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A coal mining operation is pictured in Wyoming

Heavy vehicles stop moving as a timed detonation brings down a wide coal face at the Buckskin Coal Mine in Gillette, Wyoming. (Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

160+ Groups Denounce Mining Industry Giveaways in 'Dirty' Manchin Side Deal

"Under no circumstances," the groups argue in a letter, "should Congress cut any deals made on the backs of some of the most marginalized peoples and communities in the U.S."

Brett Wilkins

More than 160 advocacy groups on Monday joined progressive U.S. lawmakers in opposing proposed federal permitting reforms negotiated by Sen. Joe Manchin and Democratic leadership that, while "delighting" the fossil fuel industry, have been condemned by activists as a "climate disaster."

"There is no way to mitigate the damage that would be done by this side deal, it must be unequivocally rejected."

Monday's letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) focuses on the "environmental impacts from reckless hardrock mining and processing" that the proposed side deal between Manchin (D-W.Va.) and party leadership would cause.

The compromise—blasted by opponents like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as a "dirty side deal"—would allow expedited approval of oil and gas projects like the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a top priority for Manchin, in exchange for the fossil fuel industry-funded senator's support for the Inflation Reduction Act, the weakened reconciliation package signed last month by President Joe Biden.

"A leaked draft of a side deal to weaken and truncate environmental reviews is nothing more than the wishlist for all extractive industries—more extraction, less community input, less scrutiny of potential impacts, and less accountability when harm occurs," the letter states.

"Our concerns include those that relate to the environmental justice impacts to communities and environmental impacts from mining and mineral processing this side deal would cause," the groups added. "There is no way to mitigate the damage that would be done by this side deal, it must be unequivocally rejected."

The letter's signatories argued that "one of this side deal's many horrible facets is that it allows the mining industry to tilt the scale of our governments' decisions even more heavily in their favor."

The signers warned that if passed, the deal would gut some environmental and cultural protection laws, including the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act.

The letter also notes that the 150-year-old General Mining Law—designed to aid in the genocidal U.S. colonization of Indigenous lands in the West, still "encourages the mining industry to claim public lands as their own, almost entirely for free, and at great expense to the public."

The groups asserted the Environmental Justice for All Act and the Requirements, Expectations, and Standard Procedures for Effective Consultation with Tribes (RESPECT) Act—bills led by Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Donald McEachin (D-Va.)—strengthen existing environmental, civil rights, and tribal consultation laws "to help ensure our government listens to frontline communities and empowers them to hold our government accountable."

"Under no circumstances," the letter concludes, "should Congress cut any deals made on the backs of some of the most marginalized peoples and communities in the U.S."

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