'Or we can listen to the scientists': Bernie Sanders torches Joe Manchin's 'dirty' fossil fuel 'side deal'

'Or we can listen to the scientists': Bernie Sanders torches Joe Manchin's 'dirty' fossil fuel 'side deal'
Image via screengrab.

Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a fiery floor speech Thursday that he opposes a "dirty side deal" that would allow faster approval of fossil fuel projects such as the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a major priority of industry-friendly Sen. Joe Manchin.

The agreement in question was negotiated behind closed doors by Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in an effort to secure the West Virginia Democrat's support for the Inflation Reduction Act.

While the text of the side deal has not been finalized, it is expected to propose major federal permitting reforms that would weaken environmental review laws and clear the way for pipelines and other polluting fossil fuel infrastructure. The proposal could be included in a must-pass government funding bill set to receive a vote later this month.

Sanders (I-Vt.) said in his floor remarks Thursday that the deal presents a "fundamental choice" between prioritizing the "short-term profits" of the fossil fuel industry and securing a livable planet for future generations.

"We can listen to the fossil fuel industry and the politicians they pay," the Vermont senator said, "or we can listen to the scientists and the environmental community to reject this side deal and eliminate the $15 billion in subsidies Congress is already providing to big oil and gas companies each and every day."

Sanders, who indicated he would vote against government funding legislation that includes industry-friendly permitting reforms, specifically warned against final approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a Manchin-backed project that—if completed—would spew tens of millions of tons of greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere each year.

Watch Sanders' speech:

The senator's remarks came as climate activists and frontline community members prepared to mobilize on Capitol Hill in opposition to the permitting reforms, which they say would endanger waterways, further pollute the air, and undercut U.S. efforts to rein in runaway carbon emissions.

Sanders emphasized that he's hardly alone in opposing the deal, quoting environmental groups that are mobilizing against the agreement as well as a yet-to-be-released letter from nearly 60 House Democrats criticizing the proposal.

"You got 650 environmental and social justice organizations representing millions of people, you got the entire scientific community saying you got to cut carbon emissions," Sanders said. "And then on the other side, we have the fossil fuel industry and all of their campaign contributions. Today, I ask my colleagues to stand up for our kids, for our grandchildren, and for future generations."

"We have got to have the courage," he added, "to finally tell the fossil fuel industry that the future of this planet is more important than their short-term profits."

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