Climate Movement Defeats Manchin’s Fossil Fuel-Friendly ‘Dirty Deal’

Interview with Drew Hudson, political consultant with several grassroots climate organizations, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

Just before its Sept. 30 budget deadline, Congress passed a continuing resolution to fund the government for a few more months. But the legislation did not include a bill pushed by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin for fast-tracking permitting for energy projects. His bill would have greatly reduced the ability of federal agencies and the public to weigh in on energy infrastructure projects, and it specifically required the completion of the fracked gas Mountain Valley pipeline through Virginia and West Virginia and possibly North Carolina.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President Joe Biden all agreed to help pass Manchin’s plan in exchange for his vote supporting the Inflation Reduction Act.

Climate activist groups mobilized and threw everything they had at stopping what they called, “Manchin’s dirty deal.” They organized call-ins, in-person lobbying, a big rally on Sept. 8 and smaller direct actions throughout the month. Much of the work was coordinated through the 1,200-member People vs. Fossil Fuels coalition. Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus, who participated in the work to stop Manchin’s bill, spoke with Drew Hudson, a political consultant with several grassroots climate organizations, about how the energy legislation was stopped — so far — and what happens next.

DREW HUDSON: This was a really big victory and credit does go to the grassroots activists who helped make it happen. The way that the victory came about was a mixture of Democratic opposition, which was driven primarily by those grassroots and environmental justice groups. 

Before the grassroots came out in opposition, nobody was opposed to the idea of Manchin getting a special deal that benefitted his special projects in exchange for [voting for] the Inflation Reduction Act. 

Originally, this was considered a noncontroversial plan. But once people began to talk about the specifics – there was a watermarked by the American Petroleum Institute version of the bill that leaked early, and then finally Manchin released the text of the bill that he wanted to attach to the Continuing Resolution that was basically the same as the API version had been. 

So once it became clear that yeah, this was as bad as we had feared, grassroots groups really came out in force. It started on Sept. 8 with a big rally in Washington, D.C., and we talked about fossil fuel projects all over the country and the danger of creating a special, expedited permitting regime for projects on energy that Joe Manchin would prefer, which would heavily benefit the fossil fuel industry.

And from there it really kicked off in the House and the Senate. Bernie Sanders made a speech on that same day, on Sept. 8 on the floor, saying he was opposed to the idea and then a couple days later, Rep. Grijalva in the House came out with his letter, which had about 75 signers in the House and expressed the same thing – strongly opposed to the idea of the deal and especially concerned about the environmental justice impacts of things like rolling back the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, as well as the Clean Water Act. 

That was one big step of opposition to the bill. The entreatment was really to leadership – to Chuck Schumer in the Senate and Nancy Pelosi in the House – not to make Democrats have that terrible decision, to have to decide whether to keep the government open and functioning, which of course is one of the most basic jobs of Congress — or to vote for this really bad side deal with Joe Manchin.

The last nail in the coffin is that Republicans were opposed to the bill. But probably most Republicans voted against the Continuing Resolution anyway, even without Manchin’s deal attached, and even though it contained emergency relief funding for some of their own states and other things. 

MELINDA TUHUS: So, we know this is temporary. As you said, all environmental victories are temporary. This one may be especially temporary, because Biden and Manchin are still talking about attaching this to another must-pass bill. So, what do we think the future holds and how soon is this likely to come up again?

DREW HUDSON: We think we are in the clear, we think, just for a couple of weeks, mostly because Congress goes on recess for several weeks. 

The  main vehicles we’re looking at are in what we call the lame duck session, so after the election on Nov. 8 and before the next Congress takes its seats in January of 2023, Joe Manchin in particular had talked about possibly attaching the deal to the National Defense Authorization Act as a next step. Again, that will come up in the lame duck session between the election and the new year. 

There has already been some pushback from Republicans again, saying they don’t think the defense spending bill — the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — should be used in that way to do domestic policy. 

Of course, in the Senate this will come down again to what does Chuck Schumer want to do and what level of brinksmanship is he prepared to play with whatever bill he’s attaching Manchin’s dirty deal to. What we’ve seen is that there’s a solid block of opposition – more than 50 senators, more than 75 members of the House – are very much opposed to the idea of Manchin’s permitting deal. 

In the Senate a bunch of them are Republicans and they don’t think it goes far enough, and a couple of them are Democrats who think it’s too friendly to fossil fuels. But either way the dynamics are the same: There aren’t the votes to pass it as a stand-alone bill right now, so Schumer can do a couple of things to get around that – one is he can keep trying to attach it to unrelated pieces of legislation and hope there is enough stuff in the underlying legislation – the NDAA or another Continuing Resolution [to fund the government] or whatever it may be – that people feel they have to vote for it even if they don’t like the Manchin dirty deal being attached.

The other option he always has before him – and we’ve been encouraging him to explore this – is he could just send the bill through the regular committee process. Joe Manchin, of course, is the chair of the Senate Energy Committee; that is the committee that would have jurisdiction over Manchin’s permitting bill, which deals with energy infrastructure. 

There is absolutely no reason why Manchin can’t hold a committee hearing on his own bill, and ask people to vote for it and just act like a normal senator instead of someone who thinks he’s king of energy policy in America. And just, you know put forward his ideas and there would be amendments and opportunities for both Democrats and Republicans to say, “We like this part, we don’t like that part.”

 On the Democratic side a lot of folks were saying they really like the parts of the bill that deal with electric transmission reform, and there’s a sense that we may need to build more power lines faster in this country to deal with growing renewable energy supply, which is part of what the Inflation Reduction Act is supposed to do, is help us build more renewable energy and then how is that renewable energy going to get from the solar panel or the wind turbine in to somebody’s house or a big city farther away from those sources?

So, there’s a bunch of different ways that Schumer and Manchin, if they want to, can try to build a coalition of 50 senators to support this, but they would have to do it through regular order. 

If they keep going back to the same strategy of attaching it to unrelated spending bills, I think they will probably keep having the same problem.

Learn more about the coalition organizing opposition to Sen. Manchin’s fossil fuel-friendly “dirty deal,” by visiting People vs. Fossil Fuels at

For the best listening experience and to never miss an episode, subscribe to Between The Lines on your favorite podcast app or platform: Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherGoogle PodcastsAmazon MusicTunein + AlexaCastboxOvercastPodfriendiHeartRadioCastroPocket Casts,  RSS Feed


Subscribe to our Weekly Summary