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From: ‘Karuna Jaggar’ via People vs Fossil Fuels <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Tue, Aug 23, 2022, 12:58 PM
Subject: [Build Back Fossil ro[ morning that breaks down the fiction that Manchin’s dirty deal helps renewables.
Appreciate any amplification and here are some quick retweets
Huge thanks to each of you for all you are doing to fight this devastating dirty deal!
Weakening environmental safeguards won’t help renewable energy
BY BRETT HARTL, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR – 08/23/22 11:30 AM ET
THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY CONTRIBUTORS ARE THEIR OWN AND NOT THE VIEW OF THE HILL
The price of securing Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) vote for the Inflation Reduction Act is looking steeper by the day. The new law itself was stuffed with goodies for the fossil fuel industry, including mandated leasing of public lands to oil companies.
But now Congress is preparing to take up another measure promised to Manchin by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — a suite of legislative provisions supposedly aimed at “permitting reform.”
In reality, these provisions will weaken the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Clean Water Act and even the federal judiciary’s ability to uphold our nation’s environmental laws. This dirty side deal would be one of the most devasting blows to environmental justice and environmental protection passed by any Congress in history.
Perhaps the most cynical and disingenuous talking point floating around Capitol Hill right now is the claim that this deal will benefit renewable energy just as much as fracked gas pipelines and other polluting fossil fuel infrastructure.
At best, renewable energy is an afterthought in Manchin’s side deal. The official text is still being withheld from public scrutiny. But based on a leaked draft, the bill appears to have been drafted by the American Petroleum Institute. Other aspects of the deal would specifically directly address the many defeats of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in court. Large portions of Manchin’s side-deal appear to be direct responses to the numerous court defeats for that pipeline.
Crucially, there’s no evidence that renewable energy needs “permitting reform” or that renewables would benefit from hollowing out our environmental reviews.
The federal Permitting Dashboard shows that many solar and wind projects complete their environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act on time.
For example, the Gemini Solar project in Nevada was approved in just over two years, with the environmental impact statement being completed in 14 months. The Vineyard Offshore Wind project in, Massachusetts was approved in 3.3 years, with the environmental impact statement being completed in just 1.3 years. The project was delayed by the previous president’s seeming irrational fears of windmill cancer, but not by the National Environmental Policy Act.
In contrast, the Palen Solar project in California took 12 years to approve, with the environmental review taking nine years. What happened here?
Originally, the private company behind this project elected to build a concentrating solar thermal plant with a 750-foot-tall tower and tens of thousands of mirrors. These projects are complex and difficult to build, and they are simply inferior to photovoltaic systems with integrated batteries.
So, after two bankruptcies and a decision to completely change the design of the Palen project to photovoltaic solar panels, the project was quickly approved. It’s utterly unfair to blame the National Environmental Policy Act for the decisions of private companies.
Oil, gas and coal projects always take longer to approve than renewable energy because fossil fuels have far greater potential to cause catastrophes. In 2010, the federal government exempted BP’s drilling plan for the Deepwater Horizon project because of pressure to “streamline” the approval of big fossil fuel projects. Less than a year later, we all saw the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the biggest oil spill ever in U.S. waters.
Such risks explain why the Keystone XL pipeline was never built and the Mountain Valley Pipeline has been rejected by the federal courts numerous times. The fossil fuel industry — as well as complicit federal agencies — apparently attempted to paper over and discount the clear environmental harms that would result if they were built, including to disproportionately impacted communities along these pipelines’ paths.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Mountain Valley Pipeline not because the court was biased against pipelines, but because the judges were abiding by their oaths to impartially uphold U.S. laws designed to protect each of us from environmental harm.
Manchin’s side deal was likely written by the fossil fuel industry, for the benefit of the fossil fuel industry, to radically tip the scales in favor of the fossil fuel industry.
Even if renewable energy incidentally and trivially benefits from gutting our environmental laws, why would anyone vote to ensure fossil fuels are given an enormous competitive advantage once again? How does this side-deal do anything but hinder the necessary transition to renewable energy?
Now, more than ever, protection of our bedrock environmental laws is a necessary prerequisite to achieving a transition to renewable energy, preserving a livable climate and achieving environmental justice.
Any member of Congress who believes that gutting environmental safeguards will help renewable energy will have fallen victim to the most cunning psyop plan ever concocted by the fossil fuel industry.
Brett Hartl is the government affairs director for the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity.
Karuna Jaggar (she or they)
Campaign Director, Climate Law Institute