We in Extinction Rebellion PDX are deeply concerned that Senator Wyden has expressed support for Manchin’s dirty side deal. The self-identified “climate champion” (see https://www.wyden.senate.gov/issues/rural-oregon-and-natural-resources) has said he believes it is needed for a transition to 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 fossil fuel projects will largely benefit from the proposed fast-tracking. The one exception to this is transmission line projects, which take on average 4.3 years. Creating separate solutions to the transmission line issue would be far preferable to fast-tracking fossil fuel infrastructure and increasing extractivist leasing on public lands.
Renewable energy projects are already being built under the current rules, and we can build plenty more. The United States does NOT need to gut environmental protections in order to scale up clean energy. NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) 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.
To move renewable projects faster through the permitting process, the federal government shouldn’t be weakening environmental laws, but investing more resources into the agencies gutted during Republican administrations. Fully staffed agencies could help get these projects built in a responsible way that gives the public a say in their siting and construction. Most-impacted communities should be able to review the climate and environmental impacts of projects, including renewable energy projects.
If passed, whether as an amendment to the military spending bill or as a stand-alone bill, Manchin’s dirty deal will result in more fossil fuel giveaways and fossil fuel leasing, as well as weaken four key environmental acts (Clean Air, Clean Water, Endangered Species and NEPA) that have provided communities some recourse in fighting projects in their own back yards and lands. This side deal would stifle citizen rights 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 would be an empty phrase and a broken promise if Manchin’s side deal goes through.
Although Wyden brags about the number of town halls he holds in Oregon, he has not held a town hall or any other in-person or online meeting for his constituents to express their concerns over Manchin’s dirty side deal, nor other climate and environmental issues affecting Oregon. His staffer only met with us once, on September 9, when a group of us arrived outside his office building, chanting, “Hey Ron! Do your job!” One of our XRPDX members managed to buttonhole Wyden at a campaign event, and he told her in that very brief encounter that he supported the side deal. On September 28, a 12-person coalition organized by XRPDX held an hour-long meeting with two of his DC staffers, who mostly kept saying what a good deal the Inflation Reduction Act turned out to be, and how much Wyden had contributed to that legislation. What does it take for constituents to persuade the senator who has represented Oregon since 1996 that a dirty side deal, put together in the most undemocratic process and for Manchin’s financial benefit, is a BAD deal?
Caving in to the fossil fuel industry’s demands under the guide of supporting renewables is the last thing that Senator Wyden, and indeed the entire federal government, should be doing. The American Petroleum Institute wrote the draft of Manchin’s dirty side deal legislation, and it was rewritten as the “Energy Independence and Security Act” without changing the basic content. We don’t need that!
Given the huge giveaways to fossil fuels and false corporate climate solutions in the Inflation Reduction Act, we call upon Senator Wyden to pledge to vote NO and to help defeat the upcoming side deal secretly negotiated between Senators Manchin and Schumer. Call his office with this message: (202) 224-5244. Email him here: https://www.wyden.senate.gov/contact/email-ron. And join us on Monday, December 5 at noon, at the corner of NE 9th and NE Holladay, to participate in delivering a letter to Senator Wyden’s district office.