A group of climate leaders were arrested Thursday on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC in protest of a new bill by Senator Joe Manchin designed to speed up the approval of energy projects, including fossil fuel projects.
The bill was part of a deal between Mr. Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to pass the Inflation Reduction Act this summer, which contained billions in spending to address the climate crisis.
But some environmental groups and left-wing members of the party have criticized aspects of the new bill for its support for future fossil fuel projects.
“Sen. Manchin’s proposal is a fossil-fueled travesty, and those who stand by it are putting their climate credibility on fire,” Kierán Suckling, who heads the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release at Thursday’s protest.
Mr Suckling was among the leaders during the protest on Thursday, and video recording showed him being led away by police officers.
The Capitol Police told that The independent via email that 11 people were arrested at the entrance to the Hart Senate Office Building after being asked to leave.
The bill, released to the public yesterday, contains several provisions designed to support energy and electricity projects, including statutes of limitations for legal challenges and requiring the president to prioritize reviews of some projects.
Some of these measures can stimulate faster deployment of infrastructure for clean energy projects such as wind farms and power lines. But the bill is also likely to speed up oil and gas projects.
One of the most controversial parts of the bill is support for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, an unfinished natural gas pipeline running from West Virginia to Virginia that has been tied to court reviews.
The new bill — titled the “Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022” — would require the federal government to issue all permits for the project.
“This does not allow for reform,” Ebony Twilley Martin, one of the leaders of the nonprofit Greenpeace USA and another of the activists arrested during today’s protest, said in the group’s statement.
“This is a giveaway that benefits the oil and gas industry that lines its pockets at the expense of those affected by ongoing climate disasters and extreme weather.”
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed the president’s support for the legislation in a statement in response to the bill.
“Today, far too many energy projects face delays — preventing us from generating and sending critical, cost-saving clean energy to families and businesses across America,” she said.
Democratic leadership has planned to include the bill as part of an upcoming budget proposal needed to keep the government funded. But that approach, as well as some of the bill’s text, has been criticized by some lawmakers in the party.
“We remain deeply concerned that these serious and harmful permitting provisions will have a significant and disproportionate impact on low-income communities, Indigenous communities and communities of color,” said a letter signed by dozens of House Democrats written earlier this month, urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi . and majority leader Steny Hoyer to keep this text out of the budget decision.
And the bill may have trouble getting a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. On Wednesday, Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, released a statement strongly opposing the bill’s provisions on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, much of which would pass through his state.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said earlier this month that he would not support the bill.
The bill would thus need some Republican support to pass with a filibuster-proof majority of 60 votes, in a Senate that is evenly split 50-50 between each party.
Still, while some Senate Republicans have unveiled their own authorization bill in recent weeks, the GOP appears to be largely opposed to Manchin’s new proposal, reports The ground.
If the new legislation ends up being attached to the budget proposal, the combined opposition from some Republicans and some Democrats could raise concerns about a government shutdown if the budget resolution does not pass.