'Monumental victory': Manchin's industry-backed permitting reform defeated again
Joe Manchin (Mandel Ngan | AFP )

Progressive lawmakers in Congress and outside environmental campaigners celebrated a defensive victory overnight and into Wednesday after a much-maligned oil and gas industry giveaway was left out of the major military NDAA spending bill introduced for passage in the U.S. House.

"We cannot, and will not, stop until Manchin's dirty deal is completely defeated."

The darling of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the latest version of the Energy Security and Independence Act (ESIA) is permitting reform legislation for energy projects that critics have dubbed a "dirty deal" that would undermine progress to fight the climate emergency while exposing vulnerable communities to harmful impacts of new fossil fuel infrastructure.

After failure to ram the proposal through earlier this year, Manchin hoped to ram through approval of the fossil fuel industry-backed scheme that would undermine environmental protections and diminish the voices of frontline opponents opposed to damaging pipelines and similar projects by having it inserted into the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

But after weeks of campaigning by climate action groups and other progressive advocates—and indications that Manchin would not find the necessary Republican support in the Senate—the proposal was absent when the House version of the NDAA was unveiled late Tuesday.

According to Collin Rees, U.S. program manager at Oil Change International, in a statement early Wednesday: "Congress was right to heed environmental justice leaders and reject Sen. Manchin's deadly fossil fuel giveaway for the second time in three months."

Warning that the "dangerous legislation would do far more harm than good and be a deep stain on the climate legacy of any politician involved in its passage," Reese said the political reality must be made clear to lawmakers going forward: "fossil fuel expansion is incompatible with climate action."

"The #DirtyDeal to fast track fossil fuels and dangerous extraction has been defeated for another day," said Honor the Earth, which rallied with Indigenous communities and lobbied lawmakers to oppose the deal. "We will keep organizing for a livable economy informed by Indigenous values like respect for the water, land and people."

The fact that Manchin has twice tried to use large must-pass spending legislative packages to try and push through his "dirty deal," said Sierra Club deputy legislative director Mahyar Sorour, means that climate action advocates and Democrats in Congress have seen this game before.

"Manchin's so-called 'permitting reform' bill didn't garner major support, and this time around was no different," said Sorour. "Its dangerous ideas have no place in must-pass legislation today or in any future bill."

Abigail Dillen, president of Earthjustice, said, "The dirty permitting deal did not belong in the NDAA, or any other must-pass legislation, and we are pleased that it was not included in the latest text. We are grateful to the many Members of Congress who have made their opposition clear to a bill that would set back progress on environmental justice and climate solutions."

Just ahead of the NDAA's release on Tuesday, the Congresssional Progressive Caucus officially announced its opposition to the permitting proposal, though individual members had been voicing objections to its inclusion for weeks.

"While many within the CPC are supportive of accelerating and expanding renewable energy transmission," the caucus said in a statement, "progressives have raised objections to a specific approach under consideration that entrenches new fossil fuel infrastructure, undermines judicial independence, rolls back environmental protection law, and impedes frontline communities' input or ability to contest polluting infrastructure in their areas, among other concerns."

Other climate campaigners, while celebrating the second defeat of Manchin's proposal, indicated their fight is not over yet.

"This most recent setback for Manchin's dirty energy giveaway is a monumental victory for the environmental movement, whose strong opposition once again stopped this scheme in its tracks," said Ariel Moger, government and political affairs director at Friends of the Earth.

"Manchin's efforts to tie his dirty deal to any must-pass legislation he can get his hands on are undemocratic and potentially devasting for the planet," Moger added. "With momentum on the side of frontline communities, the fight will continue until the bill dies at the end of this Congress. We cannot, and will not, stop until Manchin's dirty deal is completely defeated."

That message was echoed by Reese, who said, "We've defeated Manchin's dirty deal twice so far, and we'll do it as many times as we must until communities and the climate are safe from rampant oil and gas expansion."