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HOOSER: The people versus Joe Manchin

Our four-member, all-Democrat, Hawai‘i congressional delegation came very close yesterday to being forced to vote on a deal proposed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D — but not really) of West Virginia.

Fortunately, regular people from all walks of life and all corners of the U.S. rose up to say loudly and in unison to their elected members of Congress, “This is a bad bill, do the right thing. We are watching.”

As a result of this grassroots political pressure, the votes Manchin thought he had have evaporated and he is now “pulling the bill,” which effectively kills it.

Manchin’s bill was bad for the people of Virginia and West Virginia, bad for us here in Hawai‘i, and bad for the planet.

For starters, he was asking Sen. Brian Schatz, Sen. Mazie Hirono, Rep. Kai Kahele and Rep. Ed Case and all of his Washington colleagues to approve the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 303-mile pipeline that would move natural gas from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia.

Asking the U.S. Congress to approve a specific project to benefit one single senator’s political agenda, in total disregard of local community input, local agency review, and local legal oversight — is so wrong on so many levels.

According to national and local media reports, Manchin’s bill instructed government agencies in both Virginia and West Virginia to ignore prior court decisions and issue the permits, leases and other authorizations required to operate the pipeline, and exempt those actions from judicial review. (Civil Beat – Gist)

While Manchin was pushing hard for this, Virginia Sen. Tim Kain (D) was pushing just as hard against it, saying “It could open the door to serious abuse and even corruption.” (Virginia Mercury)

It gets worse.

The Manchin legislation proposed strict time limits for agencies to review environmental impacts of infrastructure projects built anywhere in the U.S.

And, as is oh-so-typical of the Manchin “starve the beast” mindset, the bill provided zero additional funding to help agencies meet the new requirements. This ensures that he and his friends on the far right could then continually complain about the inefficiencies of government and continue to cut government spending to keep it as inefficient as possible.

His proposed bill would also shrink the statute of limitations on court challenges against agency permitting decisions from six years to about five months — knowing full well it can often take six months just for the public to become aware of the agency decision.

This was a really, really, bad bill.

Bad, but predictable. This push to move projects faster and with less oversight is not exclusive to Congress.

Expect big-money and big-real-estate-development interests to soon play the same card here locally in the coming state legislative session. Just insert “affordable-housing development” into the slots now labeled “renewable-energy development.”

Under the guise of “fast tracking,” “streamlining” and “reducing regulatory barriers,” the big-money guys will be pushing hard to “expedite development” — promising us the holy grail of more affordable housing just as Manchin and his enablers were promising more renewable energy to fight climate change.

The “streamlining government” line is straight out of the standard conservative playbook. Yes, of course, we should eliminate duplicative and unnecessary regulation, but only after thoughtful and thorough review — not via congressional action with less than 30 days notice and not even one single public hearing.

These developers, the largest of the large who can afford to buy the benefits of owning a U.S. senator — seek only to maximize profits by minimizing environmental protections, community input and construction oversight.

If approved, Manchin’s proposal, known as the Energy Independence and Security Act, would have inevitably led to more leaking pipelines, more contaminated drinking water, more windmills located even closer to schools and homes, more endangered species, and more profits for energy-development corporations.

We should be extremely thankful for the tens of thousands of regular citizens across the country who called their senator and representative to express their concerns on this critically important issue.

The people won this one. Let’s stay united and vigilant, and keep showing up — by phone, by text and email, on the streets, and at the ballot box — to win again and keep the momentum growing.

El pueblo unido jamás sera vencido (The people, united, will never be defeated).

•••

Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.
Source: The Garden Island

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