Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Thursday blasted the side deal that Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) struck earlier this summer to pass a controversial proposal to make it easier to develop fossil fuel-based energy projects.
Schumer told reporters Wednesday that he plans to attach Manchin’s permitting reform bill to the stopgap spending measure that needs to pass by Sept. 30 to prevent a government shutdown.
Sanders slammed the agreement as “a huge giveaway to the fossil fuel industry” and angrily warned that it would undermine President Biden’s pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent by the year 2030.
“I rise this morning to express by strong opposition to the so-called side deal that the fossil fuel industry is pushing to make it easier for them to pollute the environment and destroy our planet,” Sanders said.
He said the legislation crafted by Manchin would make it easier for the fossil fuel industry to receive permits and complete what he called “some of the dirtiest and most polluting oil and gas projects in America.”
He added the bill would speed the approval of a pipeline spanning from West Virginia to North Carolina that would “generate emissions equivalent to 37 coal plants or over 27 million cars each and every year.”
“Really, at a time when climate change is threatening the very existence of our planet, why would anybody be talking about substantially increasing carbon emissions and expanding fossil fuel production in the United States?” Sanders asked.
Sanders said he understood the power of oil, gas and coal companies “in our corrupt political system” but called on his colleagues to vote against the deal.
Pairing permitting reform to a continuing resolution gives it a very good chance of passing, even though opposition is building among progressive House Democrats.
Schumer said he promised to pass the bill in exchange for securing Manchin’s vote last month for the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which will invest more than $300 billion in programs to combat climate change and further develop domestic energy production.
“Permitting reform is part of the IRA, and we will get it done,” Schumer said.
The Democratic leader admitted last month that he was not thrilled to agree to permitting reform, but he noted that it could help the development of renewable energy projects as well as those to extract fossil fuels.
“In terms of the permitting reform, I didn’t like it but it was something that Sen. Manchin wanted,” Schumer told reporters in early August. “And in fact it has some very good things for the environment. It’s going to make permitting easier for clean energy.”