Democratic Senator Joe Manchin resigned Tuesday from his energy permitting proposal. It would have expedited the federal review of all energy projects, including the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline. After being pressured by a number of climate justice activists and Appalachian organizations, Manchin asked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer not to remove the permitting reforms in a funding bill. He didn’t have enough votes to pass it. Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, suggests that Manchin might consider partnering with the organization GOP to revive the proposal later this year, but still says the news represents an “impressive win by grassroots environmentalism.”
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AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
In major news, climate news, actually, from Capitol Hill, Senator Joe Manchin has abandoned — at least for now — his proposal to speed up federal review of energy projects like the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Manchin wanted to speed up public comment periods on proposed fossil fuel project while weakening environmental or public health laws. His proposal would have almost guaranteed approval for the Mountain Valley Pipeline project in West Virginia. On Tuesday, Manchin requested his proposal be removed from a stopgap funding bill after it became clear it didn’t have enough votes to pass. Manchin’s proposal had faced fierce opposition from climate justice groups.
We’re joined right now by Bill McKibben, author, educator, environmentalist, founder of the group Third Act, which organizes people over 60 for progressive change, also founder of 350.org. His new piece, “Score it a win! Manchin’s Big Oil Gift Basket Scuttled for Now.”
Bill, thank you so much for being with us. You were protesting the World Bank in Washington. You wrote this piece about this latest news, that surprised a lot of people, the scuttling of Manchin’s bill. And you’re doing this in the buildup to this massive storm hitting Florida.
BILL McKIBBEN: Well, it’s, Amy, a tremendous reminder of why we have to do this work. Seán from WMNF He did an excellent job of explaining the climate impacts of Hurricane Ian. It is important to remember that the sea level is now a foot higher than it was when a major hurricane struck the Tampa area. Our job now is, we can’t prevent that foot; we’ve got to keep it from getting much higher still.
Yesterday was a remarkable turn in events. These last few weeks have seen remarkable campaigning by climate justice frontline organizations: Climate Justice Alliance, People vs. Fossil Fuel and Indigenous Environmental Network. They were supported by the Big Green groups: Sierra Club. LCVLeague of Conservation Voters; other. Appalachia saw a tremendous mobilization. POWHR, Protect Our Water, Heritage, and Rights; Appalachian Voices; Third Act Virginia — lots of groups that mobilized and scrambled to make the case against that pipeline, in particular, and against the rest of the giveaways in this bill to the fossil fuel industry.
On Capitol Hill, the same thing happened. It was stalwart progressives that came out first against this: Bernie and, on the House side, Raúl Grijalva, Ro Khanna. However, they were supported by others who were somewhat unanticipated in the last week. The turning point was when Tim Kaine, a senator from Virginia, voted against the inclusion of this fossil fuel giveaway into the continuing budget resolution. Tim Kaine does not belong to the Squad. He was Hillary’s running mate in 2016.
The organizers of the environmental justice movement did a great job by taking this issue and making it a difficult issue to avoid. It doesn’t mean — as you know, Amy and Juan, all environmental victories are temporary. This one may be less permanent than most. There’s already news today that Manchin and the Republicans are going to try and bring it back, attaching it in December not to the budget but to the Defense Authorization Act. You know what? Big Oil never sleeps and never gives up. However, it was a remarkable win for grassroots environmentalists.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Bill, this was surprising because there was supposedly a deal between Manchin and Chuck Schumer in terms of this permitting — expediting permitting processes. What does this say about Schumer’s ability to control his own delegation?
BILL McKIBBEN: Well, I don’t — I mean, I don’t know that much about all the inside baseball here, but I do know that when senators got to look at the thing, they understood, you know, I mean, it was just a hideous deal. It, in essence, said that the federal agencies had to grant permits for this Mountain Valley Pipeline, that those permits basically couldn’t be challenged in court. It also directed which court to go to if there were new challenges. They chose a conservative court. This is the exact definition of corrupt backroom and cronyism. It has nothing to do the policymaking that the standard meaning of the word. It was Manchin’s attempt at extortion.
Inflation Reduction Act had already given him a lot of goodies. There’s wasted money on things like carbon sequestration and things. He was not satisfied with this, he wanted to buy this gift basket. And at least for the moment, the progressives in the House and Senate have said, “No, we’re not going to deliver that.”
AMY GOODMAN: So Bill, you were part of a protest outside of the World Bank yesterday. Can you please explain why?
BILL McKIBBEN: Well, this is — I was actually in Washington for two protests yesterday, one up on Capitol Hill about this giveaway to the Big Oil and the other, yes, outside the World Bank.
There’s a broad coalition, again, led by very moderate forces — Al Gore has really been in the lead of it — trying to get the head of the World Bank fired because he’s not taking climate change very seriously. In fact, last week, in an interview in New York, he— with The New York Times, he was given six — count ’em, six — opportunities to say that global warming was real, that humans were heating the planet. And he passed on every one of them, finally saying, “I am not a scientist,” which is about as tired and lame a dodge as it’s possible to imagine. Yesterday morning, a group of us arrived at the World Bank and began reading the actual peer-reviewed science. Footnotes and all. We also used a microphone to hear what scientists had to say.
The idea that you’d need to be a climate scientist in order to take action on any of this is nuts. I mean, you’re going have a bona fide climate scientist, Peter Kalmus, on in a minute, and I think he’ll say you don’t need a Ph.D. in order to understand what’s happening here. We’re burning fossil fuel. It releases carbon into the atmosphere. Carbon’s molecular structure traps heat that would otherwise be radiated back to space. Period. End of story.
You know that Hurricane Ian is the end of the story. It’s things like the epic heat wave that has gripped China all summer. It’s things like the completely unheard-of flooding in Pakistan right now. As we mourn for our Florida brothers and sisters, it is important to remember that this type of stuff is happening everywhere. 33 million people have been forced from their homes in Pakistan. That’s everybody from Boston to Baltimore. And that’s just at any given moment on this Earth now.
The planet is in heat and we need people who have serious trust to take it seriously. That this guy isn’t taking it seriously shouldn’t come as a surprise. He was the Treasury Undersecretary during the Trump administration. Before that, if you look at his biography, it reads “chief economist for Bear Stearns” in the six years before it went bankrupt. Well, we cannot afford for the planet’s climate system to go bankrupt, so we better get somebody else in there who’s a little more on the ball.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Bill, how do you evaluate the first years of the Biden administration’s efforts to tackle the climate crisis head-on?
BILL McKIBBEN: Well, I think that they’ve made a good-faith effort, Juan. It will be interesting to see where it goes. They have been operating with one hand tied behind their back, because they desperately needed Manchin’s vote to get this, what eventually became the Inflation Reduction Act. And that meant they couldn’t use executive action without fear of offending him. So, after the election, either the Democrats will have no power at all — they’ll have lost the Senate and the House — or they’ll have picked up, one hopes, a few senators. In either of those scenarios, Manchin’s leverage is reduced, and hence the president’s ability to use executive action should increase some. So we may see a different kind of — we’re probably not going to see the big spending bill in the second half of the Biden administration, but we may see pressure for action in other ways from the administration.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank Bill for being here. Bill McKibben, author and educator, environmentalist, founder Third Act, organizing people over sixty for progressive change. Also co-founder of 350.org. We’ll link to all your pieces. I know one’s coming out today on the storm.