by Mia DiFelice
On August 18 on both coasts, Food & Water Watch organizers took action with our allies in New York City and Seattle. The goal: to demand that our leaders stop the dirty fossil fuel deal proposed by Sen. Joe Manchin around the Inflation Reduction Act.
In New York, 12 activists were arrested for a peaceful sit-in in Democratic Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office. In Seattle, 8 were arrested for a sit-in at the office of Sen. Patty Murray, assistant Democratic leader in the Senate.
In both cities, dozens of activists gathered outside to protest the deal that, as our National Organizing Manager Thomas Meyer said, is “nothing more than a wish list from Big Oil.” So far, neither Sen. Schumer or Sen. Murray have responded.
The details of this dirty deal will come into focus when the Senate returns to D.C. in September. We still have time to kill this deal, and we’re only just getting started.
The Inflation Reduction Act Came With Strings That Need Cutting
In the final weeks of negotiations on the Inflation Reduction Act, Sen. Schumer struck a deal with Sen. Manchin. Or, we might say, Sen. Schumer struck a deal with Sen. Manchin and his corporate fossil fuel donors.
In exchange for the $370 billion bill, Sen. Manchin secured a promise to introduce legislation that would fast-track permit approval for dangerous new fossil fuel infrastructure.
The bill, which we can expect when Congress returns in September, is an outrageous concession to the fossil fuel industry. If passed, it would lead to more pollution and other hazards from oil and gas projects, many in communities that are already harmed by fossil fuel projects. And it would silence those communities’ voices in the process.
The Side Deal Will Silence Communities And Fast-Track Fossil Fuels
In August 2022, a one-page summary of the deal leaked, and it isn’t pretty. The one-pager outlines changes to the National Environmental Policy Act. This Act has protected communities for decades by requiring developers to assess potential environmental impacts for major projects and gather community input.
With these changes, the bill would gut environmental protections, endanger public health and sidestep community say.
The one-pager also references the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a fracked gas pipeline that would cut through hundreds of miles of Virginia and West Virginia. The surrounding communities have fought the pipeline in court for years, and courts have struck down multiple permits granted to the project. The pipeline would cross almost 1,000 streams and wetlands and would spew emissions equal to 26 coal-fired power plants.
The measures in the leaked one-pager would tighten the timeline for NEPA review and put even more strain on taxed federal agencies. As Appalachian Voices points out, this could force agencies to take reports by developers at face value, rather than doing their due diligence to fact-checkclaims.
Soon after the one-pager leaked, a draft of the legislation followed, bearing the watermark API — as in the American Petroleum Institute, the industry lobby group.
The draft legislation would require the President to create a list of 25 projects with “strategic national importance” to be fast-tracked through the permitting process — and at least 5 of those items must “produce, process, transport, or store fossil fuel products.”
A Side Deal With Big Oil Isn’t Democracy
Manchin claims he’s serving the interests of his constituents, but that’s hard to believe when West Virginians have fought this pipeline for so long.
It’s even harder to believe when Manchin has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from fossil fuel interests over the course of his career. He has received more campaign cash from the industry than any other sitting Senator, Republican or Democrat. This election cycle, gas pipeline companies gave Manchin $331,000.
Additionally, NextEra Energy, a major stakeholder in the project, has donated to both Sen. Manchin and Sen. Schumer. Clearly, this deal is yet another case of monied interests wooing our elected officials, at the expense of constituents.
We’re Fighting This Deal Till The End
The bill will benefit oil and gas corporations at the expense of community voice, health and safety. And it will make it even easier for corporations to destroy local environments and worsen our climate crisis.
We can expect Schumer to attach the bill to a must-pass budget bill in September. Until then, we have to continue to make it clear to our elected officials: our communities will not allow this legislation to move forward. Our climate cannot afford it. We need to stop Manchin’s dirty deal.
FWW is working tirelessly to fight this deal and stand in solidarity with the frontline communities it will harm. We’ve joined 650 other organizations in a public letter calling on Democratic leadership to stop the deal. And we’ll be making noise until leadership knows this deal is poisonous to its base and the communities they serve.
Tell your rep to oppose this dirty deal!