Sen. Joe Manchin’s support of the controversial Inflation Reduction Act hinged on a critical side deal. President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have all agreed to support Manchin’s proposed streamlining of the permitting process for fossil fuel and alternative fuel energy projects.
The overhaul of the bureaucracy is integral not only to sustaining carbon-based energy supplies and guaranteeing energy security, but also for simplifying the transition to solar, wind and other alternatives that often face untenable regulatory delays.
John Holdren, a research professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, told the Wall Street Journal, “It is very hard to build infrastructure of any kind in the United States. There are genuine tensions between the desire of one set of people to build stuff and the desire of the public to have a voice.”
Those voices are now being heard in Washington. There are multiple reports of how environmental organizations and progressive lawmakers are teaming up to try to sidetrack the side deal.
The Washington Times reported, “More than 650 activist organizations want Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill to double-cross one of their own who was instrumental in passing the party’s massive climate and tax spending law: Sen. Joe Manchin III.”
Rep. Raul Grijalva, a liberal Democrat from Arizona and chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, said, “Polluting industries have won that promise in a deal with a select few, but I intend to do everything in my power to convince the rest of my colleagues to break it.”
Another progressive representative, Ro Khanna from California, who chairs the House Oversight Subcommittee on the Environment, predicted to environmentalist Bill McKibben the deal will collapse. “That’s not going to happen,” he said. “You’re not going to get progressive support for that.”
The side deal is expected to be attached to a budget bill or a continuing resolution to keep the government funded. That means opponents risk the unpopular outcome of potentially shutting down the government if they block passage. That could be particularly damaging with the election just weeks away.
Manchin has staked much on this deal. He faces challenges on the home front from conservatives who believe he kowtowed to the left by supporting the Inflation Reduction Act. His political saving grace is the understanding with Biden, Schumer and Pelosi that the regulatory reform will pass and energy projects, here and across the country such as the Mountain Valley Pipeline, can move forward more quickly.
Meanwhile, environmentalists and progressives are preparing for a show-of-force in Washington next month. One environmental activist website proclaims, “Join frontline leaders in a rally on Sept 8th outside the Capitol to demand that U.S. Senators and Representatives stop Manchin’s dirty deal.”
As for Manchin, he argues, justifiably, that the deal is about America’s energy future, not his political future.
“I’ve got the hard left right now saying, ‘Hell no, we’re not going to do anything now that makes it look like we’re helping Manchin,’ ” said Manchin at a recent stop in the state. “I said, ‘You’re not helping me, you’re helping yourself if you want to get anything built in America.’ ”
Now Manchin, and anyone else who believes the permitting process is an impossible labyrinth, must hope that Biden, Schumer and Pelosi don’t cave under the pressure.