‘No Sacrifice Zones: Appalachian Resistance Comes to DC’ unites frontline voices and massive public opposition to the Mountain Valley Pipeline and other fossil fuel projects.
Washington, D.C. — Frontline organizers, Indigenous water protectors, and climate activists traveled from all corners of the U.S. to show mass opposition to West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s dirty pipeline bill. More than 600 people convened for a rally in front of the U.S. Capitol where they heard from people on the frontlines of environmental justice and climate change who called for no sacrifice zones and an end to Manchin’s bill. 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. Sen. Bernie Sanders said he will oppose a government funding bill if the Manchin’s deal is included in it.
In the shadow of massive climate legislation, a dirty pipeline bill proposed by Manchin and supported by Sen. Chuck Schumer threatens to severely weaken the governmental safeguards in place to prevent community and environmental harm from many types of projects, and threatens to legislate extraordinary measures to attempt to complete the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a pet project of Manchin’s. A vote on the bill is expected by September 30, 2022. This bill directly impacts communities in Appalachia, Alaska and the Gulf. Due to so-called “permitting reform,” the bill will also impact frontline communities across the U.S. because it will severely reduce the time they have to comment on proposals.
Below are statements from leaders who attended the rally:
“We have seen time after time our sacred places, water and land destroyed for fossil fuel greed with little thought or acknowledgment of the cultural and legal connections of Tribes to these lands,” said Crystal Cavalier-Keck, co-founder of 7 Directions of Service. “It is past time we stand up for our earth — our home. We have one chance to protect our children and prepare for the next 7 generations.”
“In Southwest Louisiana, we have been struck by natural disaster after natural disaster in the past two years beginning with Hurricanes Laura and Delta, Winter Storm Uri, and the flood in May 2021,” said Roishetta Ozane, Organizing Director-Healthy Gulf and Founder of The Vessel Project of Louisiana. “The Gulfcoast is familiar with hurricanes, but to have so many disasters in such a short period of time is astronomical and not to mention that each of these events was record-breaking. One cause for the intensity of these storms is climate change and what’s contributing to our warming climate is the oil and gas industries that are being steam rolled into BIPOC communities. Well, no more. Frontline communities have had enough. It is time that we combine our efforts and stand united to say no more dirty deals. We are not your sacrifice.”
“Here in Appalachia, on the frontlines of the Mountain Valley Pipeline fight, we stand united with all frontline communities that our politicians are too quick to deem sacrifice zones in exchange for their political gain and financial profit,” said Russell Chisholm, Mountain Valley Watch Coordinator. “We demand Congress stop Manchin’s dirty pipeline deal and embark upon a path of inclusive and bold climate action that centers our needs — for we are not only the most impacted by the climate crisis, we are communities that have been underestimated by the fossil fuel industry for decades — we know how to fight this extraction and come out with a livable, just future for all.”
“The Manchin dirty deal is more than a dirty deal and a give-away to the fossil fuel industry,” said Maury Johnson, co-chair of the Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights Coalition. “If it is passed it will decimate the environmental and social justice laws put into place over the several decades. It will cause irreparable harm to marginalized communities across the country including in my home state of West Virginia. I truly believe it is not just a dirty deal but also a deadly deal, as it will cause more deaths to people in the fracking sacrifice zones in Appalachia and across the country. It will accelerate climate change and the environmental devastation that will bring.”
“This is just another ‘dope deal’ by Manchin and the Big Oil Lobby Machine to further sacrifice devastated, impoverished communities from Appalachia to the Gulf,” said John Beard, CEO & Founder of the Port Arthur Community Action Network. “This deal will mute the voices of the pollution-overburdened, paying lip-service to pleas for relief from petrochemical, pipeline and LNG expansion, while allowing Big Oil and Gas to further inflict damage to their lives and health by their expansion, and the weakening of environmental laws and enforcement. Here’s a solution: Pass the continuing resolution, devise a just and equitable climate conscious permitting policy and stop playing political games with people and the climate! We need a policy that goes beyond lip service; we need a policy that is equitable, that reflects environmental, social and racial justice, that respects disparate and local impacts to affected communities. We need a policy that stops the sacrifice of millions of Americans to feed the oil/profit addiction that seeks gross profits in the so-called ‘public interest.’ We’ve had enough of deception, lies and promises; we demand environmental and climate justice NOW! We refuse to be sacrificed any further.”
“Subsistence is the cultural livelihood of rural Alaska,” said Sophie Swope, Director of the Mother Kuskokwim Tribal Coalition. “Salmon in rural areas is the primary source of food security, just as it was for our ancestors. Today, we are facing high prices for groceries and gas. The access to subsistence activities has never been more important. We’re all facing climate change but Alaska is seeing the most dramatic changes. Permafrost is melting, erosion is washing villages away, and the land is sinking. These changes are visible in our own lifetime. While we are adapting to these changes, the government must work to preserve our natural resources. Building nonrenewable energy pipelines that heat the earth while supplying an industry that will permanently disrupt the same salmon spawning rivers we rely on goes against the Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge that is meant to be elevated. We must be increasing our meaningful and robust tribal consultation for these projects, not limiting it.”
