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The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) logo. AlexCovarrubias, CC BY 2.5

By Steve Horn

While the oil and gas industry has lauded the new trade deal that may soon replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a provision added by Mexico, along with its new president's plan to ban fracking, could complicate the industry's rising ambitions there.

The new agreement, known as the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), has faced criticism as being tantamount to NAFTA 2.0—more of a minor reboot that primarily benefits Wall Street investors and large corporations, including oil and gas companies.

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The Trump administration released its objectives Monday for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The objectives suggest a repeat of labor and environmental provisions from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a deal whose demise Donald Trump widely took credit for—that were deemed too weak by virtually all leading labor and environmental groups. On other critical questions, the ostensibly "detailed" negotiating objectives provide no details, such as whether corporations will continue to be able to use NAFTA to sue governments over environmental protections in unaccountable tribunals of corporate lawyers.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Joost Nelissen / Flickr

By Shiney Varghese

As the sixth round of the negotiations on North American Free Trade Agreement begin next week in Montreal, Canada, the controversy over exactly what a new agreement might involve—if there is one at all—continues to generate debate.

As the NAFTA renegotiations were about to start, the Canadian government publicly stated its core objectives for a renewed North American Free Trade Agreement.

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Hillary Clinton sits down for an interview with Zach Galifianakis on his web comedy series, Between Two Ferns. Funny or Die / YouTube

In the latest episode of Zach Galifianakis' web comedy series, the comedian and star of The Hangover trilogy invited Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to sit Between Two Ferns to answer some questions no one else would dare ask her on camera.

The show is anything but serious and gave Clinton the opportunity to showcase a playful side to her personality.

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After years of campaigning against the fatally flawed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the deal appears dead.

The TPP represented the latest in a string of trade deals that put corporate interests ahead of communities, workers, public health and the environment. The broad-based, cross-border campaign tirelessly pressed elected officials to reject the TPP, preventing Congress from passing it this year. Without the environmental, labor, consumer, farm, faith, development and so many other groups that highlighted TPP's shortcomings and organized in their neighborhoods and communities, the TPP would have sailed through Congress before the early presidential primary ballots were cast.

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If the Democratic Party Is Serious About Climate Change, They Must Reject the TPP

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a bad deal for our country and our climate—here's how we can stop it.

Climate

By Sarah Rasmussen

Right now, Congress is considering approving an international trade agreement that would lead to more fracking here in the U.S., more burning of rainforests for palm oil and fewer protections for American workers.

Activists rally to stop the TPP.SumOfUs / Flickr

That international trade agreement is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which was negotiated in extreme secrecy.

But now there is a groundswell of opposition to the TPP, with hundreds of thousands of people speaking out. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders already oppose it.

And if the Democratic Party opposes the TPP in its official platform, that may truly be the end of the road.

We can stop this destructive trade deal.

We told Congress to reject it and all the presidential candidates oppose it. Now we must tell the leadership of the Democratic Party to oppose the TPP in its official platform.

The TPP is not about trade. It's about giving global corporations even more loopholes to overcome democracy.

Companies like Exxon want the power to sue our government in order to eradicate environmental and labor protections that discourage their profits—and the TPP would expand this power.

This international trade pact was negotiated in extreme secrecy among Pacific Rim nations like the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Japan. Corporate executives were at the table, but environmental and labor groups were not—and of course, citizens of these countries had absolutely no say.

Just a few years ago, the TPP seemed like a done deal. But now it's floundering and looking less and less likely to pass thanks to grassroots organizing around the country. With your help, we can put it to bed once and for all.

Tell the Democratic Party: listen to the voice of the people and take a stand against the TPP.


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I have to admit that for a few days I felt really angry and depressed about the outcome of the Democratic Party Platform Committee meeting in Orlando. Despite a letter from more than 200 party delegates calling for a ban on fracking in the platform, more than 100,000 public petitions demanding the same and a recent Gallup poll showing that a vast majority of Democrats (not to mention a clear majority of Americans at large) are opposed to fracking, the committee failed to stand up to the corporate power of the oil and gas industry. In the end, the fracking ban proposal wasn't even allowed to come up for a vote.

Although this is disappointing, our work doesn't change. We must organize, organize, organize and build a grassroots movement so strong and diverse we are able to elect national leaders that reflect our progressive ideals and will fight for worthy policies. And of course we must then hold these individuals accountable.

In the meantime, progress is being made. Democratic Platform Committee members voted in favor of an historic amendment categorizing climate change as a global emergency requiring a World War II-scale mobilization. It's our job to keep fighting for policies that will keep fossil fuels in the ground and end the fracking nightmare. It will be up to each of us to keep demanding that those in power—regardless of political party—take the needed steps to seriously address our impending climate crisis.

