Communities along the route of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) have gotten a reprieve from having that destructive project crammed down their throats by Washington deal-making written to benefit one swing vote Senator.
The most unsavory single element of the deals cut in order to win passage of historic climate action investments has been blocked, at least temporarily. Environmental justice advocates were never happy with the side agreement among Senators that finally won the vote of Joe Manchin (D-WV) for the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and its historic package of investments in clean energy. Even after the IRA’s adoption, vigorous advocacy efforts proceeded to keep a Congressional mandate for completing the MVP out of must-pass legislation to keep the federal government operating without a shutdown.
Neither party (Democrats nor Republicans) viewed a government shutdown as good for their political prospects this close to the critical 2022 mid-term elections. That almost resulted in inclusion of the MVP completion mandate as part of the “continuing resolution” which will keep federal agencies running through December 16, despite the fact that Congress has failed to pass a single agency’s budget bill for the fiscal year now underway.
Ironically, it was partisan gridlock in the Senate that stopped the MVP this time—the same gridlock that almost sunk the IRA itself. (Take heed, Senators: Live by the filibuster, die by the filibuster.) Senate Republicans anxious to deny Democratic Senator Joe Manchin a “win” for his fossil-fuel promotion refused to vote for the essential procedural motion that would have cleared the way for the budget bill containing the MVP. Only after the MVP and related “reforms” were stripped from the bill would enough Republicans vote to allow action on the must-pass financial continuation bill.
Effective citizen advocacy also played an important role. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) helped lead more than 145 organizations in writing to oppose the inclusion of Senator Manchin’s ‘side deal’ on MVP and permitting ‘reforms’ as part of the continuing resolution. Most Democrats and Democratic members of Congress opposed these dirty-energy moves, and they were not inclined to want them in the final legislative product.
Nat Mund, Director of Federal Affairs for the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) released a statement praising citizen advocates and key legislators for the removal of those provisions from the final bill. “We applaud the leadership of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine and other Congressional leaders who stood up to this backroom political deal that tried to place MVP above the law,” said Mund. “While this is a huge victory, it may not be the end of efforts to weaken protections and force the MVP on Appalachian communities. We will fight any future attempts to erode our bedrock environmental protections like the National Environmental Policy Act, which is essential to ensuring that real people — not just powerful and politically connected energy companies — have a seat at the table.”
In the short term, the result was a win for environmental protection, justice, and climate action. In the larger picture, it was also a classic example of why public interest advocates have concluded that the Senate filibuster (requiring a supermajority of 60 votes in the 100-member Senate in order to pass most bills) must go.
For now, however, it means that opponents of the destructive, unjust, dirty-energy MVP live to fight another day. Cheers!