Manchin’s #DirtyDeal and the 8 Democrats Who Could Stop It

by Tim Donaghy

September 7, 2022

© Tim Aubry / Greenpeace

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-Coal WV) is maneuvering to get Congress to pass a permitting “reform” bill that could weaken our environmental laws and facilitate the build out of yet more pipelines and other fossil infrastructure. Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic House Leadership can stop this hand out – if we push them to take a stand.

The recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) included historic investments in renewables that will reduce our carbon emissions and get us part way to hitting our climate targets. Sen. Manchin’s surprise 50th vote was what put the IRA across the finish line. But for that vote, Manchin extracted a concession from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that his permitting bill would be attached to a “must pass” bill – such as the upcoming vote to prevent the federal government from shutting down.

While the contents of the final permitting reform deal are still secret, a draft bearing the watermark of the American Petroleum Institute (API) outlined a number of subtle but critical process changes that could make it easier for corporations to build fossil fuel infrastructure.

NEPA is the nation’s bedrock environmental law which requires that the government conduct comprehensive environmental reviews before approving big projects. Without NEPA ordinary people would be in the dark about what corporations are doing in their neighborhoods. The draft bill makes changes to the NEPA process by shortening public comment periods, limiting what analysis is carried out, and tinkering with judicial review of agency decisions. The bill could also tweak the Clean Water Act and mandates a list of 25 energy projects of “strategic importance” for priority review. Some of these priority projects could be renewables or transmission projects, but many more could be fossil fuel or false solution projects that lock us into further emissions and undermine the good parts of the IRA.

Despite its transformative potential, the IRA itself contained some provisions that could harm fossil-impacted communities – and this permitting bill would pile on even more harm on top of “sacrifice zones” that are already suffering from toxic air and water pollution. Over 650 groups have signed a letter opposing the bill.

No bill can pass without the support of both the House and the Senate. The progressive wing of the party, led by House Natural Resources Chair Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) has already come out against Manchin’s dirty deal. This means that Speaker Pelosi – and her close circle of House leaders – can kill the deal and pass a “clean” Continuing Resolution to keep the government running. Here are the top decision makers in the House of Representatives that we need to get on the record:

Nancy “Smash!” Pelosi (D-CA), Speaker of the House – The Speaker is one of the shrewdest political operators in D.C. and has navigated her party through numerous tricky spots over the years. If anyone can halt this Dirty Deal in its tracks, it’s her.

The Old Guard: Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Majority Leader and Jim Clyburn (D-SC), Majority Whip – Hoyer is the longest serving Democrat in the House and together with Pelosi and Clyburn has made up the party leadership for the last two decades. This octogenarian trio may soon step aside to allow younger representatives to assume leadership. But we can’t let a Dirty Deal like this one be their final swan song.

The Next Generation: Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Democratic Caucus Chair, and Katherine Clark (D-MA), Assistant Speaker. Jeffries and Clark are widely seen as the most likely successors to Pelosi when she retires. This moment is the perfect opportunity for them to step into the leadership role and oppose Manchin’s Dirty Deal.

The Chairs: Frank Pallone (D-NJ), House Energy & Commerce; Adam Smith (D-WA), House Armed Services; and Kathy Castor (D-FL), Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. Due to seniority, Pallone would be key in writing the Continuing Resolution, and Smith the key to another “must pass” defense bill later in the year. Castor’s job is to raise the profile of climate change in the House. We need all of these powerful committee chairs to speak out against the bill.

Sign the petition: Stop Manchin’s Dirty Deal

Tim Donaghy

By Tim Donaghy

Tim Donaghy is a Senior Research Specialist with Greenpeace USA. He writes frequently about climate change, offshore oil drilling, energy production, and the Arctic.

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