Markey and Ocasio-Cortez reintroduce Green New Deal Resolution

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) reintroduce the Green New Deal Resolution in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on April 20, 2023.

(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

AOC, Casar, and Markey Unveil Ambitious Measure to Build Green Electric Grid

"To run on green energy, we have to build green infrastructure," said Sen. Ed Markey. "The clean energy revolution is here—but we need a 21st-century electric grid to support it."

U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Greg Casar joined Sen. Ed Markey on Thursday to reintroduce legislation that aims to "lay the groundwork for America's clean energy revolution by advancing critical electric infrastructure to strengthen reliability and lower costs for consumers."

Previously put forward by Markey (D-Mass.) last year, the Connecting Hard-to-Reach Areas With Renewably Generated Energy (CHARGE) Act would mandate reforms through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to accelerate the energy transition by supporting the development of transmission networks.

The bill comes amid fierce debates over permitting reforms—with Republicans and right-wing Democrats trying to gut federal environmental protections and serve fossil fuel giants while claiming that their proposals will boost clean energy. It also comes as much of the Northern Hemisphere endures soaring temperatures, one consequence of humanity continuing to heat up the planet.

"For the United States to run on green energy, we first need to build green infrastructure," said Markey, who co-chairs the Senate Climate Change Task Force and has long led the fight for Green New Deal legislation with Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). "Right now, the United States relies on two-lane roads for our electricity traffic when we need a renewable energy superhighway."

"The CHARGE Act lays the groundwork for an energy grid that can support an explosion of electric-powered vehicles and buildings, while also improving energy reliability, lowering costs for consumers, and spurring economic competition," Markey explained. "My legislation will supply America with the tools and guidance needed to turn the clean energy revolution up a notch, accelerating our shift to true energy independence that breaks our nation's reliance on foreign oil from countries like Russia."

As a statement from Markey's office detailed, the bill would:

  • Require that transmission plans prioritize lower prices for customers and reliability and resiliency of the grid, incorporate decarbonization goals and severe weather scenarios, and avoid sensitive environmental areas and cultural heritage sites;
  • Increase data transparency and oversight;
  • Ensure that utilities follow through on their clean energy commitments;
  • Create a reliability standard that will ensure electricity can flow between different regions of the country in the event of large-scale or long-duration blackouts;
  • Require a study on the benefits to and effects on consumers from competitive generation and publicly and cooperatively owned generation and transmission;
  • Establish an advisory committee to improve the governance and stakeholder participation practices of grid operators;
  • Mandate transparency regarding Regional Transmission Organization and Independent System Operator voting, board meetings, and stakeholder meetings; and
  • Require FERC to develop rules to provide intervenor funding to help individuals or parties from disadvantaged or underrepresented communities navigate and engage in FERC proceedings.

Ocasio-Cortez highlighted that "our patchwork transmission system is blocking billions of dollars in new renewable deployment," and it is "also increasingly vulnerable to widespread power outages in nearly every part of the country."

The combination of power outages and extreme temperatures can be deadly. British meteorologist Laura Tobin said during a Wednesday broadcast that Phoenix, Arizona has had a record-breaking 19 consecutive days of temperatures hitting at least 110°F and "is one of the first cities in the world to become uninhabitable unless they have air conditioning."

As the Phoenix-based KJZZnoted Wednesday, a study published in May in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that if an extended blackout cut off AC for everyone in the city of about 1.6 million people during a heatwave, almost half of them would need emergency care and nearly 13,000 would die.

"In hot cities, air conditioning is a critical lifeline in the summer," study co-author David Hondula, director of Phoenix's Office of Heat Response and Mitigation, told the radio station. He also stressed that an event like the study warns of is unlikely—as he put it, "We're talking about slivers of a fraction of a percent of possibility."

Still, the dangers of the current high temperatures in many places have fueled fresh calls for climate action—including and especially rapidly switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

"As the climate crisis worsens, we must do everything we can to increase grid reliability across the country. That's why we must pass the CHARGE Act," said Casar (D-Texas). "Every single family should be able to rely on their utilities."

Groups backing the measure—including the Center for Biological Diversity, Clean Energy Grid Action (CEGA), Earthjustice, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Public Citizen—concurred.

"Our clean energy transition depends on building new high-capacity transmission lines," said CEGA executive director Christina Hayes. "We need legislation that will accelerate this development, unlocking new domestic energy resources and making sure the lights stay on during severe weather episodes like the intense heatwaves we've experienced across America this summer."

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