Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) is asking House members to join him in a letter urging Democratic leadership not to attach legislation easing pipeline permitting to any “must-pass” legislation. Grijalva’s “Dear Colleague” email, obtained by TYT, was sent to House members yesterday with a deadline of tomorrow for them to sign on.
The letter that Grijalva, who chairs the Natural Resources Committee, is asking members to co-sign is addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Maj. Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD).
Last month, Pelosi endorsed a deal between Sen. Maj. Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), in which Manchin helped pass the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in return for Schumer backing his pipeline bill. It’s not clear whether Democratic leadership will whip for the Manchin bill, pressuring members to vote for it.
But there are also fears that Democratic leadership will overcome progressive opposition to the pipeline bill by attaching it to legislation next month extending all federal funding so the government can continue to operate past Sept. 30.
Environmental groups that backed the Manchin-Schumer deal said the tradeoffs are worth the climate and environmental benefits of the IRA. But Schumer’s agreement doesn’t oblige other Democrats to go along.
And streamlining pipeline permitting typically means quashing community say-so over these pipelines, which disproportionately affect poor neighborhoods and communities of color. Environmental justice advocates have told TYT they’re racing to muster support in Congress against Manchin’s bill, but are getting shut out of talks to turn the Manchin-Schumer deal into legislative language.
Also shut out of those talks are progressive lawmakers, one Hill staffer told TYT. A number of progressives already have said publicly that they’ll oppose the bill. But that may prove much tougher if House leadership attaches it to a “must-pass” appropriations bill.
Grijalva’s email says, “Please join me in sending the attached letter to House Leadership opposing any plan to include a so-called ‘permitting reform package’ in must-pass legislation this year.”
Referring to draft legislation obtained by Bloomberg and bearing a watermark that says, “API,” Grijalva writes, “According to media reports, Democratic Leaders have agreed to advance a series of anti-environmental and anti-environmental justice provisions, at the behest of the American Petroleum Institute (API). These destructive provisions will significantly and disproportionately impact low-income communities, indigenous communities, and communities of color.”
He also says that, “Including these harmful provisions in a CR [Continuing Resolution] or other must-pass legislation would force Members to choose between sacrificing the wellbeing of already-overburdened environmental justice communities or funding the government.”
In the letter Grijalva and other House members will send to Pelosi and Hoyer, also obtained by TYT, they warn that:
_“These destructive provisions will allow polluting manufacturing and energy development projects to be rushed through before the families who are forced to live near them are even aware of the plans.
"The proposed legislation would restrict public access to the courts to seek remedies against illegal project development; place arbitrary limits on the amount of time the public is given to comment on polluting projects; and curtail public input, environmental review, and government accountability.”_
The letter says that its signatories are “deeply concerned that these serious and detrimental permitting provisions will significantly and disproportionately impact low-income communities, indigenous communities, and communities of color.”
While much of the focus on the Manchin-Schumer deal has been on fast-tracking pipeline permitting, the deal raises other issues of concern, as well, around carbon capture and hydrogen projects.
It was Manchin, who’s made more than $5 million thanks to his coal company, who last year torpedoed Pres. Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. Biden had sought to pass that and a massive infrastructure package simultaneously, to solidify support for both. Manchin succeeded in severing the two bills, and many progressives only helped pass the infrastructure bill, which Manchin supported, after Biden assured them he could get Manchin to back Build Back Better. That didn’t happen.
The question now is whether progressives will honor a deal they weren’t party to, in order to help Manchin, and support new commitments that will worsen climate change, at the cost of Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities.
TYT has reached out to the offices of Pelosi and Hoyer for their response.
TYT Washington Correspondent Candice Cole was previously a correspondent and senior White House producer for the Black News Channel and has worked at a number of local news outlets. You can find her on Twitter @CandiceColeNews.