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Green advocates rally outside Sen. Capito’s office to urge her support for $3.5T social infrastructure bill

MORGANTOWN – Twelve adults and three children assembled in front of Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s waterfront office building late Thursday afternoon to urge her to support the $3.5 trillion social infrastructure package coming before Congress.

They carried banners and signs and inflatable globes and talked about what a clean environment means to them. They represented West Virginia Sierra Club, West Virginia Citizen Action Group, WV Working Families and Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution.

A long, reddish-orange banner declared, “Sen. Capito, Don’t Compromise Our Future.” Another banner read, “Global Warming, the Ultimate Burden on our Children.”

Sierra Club’s Jim Kotcon said they were there to communicate the urgency of funding for climate, families, displaced workers. “We would like her to reverse her position and support the federal reconciliation bill currently before Congress.”

The bill, still being drafted and haggled over, is expected to include measures for climate change, Medicare expansion, immigration reform, affordable housing, daycare and caretaking, paid family leave and more. It’s called a reconciliation bill because it’s expected to pass via reconciliation – bypassing the filibuster and passing without GOP support.

Kotcon said studies show that “failure to act is much more expensive and creates a higher tax burden than the investments proposed in the reconciliation bill. The failure is the big threat for inflation, for the budget deficit and for the taxpayer.”

Among the measures that could pay for the bill, Kotcon said, are cutting many of the fossil fuel tax subsidies and increasing taxes for the wealthy and corporations that got cut in the Trump era.

Given that it’s a reconciliation bill, Sen. Joe Manchin will play a more pivotal role in the fate of the bill. Manchin is quoted in The Hill addressing the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce saying “If the country is facing what we’re facing now. … I would ask my colleagues and all of the Senate to hit the pause button on the $3.5. … Let’s sit back. Let’s see what happens. We have so much on our plate. We really have an awful lot. I think that would be the prudent, wise thing to do.”

Kotcon said, “But I’m not letting Sen. Capito off the hook. She has a responsibility to represent West Virginia citizens and I hope that Sen. Capito will rethink her position and do the right thing.”

Adrienne Epley Brown, of Morgantown, said, “I’m here because I’m concerned about my children having a safe planet to live on in the future. I think that if we don’t invest in these programs, if we don’t have a Green New Deal, if we don’t invest in infrastructure, the children aren’t going to have jobs. They’re not going to have health care. They’re not going to have clean water. And there’s a reason people are leaving West Virginia. We’re not taking care of our own here.”

Commenting on Manchin playing more of a role in the bill’s fate than Capito, she said people should be working together on the same goals and it deserves her support. “I don’t think it is a partisan issue and it’s sad that it’s become one.”

Sandra Fallon came representing Citizens Climate Lobby West Virginia. She said she was there to encourage Capito and Manchin “to take serious and meaningful action on the climate.

Carbon capture and sequestration technology won’t be available in time, she said, and we need to protect people and communities now. “This could be our last, best chance to have anything serious done on climate change.”

Manchin and Rep. David McKinley have both said that China and India have to be considered in any climate change action: They’re both rapidly growing their carbon footprint, building more and more coal-fired power plants even as we retire ours. We need to develop CCS and clean coal technology and export it so that we can have a smart transition to renewables.

Fallon said, “If the U.S. wants to be a leader in the world and show real climate leadership, we will change our own policies and address what we need to address here at home. If we want to develop CCS technology and share that with other countries, it shouldn’t deflect us from our goal of transitioning away from fossil fuels.”

Commenting on the rally, Capito’s office said she’s “been a strong and consistent leader in the clean water and drinking water space.” The Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 passed the Senate 89-2 and includes such things as $55 billion for water/wastewater infrastructure, replacing lead pipes, and cleaning up toxic contaminants. It also includes a $11 billion to clean up abandoned mine sites, which will help to clean up source water in West Virginia.

The combination of the drinking water infrastructure legislation and the bipartisan infrastructure package that passed recently is the largest investment in clean water and safe drinking water in American history, her office said.

Capito’s office also noted that she opposes the reconciliation process. “We are only six months into the Biden administration, and we’ve already spent trillions of dollars. Sen. Capito feels strongly that this reckless tax and spending spree of the first six months of the Biden administration has been a major factor in fueling the inflation crisis—which is up 5.4% from the same time last year and has grown at the fastest pace since August 2008, prior to the worst part of the financial crisis.”

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