Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is joining a group of liberal House members in opposing Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) push to pass changes to the environmental review process in a stopgap funding bill.
Markey became the second Democratic-caucusing senator to call for the issues to be separated. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has previously expressed opposition to the West Virginia senator’s reforms.
Democratic leadership promised Manchin they would pass changes to the country’s permitting system to expedite the approval of both fossil and renewable energy projects in exchange for his vote on their climate, tax and healthcare bill.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said he would include such changes in a temporary funding measure that would prevent a government shutdown.
But Markey said in a written statement on Friday that the two should not be tied, citing concerns about possible impacts on communities that are already overburdened by pollution.
“As a way forward is discussed, and especially as new anti-environment proposals are being brought to the permitting discussions, we should not attach the permitting overhaul package to the must-pass government funding legislation,” Markey said in a statement on Friday.
However, Markey also acknowledged the importance of the deal with Manchin and said he would speak with colleagues about “whether this package can reflect the values of environmental justice.”
Any funding measure, with or without permitting reforms, would require 60 votes to pass the Senate. If both Markey and Sanders are not on board, at least 12 Republicans will have to vote with the rest of the Democrats to get it across the finish line.
Republicans have long-sought changes similar to those that Manchin is pushing, but some have said that his changes may not go far enough, and that they don’t want to reward him for going along with Democrats’ climate and tax bill.
On the House side, a lot of the opposition has come from Democrats, with nearly 80 of them opposing the idea of tying the funding measure to the permitting changes.
Neither Manchin’s office nor Democratic leaders have released text on the permitting legislation. But, a summary from Manchin’s office says that it would limit how long environmental reviews can take, something liberal opponents warn could restrict community involvement and expedite fossil fuel projects.
Markey has long been a leading voice on environmental issues as one of the namesakes of the ill-fated Obama-era Waxman-Markey bill and, more recently, as the Senate sponsor of the Green New Deal.