To be clear, here's what the Democratic Party platform needed to do that it didn't do:

  • Call for a national ban on fracking, the dangerous method of oil and natural gas extraction responsible for a majority of American fossil fuel production.
  • Call for a halt to the construction of oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructure that is scarring the country, impacting land, waterways and communities.
  • Call for a halt to all fossil fuel extraction on federal lands—to Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground—in order to avoid the biggest impacts of climate change.
  • Call for challenging corporate power. The committee rejected several amendments that would have addressed this critical issue including one amendment that would stop the revolving door between industry and government employment.

These Democratic Party failures clearly explain why I will be marching in the streets of Philadelphia on July 24, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, to raise up clear, bold, urgent demands—demands that must be met if we are to avoid the worst and most disruptive climate consequences. We want fracking banned, fossil fuels left in the ground, the TPP rejected, environmental justice for all and a quick, just transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

That's what the Clean Energy Revolution requires and we demand that it happen now. Join me in Philadelphia.

By Ryan Schleeter

Monday marked the beginning of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), where the party will—in theory—come together around what it's calling the "most progressive platform in party history." And if that platform is any indication, climate change will figure heavily in the discussion this week.

Hillary Clinton poses with a supporter at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire earlier this year.Andrew Lichtenstein / Greenpeace

The Dems have come a long way since embracing a deeply flawed "all of the above" energy strategy in 2012.

Their new platform places renewable energy at the center of economic growth and job creation. It recognizes the intersections of social and environmental justice, with specific references to the Flint water crisis and the impacts of climate change on communities of color and indigenous populations. And it empowers the Department of Justice to investigate fossil fuel companies for their role in spreading climate denial.

This places them in stark contrast to Republicans, who groaned at the mere mention of climate change at their convention last week.

This week should tell us even more about the direction the Dems are heading on climate change, including how they'll address some of the platform's shortcomings. Here's what to watch for:

1. Where Does the Party Stand on Fracking and Natural Gas?

Well, it's complicated.

Fracking has no place in the platform of a party that wants to "lead the fight against climate change around the world." By not advocating a national ban on fracking, the Dems are falling short of the action we need to avoid its catastrophic health, climate and public safety impacts.

Instead, they're shirking responsibility by stating that fracking "should not take place where states and local communities oppose it." Translation: everyday people will have to go head to head with the fossil fuel industry to keep their communities frack-free. For an indication of just how difficult that is, look at Colorado right now.

On top of tepid regulations, the party leadership's problematic history with fracking is cause for concern. Both presumptive presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her vice presidential pick Tim Kaine have a long record of supporting fracking and pushing the false narrative of natural gas as a "bridge fuel."

As the Democrats try to position themselves as climate leaders, pay particular attention to how how this presumptive Democratic ticket talks about fracking or if they choose to skirt the issue.

2. Will Support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Erode?

The Dems have chosen not to oppose the TPP, the secretly negotiated trade deal that would open the door to increased corporate influence over environmental decision-making.

It's a curious decision, as President Obama is the only high profile Democrat left in favor of the deal. Both Clinton and Bernie Sanders have opposed it since last year, citing concerns over how it would outsource jobs overseas.

But that's not all that the TPP would do. It also makes it easier for fossil fuel companies to export natural gas with little to no environmental review, creating economic incentive for even more fracking (see above for why that's a terrible idea).

Look to see which side of the aisle party leaders fall on this week and if there any notable changes in position, like Kaine coming out in opposition earlier this week after voting in favor earlier this year.

3. When Can We Expect Some Actual Commitments to Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground?

Unlike people across the country, the Democrats have yet to fully embrace the keep it in the ground movement, but they seem to be inching closer.

Their platform would protect the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans from offshore drilling, but not the Gulf of Mexico. It calls for "reform[ing] fossil fuel leasing on public lands" and "phas[ing] down extraction," but gives little detail as to what that actually means. And of course, fracking.

The Dems should listen to communities calling for an end to new fossil fuel infrastructure, like those organizing against oil exploitation in the Gulf South and those protesting fossil fuel leasing in the Mountain West. And they won't have to look far for cues—thousands joined a march for clean energy and an end to the fossil fuel era in downtown Philadelphia on Sunday.

This week, keep an eye on how far progressive members of the party—like Keep It in the Ground Act authors Jeff Merkley (Senate) and Jared Huffman (House)—are able to push their more moderate colleagues on fossil fuel extraction.

And now for some perspective.

