Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) announced on Thursday that he will vote against an upcoming bill to fund the government if Democrats include a deal to fast track the approval of a fracked gas pipeline in order to appease conservative Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (West Virginia).
“Combating climate change is more important than fossil fuel profits. I will not vote for any bill that makes it easier for Big Oil to destroy the planet and that includes approving the Mountain Valley Pipeline,” Sanders wrote on Twitter. “The Continuing Resolution must not be held hostage by Big Oil.”
Congress will soon be considering a measure that would resurrect and fast track the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a favorite project of Manchin’s and his fossil fuel donors. The pipeline, which would run through West Virginia and Virginia, has been criticized by frontline communities and climate advocates for its dangerous capacity to put tens of millions more metric tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere on a yearly basis.
Senate Democrats have said that they plan to include the pipeline deal in the stopgap government funding bill, due at the end of this month. Though it’s unclear if Sanders’s opposition to the bill would make an impact on its passage, his announcement is a strong rebuke to the deal and the Democrats who have supported it.
In a speech on the Senate floor on Thursday morning, Sanders explained his reasoning, declaring his “strong opposition to the so-called side deal that the fossil fuel industry is pushing to make it easier for them to pollute the environment and destroy our planet.”
The senator went on to warn of the devastating effects of the climate crisis that are happening now and will only worsen if world powers continue polluting, saying that it is “far and away” the most urgent problem facing the country and the world.
He then pointed to the widespread impacts of the climate crisis that are currently ongoing. The Western U.S. is experiencing its worst drought in over 1,200 years, while being struck by heat waves that are crushing records and causing people in California to experience rolling blackouts. Meanwhile, over a period of just 11 days this summer, people across the U.S. experienced at least four flood events that normally have only a 1 in 1000 probability of taking place in any given year.
“These are supposed to be once in a thousand year torrential rainfalls, and we’re seeing them coming all together in a few weeks,” Sanders exclaimed.
Meanwhile, tens of millions of people are being displaced or killed by extreme weather events across the world, the lawmaker said. Heat waves in Spain and Portugal killed over 2,000 people in July and melted roads and airport runways in the U.K. In China, parts of the Yangtze river — the third largest river in the world — dried up due to drought.
Conditions have been especially bad in Pakistan. As of the end of August, one-third of the country was underwater, displacing an estimated one in seven people in Pakistan — or over 33 million people. Flood events like this could become far more common, Sanders said, with scientists finding that the “Doomsday” glacier in Antarctica is receding far more than expected, threatening up to 10 feet of sea level rise in coming decades.
“In the past, a series of climate disasters like these might have seemed like a silly plot in a bad movie about the apocalypse. Unfortunately, however, what we are living through now is not a movie — it is reality,” Sanders said. Further, he added, “this entire scenario, what we are seeing now, will almost definitely become worse in years to come if the United States, China, and the rest of the world do not get our act together and break our dependency on fossil fuels.”
With all of these things in mind, Sanders said, it is absurd that the Senate is considering passing legislation to fast track a pipeline that would enrich Big Oil and entrench fossil fuel infrastructure.
Senators have a choice, he emphasized: They can listen to the scientists, frontline communities and climate activists who are begging lawmakers to reject the pipeline deal and draw down the use of fossil fuels in the U.S., or they can listen to the fossil fuel industry, which has lied for decades about the effects of fossil fuels in order to pad their profits.
Indeed, climate advocates say that supporting the pipeline side deal is equivalent to sidelining and subjugating the communities that would be subject to pollution and potential spills along the pipeline’s over 300-mile path. Climate advocates also note that they have roundly debunked Manchin’s reasoning for the pipeline, saying that there is no good reason for Democrats to pass the measure.
“Today, I beg of my colleagues that at this moment when the future of the world is literally at stake, that at this moment, we have the courage to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and to tell them and the politicians that they sponsor that the future of the planet is more important than their short term profits,” said Sanders.
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