Progressive House Democrats are writing to President Joe Biden and Democratic leadership, urging them not to accept energy-project permitting changes in return for Republicans agreeing to raise the debt ceiling.
Republicans have identified energy-project permits as one of the areas where Democrats could cave that might get House Republicans to raise the debt ceiling. The permitting changes they want would allow energy companies to steamroll local opposition – disproportionately Black, Brown, Indigenous, and poor – to new projects such as pipelines.
White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu reportedly said permitting issues are “in play” in debt ceiling talks.
As reports emerged of the permitting negotiations, House Natural Resources Ranking Member Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) this week asked members of Congress to sign onto a letter to Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) asking them to leave permitting alone in any “must-pass” legislation.
Sixty-four of them, nearly a third of the Democratic caucus, had agreed to sign on as of Friday evening, Grijalva’s deadline. The letter does not specify the debt-ceiling talks, but refers directly to H.R. 1, a repackaged Republican version of Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) permitting reform bill that Schumer agreed to last year in exchange for Manchin’s support of the Inflation Reduction Act.
Grijalva writes that, “To protect American communities and our environment from undue harm, we strongly urge you to oppose ongoing attempts to attach H.R. 1 or any other extreme proposals that gut our bedrock environmental and public laws to must-pass legislation.”
The letter calls the Republican bill an attack on the National Environmental Policy Act [NEPA] “under the guise of ‘permitting reform.’” Grijalva did not immediately respond to TYT's request for comment on the letter, which TYT obtained Friday.
NEPA is the main mechanism that communities on the forefront of gas and oil drilling projects, which mainly consist of Black, Bown, Indigenous, and low-income communities, have to raise concerns about potential environmental, health, and safety hazards brought on by fossil fuel projects.
The letter also lists out a set of four key “principles and redlines” it says “must be respected.” Those include implementing existing environmental protection laws, fully funding and staffing federal permitting and environmental review offices, building out new electrical transmission infrastructure, and rejecting efforts to hold must-pass legislation hostage to extract presidential approval of extreme proposals.
The letter’s co-authors are Raúl Grijalva, Reps. Jared Huffman (CA), Debbie Dingell (MI), Paul Tonko (NY), Mike Levin (CA), Sean Casten (IL), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Melanie Stansbury (NM), Barbara Lee (CA), Pramila Jayapal (WA), Teresa Leger Fernandez (NM) and Sydney Kamlager-Dove (CA).
The additional signatories as of Friday were: Reps. Jamie Raskin (MD), Nydia Velázquez (NY), Jerrold Nadler (NY), Maxine Waters (CA), Adam Smith (WA), James McGovern (MA), Mark Takano (CA), Veronica Escobar (TX), Kathy Castor (FL), Julia Brownley (CA), Katie Porter (CA), Zoe Lofgren (CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Lloyd Doggett (TX), Nanette Barragán (CA), Frederica Wilson (FL), Gerald Connolly (VA), Rashida Tlaib (MI), Doris Matsui (CA), Adriano Espaillat (NY), Kevin Mullin (CA), Suzanne Bonamici (OR), Grace Napolitano (CA), Jamaal Bowman (NY), Mike Quigley (IL), Yvette Clarke (NY), Earl Blumenauer (OR), Emanuel Cleaver (MO), Ro Khanna (CA), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ), Gregorio Sablan (MP), Mark DeSaulnier (CA), Dwight Evans (PA), Janice Schakowsky (IL), Mark Pocan (WI), Hank Johnson (GA), Ilhan Omar (MN), Jennifer McClellan (VA), Grace Meng (NY), Cori Bush (MO), Ritchie Torres (NY), Danny Davis (IL), Chellie Pingree (ME), Summer Lee (PA), Jesús García (IL), Jill Tokuda (HI), Darren Soto (FL), Juan Vargas (CA), and Andrea Salinas (OR)
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.