Merkley: Success in Keeping Government Open; Opening Conversation for Robust Congressional Consideration of Mountain Valley Pipeline Approval, Permitting Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley issued the following statement regarding the Senate moving forward with legislation to fund the government, without a proposal to undermine the federal permitting process for fossil fuel projects:

“This is the right move. I intended to vote against tonight’s motion to proceed because the proposed energy project permitting reforms and the approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) would harm our environment, our future and disproportionately impact communities who are already overburdened. I’m glad to have the opportunity to support the continuing resolution and the additional important provisions included with it.

“And let me be clear. This permitting legislation should likewise not be put on any future ‘must-pass’ legislation for a host of reasons.

“First, I share the concerns of frontline and disadvantaged communities over provisions of the bill that would increase environmental injustice, concerns that I communicated in a letter I led last week supported by seven other senators.

“Second, the authorization provisions for the Mountain Valley Pipeline are obscene. The bill orders the Executive Branch to issue permits regardless of whether the normal basic requirements are met. The Judicial Branch is corrupted by changing the assigned court venue to one chosen by the pipeline company. And the bill does further damage by blocking review of permits by the court – essentially authorizing law breaking by a company notorious for legal violations.

“In addition, the fossil methane gas the MVP would carry would do enormous damage no matter how it is used. I opposed such a fossil methane pipeline in Oregon for this very reason and can do no differently here.

“Third, while we do need to consider changes to the laws regarding permitting of electrical transmission lines to bring new renewable energy onto the grid, we must not simultaneously speed the approval of additional fossil fuel energy projects.

“Climate chaos isn’t going away. My state of Oregon is literally burning up from a fiercer, longer fire season. The fires have burned entire towns to the ground and devastated our forests, while associated smoke is affecting tourism and the health of our people. Our average snowpack in the Cascades is shrinking, affecting winter sports and summer irrigation water. Our streams are getting smaller and warmer, affecting our trout and salmon populations. And the Pacific Ocean is growing hotter and more acidic, with profound consequences for sea life.

“We must pivot boldly and quickly to replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. Accelerating a host of additional fossil fuel projects is not the way to go. Not only does such a course slow our transition to renewables here in America, it undermines our leadership on the critical international issue of climate chaos.

“We cannot tackle climate chaos alone. Carbon pollution is a planetary tragedy of the commons. We will be unpersuasive in working with other nations to accelerate their renewable energy transition if we are still approving new fossil fuel projects here at home.

“Many would agree that our permitting system could be improved. If the Senate is going to take up these questions in the future, it must be with a deliberative committee process and a robust, stand-alone floor debate that gives the American people, and especially those most impacted by this legislation, a full opportunity to weigh in.”