Local climate groups are urging Congressmember Paul Tonko to lead the effort in the House to reject the side deal to promote gas pipelines that Senator Manchin attached to his agreement to support the recent climate bill (Inflation Reduction Act). The legislation is expected to be voted upon in September.
While no one has seen the official legislation yet, the one-page summary of the deal that was leaked guts bedrock environmental protections (e.g., National Environmental Policy Act), endangers public health, fast-tracks fossil fuels, and pushes approval for Manchin’s pet project, the Mountain Valley Pipeline. It appears that the draft legislation was drafted at least in part by the American Petroleum Institute. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a 300-mile fracked gas pipeline that crosses over nearly 1,000 streams and wetlands and would have the equivalent emissions of 26 coal fired power plants.
“We need Paul Tonko to be a climate champion. He needs to be willing to say no to the fossil fuel industry, committing to halting the expansion of natural gas. Schumer may have agreed to a deal with Manchin, but Tonko represents the people of the Capital District, and he needs to stand up for us and for future generations,” said Mark Dunlea of the Green Education and Legal Funds.
Groups continue to urge President Biden to declare a climate emergency and issue executive orders to reduce emissions and expand clean, renewable energy (see climatepresident.org)
Tonko is chair of the Environment & Climate Change Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce and has often been used as more conservative counterweight to more progressive climate legislation advanced by Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and others. One example is the CLEAN Future Act that Tonko has cosponsored with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr.
Many grassroots climate groups have opposed the IRA and its support for fossil fuels and other false climate solutions. Opposition has been especially strong among environmental justice groups such as the Climate Justice Alliance and the Indigenous Environmental Network. The funding in the IRA is only one-tenth of what President Biden had initially sought.
The Center for Biological Diversity has called the IRA a “climate suicide pact,” noting that it would require massive oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, reinstate an illegal 2021 Gulf lease sale and mandate that millions more acres of public lands be offered for leasing before any new solar or wind energy projects could be built on public lands or waters.
The claims about how the IRA will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 40% by 2030 are seriously overstated. First, analysis by groups such as at Princeton start with the assumption that existing policies will result in a 27% reduction by 2030. The studies are also based on looking at the impact of emissions over 100 years, ignoring that methane from natural gas is more than 80 times more potent than carbon during the first 20 years. It also assumes a major impact from carbon sequestration despite the repeated failure of this expensive technology over decades. Biden himself last year set a goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030, while progressive climate groups say that industrial nations need to slash emissions to zero by 2035 to give the world a chance of avoiding climate collapse.