Advocates threaten to shut down Congressional Baseball Game unless climate legislation passes | Environment | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Advocates threaten to shut down Congressional Baseball Game unless climate legislation passes

click to enlarge Advocates threaten to shut down Congressional Baseball Game unless climate legislation passes
CP Illustration: Lucy Chen

A coalition of climate advocacy groups says it’s time to leave everything on the field and plans to disrupt this year’s annual Congressional Baseball Game on Thu., July 28 unless Democrats pass climate legislation. 

Organizers of The Coal Baron Blockade, which includes West Virginia Rising, along with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Beyond Extreme Energy, say they don’t believe sweeping climate legislation included in President Biden’s Build Back Better plan will pass the Senate. As a result, they are calling for this “Now or Never” action to push for the provisions to be included in a reconciliation bill that would be easier to pass since it would only require a simple majority. Build Back Better proposed $555 billion to fund electric vehicle tax credits, renewable power, and other clean energy initiatives. 

“This action is coming from a deep, long-building frustration with Democratic failure to pass a reconciliation package that addresses the climate crisis as well as the crisis of rising costs,” says Jamie DeMarco, federal policy director for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “We all know the government is currently considering a package that would reduce the cost of energy, reduce the cost of prescription drugs, or possibly reduce the cost of health care, and do it all while reducing our emissions and fighting inflation by reducing the deficit.”

But despite promises that the legislation would pass soon, it’s been stalled for more than a year, DeMarco adds. And late last week, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin further threatened the climate package, saying he would not support climate and clean energy provisions of Build Back Better, despite numerous attempts by Democratic party leaders to try to appease him. 

“If Democrats again fail to pass a reconciliation package by their self-imposed deadlines, then we are going to let our justified anger be known,” DeMarco says. “We just refuse to sit by while members of Congress play baseball as the world burns.”

The Congressional Baseball Game for Charity was first played in 1909, and, last year alone, raised $1.2 million for charitable organizations including the Washington Literacy Center and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington. But DeMarco notes that the sponsors of this year’s game include BP and Chevron.

Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Forest Hills) is on this year’s Democratic team at the annual game for the final time, after announcing last year that he wouldn’t seek another term in office. Doyle has served as manager of the Democrats’ team in years past and is currently listed as a coach on the team’s website.

But he questioned the Now or Never group’s plans to target Democrats for their protest. “Obviously we’re very sympathetic with their goals to see climate change legislation passed,” Doyle tells Pittsburgh City Paper. “In fact, every single member of the Democratic baseball team has voted for the bill in the House that would do that. Now it’s stuck over in the Senate.”

Doyle says he thinks their efforts would be better off elsewhere.

“It seems to me a better use of their time would be to organize in these Congressional districts and states, where we have these Republicans that refuse to give us even a single vote — which is all we need, at least one more vote — in the Senate to do reconciliation,” he adds. “So I think if their focus was on that, that would be a more productive process.”

This isn’t the first demonstration from The Coal Baron Blockade. In April, the advocacy group protested outside a West Virginia power plant in opposition to Manchin’s policies on climate change and clean energy. According to Newsweek, the Grant Tower Coal Waste Power Plant receives inefficient coal waste byproducts from Enersystems, a company run by Manchin’s son. At least 16 protesters were arrested at the demonstration.

DeMarco declined to offer specifics about what the activists had planned for the Congressional ballgame other than to say they were committed to nonviolent action and would “disrupt” the game “to give members of Congress in D.C. a taste of our anger.”

Were a reconciliation bill to pass before the game, or if passage appeared imminent, the group plans to still take action, but of a more “conciliatory” nature, noting on its website that “this crisis won’t be solved by one bill, no matter how broad.”  

“If Democrats again fail to pass a reconciliation package by their self-imposed deadlines, then we are going to let our justified anger be known."

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If there’s no strong climate legislation by Aug. 5, the group plans to take direct action in protest of the Democratic National Committee, targeting Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Arizona senators for further protest. And the activists are planning a last stand if no climate legislation has passed by Sept. 30, which is when Congress goes into recess until after the November elections. The group promises a “highly disruptive, mass direction action that fundamentally disrupts business as usual” in the capital. 

Doyle says he supports the group’s right to protest, and agrees that there is a need to move forward on climate change legislation “yesterday.”

“I have a voting record that reflects that and so does every member of my team,” he adds. 

For his part, DeMarco pointed to a recent analysis from the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute which found that the clean energy provisions in the reconciliation package would reduce energy costs that Americans pay by $5 billion annually. 

“That’s billions of dollars back in Americans’ pockets,” he says. “I think the two things right now that people across the country, and especially young people in America, care about right now are inflation and the climate crisis. So inaction on reconciliation is a failure on both fronts.”

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