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Food & Water Watch

OFF Act Is a Climate Game Changer

By Mark Schlosberg

Rep.Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) introduced the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act (OFF Act) last week. This visionary bill comes as the nation bears witness to the devastation being brought by the climate change-super charged storm Harvey to Texas and Louisiana and braces for Irma's impacts. Storms like this and other extreme weather events will become all the more frequent and intense unless bold action is taken. Gabbard's bill—the strongest yet introduced in Congress—will put us on a path towards avoiding increased climate chaos: It will place a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects and move the country to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035, with a focus on a rapid transition in the next ten years. The bill is co-sponsored by Representatives Nanette Barragan (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).

This legislation could not be more needed. While the impacts of Harvey are readily apparent to all, it is not an isolated occurrence. Evidence continues to build of the severity and urgency of the climate crisis. And while Trump flew to Texas and talked about helping communities there, he and fossil fuel-funded members of Congress continue to put the planet on a collision course with climate chaos. They deny climate change and are suppressing our government's ability to address it; they are moving to increase drilling and fracking on public lands and off our coasts; they are promoting development of more pipelines; and they are exporting more oil and gas abroad while wrecking the environment here at home.

In this dysfunctional political environment, a broad movement has grown to resist Trump's foolish and dangerous agenda. Hundreds of thousands of people have marched in the streets in DC and across the country. Thousands more have called members of Congress, written letters, and gone to town halls and community meetings opposing this destructive agenda. This is heartening and powerful, but we must do more.

To win on climate—to really move off of fossil fuels and transition our economy to 100 percent renewable energy on a time frame that will actually prevent even greater climate catastrophe—we must continue to resist Trump's agenda, but we need to do more than that: We need to propel a bold agenda for addressing the crisis—one that will protect our communities while creating hundreds of thousands of good jobs in the renewables and energy efficiency sectors. This agenda must center racial and economic justice and cannot rely on false market solutions like carbon trading and taxing programs, which are simply corporate pay-to-pollute schemes. What we need is nothing short of a World War II-scale mobilization of our economy around a quick and just transition off fossil fuels and onto 100 percent renewable energy now.

Rep. Gabbard's OFF Act is a critical step towards that mobilization. It requires 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 (and 80 percent by 2027), places a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects, bans the export of oil and gas, and also moves our automobile and rail systems to 100 percent renewable energy. Additionally, it provides for a truly just transition for environmental justice communities and those working in the fossil fuel industry. The bill requires that people in impacted communities have a leading role in the development and implementation of clean energy plans and regulations, and establishes an equitable transition fund and workforce development center, paid for by closing an offshore tax loophole and repealing federal tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry.

Now we must mobilize to build support for this bill. Though the prospects of passing anything in Congress right now are grim, moving members of Congress to support the OFF Act and elevating its profile are important for three reasons:

1. Create Political Consensus for Rapid Transition to 100 Percent Renewable Energy

Six years ago, when Food & Water Watch followed the lead of our grassroots partners to become the first national organization to call for a ban on fracking, conventional wisdom dictated that fracked gas was an environmentally friendly "bridge fuel." There was lots of support for stronger regulations on fracking, but little serious talk about actually banning it. Yet hundreds of organizations and thousands of people all over the country organized around the issue and held their elected officials accountable.

New York and Maryland have since banned fracking. Rep. Mark Pocan introduced legislation to ban fracking on federal lands. Banning fracking became a top issue raised by Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential race, and a majority of Americans now support a ban. It took lots of hard work, but the political consensus has shifted. We must do the same thing with the urgent need to act on climate, by building support for the OFF Act.

2. Make OFF a Top Issue Now

Even though Congress is controlled by pro-fossil fuel ideologues, it is still critical that we work to get members to sponsor this bill now. If we organize to get large numbers of co-sponsors on the OFF Act, it will become a top issue that representatives will need to respond to. Even as it has just been introduced, the OFF Act already enjoys support from more than 100 organizations including a wide range of major national groups like National Nurses United, Progressive Democrats of America, Climate Justice Alliance, Indigenous Environmental Network and People's Action.

