Just as it was reported Friday that the White House has been pressuring lawmakers in Congress to back the inclusion of a fossil fuel permitting side deal in a must-pass funding package this month, Senator Ed Markey became the latest to voice his opposition to the controversial proposal opposed by climate campaigners.
The permitting legislation was proposed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) amid negotiations to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, but critics warn any increase in the rubberstamping of dirty fossil projects would undermine much of the progress toward emissions reductions the IRA would provide.
While acknowledging that some reforms to the federal government's permitting process might be warranted, Markey said in a Friday statement he shared "concerns about permitting provisions that could negatively impact communities" on the frontlines of such polluting and harmful projects.
"I will be talking with my colleagues about whether this package can reflect the values of environmental justice," the Massachusetts Democrat continued. "As a way forward is discussed, and especially as new anti-environment proposals are being brought to the permitting discussions, we should not attach the permitting overhaul package to the must-pass government funding legislation."
In a call to action on Saturday, the advocacy group Our Revolution said its member were mobilizing to stop the deal in its tracks. According to the group:
Manchin's dirty deal is a wishlist literally written by fossil fuel lobbyists, and he wants Chuck Schumer to attach it to a must-pass bill to fund the government — which will be voted on by the House before Sept. 30!
We can't let Manchin hold us hostage.
He already killed the most impactful climate portions of the Democratic agenda and Manchin got plenty of fossil fuel favors in the Inflation Reduction Act — we don't owe Joe Manchin anything!
Last week, over 70 members of the U.S. House—led by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.)—issued a letter to Democratic leaders that also called for the permitting proposal to be decoupled from the continuing resolution (or CR), that if not passed would result in a government shutdown just months ahead of the midterms. More than 80 signers have now backed the letter's demands.
Citing people familiar with the matter, Axios reported Friday that White House chief of staff Ron Klain was personally calling House lawmakers, including Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), in an effort to gain backing for what's become known as Manchin's "dirty side deal."
In remarks to Axios, Jayapal reiterated that progressives in the House "don't like" what's in the Manchin side deal and, she said, "We didn't agree to it."
For his part, Grijalva told the outlet: "We understand the White House's consternation. Maybe they are upset about the fact that this has not been going as it was planned."
In speech on the Senate floor last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said that he would be an adamant "no" on the CR if the permitting reforms put forward by Manchin—and backed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)—are included.
"We have got to have the courage to finally tell the fossil fuel industry that the future of this planet is more important than their short-term profits," Sanders said.
During a virtual town meeting with outside climate campaigers at Greenpeace USA and Our Revolution on Thursday, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) made clear he was "with Bernie Sanders" on opposing any CR that includes the provisions.
"You can't sacrifice frontline community," said Khanna. "And that's what this would do. It would basically allow expedited permitting for fossil fuel projects through communities that are winning those fights on the ground. They won those fights legitimately in courts and this would give the president the ability to just ride roughshod over years of opposition, years of struggle, and give a green light to fossil infrastructure."
In his mind, Khanna said "the IRA was the compromise" legislation and there's simply no way the permitting side deal, negotiated behind closed doors, should be allowed passage.
"Frankly, we need more people to say what Bernie Sanders and I are saying," he said, "which is we’re going to vote no if push comes to shove on this."
During the event, Greenpeace USA chief program officer Tefere Gebre said the stakes are too high to allow the deal to go through unopposed.
"The science is clear. If we want a habitable planet, we cannot afford this dirty deal," Tefere said. "We already paid an incredibly high price for the fossil fuel handouts in the IRA—we can and must stop this deal."