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Washington, D.C. – Today as reports surfaced that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is advocating for Manchin’s dirty “permitting reform” deal to be attached to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), frontline community leaders decry this “deal” as no deal for environmental justice communities at all. Without the foundational protections afforded us under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other bedrock protections like the Clean Water Act that ensure a pathway for community input and recourse against toxic and polluting industries, those on the frontlines of the climate crisis will be sacrificed again for the sake of big business and industry profits.
“This is not the kind of climate legacy of which Democratic leadership should be proud. Instead of standing with polluting industries, Representative Pelosi and Senator Schumer should be standing with Black, Brown, Indigenous and other frontline communities hit first and worst by the climate crisis by strengthening, not gutting NEPA.” said Marion Gee, Co-Executive Director of the Climate Justice Alliance.
“We beat this dirty deal back before so now, with no legitimate way to pass it, they are ramming it through under the guise of national defense. This is unacceptable, and any attempt to dress this dirty deal up as green, clean, or beneficial to environmental justice communities is disingenuous and just another perversion of hallmark legislation that must be enhanced, not gutted.” said Juan Jhong-Chung, Climate Justice Director at the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition who was just in Washington, D.C. to share this message with legislators.
“Tribal Nations deserve a full democratic process in the spirit of meaningful engagement and consultation, not back-room deals brokered on behalf of fossil fuels. Speaker Pelosi and Democratic leadership have a responsibility to block attempts that target our communities and continue to sacrifice us to the fossil fuels industry.” said Jordan Harmon, Policy Analyst and Legislative Advocate at Indigenous Environmental Network.
Now is the time to protect and strengthen public participation and tribal consultation, not weaken it. Yet, this will only further erode community input, advance inadequate environmental analysis, and eliminate judicial recourse for those most harmed by a fast tracking process, ensuring another attack on environmental justice communities.
“It appears that Democratic leadership would rather sacrifice our communities again, for short term political gain, rather than stay true to those who elected them by enacting real climate justice legislation. We must strengthen the federal environmental review process and ensure benefits for communities, not future disparities. Let’s be clear, this is environmental racism and environmental injustice at its finest.” said Maria Lopez-Nuñez, Deputy Director of Advocacy and Organizing at Ironbound Community Corporation, Member of the WHEJAC, and CJA board member.
Earlier this year, environmental justice communities played a pivotal role in beating back the first attempt at passing Manchin’s dirty deal, forcing Senator Schumer to remove it from September’s must-pass continuing resolution. However, President Biden has continued to express support for passing this kind of “permitting reform” which it appears is likely to be attached to the NDAA.
If Biden really wants to speed up permitting reform and unleash a renewable energy transition he would enhance community engagement and environmental justice not hinder it. With adequate community consultation and design involvement from the beginning, studies have confirmed that project delays can be avoided. Stripping this out by gutting NEPA will only further slow down the process and codify future harm for Black, Brown, Indigenous and other frontline communities. Let’s call this what it is: a handout to big oil and gas companies.
Climate and environmental justice communities call on lawmakers to oppose this dirty side deal once and for all and stay true to their promises to stop historical harm in already overburdened communities. We need to fast track a Just Transition, not a dirty one.
Climate Justice Alliance is a member-led organization of 89 urban and rural frontline communities, organizations and support networks in the climate justice movement. We work to build real solutions to the climate crisis through building local, living, regenerative economies while also organizing against the harmful practice of using frontline communities as sacrifice zones.