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Manchin Bill to Halt Environmental Groups Efforts

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

James Vakilpour - Staff Writer - News


Members of Congress have until Friday to sign an open letter urging House leadership not to fast-track energy projects as part of the government funding bill. Fast-tracking permits would disproportionately harm communities of color, according to the letter. The letter is addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) received the promise of the expedited permitting process in July in exchange for his assistance in the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. The act is a scaled-back version of Vice President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan. Manchin helped Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pass the inflation reduction act. More than 60 House members have signed the letter, according to Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), chair of the Natural Resources Committee. Attention has focused on the imminent clash between President Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. A list of original signatories has been handed over to a news outlet, and additional House members have subsequently joined in. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) said that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi may turn to Republicans for support if progressives threaten to scuttle the Manchin-Schumer climate deal. Progressives have claimed that clean energy may be accelerated without unfairly harming marginalized populations or accelerating fossil fuel projects. Fast-tracking green energy projects is essential in the fight to halt climate change, they argue. Sen. Joe Manchin's coal firm has generated at least $5 million from his coal firm, and he has a personal interest in fossil fuels. In exchange for his support for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which will transport natural gas over 300 miles across West Virginia and Virginia, Bloomberg was able to secure legislation that would expedite the pipeline's approval. Lawmakers have until August 26th to formally endorse Grijalva's proposed letter, according to a source. The law would require the president to maintain a running list of projects that should receive expedited approval. It would also restrict towns' ability to block or delay these projects and set a deadline for filing legal challenges. According to draft legislative text, the Manchin measure would essentially silence Black, Brown, Indigenous, and low-income communities. The legislation, he says, is "anti-environmental" and would lead to more polluting energy projects being pushed through quickly if it passes. Environmental justice activists are concerned that some environmental groups have yet to take a hardline stance against Sen. Joe Manchin's (D-WV) bill to fast-track fossil fuel and other energy projects. Activists fear their silence could provide cover for Democratic leaders to push the legislation through. Sources in the environmental justice movement say they're concerned that big environmental groups haven't taken a hard line on the issue.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin's bill would make it harder for communities of color to fight against energy projects in their neighborhoods. Hundreds of environmental organizations have also opposed the bill, but few have spoken out against it. If a major environmental organization endorses the Manchin bill, that could make it politically easier to force it through. The Nature Conservancy and the World Resources Institute are yet to comment on the legislation. Activists worry that a major environmental group will give House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi cover. "When those groups splinter off, it allows for politicians to use talking points that environmentalists support," a source at one multi-national environmental group said. The Institute for Policy Studies Climate Policy Director Basav Sen referred to the side deal Schumer made with Manchin, pledging to go against the bill. Activists fear that by the time the bill's language is made public, it may be too late to avert a shutdown. Large, well-funded organizations with a high degree of access to Congressional leadership and senior officials in the Biden administration are afraid to voice strong public criticism of the corrupt, industry-backed 'side deal'. Sen. Joe Manchin supports a bill that would limit community input on potentially harmful energy infrastructure projects, like natural gas drilling. The Mountain Valley Pipeline would carry natural gas over 300 miles from West Virginia to southern Virginia. Environmental justice activists have successfully held off pipeline construction for nine years. More than 650 environmental groups had asked the House and Senate to reject the measure. Organizations opposed to the Mountain Valley pipeline are urging the Big Greens to oppose the deal. Organizers say Big Greens has a history of betraying grassroots groups. "We expect the Big Greens to stand with the frontline organizations, especially due to their public statements on racial and environmental justice issues," an organizer says. Albert said there is a "huge gap" between the big green groups and smaller grassroots organizations due to their size and scale. The Sierra Club's director says there is no need to gut environmental protections in order to build more clean energy infrastructure. "My concerns about the big greens is – because they have access to the administration in a way that grassroots communities don't – are they going to oppose the bill?" Bineshi Albert, co-executive director of Climate Justice Alliance, said. Instead, he says, the government should set up agencies that give the public a voice in energy projects. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has called on Congress to be cautious in fast-tracking environmental permitting for major infrastructure projects. "It would also limit local communities' ability to halt or slow down these projects, and impose a time limit for challenging them in court," the group says. Vote on the continuing resolution could come as early as next week. This is the list of early signatories from last week:

Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC)

Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-CA)

Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA)

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY)

Rep. Shontel Brown (D-OH)

Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO)

Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN)

Rep. Ed Case (D-HI)

Rep. Katherine Clarke (D-MA)

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY)

Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL)

Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA)

Rep. Mark Desaulnier (CA) Rep. Lloyd Dogget (D-TX)

Rep. Adriano Espailat (D-NY)

Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA)

Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL)

Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D- DC)

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA)

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA)

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)

Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI)

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN)

Rep. Donald McEachin (D-MD)

Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA)

Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY)

Rep. Gwen Moore (WI) Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY)

Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA)

Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN)

Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA)

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA)

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD)

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)

Rep. David Scott (D-GA)

Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-NM)

Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA)

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI)

Rep. Nydia Velasquez (D-NY)

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ)

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL)

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