Climate Groups Respond to Manchin’s Sudden Change of Heart on the Reconciliation Bill!
Environmental groups were surprised when Democrats in the U.S. Senate reached an agreement on a broad bill to deal with climate change and clean energy. The bill could help cut the country’s carbon emissions by 40 percent by the end of the decade.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced a long-awaited reconciliation package on Wednesday. The package would provide $369 billion in funding for things like reducing emissions, making clean energy products, and promoting environmental justice.
Early versions of the bill had tax breaks for clean energy worth $555 billion that would cut carbon emissions. Still, people who support clean energy and climate groups praised the new deal because it includes tax credits for clean energy. These tax credits could create thousands of new jobs and boost renewable energy in the United States.
“Everyone in the clean energy business just let out a huge sigh of relief,” said Heather Zichal, who runs a group of renewable energy companies called American Clean Power. “This is a last-minute reprieve for action on climate change and jobs in clean energy. It is also the most important moment in American law for climate and energy policy.”
Climate activists saw a lot of wins in the bill, including $60 billion for environmental justice programs, $20 billion for farming practices that are better for the climate, and billions of dollars to help the U.S. make more batteries, solar panels, and electric cars.
People who supported the bill also said that it would go a long way toward President Joe Biden’s goal of having an economy with no net emissions by 2050.
In a statement, Sierra Club President Ramón Cruz said, “To borrow a phrase from President Biden, this is a big f——-g deal.” “This law will save money for families all over the country, make sure that everyone can live and work in a healthy community, and create good, long-term jobs.”
The president and chief executive officer of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Manish Bapna, called the agreement the “ultimate comeback of clean energy” and “the strongest climate action we’ve seen yet at the time we need it most.”
He did, however, save some criticism. “We wouldn’t have written this bill. It’s time to stop relying on fossil fuels and all the damage and danger they cause, not get more dependent on them, Bapna said in a statement. “But this is a deal that we can’t turn down.”
But some groups were much harsher in their criticism of the agreement’s support for fossil fuel projects, especially the parts that would force new oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. Manchin, who is from West Virginia, which has a lot of coal, has said that drilling in these areas is necessary for the country to be able to get its own energy.
“We need to speed up investment in renewable energy without giving incentives for new mining under 150-year-old mining laws that don’t protect people or the environment,” said Earthworks’ policy director Lauren Pagel. “We need to cut climate pollution by stopping the development of fossil fuels instead of making deals to speed up permits for more dirty energy infrastructure.”
Activists have said that to avoid the worst effects of climate change, all new oil and gas drilling on U.S. land and water must stop, and operations that are already going on must be phased out. About a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions come from drilling on public lands.
“This is a climate suicide pact,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s self-defeating to handcuff renewable energy development to massive new oil and gas extraction.”
“The new leasing required in this bill will fan the flames of the climate disasters torching our country, and it’s a slap in the face to the communities fighting to protect themselves from filthy fossil fuels,” Hartl said.
If the act was passed and signed into law, it would be the biggest step Congress has ever taken to help the environment. The Senate will vote on the bill next week, and then it will go to the House of Representatives, which is run by Democrats.