At this point, it's also worth a friendly reminder that the official Republican energy platform is literally terrible, Donald Trump thinks climate change is a "myth" (ever the ticket of nuance, his running mate Mike Pence prefers "hoax") and the GOP is the only conservative party in the world to deny the science of climate change.

That just feels relevant right now.

By Lukas Ross, Friends of the Earth Action

The same day TransCanada sued the U.S. government for $15 billion, the Democratic Party's platform drafting committee met in Missouri. Between the two, there is a lesson to be learned about free trade and the climate crisis.

The lawsuit was the anticipated result of President Obama rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.Using a notorious provision in the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Canadian oil giant is hoping to claim $15 billion in lost future profits by dragging the U.S. before an international tribunal. These sorts of extra-judicial forums, where corporations can sue governments for enforcing their own laws, are a hallmark of established free trade deals like NAFTA and looming ones like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Forty environmental groups signed a letter urging Congress to reject the TransPacific Partnership. Dylan Petrohilos / Think Progress

The meeting in Missouri was to finalize a draft of the 2016 Democratic Party platform, a usually sleepy and symbolic process that this year has exploded into a proxy fight between presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Pipelines like Keystone XL and free trade writ large were both on the agenda—and the votes cast reflect a growing divide between the party establishment and the grassroots.

Within hours of TransCanada filing its lawsuit under NAFTA, the platform committee had the chance to officially oppose the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, a Pacific Rim trade deal that would allow hundreds of new fossil fuel companies access to provisions similar to those used by TransCanada. The motion was rejected. Despite both candidates being on record opposing the current TPP, the motion was rejected in a 10-5 vote. It was supported by appointees from Sanders and opposed by appointees from Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Compromise language was offered instead, calling for trade deals that protect workers and the environment without mentioning the TPP by name.

Talking about responsible trade but refusing to be clear about the TPP isn't a good look, for the DNC or anyone else. If the TPP and its European counterpart, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, were both enacted, it would radically expand the power of fossil fuel companies to sue the U.S. for laws and regulations that hurt their expected future profits. The power to launch lawsuits like TransCanada's would be put on steroids and everything fromlocal fracking bans to renewable energy mandates could be litigated in trade tribunals run overwhelmingly by corporate lawyers.

Besides missing the boat on trade, the committee managed a few other favors for the TransCanadas of the world. Jane Kleeb, the founder of Bold Nebraska and the newly elected Chair of Nebraska Democrats, supported a motion calling for ending the use of eminent domain in support of fossil fuel projects. It was unceremoniously voted down. Another rejected motion was an endorsement of the so-called "climate test," the principle that infrastructure and other projects shouldn't be approved if they worsen carbon emissions. Applying this standard was what led President Obama to reject Keystone XL in the first place.

In fact, Friday turned out to be a bad night for serious climate policy all around. Motions pushed by Sanders's appointee Bill McKibben supporting a carbon tax and a national frackingban were both rejected. So too was a motion to keep fossil fuels in the ground by ending new leasing on our public lands and waters.

Even the ambitious energy target supported by both Clinton and Sanders—100 percent clean energy by 2050—wasn't an unqualified success. The language is vague enough that it could include everything from wind and solar to dangerous false solutions like biomass, carbon capture and sequestration and nukes.

The concern about what exactly counts as clean energy isn't unfounded. If Bill McKibben was chosen by Sanders as a progressive voice on climate, his alter ego appointed by Clinton is Carol Browner, a one-time Environmental Protection Agency administrator who splits her time these days between professional lobbying and pro-nuclear advocacy.

The good news is that Missouri isn't the end. The platform still needs to be approved by the full platform committee next month in Orlando and after that by the full convention in Philadelphia. When it comes to pushing back on trade and climate, there are still two more shots.

As philosopher Dr. Cornel West, another Sen. Sanders appointee, said as he abstained from the final vote, "Take it to the next stage."

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Bernie Sanders officially endorsed Hillary Clinton—a decision many Democrats have been waiting for—Tuesday morning at a joint campaign event in New Hampshire.

During his endorsement speech, the Vermont senator said he intends to do everything in his power to ensure the former secretary of state is the next president of the U.S. Sanders began his speech by saying:

Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nominating process, and I congratulate her for that. She will be the Democratic nominee for president and I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States.

I have come here today not to talk about the past but to focus on the future. That future will be shaped more by what happens on November 8 in voting booths across our nation than by any other event in the world. I have come here to make it as clear as possible as to why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president.

Sanders' endorsement comes less than two weeks before the Democratic National Convention. On Sunday the senator, who was in charge of picking the members of the Democratic National Convention's Platform Committee, praised the adoption of "the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party," Democracy Now reported.

While Clinton wasn't known as the first pick for many environmental activists, Sanders has helped the presumptive party nominee develop a more extensive climate policy.

