Eight Rivers Council Warns that ‘Manchin will be back for another try’ Despite Recent Failure of MVP Ploy

grassorts efforts Help Highlight the shenanigans of Manchin, Schumer and Pelosi; continued activism and education required, says west virginia activist

Editor’s note: This article is provided courtesy of Eight Rivers Council. It is presented as written, though it has been edited to adhere to Associated Press standards.

Dear Friends,

Thanks in significant part to amazing organizing by numerous groups and individual advocates, on Tuesday evening Sept. 27, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) removed his bill from the “must pass” federal budget Continuing Resolution. We celebrate victory against the dastardly side deal that Sen. Manchin made with Democratic Party leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi for his support of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Beware, for Manchin will be back for another try.

Sen. Manchin touted his “Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022” as needed reforms to expedite energy infrastructure construction. And yes, permitting reform is needed to build renewable energy systems and modernize the nation’s electrical grid, and some in Congress are working on that. (see the Environmental Justice for All Act that would involve permit reform). However, Manchin’s bill would have been a gift to climate-threatening fossil fuel and transport industries by weakening permit standards and shortening time for public comments.

Especially egregious in Manchin’s bill would have effectively been the fast authorization of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) by “requiring federal agencies to issue all approval and permits necessary for the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.” (See page 7 in the first above link)

Manchin adding a forced authorization for the MVP was spit in the faces of the many citizens along the MVP route that have sacrificially and tirelessly advocated to save their water quality, natural beauty, ecology, and community life. No doubt if the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) had not shut down two years ago, Manchin would have included the ACP in forced authorization!

Untold numbers of citizens called congressional offices to demand that Manchin’s side bill be voted down. For example, WV Rivers Coalition presented 50 pages listing West Virginians opposing the MVP. These calls were effective. Congressman Raul Grijalva sent a “Dear Colleague Letter” requesting opposition to Manchin’s bill, and received 72 acknowledgements of support. The lawmakers said a proposal to overhaul permitting laws, rewrite the Clean Water Act and approve a gas pipeline should not be folded into the so-called continuing resolution, or CR, to fund government in the new fiscal year beginning October 1.

Virginia’s Senator Tim Kaine expressed fury that Manchin would be railroading the MVP. “The pipeline runs through Virginia for 100 miles and takes property from landowners, but I was not consulted as a deal was struck to approve it and thus not given an opportunity to share my constituents’ deep concerns,” Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke against the bill on the Senate floor saying it would greenlight fossil fuel projects at a time when climate scientists are recording perilous temperatures and rising greenhouse gas levels worldwide. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Sen. Jeff Merkley, Sen. Edward Markey, Senator Cory Booker, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren also opposed Manchin’s bill. Meanwhile, Republicans were almost united in opposition to Manchin’s bill for other reasons, as articulated by Sen. John Cornyn, who said“Given what Senator Manchin did on the reconciliation bill, [it’s] engendered a lot of bad blood…”

What’s Next?

U.S. Senator Shelly Capito (R-W.Va.) introduced her own bill somewhat concurrently with that of her colleague Sen. Manchin, then pulled her bill by saying she would support Manchin’s. Now that Manchin’s bill is dead, it appears that the two West Virginia senators will collaborate together on a similar new bill to appeal to some members of both parties.  Capito’s bill also would have greased through authorization of the MVP, along with sidestepping and short-circuiting permits for fossil fuel infrastructure nationwide.

It is very important to underscore the danger of the many 42” pipes that have been exposed to sunlight for six to eight years. The coating to protect from sunlight is considered reliable when under one year’s exposure. PHMSA is the federal agency that is supposed to regulate pipe integrity. With some of the MVP route in a seismic activity zone, and steep slopes subject to landslides, and pipeline ruptures and resultant explosions likely to incinerate anything within a quarter mile, these issues need to be carefully ascertained.  See this from Pipeline Safety Trust.

So concerted pressure must continue on Congress. Educate congressional members as well as your friends why easing of fossil fuel permitting, choosing court venues, and shortening time for public comment would forebode badly for climate, for clean environment, for healthy communities, for our democracy.

Remarks by Allen Johnson, President of Eight Rivers Council on Advocacy Participation in Washington, DC in September

A vanload of nine of us visited Washington, DC, September 7-9 to work against the impending side bill that Sen. Manchin would be introducing.  The trip was organized by Monroe County farmer, Maury Johnson, an activist with the POWHR Coalition.  We met up with activists from many states to plan and implement our strategy to educate lawmakers and rally support. Many were leaders of indigenous First Nations peoples. Some of our group met with Sen. Capito’s office, followed by a lengthy meeting with five members of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee that Sen. Manchin chairs. Rep. Carol Miller’s staff person missed our scheduled appointment. Our group’s Nancy Bouldin of the Indian Creek Watershed Association (Monroe County) happened upon Sen. Manchin on a sidewalk and told him her opposition to the side bill.

large rally attended by about 500 was held Thursday afternoon with inspirational talks and music. (full rally link here)  Speakers from our van group were Maury Johnson, Pam Garrison (WV Poor People’s Campaign), and Deni Elliott (Greenbrier River Watershed Association). Deni also was interviewed twice on WV Metro News, first with Chris Lawrence, and on Friday while enroute home in the van with Hoppy Kercheval.

Although the challenge before all of us was daunting, our spirits were lifted up by the energy and commitment of so many attending while knowing also that untold numbers of people were also engaged with advocacy correspondence and phone calls.

I was back in DC again on Tuesday September 27, the big day when Sen. Manchin’s bill was up for vote in the Senate. I had driven up the evening before upon invitation from Maury Johnson.

First on our Tuesday agenda, 9 am, was a well-organized press event in front of the World Bank.  David Malpass, World Bank President, had recently dodged repeated press questions about the reality and seriousness of climate change. He evaded by saying, “I am not a scientist.” That translates that he is a climate change denier. Inasmuch as the World Bank funds massive infrastructure projects around the world, Malpass should be fired. Indeed, that was our message, as several speakers, including Maury, read climate science from the podium. One of the speakers was Bill McKibben, widely recognized as founder of the formidable grassroots climate campaign, 350.org, and now heading up Third Act, which organizes people over the age of 60 for action on climate and justice.

Immediately after, Maury, McKibben, and I were taken by car to a rally scheduled at 10 am near the Capitol where several of us spoke against Manchin’s “Dirty Deal.” Video at this link.

That afternoon eight of us joined in with organizer Kai Newkirk (native of Monroe County) where we obtained an appointment with Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office. Merkley is opposed to Manchin’s bill. After that, we went unscheduled to Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office to request dialogue with him on the side deal he made with Manchin. We committed to stay until we received a response. Josh Fox, known for his film Gasland that exposed the danger of fracking, livestreamed us on Facebook. After almost an hour, Schumer’s receptionist got a fax from Schumer that Manchin had withdrawn his bill. Elated, we sang “Country Roads” and departed. Video here.

The following day, Maury set up a press conference that included 60 year old tree-sitter MVP protester Red Terry, Roberta Bonderant (POWHR, Preserve Bent Mountain), Maury, and Allen Johnson (me with Eight Rivers). (Link here, with passcode 8kB*%V.Q

Thank you for valuing our beautiful, ecologically rich region, and nurturing and protecting it for all of us, and future generations to come!  Serve in whatever capacity you can. Take care of one another. Find time for joy.

—Allen Johnson, President, Eight Rivers Council

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