AU students protest new fossil fuel projects at the White House
Sunrise AU representatives say there is still work to be done
Several AU students attended a ceremony at the White House earlier this month that the Biden administration held to celebrate the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The White House characterized the IRA as “the most aggressive action on tackling the climate crisis in American history.” Magnolia Mead and Jamie Minden, both sophomores in the College of Arts and Sciences, were invited to the celebration for their involvement with a student sit-in for the Build Back Better legislation the previous year.
However, the IRA’s historic subsidies in clean energy were overshadowed by side deals proposed in conjunction with the IRA that approved new fossil fuel projects. One notable project is the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which environmental justice groups were protesting a week before the event.
“Obviously, I was pretty conflicted about attending because the IRA came with this side deal from Manchin. They would approve all of these new fossil fuel projects to please him which is counterintuitive to the purpose of a climate bill,” Mead said. “So when I got the invite, I decided to go, but I didn’t want to attend without some type of protest against the ongoing discussions.”
Mead, Minden and three other undergraduate students from Sunrise AU protested the possible permitting of new fossil fuel projects by Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia during the ceremony. Students from Sunrise AU wore shirts that said “No New Fossil Fuels, Stop the Dirty Side Deal”.
Minden said how the relaxing of fossil fuel permits doesn’t just endanger environmental rights legislation, but civil rights legislation as well. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) generates environmental impact statements and ensures that “all branches of government give proper consideration to the environment prior to undertaking any major federal action that significantly affects the environment,” according to the EPA. The Senate may potentially roll back some of these environmental regulations or gut the bill entirely.
“There are a lot of environmental advocates on the hill questioning if it’s even worth being passed if they are going to gut NEPA. It’s one of our main protections against fossil fuels, especially for Indigenous communities and communities of color,” Minden said.
Over 70 Democrat members of Congress signed a letter opposing Manchin’s new fossil fuel permits. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia have also spoken out against Manchin’s side deals.
When asked what students at AU can do to fight against fossil fuels, Mead reiterated the importance of keeping pressure on their representatives. According to Mead and Minden, Sunrise AU plans to hold protests against the Mountain Valley Pipeline and potential gutting of NEPA in late September and early October.
“Take advantage of the fact that we have the privilege to be located in the Nation’s capital. You can literally go to the Capitol Building and talk to your representatives, which is what I started doing last year for Build Back Better. It’s the collective action that builds youth power,” Mead said.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that there were two other students at the White House with Mead and Minden, not three.