[This Open Letter was delivered to Senator Wyden’s district office in NE Portland on December 5, 2022. – Ed.]
Dear Senator Wyden,
The undersigned groups are deeply concerned that you have expressed support for the Manchin side deal and that you believe it is needed for a transition to clean energy. We ask that you vote NO on this undemocratic side deal, even if it risks a temporary government shutdown. That risk pales in the face of the risks from climate chaos and fast-tracking fossil fuels.
It is false to state that we need to gut environmental protections in order to scale up clean energy. According to the Progressive Policy Institute (a centrist Washington think tank), renewable energy projects already get permitted on average within 2.7 years, so really it is fossil fuel projects that will largely benefit from the proposed fast-tracking. The one exception to this is transmission line projects which take on average 4.3 years. It would be much better to focus on addressing solutions to this particular issue creatively than to give free rein to fossil fuel fast-tracking and increased leasing of public lands for extraction. NEPA isn’t the roadblock to infrastructure projects that industry scaremongers make it out to be: only one out of every 450 NEPA reviews are challenged in court.
If we want these reviews to move faster, we shouldn’t be weakening environmental laws, but investing more resources into agencies and staff who could help get these projects built in a responsible way that gives the public a full say on how they may be impacted. All that these laws require is a thorough review of the environmental impacts of projects. Giving in to the fossil fuel industry’s demands for a fast-track open door to build more pipelines and export facilities under the guise of supporting renewables is the last thing we should be doing. We can work on stream-lining processes and addressing concerns of renewable energy companies without this legislation originated by the American Petroleum Institute.
This side deal will stifle citizen powers to protect communities (usually Black, Latino, Indigenous and/or poor white) against the deep pockets of corporations and the devastation of extraction sites, pipelines, refineries, LNG export facilities and more. Environmental justice will indeed be an empty phrase and a broken promise if Manchin’s side deal goes through. If it passes, we will suddenly live in a more dangerous world where fossil fuel corporations have more power, and vulnerable people have less. If it fails, we will have saved important legal tools in the crucial fights for real environmental and climate justice.
The climate impacts of all this new, speeded-through infrastructure are terrifying. The IPCC, the UN Secretary General, the International Energy Agency, and climate scientists around the world are saying in one loud voice: No New Oil and Gas Development! We are dangerously close–just decimals away– from surpassing the 1.5 degree mark that is likely to trigger four irreversible tipping points with long-term consequences for the future of life on this planet.
It is truly sad that our supposed Democratic allies are planning to use a government funding bill as an instrument of blackmail for votes for Manchin’s deal, “a cruel and direct attack on environmental justice communities and the climate,” according to a letter to congressional leadership signed by 650 organizations. The environmental protections that were under attack during the Trump years, should not in these critical times be weakened under the watch of this administration.
This should be a stand-alone bill which could be thoroughly debated instead of a back room, non-democratic attachment to must-pass legislation. We ask that you issue a published commitment to vote NO even if it risks a government shutdown which WILL be resolved in the short-term while the devastating impacts of this bill are the worst attacks on environmental protections in decades — at a time when we should be eliminating, not fast-tracking fossil fuel projects. We are counting on you to do the right thing. We will be waiting for your response.
Extinction Rebellion PDX
Braided River Campaign
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon
Families for Climate
Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility
Portland/Columbia River Fossil Fuels Watch
Portland Jobs for Justice
Portland Sierra Club
Portland Youth Climate Strike