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

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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!

Manchin’s Dirty Deal Must Be Stopped

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Climate and Energy

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. 

Food & Water Watch stands with our allies outside of Sen. Murray’s office in Seattle, protesting Manchin’s dirty deal.

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.”

Additionally, at least 2 must be for bogus carbon capture scams. This would lead to more pollution, and more dangerous carbon pipelines like the ones we’re fighting in Iowa

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!

Will The Manchin Climate Bill Reduce Climate Pollution?

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Jim Walsh and Peter Hart

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) takes aim at a lot of things over the next decade — everything from prescription drug prices to corporate tax rates. For climate advocates, the headlining claim is this: the IRA would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 42%.

But that target isn’t actually in the bill. In fact, there are no emissions targets in the bill at all. Instead, this legislation relies on carrots (money to nudge private markets in the right direction) over sticks (actual mandates to reduce pollution).

So where does that 42% number come from? And is that reduction actually likely?

Several models claim to predict the IRA’s outcomes, but the one getting the most attention is from Princeton University’s REPEAT Project. Its model estimates that, without any new legislation, emissions will fall about 27% from 2005 highs. With the IRA, according to the model, emissions could fall about 42%.

But the model relies on some suspect reductions. For example, that 42% would need an astonishing turnaround for so-called carbon capture technologies. And it forecasts a massive increase in the deployment of clean energy — as well as tax credits for purchasing electric vehicles with requirements that no maker can meet yet.

The Analysis Makes A Bad Bet On Carbon Capture

The REPEAT analysis acknowledges that carbon capture is currently responsible for almost no emissions reductions. However, it projects that emissions reductions from carbon capture will reach 50 megatons of carbon by 2024 — mostly from coal plants -– and 200 million tons per year by 2030. 

There’s no explanation for this miraculous growth, but the analysis nonetheless suggests there will be “6 gigawatts of carbon capture retrofits at existing coal-fired power plants and 18 gigawatts of gas power plants with carbon capture installed by 2030.” These assumptions would require $17 billion in carbon capture tax credits in 2030 alone. That is far more than the $3.2 billion total 2022-2031 expenditure the Congressional Budget Office estimates.

Overall, the analysis assumes that carbon capture would deliver “roughly one-sixth to one-fifth” of total emissions cuts. This is an unfathomable improvement for an industry that has failed to deliver emissions reductions after decades of research and billions in funding. 

The analysis also leaves its assumptions unclear on the actual emissions reductions of carbon capture technology. While the industry claims it can capture 90% of emissions, real-world analyses of full lifecycle emissions put that figure closer to 39%, at best. And captured CO2 is almost entirely used for more oil drilling, eliminating any supposed climate benefits.

Counting On Cars That Might Not Exist

The analysis also pins emissions reductions on changes to existing tax credits for electric vehicles. But there are serious questions about this policy. Several reports have already noted that there are currently no EVs that will meet the IRA’s requirements. The bill mandates that tax credits can only go to EVs with battery and mineral components sourced from the U.S. or favored trading partners. 

The supply chains to make these cars don’t even exist yet, but the model assumes they will. It seems logical to think a more generous tax credit would increase EV purchases. However, real-world limitations could significantly limit projected emissions reductions. 

The Model Misses Fossil Fuels And Frontline Communities 

The REPEAT analysis also assumes continued growth in fossil fuels; gas-fired power and coal stay strong in the energy mix. This is particularly concerning for communities near fossil fuel infrastructure. They’ll see more pollution from facilities receiving subsidies under the IRA. This is more than just wasting money on dirty infrastructure — it could increase pollution under the guise of climate action.

The fossil fuel industry is also pushing for a massive expansion of fossil fuel exports, which the REPEAT modeling acknowledges. Yet, it doesn’t account for those greenhouse gas emissions in its 42% claims. 

The model also doesn’t account for the “side deal” that secured the support of West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, which calls for fast-tracking major new energy projects. Right now, we can’t calculate how that agreement might work, but it explicitly aims to build new sources of pollution more quickly. 

All of this — as well as the IRA’s unconscionable provisions on new drilling on public lands — will take a serious toll on communities near polluting facilities, and will lock us into continued climate emissions.

It Doesn’t Capture Leaking Methane

The IRA’s only provision that directly addresses oil and gas industry emissions is a fee on methane leaks. Under the bill, the fee would rise to $1,500 per ton in 2026. But negotiations with Senator Manchin substantially weakened this provision. Now, it won’t apply to the majority of the industry. 

While that is not part of the REPEAT analysis, we note that they rely on a 100-year timeframe to calculate the CO2 equivalence of methane (instead of 20 years). This is misleading because so much of methane’s climate impact comes in the near-term. 

Moreover, the analysis uses outdated assumptions from the EPA that significantly underestimate methane leakage and the impacts of gas on warming in general.

There’s A Difference Between Models And Reality

There are also fundamental questions about the type of forecasting used in the REPEAT analysis. How well do these models predict the future? What assumptions do they make?

On that count, the report includes caveats that readers might miss. “Optimization modeling used in this work assumes rational economic behavior from all actors,” the authors write. They add that “these results indicate what decisions make good economic sense for consumers and businesses to make … whether or not actors make such decisions in the real world depends on many factors we are unable to model.”

Energy industry actors don’t make rational decisions based on costs, consumer benefits or the public good. For instance, clean renewable power is cheap and abundant, yet utilities embrace fossil fuels. That’s in part because they profit from existing infrastructure that poisons communities and the climate. 

Additionally, the REPEAT modeling doesn’t calculate increases in water and air pollution that will come from carbon capture, hydrogen and other fossil fuel infrastructure likely under the IRA. Increases in harmful emissions other than carbon dioxide and methane will inevitably result from more fracking, pipelines and fossil fuel power plants, too. The burden will fall on disadvantaged communities. Models don’t show these impacts, but they’re real nonetheless.

42% isn’t even close — people need to know about the IRA’s real climate impact.