(Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Aug 24, 2022
A broad coalition of more than 650 climate and progressive advocacy groups Wednesday called on congressional Democratic leaders to reject Sen. Joe Manchin's "alarming" demands for U.S. fossil fuel projects contained in a "dirty" side deal that the West Virginia Democrat secretly negotiated to gain his support for his own party's historic but watered-down package on climate, taxes, and drug price reforms.
"After the IRA paved the way for another decade of fracking and pipelines, we have no choice but to fight this dirty deal with everything we've got."
"We are writing to express our strenuous opposition to any additional fossil fuel giveaways," states the coalition's letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), noting that the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) signed by President Joe Biden last week "already included large giveaways to polluters."
"We call on you to unequivocally reject any effort to promote fossil fuels, advance unproven technologies, and weaken our core environmental laws," the letter adds. "You must stand with the communities who continue to bear the brunt of harm from fossil fuels and act to prevent wholesale climate disaster."
According to a leaked one-page summary of what critics have called "the ultimate devil's bargain," the proposal would prioritize approval of projects with "strategic national importance," set time restrictions for reviewing permits, alter federal water rules, limit lawsuits, and increase federal authority for certain facilities. Manchin is also pushing for the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), a fracked gas project that runs through his home state but is opposed by many of his constituents.
"This fossil fuel wish list is a cruel and direct attack on environmental justice communities and the climate," the new letter argues. "Prolonging the fossil fuel era perpetuates environmental racism, is wildly out of step with climate science, and hamstrings our nation's ability to avert a climate disaster. Supporting this legislation would represent a profound betrayal of frontline communities and constituents across the country who have called on you to prevent the multitude of harms of fossil fuels and advance a just, renewable energy future."
The groups--including the Center for Popular Democracy, Climate Justice Alliance, Green New Deal Network, Indivisible, Oil Change International, MoveOn, NAACP, Oxfam America, People's Action, Public Citizen, Sierra Club, and Sunrise Movement--are demanding "bold congressional action to address the existential threat of climate chaos."
Such action "requires limiting the production of oil, gas, and coal, which are responsible for 85% of greenhouse emissions and are the root driver of the climate crisis," the letter states. "Relying only on large-scale investments in renewable energy and environmental justice alone will not stave off climate disaster if Congress simultaneously puts its legislative foot on the gas to expand fossil fuel production and false solutions like carbon capture, hydrogen, biomass, biofuels, factory farm gas, and nuclear power."
\u201cThe dirty "deal" being forced on us by Manchin + @SenSchumer would fast-track fossil fuel projects and strip away the chance for public input or meaningful environmental review. \n\nTake action with us to demand Congress and @POTUS stop it: https://t.co/czXlPHeGkc \ud83d\udce2\u201d— People vs. Fossil Fuels (@People vs. Fossil Fuels) 1661274000
The letter acknowledges that Manchin wants to tie his dirty deal--which is already facing opposition from some progressives in the House--to legislation to fund the federal government after the end of next month. The right-wing Democrat has even threatened a government shutdown if members of both parties don't back his proposal.
The coalition's letter charges that "tethering this legislation to any must-pass legislation including a continuing resolution to fund the federal government is morally abhorrent. Holding the funding of the entire federal government hostage to satiate one senator with a heavy financial self-interest in fossil fuels is beyond irresponsible."
"Sacrificing the health and prosperity of communities in Appalachia, the Gulf Coast, Alaska, the Midwest, the Southwest, and other frontline communities around the country makes this side-deal profoundly disgraceful," the documents adds. "Our communities and our collective future require the political courage to stop the fossil fuel stranglehold once and for all."
Representatives of groups that signed the letter echoed its urgent tone.
"This dirty side deal is nothing short of a wholesale giveaway to the fossil fuel industry to the detriment of frontline communities, tribal nations, and Mother Earth," said Joye Braun, national pipelines organizer of the Indigenous Environmental Network. "The world is on fire and negotiating the amount of fuel for those flames is not acceptable. Congress needs to understand that there is no compromise when it comes to protecting the next seven generations of life and beyond."
According to Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, "it's atrocious that Congress is even considering dismantling bedrock environmental protections just to please one senator." He called the effort a "poisonous plan" that "must be stopped."
"The grassroots climate movement is fired up to stop this fossil fuel expansion deal, and the sit-ins at Sen. Schumer and Murray's offices last week are just the beginning."
The letter follows protests against the deal and resulting arrests last week at the offices of both Schumer and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the party's third-ranked member in the Senate.
Thomas Meyer, national organizing manager at Food & Water Watch, told Common Dreams that "Manchin and Schumer are in for a rude awakening if they thought they could slip this deal through without a fuss."
"The grassroots climate movement is fired up to stop this fossil fuel expansion deal, and the sit-ins at Sen. Schumer and Murray's offices last week are just the beginning," Meyer added. "After the IRA paved the way for another decade of fracking and pipelines, we have no choice but to fight this dirty deal with everything we've got."
The Stop MVP and People vs. Fossil Fuels coalitions are planning a public demonstration against Manchin's deal in the nation's capital next month. "No Sacrifice Zones: Appalachian Resistance Comes to D.C." is set to kick off at 5:00 pm local time on September 8 at the Robert A. Taft Memorial and Carillon.
"We are done being sacrifice zones, and we must stop this bill and MVP!" organizers said in a statement Tuesday. "We want to build community between intersectional Appalachian resistance organizations and have their voices heard! We must protect bedrock environmental laws and public input. We are in solidarity with all frontlines of the climate crisis."
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Tuesday granted MVP's request to extend its certificate of public convenience and necessity by four years--a move that Russell Chisholm of the Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR) Coalition said "emphasizes the brutal length and uncertainty of the project."
"This project should never be built and this decision subjects our communities to prolonged harm," he added. "That's why tens of thousands of people submitted comments to stop FERC from granting this extension. Now we're taking our growing movement to D.C. to demand decision-makers stop MVP and all pro-fossil fuel legislation."
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