Federal agency staffers and congressional office members have a message for President Joe Biden as his climate agenda languishes in the Senate: Ensure that fossil fuel industry ally Sen. Joe Manchin faces significant consequences for obstructing legislative progress.
In a letter first reported by The Lever on Monday, 165 staffers from federal health and environmental agencies and nearly 80 congressional offices urged Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to "strip Senator Manchin of his chairmanship of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, shut down the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project, eliminate the use of mountaintop removal and coal burning, and establish stringent water and air pollution standards."
"This is an absolute emergency, and we want to work together, but since action to meet the scale of the crisis has yet to be delivered, we have no choice but to take matters into our own hands through non-violent direct action," reads the letter, which staffers have signed with initials to protect themselves from potential retaliation.
The letter marks the second time in two weeks that staffers on Capitol Hill have voiced anger and frustration over the federal government's inaction in the face of a climate emergency that's only getting worse, as evidenced by out-of-control wildfires and the record-shattering heatwaves scorching much of the Northern Hemisphere.
Earlier this month, more than 200 congressional staffers warned in a letter to Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that "our country is nearing the end of a two-year window that represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to pass transformative climate policy."
"The silence on expansive climate justice policy on Capitol Hill this year has been deafening," the letter added. "We write to distance ourselves from your dangerous inaction."
The latest letter, dated July 24 and currently circulating among government staffers, zeroes in on executive action that Biden can and must take following Manchin's decision to block any new green energy funding as part of Democrats' nascent reconciliation package, imperiling the nation's hopes of reining in greenhouse gas emissions in time to avert climate catastrophe.
Saul Levin, a staffer for Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., who provided the letter to The Lever, tweeted Monday that "we refuse to remain silent until climate policy is passed."
"We, the undersigned staff of the United States Congress and executive agencies, write to you today to demand that you take ambitious, assertive action before the end of July to address the climate crisis," the letter reads. "We have worked tirelessly to achieve a safe and liveable future. Meanwhile, you have refused to declare a climate emergency."
"Every day that you do not act, the climate crisis spirals further out of control," warn the staffers. "The coming days represent our best opportunity to address the climate crisis and save countless lives with robust climate justice policy."
"Even if Democrats control both chambers and the White House again in four years," the letter adds, "inaction in this moment will cause an era of record temperatures, extreme drought, sea level rise, and other deadly climate disasters. We do not have years to waste."
A day after Manchin told Democratic leaders earlier this month that he wouldn't accept any new climate funding as part of the emerging reconciliation bill, a chorus of environmental groups called on Biden to cancel the Mountain Valley Pipeline in response, a demand that agency staffers echoed in their letter.
Manchin has been an outspoken supporter of the pipeline, which would carry fracked gas from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia.
"Manchin has proven once again that he doesn't care about the planetary destruction that will cause immeasurable death," Ashley Thomson, senior climate campaigner at Greenpeace USA, said in a July 15 statement. "President Biden has no more excuses. He must start using his executive powers to full effect if we're going to make any progress in preventing the worst climate disasters in our country."