Coalition calls on Biden and Schumer to ditch fossil fuel provisions in Manchin climate deal

Coalition calls on Biden and Schumer to ditch fossil fuel provisions in Manchin climate deal

In a letter Friday, more than 360 environmental and community organizations asked President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to “Hold the line against fossil fuel expansion” and oppose what one signatory—the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD)—labeled fossil fuel “poison pills” tucked into the final pages of the 725-page Inflation Reduction Act hammered out behind the scenes by Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin. The IRA was announced to major fanfare Wednesday.

While praising the “tireless efforts” to put together seminal climate legislation that would make “meaningful renewable energy investments,” the signatories decried “handouts” to the fossil fuel industry that they say will harm frontline communities. Those handouts would require the Department of Interior over the next decade to offer oil and gas drilling leases on at least 2 million acres of public land as well as 60 million acres offshore in any year the department seeks approval of new renewables projects on federal land or waters. That would hold renewables “hostage” to expanded fossil fuel extraction, said Brett Hartl, CBD’s government affairs director.

Without those provisions, however, it’s almost certain Manchin‘s support for the compromise on climate and related legislation that he has fought against and skeletalized for more than a year would vanish.

If it were to pass in its current form, the IRA would include $370 billion for investments in climate and energy designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below their 2005 levels by 2030. 

The letter states in part:

At the same time, we respectfully urge you to reject any handouts to the fossil fuel industry. Put simply: you cannot address the climate emergency by sacrificing communities, expanding fossil fuel production and embracing fossil fuel industry scams like carbon capture, fossil fuel hydrogen, and carbon offsets.Any approval of new fossil fuel projects or fast-tracking of fossil fuel permitting is incompatible with climate leadership. Oil, gas and coal production are the core drivers of the climate and extinction crises. There can be no new fossil fuel leases, exports, or infrastructure if we have any hope of preventing ever-worsening climate crises, catastrophic floods, deadly wildfires, and more—all of which are ripping across the country as we speak. We are out of time. Therefore, we’re calling on you to fulfill your promise to lead on climate, starting with denying approvals for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, rejecting all new federal fossil fuel leases onshore, in the Gulf of Mexico, in Alaska, and everywhere else, and preventing any fast-tracked permits for fossil fuel projects.

Permitting new fossil fuel projects will further entrench us in a fossil fuel economy for decades to come – and constitutes a violent betrayal of your pledge to combat environmental racism and destruction. […]

We respectfully implore you to hold the line against any new fossil fuel projects, reject handouts to oil and gas companies, and use every tool available to advance a truly just, renewable energyf uture that does not sacrifice our communities.

Indigenous Environmental Network Executive Director Tom BK Goldtooth

CBD’s Hartl called the IRA a “devil’s bargain that ignores science and locks us into at least a decade of new oil and gas extraction.” In a CBD, press statement, he said, “This is a climate suicide pact. It’s self-defeating to handcuff renewable energy development to massive new oil and gas extraction. The new leasing required in this bill will fan the flames of the climate disasters torching our country, and it’s a slap in the face to the communities fighting to protect themselves from filthy fossil fuels.”

Said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, “The Inflation Reduction Act may be the most Washington can offer right now, but it’s a far cry from what’s actually needed to address the climate crisis. The investments in renewables, energy efficiency and Superfund clean-ups will make a difference, but communities and the climate continue to be sacrificed to Sen. Manchin’s fossil fuel demands.”

Tom BK Goldtooth, a citizen of the Navajo Nation and a Bdewakaƞtoƞwaƞ Dakota, is the executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network. He said in a press statement, “The Inflation Reduction Act exacerbates a pathway of climate and environmental injustice to Indigenous, Black and People of Color communities. This Act is more of the same climate false solutions we have seen previously from this Administration. But it goes further with a quid pro quo guaranteeing offshore oil leases in exchange for renewable energy. From agriculture, soils and forests pushed into the voluntary carbon markets to aviation biofuels as offsets, to the expansion of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies and CO2 pipelines, this administration locks in the violence of the climate crisis and consequences to Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous nations and frontline communities for decades to come. The Act does not provide climate nor energy security and will not cut emissions at source at the level that is needed to address this climate emergency.”

The signatories also reiterated calls for Biden to declare the climate crisis an emergency to unleash presidential powers to address it. Among the many others who have made this request of Biden are nine U.S. senators and 200 staffers of federal agencies, several of whom were arrested this week during their sit-in at Schumer’s office.

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