Members of the House are asking for more time to sign onto a letter urging Democratic Party leadership against attaching a bill fast-tracking pipeline permits to must-pass legislation to fund the federal government past the end of next month, a source in the environmental justice movement tells TYT.
As TYT first reported, the letter was first circulated last week by House Natural Resources Committee Chair Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), with a deadline of Friday night for other members to sign on. The letter is to be sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Maj. Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD).
The pipeline-permitting bill was promised to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) by Sen. Maj. Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in return for Manchin supporting the Inflation Reduction Act. But progressives and environmental justice advocates have warned that the bill will make it easier for fossil fuel companies to overcome community opposition to potentially dangerous projects.
Despite progressive opposition, some House Democrats might feel compelled to support the Manchin bill if Pelosi and Hoyer tie it to a resolution to keep the government funded past Sept. 30. Grijalva’s letter is asking House Democrats to oppose such a move and give progressives a shot at killing it.
As of Friday morning, the source said, Grijalva’s letter had 27 signatories. The source said that some members sought more time to consider the issue, and by Saturday night the number of signatures was “confirmed [to be] more than 30.” It’s believed the deadline has been extended through this week.
In his e-Dear Colleague email, obtained by TYT, Grijalva says, “House Leadership must oppose any plan to attach a so-called ‘permitting reform package’ in must-pass legislation this year.” He also refers to draft legislative language first obtained by Bloomberg, which bears an “API” watermark, an apparent reference to the fossil fuel industry trade group, American Petroleum Institute.
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.”
The email continues, saying, “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.”
A summary of the permitting reform bill leaked to Bloomberg last month states that Pres. Joe Biden would be required to “designate and periodically update a list of 25 high-priority energy infrastructure projects and prioritize permitting for those projects.” This version of the bill requires those project types to include “critical minerals, nuclear, hydrogen, fossil fuels, electric transmission, renewables, and carbon capture, sequestration, storage, and removal.” The summary also states that part of the criteria for selected projects must include “reducing consumer energy costs, improving energy reliability, decarbonization potential, and promoting energy trade with our allies.”
The day after TYT revealed Grijalva’s letter, The Hill newspaper confirmed its existence and reported that an updated summary of the Manchin bill has been making the rounds among Senate Democrats.
The updated summary requires the projects designated by Biden to “significantly reduce emissions” as part of its criteria. The article also cites the document as saying,
“The proposed Senate Permitting Package would help expedite the nationwide buildout of power sector transmission infrastructure that is critical to deploying the cleaner generation needed to hit President Biden’s climate goals.”
Environmental justice groups that TYT has been in contact with say they have not seen an updated summary. Regarding the building out of power infrastructure that would ultimately result in cleaner energy, Bineshi Albert, co-director of Climate Justice Alliance, told TYT, “For me, that language is just abstract enough that it doesn't make me feel comfortable that it will be appropriately allocated or used to actually address the climate crisis.”
The summary obtained by Bloomberg calls for fast-tracking permitting for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which when finished will carry natural gas more than 300 miles through Virginia and Manchin’s home state of West Virginia.
In the letter to Pelosi and Hoyer, Grijalva writes:
_“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.”_
Although The Hill report raises the possibility of progressive lawmakers shutting down the government by voting against new funding if Manchin’s bill is attached, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) told the paper he takes the opposite view. Huffman says it’s really on Democratic leadership not to force the issue.
According to The Hill, Huffman said that Democratic leadership “can tell members ‘if you vote against this you’re shutting down the government,’ but most of us are a little smarter than that and we know that you can have a backup CR ready to go that funds the government without all the fossil fuel baggage.”
He said that, “this framework that came out of the smoke-filled room with Manchin and Schumer doesn’t work for me.” Huffman also said he’s open to discussing streamlining “permitting for critically important projects that help solve the climate crisis,” but attaching the Manchin bill to a continuing resolution is a non-starter.
In addition to expediting pipeline permitting, environmental groups are also concerned about the proposed legislation loosening regulation around carbon capture and hydrogen projects, and shortening the statute of limitations for communities to raise concerns about health risks and the overall impact of energy projects.
Pelosi last month endorsed Schumer’s promise to back Manchin’s bill. But It’s not clear whether Democratic leadership will whip for it, pressuring members for their votes.
Republicans have also expressed doubt about supporting the Manchin bill. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), the ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee, reportedly saying that the Manchin proposal doesn’t “go far enough.”
TYT reached out to the offices of Pelosi and Hoyer last week for their response to the Grijalva letter. Neither has offered any comment.
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.