Opinion: Oppose Manchin’s dirty deal

Published: 9/21/2022 6:00:46 AM
Modified: 9/21/2022 6:00:06 AM

Jamie Henn is the co-founder of 350.org and director of Fossil Free Media. He lives in Concord.

Remember the proposed Northern Pass project, the massive transmission lines that were proposed to run through the North Country and heart of the White Mountains? What if the project had been deemed of “strategic national importance” and fast-tracked without time for a proper environmental assessment or community input? How would Granite Staters feel if Northern Pass had been approved as part of a backroom deal struck by D.C. politicians, without a say from our own representatives?

This is the reality that’s playing out right now in Washington, D.C. After more than a year of holding the Democratic Party hostage over his vote on the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin is now demanding that Congress pass a separate bill designed to fast-track his favorite fossil fuel projects.

Manchin is selling the legislation as “permitting reform,” but the proposal he’s put forward is really a grab bag of giveaways for his donors in the fossil fuel industry (Manchin received more donations from oil and gas this year than any other member of Congress). Manchin hasn’t yet released actual legislative text, but a memo from his office suggests a number of radical measures designed to weaken environmental reviews, undermine clean water protections, and reduce community input on decision making.

Senator Manchin is also insisting on the immediate approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 300-mile fracked gas pipeline that would cross over 1,000 rivers and streams, as well as the Appalachian Trail. Imagine bulldozers tearing a path through the White Mountains and across the Saco and Pemigewasset to install a gas pipeline that could leak into our waterways or onto our farmland, and you’ll understand why our friends along the pipeline route have been fighting so hard to stop it.

In the coming weeks, all of our New Hampshire federal representatives will likely be asked to vote on some version of Manchin’s proposal. None have yet indicated a position on the matter, although neither Representatives Kuster nor Pappas signed onto a letter from 72 House members opposing the plan.

Some have suggested that it is worth dealing with Manchin in order to speed up approval for clean energy projects that will help us transition off fossil fuels and combat the climate crisis. There’s no doubt that in the coming years we need to build massive amounts of solar, wind, and, yes, properly placed transmission lines. But the barrier to building more renewable energy isn’t the National Environmental Policy Act or community consultation, it’s more often the arcane rules set by Public Utility Commissions, a lack of investment in regulatory agencies (something the IRA aims to address), and a lack of support from state politicians.

Clean energy represents an incredible opportunity for New Hampshire, and thanks to the passage of the IRA, there will now be an influx of federal support for building solar panels, offshore wind turbines, and electric vehicle charging stations that can reduce emissions, lower energy costs, and create jobs here in the Granite State.

But a vote for Manchin’s dirty deal won’t advance those efforts, it will set them backward, fast-tracking projects that keep us addicted to fossil fuels and undermining the processes that gives us all a say in our energy future. There’s a reason why nearly every major environmental group in the nation, including the Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, and Natural Resources Defense Council, all oppose the plan.

Sen. Shaheen, Sen. Hassan, Rep. Kuster and Rep. Pappas all deserve credit for supporting clean energy investments and working to address the climate crisis (something most of this year’s Republican opponents still deem a hoax). It would be a shame to undermine those efforts and harm our Appalachian neighbors, with a vote for a plan Manchin is pushing to please his Big Oil donors.

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