“Just before our rally today the Biden administration followed the DNC signaling support for Manchin and Schumer’s dirty side deal,” said Ikiya Collective’s Cheyenna Morgan. “Ikiya Collective has been a part of organizing protests, sit-ins and lobbying meetings the last month at political tables and unsurprisingly our voices have been erased and ignored like our relatives before us and our communities continue to be sacrifice zones. Not only by establishment Democrats but by neoliberals who refuse to stand up against the greed of oil and gas companies making windfall profits off our communities’ pain. We refuse to be the victims of continued genocide. Expect Indigenous resistance.”
“Our community is a tribal fishing community. If and when Pipeline 5 breaks, anywhere along the line, it will affect so many tributaries, inland streams, lakes – 20% of the earth’s surface fresh water – not just the Straits of Mackinac. As Canada’s Enbridge oil corporation works to keep this expired and illegal line running through our lands and waters, it’s important for the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies responsible for issuing permits to consult with Tribal Nations that have been stewards of these places for centuries,” said Jannan Cornstalk, Director of the Mackinaw Water is Life festival, citizen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. “As tribal people, we need to be included in these conversations and immediately have consultation from the beginning because we are supposed to have a government-to-government relationship. Many times that doesn’t happen, and this dirty deal would only deepen the denial of consultation and consent with tribes and others most harmed by polluting extraction projects.”
“The Rio Tinto – Talon Metals project in Northern Minnesota sets a dangerous precedent. This sulfide mine, proposed in Anishinaabe treaty lands – near some of the most important wild rice beds in the nation – currently has no mine plan. It has not undergone a scoping process or any environmental reviews. It has zero permits. Yet it’s being promoted by the mining industry and by some lawmakers as a climate change solution that should receive government subsidies and a streamlined review,” said Jean Skinaway-Lawrence and Liz Skinaway, Sandy Lake Band of Mississippi Chippewa. “Our communities will not be silent as mining companies use the climate crisis to justify another land grab that threatens our lives and our culture. A green economy will only be built with respect for water and Indigenous rights.”
“A half century of environmental law and public participation in the decisions impacting their communities hang in the balance because Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin made a dirty deal behind closed doors that would sacrifice frontline communities from the Bronx and Brooklyn, to Appalachia, and throughout Indian Country,” said Anthony Karefa Rogers-Wright, Director of Environmental Justice with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “As the home of the landmark Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, I imagine many New Yorkers are ashamed of Majority Leader Schumer’s recent actions that are antithetical to our nation-leading climate law. New Yorkers don’t acquiesce to selling out, short changing, or sacrificing any frontline community — it is in that spirit that we developed the CLCPA, and in that spirit we stand in inexorable solidarity with our family from Appalachia. We reject the Mountain Valley Pipeline and we reject any dirty deal that would lead to more dirty projects and more environmental racism/classism. The Majority Leader and Senator Manchin are both on notice.”
“By pushing for this so-called permitting bill, it is clear that Manchin, Schumer & Dem leadership are willing to sacrifice people for profits. This is real cloak and dagger politics and it’s our communities, our tribal nations who are under threat,” said Joye Braun of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “This bill will gut the consultative and judicial review processes while slashing what little protections we have for clean water, and our ancestral homelands. We stand with Appalachian resistance and the Indigenous water protectors who continue to bear the brunt of colonizer greed and exploitation. We will continue to stand for all people’s voices to be heard against this bad, ugly side deal.”
“Everyone needs water to live. Water is sacred. Water is life. It’s a big sacrifice for people to be in these frontline fights for safe water, land and air. It’s exhausting. But you don’t need to be on the frontlines to be a water protector. You can be an advocate by going out in your community and spreading awareness. If enough of us tell our leaders to stop this permitting disaster, keep fossil fuels in the ground, and pursue a just transition that meets the needs of all communities and the environment, we really can build a future worthy of the generations still to come. Indigenous wisdom can help us chart a path. We’re raised knowing that Mother Earth provides for us, so we need to honor and protect her. This is not radical or simplistic, it is common sense and survival for all of us,” said Gina Peltier of Honor the Earth, Anishinaabe from the Turtle Mountains Band.
“Manchin’s dirty deal is one of a series of attacks on the sovereignty of our Tribal Nations, intended to rush through environmental safeguards and the legal processes established by the National Environmental Policy Act, fast-tracking dangerous, unsustainable fossil-fuel and mining projects that threaten tribal lands and ceded territories without prior and informed consent of the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. As a Line 3 Water Protector, I stand in solidarity with my relatives and tribal communities in Wisconsin and Michigan who challenge Enbridge Line 5 and Talon mine, and with all frontline communities who stand to lose the most from this underhanded profit scheme,” said E. Joseph Oppegaard-Peltier, Anishinaabe from the Turtle Mountains Band.
“That Congress would pass a law overriding our most treasured environmental laws, like the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act, to give a sweetheart deal to a corporation and force completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline is unthinkable,” said David Sligh of Wild Virginia.”The promoters of this destructive project want decision makers to believe this pipeline is so far along that there’s no point in stopping it now, but that’s not true. We still have hundreds of natural treasures to save and the people of Virginia and West Virginia will keep fighting to see that they are protected. We call on lawmakers to reject this scheme and stand up for the people they are supposed to serve.”