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Opposition Builds to Weakening Permit Reviews

Environmental justice advocates in Congress and in the states are rallying to oppose the “deal” struck with the Senate Democratic champion of fossil fuels, Joe Manchin. The deal weakens environmental permit reviews of pipelines and other energy projects. 

That agreement between Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was key to winning Manchin’s support for the climate action provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act. Several Senate Democrats are now preparing language for the annual ‘must-pass’ budget bill which would change federal law to add those limits. 

However, over 50 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed onto a letter opposing approval of the proposed new limits on environmental permit reviews of interstate energy projects. The House Democrats’ letter reads in part, “The inclusion of these provisions in a continuing resolution, or any other must-pass legislation, would silence the voices of frontline and environmental justice communities by insulating them [the projects] from scrutiny. Such a move would force Members to choose between protecting (environmental justice) communities from further pollution or funding the government.” 

The Senate Democrats who are pushing for the new limits argue that they are necessary to pave the way for interstate electric transmission lines which will be critical to distributing electricity from new renewable energy projects like offshore wind. 

However, opponents of natural-gas pipelines, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), assert that low-income, rural, and communities of color will disproportionately suffer from fast-tracking the approval of those pipelines and other dirty energy projects. Those projects will also increase reliance on fossil fuel gas, a move in the wrong direction on the climate crisis more generally. 

Climate activists say that if any changes to the review process are necessary, they must be more carefully tailored to avoid green-lighting environmentally destructive projects like the MVP.

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