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A pipeline is not a windmill
Rally Thursday Against Manchin's Dirty Deal--and Do Some Lobbying in the Meantime!
The Washington Post, which has done remarkable climate reporting in recent years, had a less successful story in this morning’s paper. Headlined (in oddly editorial fashion) “To fight climate change, environmentalists may have to give up a core belief,” it argues (citing a selection of “center-left” and “center-right” environmental policy people that I’ve never encountered in years of doing climate work) that:
Right now, many roadblocks stand in the way of building wind, solar, and the transmission lines that can carry their power to city centers. And while Democrats have a bill in the works to speed that sort of permitting, most environmentalists oppose it
The “bill” the reporter is touting is actually an undisclosed “side deal” that Joe Manchin tried to jam through as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. No one has seen it yet, but the draft that circulated through Capitol Hill last month literally bore the watermark of the American Petroleum Institute. The only specific provisions that anyone knows about concern a pet project of Manchin’s—the MVP, or Mountain Valley Pipeline, an egregiously dumb relic of the late fossil fuel era that his industry buddies are likely to lose, just as they lost Keystone XL, because of fierce opposition from environmentalists in the region and across the country. Who are opposed to it because it is the literal opposite of building “wind, solar, and the transmission lines that carry their power.”
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It’s quite true that we need to speed up permitting for clean energy—we have to build it faster than we’ve built anything since the tanks and planes that won World War II. As someone who has been advocating for clean energy in his own backyard since at least 2005 and right through this year, I think that every effort to speed up permitting for clean energy makes sense: the White House earlier this year unveiled a new plan to speed infrastructure permitting, setting up an interagency Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (FPICS) that, as the NRDC pointed out, “will improve coordination among agencies and resolve issues consistent with climate, economic and equity goals;” happily, the IRA allocates more money to pay the staffers to make the process work.
But that has nothing to do with speeding up permitting for the kind of filthy projects that scientists tell us we must stop.
Let’s meet a few of the people opposing the MVP pipe—they’re the ones who understand the difference between clean and dirty. Understand it intimately.
There’s Russell Chisholm, a coffee roaster who now serves as co-chair of Protect our Water, Heritage and Rights (POWHR), the group coordinating the MVP fight:
I don't think I moved from barista or coffee roaster to climate activist but I seem to brew and serve coffee for more people in the movement than anyone else these days. Coffee shops make really good organizing hubs for justice work and baristas are some of the most creative, energetic and diverse leaders. Just look at what is happening in the worker rights movement. Baristas are out front, forming unions, demanding better wages and working conditions all while building on the long history of labor organizing from the coalfields to the factory floor. I wish more people would look to Appalachia for how that legacy has endured rather than seeing us as used up and abandoned.
I was certainly distressed and activated by witnessing some of my friends in the coffee industry lose nearly everything in Hurricane Katrina but it was the aftermath of that human-caused disaster that reminded me who is most vulnerable and who will continue to be most harmed if we -- all of us -- don't act. The devastation from floods and mudslides across coffee farming countries like Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala from record shattering storms look identical to the destruction of whole communities from Buckhannon, West Virginia to Whitesburg, Kentucky.
And here’s Denali Nalamalapu, POWHR’s director of communications:
I grew up on the coast of Southern Maine and my family’s from central India. Both of my communities include rural and working class populations that are on the frontlines of the climate crisis - just like folks in Appalachia that are impacted by the Mountain Valley Pipeline. As a climate communicator, I think it’s crucial that we center voices of the most impacted, and that includes white, elderly, rural Appalachians - though they are too often left out of mainstream narratives.
And here’s POWHR organizer Crystal Mello, writing a fiery and incisive essay in the Nation this week:
When we spend time fighting to stop the pipeline, and therefore to reduce greenhouse gasses, we are fighting not only for our families but for yours, too—at the expense of time we would prefer to spend at home with our loved ones. We fear for what the future will bring, as do you. But we are already fighting for things that matter to us right now—our families and our health, our farmlands and clean water and fresh air.
I’ve explained already in this newsletter why Democrats owe Manchin nothing more than the expensive gifts to the fossil fuel industry he managed to stick in the text of the IRA, and highlighted progressive leaders like California Congressman Ro Khanna who are standing up to the dirty side deal. But now it’s time for everyone to pitch in. If you can get to DC on September 8, there will be a rally at 5 pm outside Congress; if you can’t make it, there will be a livestream here. More importantly, POWHR has provided a useful list of things you can do in the week left before the rally. If you want to make it easy and enjoyable, join this Climate Action Party on September 6—it will be hosted by the remarkable activist Justin J. Pearson, who led the successful battle to stop the Byhalia Pipeline in Memphis; you’ll hear from MVP activists and then use the Climate Action Now app to bombard Congress with the message that MVP stands for Must Vote Progessively.
This is one of those rare when those of you who live in blue districts with liberal representatives will have the most leverage: it’s those congresspeople and Senators who can lean on Democratic leadership not to attach Manchin’s side deal to the federal budget or some other must-pass legislation.
Remind them that a pipeline is the opposite of a windmill. One heats the planet, the other cools it. It’s that simple.
This is a fighting newsletter. If you can afford to pay the modest subscription fee I hope you will; if you can’t, that’s okay too