Hundreds of environmental activists gathered outside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s home in Park Slope on Tuesday evening to protest the pol’s link to fossil fuel donors, and to oppose the inclusion of a controversial natural gas pipeline in the legislature’s hotly-debated budget deal.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote Wednesday on a bill supported by President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, which would suspend the nation’s debt limit through 2025 — avoiding a catastrophic scenario where America would default on its debts, and likely plunge the economy into a massive recession.
As part of the months-long negotiations over the bill, the Republican-controlled House agreed to a deal with the President and the Democratic-controlled Senate that will green-light a massive fossil fuel project, called the Mountain Valley Pipeline that runs through Virginia and West Virginia.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia, who has pushed in favor of the project, reportedly secured the approval, as his vote is key in the upper legislative chamber, where Democrats hold the majority by a slim margin.
Environmentalists say the provision would speed up the construction of the $6.6 billion pipeline, which is planned to carry two billion cubic feet of fracked gas per day, mostly for export.
“Any deal that holds the economy and climate hostage for the profit of dirty energy donors is a betrayal,” said Food & Water Watch Senior New York Organizer Eric Weltman. “Senator Schumer must pass a clean debt bill without fossil fuel giveaways.”
The 300-mile pipeline would run over nearly 1,000 streams and wetlands and would lead to annual emissions of over 89 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to 26 coal plants or 19 million cars, according to Oil Change International, a research and data-managing advocacy organization that is pro-transition to clean energy.
The bill orders federal agencies to issue permits for the project and says courts can’t review them.
Wielding banners and prop oil rigs, activists marched from Schumer’s home to Grand Army Plaza, where they blocked traffic for nearly an hour, demanding the pipeline and the permitting reform be left out of the agreement to raise the debt ceiling.
According to The New Republic, Schumer is the single largest recipient of funds from NextEra Energy, one of the companies that owns the pipeline. NextEra has been Schumer’s second-largest donor this year and has donated more than $280,000 to the senator so far.
Schumer did not reply to request for comment.
“The inclusion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a private commercial venture, at the behest of a single wealthy Senator reek of corruption,” said Sara Gronim of 350Brooklyn. “Not only are pipeline permits irrelevant to the issue of the debt ceiling but putting this specific pipeline outside the jurisdiction of the courts is a scandal. And Chuck Schumer is complicit.”
Manchin, the pipeline’s biggest supporter, has also benefited from dealing with fossil fuel companies and energy giants. In the 2022 cycle, NextEra’s employees and political action committees gave $60,350 to Manchin, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
“I am missing my kids’ bedtime to be here,” said a Park Slope mother through a megaphone at the rally. “But we need to fight for our families’ future.”