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The “side deal” Senate Democrats cut with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is beginning to fall apart, as dozens of Democrats announced their opposition to it.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) struck a deal with Manchin in order to secure his critical vote to pass their $740 billion tax and climate law, the so-called “Inflation Reduction Act.” In exchange for Manchin’s vote, Schumer agreed to include reforms to the oil and gas permitting process in a stopgap government funding bill. But dozens of House Democrats signed a letter to Democratic Leadership Friday opposing the permitting reforms.
“The permitting and public notice and comment provisions mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) are among the only tools local communities have to force careful review of federal projects that may have serious, long-term, environmental, and public health consequences in those communities,” Democrats wrote in the letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD). “Congress should continue to provide increased funding to assist federal agencies in completing the NEPA process but attempts to short-circuit or undermine the law in the name of ‘reform’ must be opposed.”
The Democrats called the permitting reforms “anti-environmental and anti-environmental justice,” and accused them of being advanced “at the behest of the American Petroleum Institute (API).”
“These permitting ‘reforms’ would weaken other important public health protections, including the Clean Water Act and more,” they wrote. Democrats also claimed that the reforms would “significantly and disproportionately impact low-income communities, indigenous communities, and communities of color,” and silence so-called “frontline” communities by shortening the legal review and public comment process. Attempting to pass such reforms in a budget bill would force the members to choose between protecting these communities or funding the government.
“We urge you to ensure that these provisions are kept out of a continuing resolution or any other must-pass legislation this year.”
The letter was authored by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ), and signed by 72 House Democrats.
In addition to House Democrats, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats, said he would oppose the Manchin deal in a speech on the floor of the Senate Thursday. “I rise this morning to express my strong opposition to the so-called ‘side-deal’ that the fossil fuel industry is pushing to make it easier for them to pollute the environment and destroy the planet,” Sanders said. “I am urging all of my colleagues to … reject this dirty side deal.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) also expressed his doubts about the environmental impact of the permitting reforms. “‘Are we helping to solve the climate problem?’ is the question,” Whitehouse said, via The Hill. “I don’t even know what the permitting reform is.”
Manchin and Schumer struck the deal on permitting reform in July as a concession to secure his vote on the Inflation Reduction Act. Schumer confirmed earlier this week that the permitting deal is still on the table, and will be included in a continuing budget resolution to fund the government for the rest of this year.
“Permitting reform is part of the IRA and we will get it done,” Schumer said Wednesday, via The Hill. “Our intention is to add it to the CR.”