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Frontline environmental justice leaders across the country today delivered a letter signed by 86 frontlines, environmental justice, and allied groups to the offices of Senators Tammy Duckworth, Cory Booker, and Tom Carper demanding these senators who sit on the Senate environmental justice caucus oppose and not negotiate any piecemeal environmental justice amendments to the dirty energy permitting deal that Senators Manchin and Schumer are advancing. The groups, representing mostly frontline organizations, demanded direct consultation between frontline environmental justice organizations and the communities they are accountable to.

In Newark, New Jersey local environmental justice leaders from the Ironbound Community Corporation, Southward Environmental Alliance, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance hand-delivered the letter to staff at Booker’s local office.

The letter calls on the founding members of the Senate Environmental Justice caucus to stand with impacted frontline communities against the deal, which leaked text [link] has outlined aims to reduce the review period of energy projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), restrict provisions of the Clean Water Act, and fast-track fossil fuel projects across the country, including granting approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a specific demand of Manchin’s, and 25 other unnamed projects.

Earlier this month Representative Raul Grijalva sent a letter signed by over 70 Members of Congress to Speaker Nancy Pelos and House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer demanding they not attach these provisions to the continuing resolution or any must-pass legislation. The letter currently has over 75 signatories.

Environmental justice organizations also sent a separate letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier in September demanding that none of these harmful permitting provisions be attached to must-pass legislation like the continuing resolution.

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This latest set of demands to the Senate environmental justice caucus reflects the deep concerns of groups representing impacted peoples on the permitting legislation. The frontline environmental justice organizations listed oppose this deal that will bring more fossil fuel extraction and pollution to Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and working-class communities.

“Stripping community protections is wrong, no matter who does it or what was traded for it. Luckily democrats have a choice to not leave communities behind and separate the permitting destruction bill from the funding of our government,” said Maria-Lopez Nunez, Director of Environmental Justice and Community Development for Ironbound Community Corporation in New Jersey. “This is a moral choice, to uphold the promise to one man and turn your back on millions of people or stand with environmental communities that are facing the worst consequences of climate change. As we deliver this letter Puerto Rico has no power during a Hurricane. We cannot let fossil fuel projects be rubber stamped moving forward in exchange for some dollars.”

“Fast-tracking permit approvals for new fossil fuel projects and gutting the National Environmental Policy Act, which is essentially an attack on communities’ rights to protect themselves from polluting industries, is not something we can get behind. This side deal is a colossal mistake; our elected officials cannot continue to allow Manchin to hold the public hostage to his fossil fuel backed pet projects that further dismantle everyday peoples’ rights to protect themselves,” said Monika Atkins, Co-Executive Director of the Climate Justice Alliance. Climate Justice Alliance’s own statement on the permitting deal called on Democratic leaders to block the deal.

“This Schumer-Manchin dirty deal is just another handout to the fossil fuel and mining industries that will kill any sort of meaningful consultation from tribal communities,” said Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “The fact that Senator Schumer and the White House both support its passage demonstrate an abhorrent willingness to sacrifice our communities. Anything less than cutting it from the continuing resolution is a direct threat and a cost too high for Indigenous peoples, Mother Earth, and all her inhabitants.”

"The dirty energy side deal that Senator Joe Manchin is trying to plow through outside of normal democratic procedure is an affront to the environmental justice communities. Those who support this legislation are supporting fossil fuel expansion and the dismantling of fundamental protections of NEPA and the CWA that have protected communities for decades. This is simply a shady back-room deal that gives fossil fuels another free pass to lay waste to communities, all under the guise of permitting ‘reform,’” said Adrien Salazar, Policy Director of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance. “The proposal recklessly tosses aside the lives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who have borne the significant brunt of the impacts of oil and gas extraction and climate pollution. We call on all champions of environmental justice to oppose this dirty energy deal. It must be removed from any must-pass legislation and not be allowed to harm communities."

“For over fifty years NEPA has acted as a vanguard for environmental justice communities, and since 1994 has provided the main vehicle for federal agencies to address disproportionate impacts of their projects pursuant to Executive Order 12898. Perhaps this is why Senators Carper, Booker, and Duckworth along with over 100 Democrats in the Senate and House drafted and signed a letter in 2020 urging then President Trump not to rollback NEPA. Are the people expected to believe that there’s been a massive paradigm shift in less than two years?” said Anthony Rogers-Wright, Director of Environmental Justice, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “Majority Leader Schumer and Senator Manchin’s dirty side deal is an assault on environmental justice and the practice of environmental law writ large. Lawmakers should not be forced to choose between protecting EJ communities and funding the people’s government. There’s a line in the sand, the Senate EJ Caucus is either a proponent for climate justice or a facilitator of climate chaos and environmental racism.”

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