It sure seems like we’re stuck in a legislative feedback loop that began last year with Sen. Manchin’s attempts to clear the way for his American Petroleum Institute (API) donors to avoid any scrutiny or rejection of the most destructive, unnecessary, and climate-killing projects.
The promises that Joe Biden made during his campaign to address climate and environmental injustices meaningfully and quickly were the reasons millions of Indigenous, BIPOC, fence- and front-line communities cast their ballots for him in 2020.
Two and a half years in, it’s undeniable that his promises were the usual political pandering to whatever community or demographic he was in front of at the time. He strongly rejected the approval of the Willow Project, but ultimately the Department of the Interior (DOI) approved it. He promised to decrease lease sales on public land for oil/gas/mining/logging, yet the number of permits and projects has increased. His energy secretary Jennifer Granholm sang her praises for more natural gas extraction and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) – her letter to FERC was full of half-truths and lies.
In the latest blow to the President’s environmental justice agenda, the Whitehouse facilitated inserting permit reforms in the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 – caving to Republican demands rolling back protections provided by National Environmental Protection Act, reducing access to SNAP benefits, freezing any expansions in non-defense spending including for Indian programs, and terminating the suspension in student loan payments. The most shocking blow to environmental justice communities is the mandate to remove all permitting delays and within 21 days of the bill signing, commence work and complete construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline – a no-strings-attached gift for the industry from oil-friendly Democrats Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer. NextEra Energy, the corporation behind the MVP, is Sen. Schumer’s second biggest political donor. Energy Transfer, the corporation behind controversial pipelines like the Dakota Access Pipeline, is among Sen. Manchin’s top 5 political donors.
Even the NEPA and legal remedies in place for 50 years haven’t fully protected the millions of Indigenous, BIPOC, and historically marginalized communities in resource rich sacrifice zones from the toxins that poisons the lands, air, and water from corporate and political greed.
Indigenous and front-line communities have and will continue to bear the costs as cancers and autoimmune diseases claim the lives, livelihoods, and gamble with the viability of our planet’s systems to support life as we know it.
With every legislative trick in their playbook, politicians like Manchin, Capito, Schumer, and McCarthy confirm a level of control that industry power brokers have over them. And inserting non-fiscal provisions into a clearly critical economic must-pass bill proves that large campaign donations and high-pressure tactics dictate legislation, regulations, and federal investments. Biden has cleared the road and opened the coffers that will protect, finance, and expand the oil, gas, coal, and minerals mining industry’s death grip on our government.
The ugly reality is that nothing promised will materialize if Biden’s handpicked agency leads continue to shamelessly undermine environmental justice goals and support industries that accelerate climate destabilization.
IEN along with our EJ/CJ partners and allies will continue to hold this administration, Congress, and state and local officials accountable and demand that Biden fully honors his promises to lead us into a new paradigm of EJ/CJ inclusion, cooperation, and collaboration. Our focus has and will always be on the wellbeing of our relatives who are the most vulnerable and most impacted by the toxic legacy of the extractive economy.
“No matter the outcome, we have to push forward. A legislative win is not a victory. We must join in solidarity with each frontline fight. Stand strong against being easily divisible where Congress and Justice are for sale.” – Dr. Crystal Cavalier-Keck, Co-Founder of 7 Directions of Service
“To vote the debt ceiling bill through would sign our death certificate. For the communities on the frontlines, those of us who have been put in harm’s way from pipeline after pipeline, the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline endangers lives. It comes at no shock that the two major voices supporting this, Manchin (D-WV) and McCarthy (R-CA) just so happen to be the top members receiving dirty money from Big Oil, as flaunted by their public contributions from PACs and individuals. The choice of money over people, of propping up a dying industry through underhanded schemes, is done at the expense of Mother Earth. For a true just transition, we need an Indigenous Just Transition. The world needs to step back from extractive industries and into a viable future for our next generations, the only future: a world without fossil fuels. I urge all members of Congress to listen to their constituents and vote No to the Big Oil handout AKA the supposed Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023.” – Brenna Two Bears, Lead Coordinator (IEN)
“Including the Mountain Valley Pipeline in the debt ceiling deal is an outrageous betrayal of the public–in addition to Trump-era NEPA rollbacks and forced work requirements for SNAP recipients. The pattern of President Biden and certain corrupt Democrats like Senators Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer to relentlessly manipulate the democratic process to force bedrock environmental policy and critical social infrastructure into negotiations for so-called must-pass spending bills is unacceptable. Once again, these politicians are holding the economy hostage and caving to Republican demands that steadily chip away at the few protections that exist for frontline communities and working families. Congress must reject this deal and pass a clean debt ceiling.” – Jordan Harmon, Policy Analyst and Legislative Advocate (IEN)