Score it a win!
Manchin's Big Oil Gift Basket Scuttled for Now
Late this afternoon, Joe Manchin conceded he didn’t have the votes to force an absurd series of Big Oil giveaways through the Senate, and asked that the package be removed from the must-pass continuing resolution to keep the government going.
Readers of this newsletter have been following the action from the start—I think the first piece about the coming fight may have been in these pages, a couple of days before the Inflation Reduction Act (aka climate bill) was signed into law. As I argued at the time, no one owed Joe Manchin anything—he’d already taken his pound of flesh in the IRA itself, handing over tens of billions to Big Oil for pointless carbon sequestration projects.
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Groups around the country rallied to beat the so-called ‘dirty deal’—they were led, by frontline and environmental justice coalitions (People vs Fossil Fuels, the Climate Justice Alliance, and hundreds of smaller groups), and backed by big greens like the Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters, activist groups like Our Revolution, climate scientists, and many more. (I shouldn’t even start listing—apologies to all who I’m not mentioning here). When we work together we are powerful, and soon politicians were joining in—you will recall my interview with California congressman Ro Khanna, who became an early champion, warning that it “would split the party before a crucial midterm election.” Momentum kept building—I think the crucial moment may have come a few days ago when Virginia Senator Tim Kaine said he would vote against a continuing resolution containing Manchin’s giveaways. Tim Kaine is not exactly a member of the Squad—he was Hillary’s running mate. Colleagues paid attention.
One reason Kaine did what he did was the superb organizing by people across his state, and neighboring West Virginia, against the Mountain Valley Pipeline. They’d managed to put the project on life support with inspired opposition over the last few years, and so Manchin tried to ram it through—his “permitting reform” instructed federal agencies to grant permits for the gas pipeline across Appalachia, and tried to forbid courts from reviewing them.
As it happens, I got to spend the morning with some of those champions—we organized demonstrations first on the Senate side and then the House, following the remarkable civil disobedience actions by the CEOs of environmental justice groups last week. It was a truly gorgeous day in DC, and the backdrop of the Capitol could not have been more beautiful. You can see some of us here
It was remarkable to watch these folks in action. Therese “Red” Terry, in her 60s, who had sat in a tree on her property for a month to block construction of the pipeline; the remarkable Maury Johnson, an indefatigable farmer and pipeline opponent also in his 60s, who ripped up a copy of Manchin’s bill and tossed it in the trash for the cameras. (And for Manchin, who wandered across the lawn towards the Senate at the crucial moment, hearing a series of pleas and protests from his neighbors). Such thanks to POWHR, to Appalachian Voices, to the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and to my colleagues at Third Act Virginia who turned out in force—if the young people of the Sunrise Movement did the lion’s share of the work to get the Inflation Reduction Act passed, older people have played a not-insignificant role in blocking this side deal. Anyway, what a pleasure to get to stand with these remarkable activists on a day that means their homes are safe, at least for now. And to send a message to people who want to build pipelines in East Africa and in Italy and in a dozen other places around the world: fight to the last!
Manchin’s giveaways aren’t dead for good—already Manchin (and his Republican counterpart from West Virginia Shelley Moore Capito) are talking about trying to attach it to the Defense Department authorization in December’s lame duck session. (It will be an interesting test to see if these people care more about Big Oil’s profits than Ukraine’s freedoms. Probably).
And it’s not an unmitigated triumph. We do need some kind of permitting reform—the kind that will make it hard to build dirty energy, but easier to build transmission lines and the other necessities of the clean energy revolution. One hopes this is what energy policy wonks will now start cranking out!
But beating back a pipeline is always a good day’s work. A special thanks to the subscribers to this newsletter—I’ve heard from hundreds of you who made calls and wrote letters. That’s what it takes, and you delivered. On we go.
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