How We Organized Against Manchin’s Dirty Deal


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.

I Got Arrested to Stop Manchin’s Pipeline Deal. Here’s Why.


Climate and Energy

by Wenonah Hauter, Founder and Executive Director, Food & Water Watch

People across the country are standing up to stop the backroom fossil fuel permitting deal from West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. On Thursday, I went to Capitol Hill to stand with a group of leaders in the environmental movement. Our demand: Reject the dirty pipeline deal Manchin struck during negotiations over the Inflation Reduction Act. For making that demand, we were arrested. 

Stopping Manchin’s side deal is worth it. 

A line of climate group leaders stands in front of the doors of the Senate Building in D.C., including Food and Water Watch's Wenonah Hauter.
Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter stands with our allies against Manchin’s pipeline bill on September 22. Photo courtesy Collin Rees.

The Dirty Cost of The Inflation Reduction Act

When the IRA became law in August, some hailed it as a victory in the long fight for climate action. But it contained only remnants of a more ambitious climate and economic agenda from President Biden and Congressional Democrats. And the last of those ambitions died at the feet of Joe Manchin and his Big Oil patrons.

In exchange for his tie-breaking vote to pass the IRA, Manchin extracted a promise for legislation to fast-track permits for new fossil fuel infrastructure. 

This summer, leaked details of the deal had the American Petroleum Institute written all over it — literally. An “API” watermark branded the leaked memo, and the memo itself showed just how dangerous the legislation would be.

Now, we have the text of the legislation itself. And it just confirms the danger. 

If passed, Manchin’s pipeline deal will mean more pollution and more dirty energy projects in communities already hard-hit by big environmental burdens. And it will change the National Environmental Policy Act, making it harder for regulators to do their jobs and harder for threatened communities to voice concerns about new projects.

It’s simple — and terrible. Manchin’s deal would gut environmental protections, endanger public health and silence communities. If that’s not worth getting arrested to stop, I’m not sure what is.

The Pipeline Deal Is About Money and Influence

The need for urgent action on climate is obvious. We need to stop the production and use of fossil fuels and quickly transition to clean, renewable energy. Climate chaos is the price of inaction. But Joe Manchin and the fossil fuel corporations that wield money and influence in Washington stand in the way of commonsense policy. 

Manchin claims he’s serving the interests of his constituents by roadblocking climate action. But it’s no coincidence Manchin has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from fossil fuel interests during his career. In fact, he’s taken more campaign cash from the industry than any sitting senator. During this election cycle alone, gas pipeline companies have given Manchin $331,000.

Yet Manchin and the powerful corporations he represents hold, at least for now, veto power over the climate agenda.  

We’re Winning The Fight Against Fossil Fuels

That’s part of the reason it’s so important to stand up against Manchin’s side deal. His one-man veto on climate policy doesn’t reflect the interests of the vast majority of people across the country — or West Virginia, for that matter.

Politics around the climate crisis have swung in favor of real action. Lawmakers are ready to back ambitious and much-needed climate proposals. And they’re ready to push back against the greed of fossil fuel interests embodied by politicians like Manchin. 

Even more importantly, the grassroots movement demanding real action grows more powerful every day. Over 700 organizations oppose the bill. There have been sit-ins at Congressional offices across the country. Scores of frontline community members from Appalachia, to the Gulf Coast, to the Midwest converged on Capitol Hill to demand that Congress reject the deal. 

Food & Water Watch has mobilized more than 8,000 calls from constituents to their representatives. And we’ve gotten 80 members of Congress to publicly oppose Manchin’s dirty deal. 

The coordinated and loud opposition to the deal shows that power is shifting. Our fight against Joe Manchin’s pipeline deal is critical, but this is about more than a single senator. 

Time is running out for the fossil fuel interests that brought us Joe Manchin and his side deal. They can arrest us, but they can’t defeat us. The climate movement will win.

Tell your senator to stop this deal!