Riders would force Mountain Valley Pipeline, undermine NEPA
This is code red: After holding the U.S. hostage with a manufactured “crisis,” Republicans have forced the president and Democrats into a dirty debt deal that will pulverize the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and expedite completion of the destructive Mountain Valley Pipeline. But how did we get into this situation and how can we get out? Read on, friend, and I’ll break it down:
What is behind the debt ceiling crisis?
You’ve likely heard at least passing mention of the ongoing crisis surrounding the “debt ceiling” or “federal default.” The situation is conceptually similar to a government shutdown, where Congress—through gridlock or political gamesmanship—fails to pass a spending bill by deadline and the federal government is forced to shut down. This causes federal employees to be furloughed and shutters critical programs while the middle and working classes suffer.
But the current situation is even worse: House Republicans refused to raise the government’s debt ceiling, an arbitrarily set cap on how much money the government is allowed to borrow. Without a lift on the ceiling, the U.S. would default on obligations to creditors and citizens alike. This has never happened before, and if it does, experts warn that the global economy would go into an unprecedented tailspin.
A Republican-engineered hostage crisis used to extort bad policy
Here’s the thing: This is a completely manufactured crisis designed to — in literally Republican lawmakers' own words — hold the nation hostage. In fact, in a twisted bit of irony, many of these same House Republicans supported raising the debt ceiling three times under President Trump with no cuts in spending or unnecessary demands.
So why are they now turning around and arguing debt is out of control? It’s a ploy to undercut progress and force heinous legislation through Congress. Now, they are using this hostage situation to extort President Biden and Democrats into fast-tracking the Mountain Valley Pipeline and gutting protections guaranteed by NEPA.
What’s in the deal? Pipeline approvals and so-called “permitting reform”
Despite the slippery and misleading language Republicans are using (“permitting reform”), the truth is that this deal is designed to make it easier for destructive corporations to trample communities for an easy buck with provisions Rep. Raul Grijalva called “disturbing and profoundly disappointing.”
Many of the provisions included—which have been seen before in unpassed legislation like the People Over Polluters Act — use the smokescreen of “permitting reform” to chip away at NEPA, a bedrock piece of legislation that guarantees public participation and transparency in decisions affecting public health and the environment. By setting tight and arbitrary deadlines, restoring widely criticized Trump-era rules and expanding loopholes while slashing funding, Republicans are making it easier for projects to sidestep the rules and harder for federal agencies to do their jobs effectively.
But equally distressing is the deal’s fast tracking of the long-stalled Mountain Valley Pipeline. We recently reported on our plans to challenge the right-of-way permits the project received from the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management; this deal would enshrine Congressional approval of all necessary permits and attempt to block such legal challenges. In short, it would lock impacted communities in Appalachia out of the process, forcing a project on them that has already been deemed “uniquely risky” and “a horrible idea” by experts and lawmakers alike.
A fleeting chance for a clean debt-ceiling deal remains
These provisions are a truly unprecedented assault on environmental progress and the nation at large, and they cannot be allowed to pass as part of the final bill. Though the deal has now cleared the House, there is still time for the Senate to act to remove these toxic riders.
Dropping the toxic rider to force the Mountain Valley Pipeline is a reasonable and achievable goal—contact your senators right now and urge them to support any amendment to do so!