Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Maury Johnson standing near his West Virginia farm with pieces of pipeline in the background.

Picture of the author taken in late May 2022  with MVP pipe in background. (Photo:Matthew Pickett Owner - Loud Valley Productions, LLC)

Joe Manchin Is My Senator, But We Need Your Help to Defeat His Dirty Deal

Tell your members of Congress to protect the National Environmental Policy Act and put a stop to this fossil fuel industry giveaway.

Maury Johnson

In 2014 I was notified that a group of fossil fuel corporations wanted to build the 42-inch Mountain Valley Pipeline across my organic farm in rural, southern West Virginia. I had no idea the twist and turn my life would be thrust into. Over the last 8 years, I have witnessed both state and federal agencies try on numerous occasions to short circuit and pervert the very laws and policies that we all depend upon to protect our homes, farms, and communities from devastating environmental destruction. This is a story about social justice and community protection.

Fortunately, the 4th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals has vacated numerous, illegal and faulty permits and stood up for the rule of law. Now my very own representative in the Senate, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), is trying to change the law and gut these bedrock environmental laws. Key among those is the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, which was passed in 1970. NEPA gives communities and other affected citizens say in extremely important decisions, such as when a dangerous pipeline is proposed in your neighborhood or when a massive, costly freeway is proposed to cross a critical water resource or other fragile areas.

NEPA ensures citizens have a voice in major projects built in their community. This "dirty" backroom deal negotiated by Senator Manchin, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, and others could gut NEPA on behalf of oil and gas companies as well as other corporations that find community input a blockade to their industry goals. The so-called "dirty permitting side deal" would allow government and industry to fast-track fossil fuel and other harmful projects while ignoring native, minority and low-income Americans, who live in the most sacrificed areas of the country such as Appalachia, Alaska, and the Gulf Coast. It will produce more pollution all the while ignoring the reality of the climate crisis.

NEPA is essential to building a sustainable, just, and equitable future. It is not a barrier as some would falsely suggest. When communities are engaged from the beginning of proposed projects the result is rejection of unneeded and harmful projects in favor of stronger proposals, which avoid cycles of social and environmental injustices.  

NEPA is the nation’s oldest environmental law. Built to ensure that the federal government informs and engages the public it serves, it has a simple mandate—Transparency, Informed Decision-Making, Public Input and Consultation—resulting in major beneficial effects. 

In the past 50 years, NEPA has saved lives, preserved community integrity, protected endangered species and public land, and saved billions of dollars. It has often been the first and last line of defense against government and industry abuse, fraud, and waste. NEPA success stories can be found across the nation.

NEPA has helped to restore 138 acres of contaminated land in Georgia into a safe place to live and work. It has given Alaskans near the Tongass National Forest a fair chance to voice their opinion about the destruction of centuries-old forests in their state. It saved Michigan $1.5 billion in a massive and unnecessary highway while preventing the single largest loss of wetlands in the state to date. In Appalachia, developers canceled plans to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through 600 miles of forest and farmlands, including the siting of the only compressor station in Virginia in the middle of the historic African American community of Union Hill because of NEPA concerns.  NEPA has preserved prime farmland, fisheries, beaches, forests, and coral reefs in the North Pacific. 

I urge readers to contact their members of Congress and ask them to reject Manchin’s dirty permitting side deal. Our elected congressional representatives cannot bless a backroom deal brokered by fossil fuel industry lobbyists that promise untold damage to American communities like mine by denying them a voice in the permitting process for polluting industries. NEPA is a critical tool for sacrificed communities from across the country to fight back against corporations and the government who have enormous resources and no incentive to protect public health and the long-term stability of the environment. 

Demand that your elected representatives walk the talk of democracy. Tell Congress today to reject this dirty side deal which is nothing less than a shameless gift to the fossil fuel and other polluting industries. Instead, urge them to pass the Environmental Justice for All Act. This bill ensures that timely and meaningful public notification for new energy projects, allowing for thorough community review. It will establish procedures (protocols) that will help avoid delays on critically needed renewable energy and other truly necessary infrastructure projects. Call your legislators today and then call them again tomorrow until this deal is defeated. 

If you would like to read more about the impact of NEPA and easily contact your member of Congress, visit my friends at earthjustice.org/features/nepa.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Maury Johnson

Maury Johnson

Maury Johnson is a southern West Virginia landowner, whose organic farm has been impacted by the Mountain Valley Pipeline. He is a member of Preserve Monroe and the POWHR (Protect Our Water, Heritage, & Rights) Coalition both who have been fighting the MVP and other harmful projects across WV/VA&NC for 8 years.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'She's Just Awful': Critics Swing After Sinema Ditches Dems Just Days After Warnock Win

"Apparently 'independent' is the new way to say 'corporate lobbyist,'" said one critic.

Jon Queally ·


Advocates Applaud as FTC Sues to Stop Microsoft-Activision Mega-Merger

Biden's FTC, said one consumer campaigner, "is showing, once again, that it is serious about enforcing the law, reversing corporate concentration, and taking on the tough cases."

Brett Wilkins ·


Press Freedom Champions Renew Call for DOJ to Drop Charges Against Assange

"It is time for the Biden administration to break from the Trump administration's decision to indict Assange—a move that was hostile to the media and democracy itself."

Jessica Corbett ·


Oral Arguments Boost Fears of SCOTUS Buying Theory That Would 'Sow Elections Chaos'

"This reckless case out of North Carolina could explode the unifying understanding that power ultimately rests with the people of this country," one campaigner said of Moore v. Harper.

Jessica Corbett ·


War Industry 'Celebrating Christmas Early' as House Passes $858 Billion NDAA

"There is no justification to throw... $858 billion at the Pentagon when we're told we can't afford child tax credit expansion, universal paid leave, or other basic human necessities," said the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. "End of story."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo