House Republicans and the White House announced a deal to raise the debt ceiling and avert an economic crisis. The deal cuts spending for programs critical to environmental protections and our social safety net. In addition, the deal includes hastily negotiated changes to the National Environmental Policy Act, and provisions that bypass judicial review to mandate approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Historically, bills to raise or suspend the debt ceiling have been clean, reflecting the common interest we have in protecting our economy, but this deal comes riddled with policy provisions that continue to sacrifice our communities. After the announcement, Earthjustice President Abigail Dillen issued the following statement:
“It is shameful that House Republicans are holding the entire economy hostage to advance an agenda that sacrifices the wellbeing of millions of Americans for the benefit of billionaires and oil and gas companies. Republicans raised or suspended the debt limit under former President Trump three times without any strings attached, and this should have once again been a clean debt limit raise.
“Among the concessions in the deal are revisions to the National Environmental Policy Act that will enable profit-driven industries to lead the environmental review process for their own projects. It also sets arbitrary, one-size-fits-all deadlines that are likely to encourage litigation while discouraging the upfront, public engagement and smart analysis that are essential to the success of needed infrastructure projects, including new clean energy projects. These and other changes to our bedrock environmental protections are too important to be negotiated as a ransom for meeting the country’s debt obligations.
“The deal also includes an indefensible finding that ‘timely completion of construction and operation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline is required in the national interest.’ Greenlighting this massive gas pipeline and entrenching reliance on fossil fuels is directly counter to the overwhelming national interest in transitioning quickly to clean energy and reining in runaway climate change. In bypassing the ongoing judicial process and mandating permit approvals, the deal sets a dangerous precedent that will do enduring harm to communities that are bearing the brunt of fossil fuels extraction and pollution in Appalachia.
“Crucially, the deal preserves essential spending passed in the Inflation Reduction Act to spur transformative clean energy deployment, but it does nothing to hasten development of new transmission infrastructure. In requiring a lengthy interregional capacity study process, the deal must not be allowed to slow down essential action that is already underway.
“House Republicans are forcing cuts to government funding in drastic ways when the crises of our time demand greater investments. Cuts to critical agencies addressing environmental injustice and climate change and cuts that further fray our social safety net are going to land hardest on the most vulnerable in our country. Speaker McCarthy’s inability to stand up to the most radical of the Republican Party has brought our country to the brink. We cannot allow the most extreme voices to hijack the process and champion unpopular policies at the expense of people across this country. While Republicans are playing politics, our climate is still in crisis and those most overburdened will pay the highest price.”