Joe Manchin

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) listens as President Joe Biden delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol on March 1, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/Getty Images)

Pipeline Opponents Disrupt Semafor Conference as Manchin Takes Stage

The senator appeared at the summit days after pushing through language in the debt ceiling bill that will expedite the permitting process for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Organizers of a summit on so-called "permitting reform" hosted by the fossil fuel-linked news outlet Semafor were forced to delay the event on Tuesday when several climate campaigners interrupted Sen. Joe Manchin's remarks to protest the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a pet project of the right-wing West Virginia Democrat.

About two dozen protesters assembled on the stage at the event just as Manchin began speaking about his desire to speed up the approval of projects like the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), a $6.6 billion fracked gas project that would run from the senator's home state to Virginia, passing through wetlands and waterways.

"Dirty deal, MVP, Manchin, you are killing me!" chanted the demonstrators, who Bloomberg Law reported were representing the direct action group Climate Defiance. The group also sang the song "Take Me Home, Country Roads."

The demonstration came days after President Joe Biden signed into law debt ceiling legislation over the objections of climate campaigners as well as economic justice groups. The so-called Fiscal Responsibility Act includes a requirement that federal agencies approve all remaining permits for the MVP, which has been stalled in the courts as opponents have challenged its threats to the environment in the region the pipeline will pass through. The law also shields the permits from judicial review.

The pipeline is also projected to emit the equivalent of more than 89 million metric tons of carbon at a time when climate scientists and energy experts have warned that fossil fuel emissions must be rapidly drawn down to limit planetary heating to below 2°C above preindustrial levels.

Manchin secured the MVP language in the debt ceiling bill after his previous attempts to include the "dirty deal" regarding expedited permitting in the National Defense Authorization Act and in a stopgap funding bill last year.

The senator left the stage during the protest and claimed the protesters' actions would help him "tremendously" in his state, although polls have shown that West Virginians support a transition to clean energy.

Campaigners who have fought the MVP for years have said they will not back down following the passage of the Fiscal Responsibility Act. The People vs. Fossil Fuels coalition is planning a rally in front of the White House on Thursday, and the local group Preserve Bent Mountain in Virginia said Monday that "it is not yet clear whether the stench of the MVP/debt limit deal will surpass legal scrutiny."

"Even if some of these permits are issued and initially shielded from judicial review, that's not necessarily the end of the line," Jason Rylander, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity," told the independent outlet Cardinal News on Monday. "The pipeline still has to cross some of the most difficult terrain along the route, through the Jefferson National Forest and other areas, and there will be opportunities to hold them accountable for the damage they are continuing to do."

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