Today, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) released the long-awaited text of his permitting side deal. After its release, Earthjustice President Abigail Dillen issued the following statement:
“The text released today confirms what we already suspected: this permitting side-deal is an attempt to sacrifice and silence frontline communities and rush through fossil fuels projects while failing to address the root causes of delays for clean energy transmission. The real-life implications of this deal will escalate the environmental injustices communities of color and low-income communities already face.
“The incredibly secretive process by which this bill was created is highly problematic. It was only released today, and its proponents wish it to become law in just over a week. Its legislative process is designed to cut out impacted communities and stop a thorough examination of its provisions by the very congressional members who will vote on it.
“While we must rapidly build out the infrastructure to unleash clean energy, we cannot silence the communities most impacted by development in the process. Weakening the National Environmental Policy Act and other bedrock environmental protections will only entrench environmental injustices that we must remedy as we build the new clean economy promised by the Inflation Reduction Act.
“Numerous studies show that robust and meaningful public engagement is the key to building new clean energy projects successfully. With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, Congress gave over $1 billion to federal agencies to conduct comprehensive environmental reviews on the large-scale projects needed for our energy transition. This proposal will undercut that progress, fast-track dangerous polluting projects, and rob people of the opportunity to have a say in the projects built in their backyards.
“Congress must instead pass the Environmental Justice For All Act. Real permitting reform engages communities from the beginning, addresses their concerns, and results in better, faster, and more resilient projects. In sharp contrast to the permitting side-deal, this legislation was crafted in direct consultation with communities and creates a public engagement framework that would provide certainty to project sponsors and ensure our clean energy transition proceeds in a just and equitable way. Adding the permitting side deal to must-pass funding is a poison pill, and we urge Democratic leadership to decouple them and allow the deal to stand on its own merits.”