Activists call Inflation Reduction Act ‘celebration of environmental racism’ 

Frontline climate activists disrupted President Joe Biden’s celebration of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), because that legislation includes a racist, dirty side deal that will push through new deadly fossil fuel projects like the Mountain Valley Pipeline and cause irreparable harm to marginalized communities across the country.

Their main message: A celebration of the Inflation Reduction Act is a celebration of environmental racism. 

The group convened both inside and outside of the event, with organizers outside holding banners and handing out literature to attendees upon their arrival to educate them about the dirty energy side deal and the harm it will cause to frontline communities. Inside the White House, activists stripped off their blazers and business clothes to reveal t-shirts that donned the statement “Racist Dirty Energy Deal” with a strike through it. 

The IRA and the side permitting deal that Senator Manchin and Senator Schumer struck up behind closed doors are symbiotic. If passed, the side deal will severely weaken the governmental safeguards in place to prevent community and environmental harm from many types of energy projects. By no surprise, the demographics of the majority of the people at the White House celebrating the IRA as a “climate deal” does not match the demographics of those most impacted by the climate crisis. 

Last week, more than 600 people convened for a rally in front of the U.S. Capitol to call on Congress to end the dirty side deal and stop the sacrificing of frontline and BIPOC communities. Members of the group spent the day lobbying Congress members – including Manchin himself – asking them to oppose the deal and fulfill other demands of their respective communities.

A vote is expected by September 30, 2022 and tensions continue to mount in Congress, as leaders like Sen. Sanders and Rep. Grijalva speak out against the bill, warning, “permitting provisions [in this bill] will significantly and disproportionately impact low-income communities, indigenous communities, and communities of color.”

Basav Sen, Institute for Policy Studies; New Jersey environmentalist Lisa McCormick; Anthony Rogers-Wright, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest; and Sunrise Movement Advocacy Director Lauren Maunus

“Our communities are already drowning, on fire, drinking poisoned water. We need no new fossil fuels,” said Sunrise Movement Advocacy Director Lauren Maunus.

“The message we need to get out to every American is this: Tell your members of Congress to oppose Manchin and Schumer’s fossil fuel expansion deal,” said New Jersey environmentalist Lisa McCormick. “People must rise up to the responsibility of citizenship by making their opinions known to politicians and holding those elected officials accountable.”

“If Republicans passed a piece of legislation that included opening up 600 million acres of oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico, dedicated billions of dollars to unproven, notional technologies like carbon capture and sequestration, extended the life of aging nuclear power plants, allowed for increased mining of uranium, and tied it to a commitment to ratify a separate, rubber-stamped American Petroleum Institute side deal that would deregulate landmark environmental laws like the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as the Clean Water Act—which have both acted as vanguards for historically marginalized environmental justice communities—would Democrats and historically white-led groups still be celebrating?” asked Anthony Rogers-Wright, director of Environmental Justice with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

“The fact that the demographics of those celebrating this as a ‘climate victory’ don’t match the demographics of those most impacted by the climate crisis—along with the fact that Big Oil cartels are also celebrating passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and its associated Schumer/Manchin side deal—should tell you everything you need to know and make you question the true intentions and values of many historically white-led environmental organizations,” said Rogers-Wright.

“It is unconscionable that Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi have agreed to a corrupt, industry-backed deal in a secretive process that excluded public participation, and especially the voices of the Indigenous, Black, Brown, and poor communities most impacted by dirty energy infrastructure and by climate disasters,” said Basav Sen, Climate policy director at the Institute for Policy Studies. “This is a textbook example of high-level government corruption, and it exposes U.S. claims of being a “climate leader” as self-serving propaganda.”

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