How We Organized Against Manchin’s Dirty Deal

For weeks, Food & Water Watch and our allies organized against Manchin’s permitting bill. Here’s how we won an initial victory, and what comes next.

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Climate and Energy

Photo by Eman Mohammed | Survival Media Agency
by Thomas Meyer and Mia DiFelice

Tuesday evening marked one of Food & Water Watch’s — and the whole climate movement’s — most exciting victories of the year. After failing to secure enough votes, Senator Joe Manchin asked Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to withdraw his permitting bill from a government funding package. 

This was only possible because of outrage and organizing across the country. We quickly mobilized with environmental and civic groups, Congressmembers and voters. And we’re prepared to do it again and again — whatever it takes to defend our communities and a livable future.

WASHINGTON, D.C. Thursday, September 22, 2022. Climate and Environmental justice activists protesting the Manchin’s dirty pipeline deal at the entrance of the Hart Senate Office Building. Photo by Eman Mohammed | Survival Media Agency

A Fossil-Fuel-Filled Future On The Line With Manchin’s Bill

Manchin struck his dirty deal with Democratic leadership this summer in exchange for his support for the Inflation Reduction Act. But the deal brought a bill filled with concessions to the fossil fuel industry — and penned with the industry’s help. These concessions were incomprehensible when we know we need a clean energy transition, now. But it all became clear when a draft was leaked that actually still had the watermark from American Petroleum Institute.

The bill would have fast-tracked fossil fuel permitting and gutted the environmental regulations that keep our communities safe. It would have ensured the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, blasting past years of opposition from communities along the pipeline’s path. And it would have cleared the way for even more dangerous pipelines and polluting infrastructure.

An Out-Pouring of People Power Stopped Manchin’s Bill in Its Tracks

As our executive director Wenonah Hauter said, Manchin’s withdrawal “marks a huge victory against dirty energy — and also against dirty backroom Washington dealmaking.” This bill was the result of secret deals and bending the knee to fossil fuel lobbyists. So as soon as we heard about it, we knew we needed a flood of people power to remind lawmakers who they really represent.

Working with our allies in the People vs. Fossil Fuels coalition, we recruited over 700 organizations to oppose the deal. Activists hand-delivered a letter signed by these groups to their Congressmembers throughout August and September. 

At the same time, our volunteers started texting and calling thousands of people. They helped generate over 10,000 calls to Congressional offices from our supporters and allies!

This complimented efforts on Capitol Hill. Our policy team helped organize hundreds of meetings with Congressional offices and supported the “No Sacrifice Zones” lobby day September 8th. We worked with dozens of national, local and environmental justice organizations to get nearly 80 Representatives and 8 Senators to publicly oppose the deal. 

We also knew that when it came to the bill’s climate and public health impacts, science was on our side. So we organized a letter from 400 scientists, doctors and nurses who opposed the deal.

We also held dozens of events, working with allies to pressure key targets across the country. That included Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and his fellow New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. To that end, we mobilized 27 elected officials in New York to declare their opposition to the deal.

In early September, we joined with allies for a huge grassroots lobby day and rally in Washington D.C. There, we demanded that Congress oppose the Mountain Valley Pipeline and stop Manchin’s dirty deal. We also coordinated sit-ins in Seattle, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.. And on September 22, our executive director Wenonah Hauter was arrested with 11 other directors from the climate movement for protesting the deal at the U.S. Capitol.

We’re Not Done Yet — Manchin Will Try Again

Before Tuesday, Manchin’s bill seemed to many like a done deal. It had been attached to a must-pass bill, with a vote scheduled just days before the government funding deadline on September 30. But people power prevailed! 

While Manchin couldn’t get the votes to pass his bill this week, we know he’ll look for new avenues. Even worse, Republicans have come up with their own permitting bill, which gives even more handouts to the fossil fuel industry.

Fossil fuel expansion is unacceptable at any time, but it’s especially outrageous to consider while devastating hurricanes are hitting Florida and Puerto Rico. Climate disasters are intensifying, and we must do everything we can to protect our communities and end the era of fossil fuels.

As this year’s session continues, we can expect more attempts to pass so-called “permitting reform” that would expand fossil fuels and harm communities. But Food & Water Watch will be standing by, ready to organize to strike down whatever dangerous legislation comes next.

We can’t do this work without your support!

This article was updated September 29 regarding our lobby efforts and the climate catastrophes in Florida and Puerto Rico.