3. Make Space for State and Local Action

At the same time we are working to build support for the OFF Act, there are also campaigns across the country working to move cities, counties and states to 100 percent renewable energy now. Organizing around these local efforts can and should dovetail with efforts to pressure members of Congress to co-sponsor federal legislation. Passing local measures, or getting state and local elected officials to sign the OFF Pledge, will help build the political power needed to push Congress to support the federal legislation. Similarly, getting more co-sponsors on federal legislation to stop fossil fuel projects will open up more space for state and local action. These efforts work together.

Winning the fight to move off fossil fuels will not be easy, as the thousands of people who are working to stop pipelines, ban fracking and build renewable energy projects can tell you. But these are also fights that we can—and must—win if we are to protect people and the planet and avoid the very worst of climate chaos. The OFF Act is a critical first step in what must be a major national mobilization to restructure our energy system now.

Visit OFF Fossil Fuels to get involved in your community and join our grassroots team. Let's make this happen.

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Oil Change International / Twitter

Senate's Dirty Energy Bill Would Lock U.S. Into Fossil-Fuel Dependency for Decades

By Christian Detisch and Seth Gladstone

In the wake of Senate Republicans' ever-deepening debacle over their flailing attempts to strip health insurance from 22 million people, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is desperate to do something—anything—to show that he can get legislation passed. To this end, he's bypassing the standard committee review process to push a complex 850+ page energy bill straight to the full Senate floor. Perhaps not surprisingly, this legislation, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017, would be a disaster for public health and our climate.

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First photo of Ineos ship of gas from fracking destined for the UK. Andrew Shields / Friends of the Earth Europe

Fracking Pennsylvania to Make Plastics in Scotland?

A new report from Food & Water Watch documents how a Scottish energy billionaire's dangerous plan to ship gas liquids across the Atlantic is linked to a controversial pipeline currently under construction across Pennsylvania.

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Fracking

Hundreds Urge Sunshine State to Ban Fracking, Support Solar

Hundreds of Floridians gathered today to urge elected officials to pass a fracking ban, commit to increasing renewable energy sources and protect our waterways.

"Banning fracking in Florida is one of the best things we can do to protect our treasured waterways, public health and economy," said State Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater). "I stand with the 90 cities and counties in Florida that have passed ordinances or resolutions calling on us, the State Legislature, to pass this important legislation."

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House Passes Bill to Ban Fracking in Maryland

The Maryland House of Delegates passed a milestone fracking ban bill Friday with unprecedented bipartisan support. House Bill 1325, which passed by a vote of 97 to 40, would ban hydraulic fracturing statewide.

Public opposition to the practice has grown over the past year, as more than a dozen counties and cities across the state have already passed local resolutions and ordinances to ban fracking and more than 1,000 Marylanders marched through the state capitol last week to demand a fracking ban.

"We cannot afford to put our health, our ecology or the growing economy of Western Maryland at risk for fracking. That is why a total ban is necessary and supported by the people of Maryland," said Kumar Barve, chairman of the House Environment & Transportation Committee that put forth the bill.

"As a longtime proponent of legislative initiatives to protect Maryland from the dangers of fracking, I commend the Maryland House of Delegates for voting in support of a fracking ban," said Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo who introduced the bill. "Across the country, fracking is polluting the air and water of countless communities and making people sick. The passing of this bill is a huge step forward in securing Maryland as a national leader in combating climate change and protecting our citizens."

Residents from across the state have sent more than 35,000 petitions and letters in support of a ban to the General Assembly. More than 200 businesses, the majority from Western Maryland, and more than 200 Maryland health professionals sent letters to the General Assembly in support of the bill.

"The passing of the fracking ban bill through the House by a 57 vote margin is truly a watershed moment for Maryland," said Mitch Jones, senior policy advocate at Food & Water Watch. "The current overwhelming support from Maryland delegates shows an understanding that without a ban, public health and local businesses cannot be protected. We applaud this critical step towards preserving the resources and economy of Maryland and call on the Senate to follow the lead of the House."

