Dozens of climate leaders demand Democrats ditch Joe Manchin's zombie 'dirty deal' in spending bill

Dozens of climate leaders demand Democrats ditch Joe Manchin's zombie 'dirty deal' in spending bill
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It hasn't been called a "zombie bill" for nothing.

After Sen. Joe Manchin's (D-W.Va.) fossil fuel industry-friendly permitting reform legislation was defeated for the third time on Thursday, climate campaigners voiced concern that Democratic leaders could try to cram the bill into a must-pass omnibus spending package that's being negotiated in private on Capitol Hill.

On Saturday, the heads of 49 climate and Indigenous rights groups sent a letter warning President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) not to attempt such a maneuver.

"As leaders of environmental and environmental justice organizations representing millions of members and supporters from across the country, we oppose attaching any version of the Building American Energy Security Act of 2022 to the end-of-year government funding package," the letter reads. "This deal prioritizes the interests of the fossil fuel industry at the expense of the environment and health of frontline communities, which are disproportionately Black, Indigenous, communities of color, and low-wealth communities—a move that is not in line with President Biden’s commitments to climate and environmental justice."

"Congress should instead be advancing efforts that ensure robust public engagement early in project development and strengthen the requirements for agencies to evaluate cumulative health and climate impacts," continued the letter, which was signed by the leaders of Bold Alliance, Earthworks, Honor the Earth, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, and dozens of other organizations.

The letter was sent days after Manchin's "dirty deal"—which would fast-track fossil fuel projects and authorize completion of the massively polluting Mountain Valley Pipeline—failed to receive enough Senate votes to be added as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.

Forty-seven senators voted in favor of the amendment, well short of the 60 votes needed.

According to a recent analysis by Oil Change International, "the total annual emissions from the Mountain Valley Pipeline and currently proposed LNG terminals in pending federal permitting processes—whose construction could be facilitated by Sen. Manchin's 'dirty deal'—is 665 million metric tons of CO2e."

"This figure is over five times the potential emissions reductions resulting from the construction of 22 transmission line projects that proponents have suggested the bill is supposed to facilitate (119 million metric tons)," the group found. "The Mountain Valley Pipeline alone, at 89 million metric tons of CO2e per year, would negate 75% of that."

Ahead of Thursday's failed amendment vote, Manchin signaled that he wouldn't stop pushing for his legislation, suggesting it could be attached to the year-end government funding measure. The Biden White House supports and has gone to bat for Manchin's bill, having agreed to back it in exchange for the West Virginia Democrat's vote for the Inflation Reduction Act.

"We're still trying," Manchin, the top recipient of oil and gas industry donations in Congress, told reporters when asked about using the must-pass omnibus as a vehicle for his permitting legislation. "Every vehicle's a vehicle."

Even if Manchin's attack on bedrock environmental regulations isn't ultimately included in the omnibus, which is expected to receive a vote in the coming week, that still might not spell the end of the bill.

As the Associated Pressreported Friday, "the permitting plan is likely to reemerge in January as Republicans take control of the House."

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