‘Last chance’: Greens seek climate compromise with Manchin

Now many environmentalists are saying it’s time to throw the towel out of the heads of some progressives. social policy to negotiate a narrower deal on Manchin’s terms.

“We have no doubt that this is the last chance for reconciliation,” said Christie Goldfuss, senior vice president for energy and environmental policy at the Center for American Progress. “We are talking about years, if not a decade, before we have another opportunity. Either now everything will develop around the framework with which, according to Manchin, he agreed, or it’s over. We feel the finality of this throughout the climate movement.”

The West Virginia centrist who chairs the powerful Energy Committee recently reopened the door to a smaller reconciliation package by publicly laying out a framework for addressing climate change with tax breaks for a plethora of clean energy technologies, as well as reversing the 2017 Republican tax cut and reform prescription drug pricing.

But Manchin is also pushing for Biden to resume selling new offshore oil and gas leases and speed up natural gas exports to improve U.S. energy security and reduce inflated energy prices caused by supply chain restrictions and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Green organizations tend to compromise in favor of legislation that helps boost the growth of clean energy that offers a short-term boost for fossil fuels to reach an agreement by Memorial Day, fearing that any chance for climate change action will be cornered. if the Republicans gain control of one or both houses of Congress in the midterm elections.

“You might have to pay the price for [oil and gas] on the supply side, and that could hurt,” said Melinda Pierce, legislative director of the Sierra Club.

It’s time for climate change to pay off.

Early in Biden’s term, environmental groups teamed up with progressive allies to push Democrats to make historic investments in climate, labor, public health, and justice initiatives.

They cheered when Democrats in the House of Representatives passed a $2.2 trillion version of the bill in November. Restore better A law containing a full set of policies, including expanding access to healthcare and childcare, providing universal pre-school education, extending the child tax credit, and allocating a record $555 billion to combat climate change.

But Manchin struck down the Senate version of the bill in December, shattering the hopes of climate hawks and forcing them to struggle with difficult choices about which policies to prioritize.

Environmental groups insist their progressive coalition remains united, even stressing that Democrats should focus on passing a narrower bill that includes clean energy incentives without any other social policy.

And they say the US must act quickly because both domestic and global emissions fall far short of what climate scientists say is needed to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change.

“We are part of a broad and diverse coalition that is committed to making as much progress as possible. It looks like a narrower package is possible. I don’t think about it because we are giving up other priorities. We’re trying to make as much progress as we can and keep up with the climate momentum,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of government relations for the League of Conservation Voters. “Here it is, this is our shot. We must do it.”

Other environmental leaders have come to terms with the legislative reality that Senate Democrats must give in to Manchin’s demands or risk not passing anything on their agenda.

“I don’t think we as the climate community are setting the direction,” said David Kyiv, president of the Environmental Protection Fund, who until January was a senior environmental protection official in the Biden administration. “Sep. Manchin is pretty clear on where his bright lines are. Some items on the president’s agenda will not be included there. But we are all at the “where does the rubber meet the road?” point. The alternative would be to get nothing.”

Climate activists optimistic Manchin will continue to support hundreds of billions in expanded tax subsidies for clean energy included in the defunct bill. These loans have focused primarily on wind and solar energy, but also support other technologies favored by Manchin, such as nuclear power, hydrogen and carbon capture.

Climate advocates have already given up a lot, Sittenfeld said. Manchin has canceled the most aggressive policy, a program that would pay electric companies to deploy clean energy and penalize those who don’t. Other items, such as fining oil and gas producers for leaking methane or banning offshore drilling, are unlikely to be included in any legislation.

And it will likely take more sacrifices to keep Manchin’s support, Pierce noted, as he has spoken openly about boosting U.S. oil and gas production to counter Russian energy and influence.

Biden has set a goal of cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 50 to 52 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, a goal that will be extremely difficult to achieve without legislation. Last week, senior administration officials said there are several more ways to reach that milestone. without Congress, although they did not provide details.

Among the groups making a new push on Capitol Hill is Evergreen Action, a climate group founded by former aides to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. This prompted senators to prioritize the adoption of climate policy, two people familiar with the group’s discussions said.

“The next step is to prioritize – and requires prioritization – knowing the urgency of the time frame we are looking at,” said Evergreen Action Executive Director Jamal Raad. “It’s going to be a tough choice.”

Two Senate Democratic aides, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing negotiations on a potential bill, said the demands of environmental groups have been loud and clear in recent discussions.

“Climate advocates, based on our conversations, are very pragmatic and just want to see how you can bring climate elements to the finish line. We’ve reported that one way to do that is to combine climate elements with one or two other things,” said one of the Senate Democratic aides, who cited drug pricing reform and health care subsidies as two other policy areas that Manchin could support. .

Not all environmentalists agree that Democrats are narrowing their ambitions in pursuit of the Manchin deal.

Jamie Henn, director of Fossil Free Media and co-founder of 350.org, argued that a package based on clean energy tax credits would not do enough to inspire the young voters who supported Biden and the Democrats in their broad social policy agenda.

“Voters want Democrats to deliver on what they promised,” Henn said. “That means adopting a big package that prioritizes climate justice, invests in programs that help low-income families, and excludes any additional fossil fuel handouts. We know Democrats can’t embrace the entire Green New Deal all at once, but 101’s policy is that the more popular things you pack together, the more popular the package becomes.”

However, other climate activists say that clean energy incentives will be an important boost to new solar and wind power and will go a long way towards delivering on Biden’s climate promises, which have been a big driver of youth turnout.

“Tax incentives and investments in clean energy are incredibly effective. This is a story we can tell if reconciliation takes place,” Goldfuss said.