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'Nowhere Near What We Need It to Be': In Face of Climate Calamity, 100+ Groups Say Democrats' Proposal Woefully Insufficient

"We cannot perpetuate false solutions to the climate crisis that keep our reliance on fossil fuels—as this legislation proposes to do—and have any hope of ending the climate or environmental justice crises brought about by dirty energy."

Signs at a climate strike

"What we need is a transformative vision, not one that simply repeats our mistakes of the past," over 100 groups wrote in a joint letter to members of Congress Wednesday. (Photo: michael_swan/CC BY-ND 2.0)

Over 100 progressive groups called on members of Congress Wednesday to reject new energy-related legislation proposed by Democrats, saying the measure would further entrench the nation's reliance on fossil fuels and advance "false climate solutions."

"What we need is a transformative vision, not one that simply repeats our mistakes of the past," the groups wrote in a joint letter (pdf) to lawmakers.

At issue is the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act (HR 4447), unveiled by House Democrats last week. The chamber is set to begin consideration of the legislative package Wednesday, with Democrats pushing for a vote this week.

The Hill reported Monday:

The 900-page bill crafted from 40 existing proposals isn't a far cry from a Senate measure pushed earlier this year by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

It would funnel money into research and development for all sorts of types of energy, including methods that would assist the longevity of fossil fuel-backed industries. It also focuses on reducing energy use through a series of weatherization grants and building code updates.

"It also includes aspects of an earlier environmental justice package from the House Natural Resources Committee, which would add environmental claims to the Civil Rights Act," the outlet added in separate reporting.

The legislation is opposed (pdf) by the White House, which claimed it would "set up new mandates and regulations that would undo the administration's significant progress in lowering emissions and cleaning our air and water," asserting progress that has not, in fact, been made.

According to the signatories to the new letter—including Climate Justice Alliance, Sunrise Movement, and Indigenous Environmental Network—HR 4447 doesn't go far enough to address the climate crisis. The groups cite the measure's reliance on "ineffective gimmicks" like carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), in which CO2 is injected underground, that ultimately "perpetuate our dependence on fossil fuels and the burden on frontline and communities of color."

From the letter:

There is no reason to believe that CCS technology will actually work, given the failures of existing projects in this sector. For instance, the highly touted, heavily subsidized billion-dollar Petra Nova CCS project in Texas was just shuttered, largely because it performed well below expectations.

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Worse yet, these CCS facilities can increase harmful particulate matter in environmental justice communities, and increase energy costs for the public. Given the fact that clean energy from the sun and wind is on par with or cheaper than fossil fuels all over the United States, and has zero emissions, there is no need to support building any new fossil fuel infrastructure.

Despite the hype about carbon capture's role in achieving ‘net zero’ emissions, the carbon captured from fossil fuel smokestacks is largely destined for United States oil fields for a process called enhanced oil recovery. Oil drillers pump captured CO2 into the earth in order to increase the amount of oil they can pump out of wells, which simply furthers the dirty energy footprint of CCS.

"We cannot perpetuate false solutions to the climate crisis that keep our reliance on fossil fuels—as this legislation proposes to do—and have any hope of ending the climate or environmental justice crises brought about by dirty energy," the groups added.

"How many more of our communities need to be sacrificed before we stop playing politics and start defending people and the planet?"
—Angela Mahecha Adrar, Climate Justice Alliance
Climate Justice Alliance executive director Angela Mahecha Adrar put the legislative proposal in the context of the current public health crisis and climate-linked disasters affecting the nation.

"At a time when the West is burning, the Gulf South is being assaulted by climate change-fueled storms, and frontline communities nationwide are reeling from a global pandemic that's stolen over 200,000 lives, mostly Black, Brown, and Indigenous, it's extremely disheartening to see the House Democrats pushing a dirty energy bill littered with false solutions and fossil fuel subsidies," she said in a statement.

"The environmental justice provisions contained therein are nothing more than an afterthought," said Adrar, "aimed to serve as a shiny ribbon wrapped around a dirty package."

Adrar further asserted the measure stands to "decrease environmental justice and increase environmental racism," and asked, "How many more of our communities need to be sacrificed before we stop playing politics and start defending people and the planet?"

For Natalie Mebane, associate director of U.S. policy at 350.org, HR 4447 reflects Democrats not meeting the challenge of the global climate crisis.

"This bill does not do what science says is necessary to avoid irreversible climate catastrophe," said Mebane.

"We need to fully invest in an ambitious and bold, just transition to 100 percent clean and renewable energy," Mebane continued. "The Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act (H.R. 4447) is nowhere near what we need it to be."

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