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Here’s What You Need to Know on Six of Trump’s Cabinet Nominations

By Jo Miles

We all expected that Trump's cabinet would mean trouble for many of the things we care about, from clean energy and healthy communities to our very democracy itself. But his chosen nominees are worse than we could have imagined. These individuals, responsible for the policies and decisions that affect the lives and well-being of all Americans, have a combined net worth of more than $13 billion so far—that's five times the net worth of President Obama's cabinet and more wealth than a third of American households. As you might expect, their ties to corporations run deep and those ties are reflected in their positions and past actions. Here's what you should know about what Trump's nominees mean for our food, water, environment and democracy—and how you can oppose their confirmations:

Scott Pruitt

Nominated for: U.S. EPA Administrator

Why you should worry: Pruitt has bragged about suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) multiple times, has often decried its decisions and now he's on deck to run it. His troubling history includes:

  • He opposed attempts to regulate fracking on federal lands.
  • He condemned the EPA's attempts to study fracking's impact on drinking water as politically motivated.
  • He's pushed the interests of industrial agriculture in Oklahoma, including a deregulatory "right to farm" measure.

Corporate ties: He's a member of ALEC—American Legislative Exchange Council—and has taken about $300,000 in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry. Fossil fuel CEO Harold Hamm chaired his 2014 re-election campaign.

Notable quote: "It should come as no surprise that I am working diligently with Oklahoma energy companies […] to fight the unlawful overreach of the EPA and other federal agencies."

What you can do: Send an email to your senators asking them to reject Pruitt.

Rex Tillerson

Nominated for: Secretary of State

Why you should worry: His tenure at Exxon gives us insight into how he'd behave as Secretary of State:

  • He's presided over major deals with Russia to expand oil and gas development.
  • Exxon targeted Germany, a nation with a strong commitment to renewables and energy efficiency, for natural gas drilling and fracking.
  • Under Tillerson's leadership, Exxon continued to fund groups that promoted climate denial and spread misinformation about the threat of climate change.

Corporate ties: He's the former CEO of ExxonMobil and has been since 2006. He owns Exxon shares worth $151 million.

Notable fact: Tillerson once sued to keep water towers for a fracking project out of his own backyard.

What you can do: Send an email to your senators asking them to reject Tillerson.

Energy

EPA Must 'Correct Top Claim in Major Fracking Study'

Led by Food & Water Watch, more than 200 public interest and environmental groups sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today, urging the agency to heed the recommendation of its own independent Science Advisory Board (SAB) and clarify the seemingly unsupported top-line finding of the June 2015 draft fracking report.

The EPA's June 2015 draft of the study featured a dismissive and unsupported topline finding—that fracking has not led to "widespread, systemic" problems nationally, as if that should be the bar. The groups back the SAB's recommendation that the EPA either drop the controversial language or provide a "quantitative analysis" to support it.

The letter, signed by hundreds of national, statewide and local environmental and public interest groups, representing millions of members, was sent directly to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. It is being sent on the heels of an EnergyWire FOIA report indicating that the Obama White House was engaged in the "messaging" for the rollout of the controversial EPA study, stating that "White House aides kept tabs on what the 'topline messages' would be."

In the letter, environmental groups specifically call on the EPA to revisit its statement of findings, consistent with the SAB recommendations, and resolve the three major problems with the controversial line:

1. The EPA did not provide a sense of what the agency would have considered "widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States."

2. The "widespread, systemic" line is problematic because it presumes, without discussion, that looking on a national scale, over several years, provides an appropriate metric for evaluating the significance of known impacts.

3. The "widespread, systemic" line is problematic because the EPA failed to explain adequately the impediments to arriving at quantitative estimates for the frequencies and severities of the impacts already occurring.

The letter continues:

"By dismissing fracking's impacts on drinking water resources as not 'widespread, systemic,' the EPA seriously misrepresented the findings of its underlying study. This has done the public a disservice. We feel the agency now owes it to the public—and particularly to those already impacted by 'hydraulic fracturing activities'—to address these criticisms."

Other organizations that signed today's letter include: Sierra Club, Indigenous Environmental Network, Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace, Earthjustice, League of Conservation Voters, Union of Concerned Scientists, Friends of the Earth, 350.org and Clean Water Action.

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