, also stressed that the deal struck with Manchin does not negate progressives' longstanding demand for Biden to use his existing executive authority to reject new fossil fuel projects and to declare a climate emergency, which proponents say would open up additional lifesaving powers.

"You cannot address the climate emergency by sacrificing communities."

"Declaring a climate emergency will unlock President Biden's full set of powers to not only release Defense funding to build renewable and just energy systems, but also confront fossil fuels head-on by stopping crude oil exports," the groups wrote.

"With non-emergency powers, President Biden can reject new oil and gas leases, and deny all fossil fuel infrastructure that harms countless communities across the country," the coalition continued. "Unleashing executive powers should be pursued in concert with—and not instead of—passing critical climate legislation, and vice versa."

The letter concludes with an urgent plea for Biden and Schumer "to hold the line against any new fossil fuel projects, reject handouts to oil and gas companies, and use every tool available to advance a truly just, renewable energy future that does not sacrifice our communities."


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