The Dirty Deal Is Dead

a good day in DC; a frightening day in Florida


Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) pulled his dirty deal from contention at 5 pm on Tuesday, minutes before it was headed for a crushing defeat on the Senate floor. He asked his champion, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), to drop the fossil-fuel fast-tracking Energy Independence and Security Act1 from the continuing resolution, acknowledging the resolute opposition of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) from the right and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) from the left.

Manchin’s approach for selling this Big Oil deal—telling everyone he could he was trying to achieve a long-time Republican priority—made the job of climate hawks like Sen. Sanders, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) much easier, as they rounded up a solid bloc of Democratic opposition.

One of the fiercest opponents of the Manchin-Schumer plot was Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), who is a pro-business New Democrat, but also a long-time champion of environmental justice. He had worked for years with Grijalva on crafting the Environmental Justice for All Act through a democratic, community-driven process that was the mirror-opposite of the EIS Act’s process, written by fossil-fuel lobbyists and forced on the Democratic caucus by fiat.

Manchin and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) expressed open contempt for the environmental movement as they tried to bulldoze its opposition to their dirty deal. But the gang of rich white men pushing the Manchin plan failed to recognize that environmental organizations, divided for decades along lines of race and class, have been working hard in recent years to repair the breach. The rich boys turned out, this time, not to be a match for a diverse, organized coalition that gives full voice to young people, women, working-class, Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous leaders.

Manchin and his allied brethren haven’t admitted total defeat, of course—after the November elections, they will try to attach his plan to the defense-spending bill or the next government-funding bill.

One hopes that before then they’ll join the Sunrise Movement’s campaign to fight fascism at the polls.

If I may, I’d like to dig deeper into the contrast between Manchin’s EIS Act and the Grijalva-McEachin EJ for All Act. Whereas the EIS Act would have short-circuited siting decisions and mandated fossil-fuel infrastructure, the EJ for All Act would facilitate community participation with a vision of a pollution-free economy.

These two bills represent the two fundamentally opposed schools of thought within the Democratic Party for building out clean-energy infrastructure—either to collaborate with polluters to strip away the ability of affected communities to participate in the decision-making process, or to more deeply engage with communities to develop buy-in for a fossil-free future.

Building infrastructure by bulldozing local opposition is certainly a proud American story, but it's also a wildly racist and exploitative one. There is also a proud American story of building civic infrastructure through local empowerment.

The Joe Biden administration has rhetorically embraced both philosophies where convenient. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre bemoaned delays caused by environmental permitting and claimed the Manchin plan is “necessary for our energy security.” Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris announced the Environmental Protection Agency’s new EJ division to “ensure the lived experiences of underserved communities are central to our decision-making while supporting community-driven solutions.”

The administration’s rhetorical incoherence fairly reflects the ideological conflicts within the Democratic Party coalition about our energy and climate future.

Within the Republican Party, however, there’s a strong consensus for doubling down on racist polluter capitalism—the only debate is whether to collaborate with fossil-friendly Democrats like Manchin or to try to crush them.

The fossil-fueled Category 4 Hurricane Ian left Cuba in darkness and flooded Key West as it tracks for a direct hit on Fort Myers at about 1 pm today instead of Tampa Bay. The gargantuan storm has already knocked out power for over 250,000 customers and threatens greater than 10-foot storm surges across southwestern Florida.

Breaking the climate silence, CBS News reporter Gina Martinez explains how human-caused climate change is responsible for Ian’s rapid intensification. AP reporter Seth Borenstein further describes how the “build up of heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels is making storms slower and wetter.”

On the Hill today: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is voting on the repeatedly delayed nomination of Joe Goffman to be the EPA’s head of air pollution and then taking witness testimony on the EPA’s Brownfields Program to revitalize toxic sites.

The Senate HELP Committee votes on labor activist Moshe Marvit’s nomination to the Federal Mine Safety Commission.

The Senate Homeland Security committee is considering multiple bills to improve climate disaster resilience (or at least transfer more costs to the federal government).

Hearings on the Hill:

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1 This name abbreviates to the EIS Act, which is an inside joke about the legislation’s intent. It would have subverted and curtailed the process of the National Environmental Policy Act’s mandatory environmental impact statements, also abbreviated to EIS.

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