A letter from more than 70 Democratic members of the House of Representatives expressing strong opposition to the Senate’s bid to overhaul energy permits was delivered to party leaders. The group say that the plan would have a “detrimental” effect on the environment.
In the letter, House Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva and others warn Democratic leaders as they try to fulfill a promise made this summer to Sen. Joe Manchin to address the issue: don’t force us into a stalemate. “We urge you to ensure that these provisions are kept out of a continuing resolution or any other must-pass legislation this year,” wrote by the group in the letter, which has been in preparation for weeks. They said that the decision would require members to make a choice between “protecting the communities from further pollution or funding the government.”
Raúl Grijalva, a House Natural Resources Committee Chairman and Arizona Democrat who spearheaded the letter, said, “In the face of the existential threats like climate change and MAGA extremism, House and Senate leadership has a greater responsibility than ever to avoid risking a government shutdown by jamming divisive policy riders into a must-pass continuing resolution. Permitting reform hurts already-overburdened communities, puts polluters on an even faster track, and divides the caucus.”
The signatories included progressive lawmakers, such as Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. It also includes the allies of the leadership such as Representatives Joe Neguse of Colorado and Debbie Dingell of Michigan, whom Pelosi appointed as chair of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, said Fox News.
By the end of September, Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed to streamline the approval process for oil and gas drilling permits. As a result of the commitment, Manchin agreed to support a $739 billion climate change and tax package from the White House. In his statement, Schumer, D-NY, said he would attach the permitting legislation to the government funding bill which must pass by Sept. 30 to prevent a shutdown.
However, Democrats say the decision comes with risks, and although they don’t announce a specific threat to block government funding, some of those in the letter say they won’t rule it out in case of disagreement. The lawmakers wrote, “Such a move would force Members to choose between protecting [environmental justice] communities from further pollution or funding the government.”
It has long been argued by progressive Democrats that Manchin’s deal was with Schumer, not them. “Manchin went back on his word to get [Build Back Better] done, and we owe him nothing now,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. “We will be united in defeating the separate Manchin ‘permitting reforms’ that will accelerate climate change and pollute Black, brown, Indigenous and low-income communities.”
Environmental agencies would be required to review proposed projects by specified deadlines in the draft permitting legislation, which has not yet been released.
Nevertheless, Manchin’s greatest prize is a provision in the expected bill that would enable the construction of a 300-plus mile natural gas pipeline through Virginia and West Virginia.