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The U.S. energy system should rely on "proven renewable energy technologies like solar and wind and exclude gas, carbon capture and storage, biomass, nuclear, and other false solutions," 666 groups told congressional leaders on Wednesday. (Photo: Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

660+ Groups Call on Democrats to 'Reject Gas and Other False Climate Solutions' for Clean Energy Standard

"As we look to combat the climate emergency, it is crucial that we invest in solutions that support a just energy future."

Jessica Corbett

With federal lawmakers and the White House working on a historic infrastructure package, more than 660 progressive groups on Wednesday demanded that top Democrats in Congress "reject gas and other false climate solutions" and instead push for a total transition to renewable energy to address the global climate emergency.

"We can't just build back better. Justice requires we build back fossil free."
—Jean Su, Center for Biological Diversity

The climate, democracy, environmental, faith, Indigenous, and racial justice groups sent a letter (pdf) to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone.

"Counting dirty power sources like fracked gas as clean energy is more than foolish—it is dangerous. There will never be technology that magically transforms these polluting practices, which means we'll be left in the same place that we started, as the climate crisis only intensifies," said Food & Water Watch policy director Mitch Jones.

"The urgency requires clear, honest policies that reject the mistakes of the past and do not sacrifice frontline communities for the sake of political expediency," added Jones, whose group signed the letter. "It's simple: Clean energy should be clean."

Other key signatories to the letter include the California Environmental Justice Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), Democracy Collaborative, Friends of the Earth, and Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN).

Noting President Joe Biden's recent pledge to halve U.S. planet-heating emissions over the next decade as part of the nation's recommitment to the Paris agreement, which aims to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C by 2100, the letter calls on Congress to "pass a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) in the infrastructure package."

When crafting a national standard, the letter argues, "we should look to the 28 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico that have passed Renewable Electricity Standards (also known as renewable portfolio standards), as opposed to only seven states with Clean Electricity Standards (CES)." Also known as a Clean Energy Standards, such policies (pdf) require a certain share of electricity to come from "clean" sources.

The letter specifically raises concerns about the CES proposal included in the latest version of the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation's (CLEAN) Future Act that Pallone and other key Democrats introduced in March. Critics have repeatedly expressed alarm that H.R. 1512 would allow "false solutions" including fossil fuels, biomass, and nuclear power to remain part of the U.S. energy system.

According to the groups:

The inclusion of gas and carbon capture and storage as qualifying energies in any CES undermines efforts to end the fossil fuel era and halt the devastating pollution disproportionately experienced by Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other communities of color in this country. Even a partial credit for fossil fuel resources that attempts to factor in lifecycle emissions runs the risk of subsidizing environmental harm for years to come. Allowing dirty energy to be bundled with clean energy under a federal energy standard would prolong the existence of sacrifice zones around dirty energy investments and delay the transition to a system of 100% truly clean, renewable energy.

IEN executive director Tom BK Goldtooth declared that "climate chaos is hurting local communities across Mother Earth, and we cannot wait for a just transition from fossil fuels. Natural gas, carbon capture storage and other fossil-based techno fixes, bioenergy and biomass, nuclear, and other false solutions such as market-based accounting systems like carbon offsets perpetrate dirty and destructive energy generation."

"This country needs to enact a renewable electricity standard that would champion a just energy agenda creating an ambitious carve-out for rooftop and community solar and wind storage and other distributed energy resources," he said. "This has to be linked to reducing waste and energy consumption levels, making electricity affordable, and part of building Indigenous nations, rural and local economies."

As CBD energy justice director Jean Su put it, referencing one of Biden's campaign pledges: "We can't just build back better. Justice requires we build back fossil free."

"Proven solutions like distributed solar and storage protect our air, boost climate resilience, and safeguard our communities and wildlife," Su said. "There's no reason to prop up the ailing fossil fuel and nuclear industries when opportunities for cheaper and safer renewable energies abound."

In its push for an RES "that champions a just energy future and squarely rejects fossil fuels and other false solutions embodied in a CES," the letter makes three demands:

  • The RES should achieve a 100% renewable energy portfolio by 2030 for the U.S. electrical grid, consistent with climate science and global equity, with at least a 25% carve-out for distributed renewable energy resources and storage;
  • The RES's definition of qualifying energy should include proven renewable energy technologies like solar and wind and exclude gas, carbon capture and storage, biomass, nuclear, and other false solutions; and
  • The RES must be paired with strong regulations and programs that advance environmental, social, racial, and ecological justice and guarantee 50% of investments in environmental justice communities and support for impacted worker communities.

"As we look to combat the climate emergency," the letter concludes, "it is crucial that we invest in solutions that support a just energy future."

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