Throughout the primaries, Sanders helped pull Clinton and the party to the left and take stronger climate action.

"Democratic voters have been fortunate to witness a vigorous and hard-fought campaign between two candidates with a clear and progressive vision for out country—which is exactly how it should be," Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director, said in a statement.

"Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders made this campaign about ideas. Ideas on how to stop climate disruption while speeding our transition to clean, renewable energy and leaving fossil fuels in the ground. Ides on the importance of rejecting dangerous trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership. And ideas on how best to help those whose homes and lives have been wrecked by pollution."

The Sierra Club formally endorsed Clinton in June.

Not everyone was as pleased with the endorsement announcement, though. Several people took to Twitter to show their dislike of the news:

Not surprisingly, Donald Trump weighed in on the endorsement, too:

The Democratic National Convention will be held July 25-28 in Philadelphia.

A new analysis released today by Ceres shows that many of the nation's largest electric utilities and their local subsidiaries are moving toward lower carbon fuel sources and that ambitious state policies and strong corporate demand for renewable energy are key drivers of this trend.

The 2016 Benchmarking Utility Clean Energy analysis ranks the 30 largest electric utility holding companies and their 119 subsidiary companies, which collectively account for about 60 percent of U.S. retail electricity sales. The results show overall advances on renewable energy and energy efficiency in 2014, the latest year for which data is available, with some utilities producing 25 to 35 percent of their electricity from wind, solar and other renewables.

Wide disparities in the utilities' clean energy performance remain, however, underscoring the need for swift implementation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan. The plan reduces carbon emissions from electric power plants by 32 percent by 2030.

"Renewable energy and energy efficiency, key building blocks of the Clean Power Plan, are increasingly cost-effective options for electric utilities looking to lower their carbon emissions," said Dan Bakal, director of electric power programs at Ceres, a nonprofit sustainability advocacy organization.

"Our analysis shows that the U.S. electric sector is in the midst of an unprecedented shift toward clean energy resources and that state policies are critical for continued progress in achieving national and international climate goals."

Utilities with the strongest results were typically in states with strong clean energy policies, such as Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts and California. The lowest-ranked utilities were mostly in southeast states, such as Alabama and Mississippi, which have weak state policies.

Top and Bottom Ranked U.S. Investor-Owned Electric Utilities on Clean Energy Deployment

Among the 30 holding companies, Sempra, PG&E, Edison International and Xcel ranked the highest for renewable energy sales, accounting for more than half of the total sales. Renewable resources made up more than 20 percent and in Sempra's case, nearly 36 percent, of the companies' sales in 2014. FPL, American Electric Power, ConEdison and PPL Corp ranked at the bottom, with renewable energy sales accounting for less than two percent of their total retail electricity sales.

Sempra Energy's renewable energy sales grew by more than 55 percent between 2013 and 2014 alone and Pinnacle West's grew by nearly 50 percent, while Eversource and DTE Energy demonstrated growth of more than 25 percent.

"Xcel Energy's positive ranking results from more than a decade of working with our states on clean energy policies," said Frank Prager, vice president, policy and federal affairs for Xcel Energy. "We continue to focus on our customers' growing desire for clean, renewable energy while demonstrating that we can successfully integrate these resources reliably and at a reasonable cost. It's an approach that is significantly reducing emissions and ensuring a more sustainable energy future for our communities."

"Californians care a lot about clean energy and we want to be an active partner in making the transition to a low-carbon economy as quickly as possible," said Melissa Lavinson, chief sustainability officer and vice president of federal affairs for PG&E. "Our showing in the Ceres rankings reflects our commitment to addressing the urgent challenge of climate change, while also helping our customers to use less energy and save money."

Energy efficiency top performers among the holding companies include Eversource Energy, PG&E, Portland General Electric, National Grid and Pinnacle West. Each achieved annual savings of at least 1.5 percent of their total retail electric sales, while also helping their customers save on their energy bills. Dominion Resources, FPL, Entergy and Southern Co and OGE Energywere among the weakest performers.

"Continued investment in energy efficiency and zero-carbon energy is central to Exelon's effort to build the next generation energy grid and drive the transition to clean energy," said Chris Gould, Exelon's senior vice president, corporate strategy and chief innovation and sustainability officer. "Exelon continuously works to identify new innovations and smart technologies to give customers greater access to clean energy and tools to help them use energy more efficiently."

Among the report's other key findings:

  • The Clean Power Plan's key approaches to compliance, energy efficiency and renewable energy, are increasingly economically feasible options for electric utilities. Energy efficiency is the lowest-cost energy resource and renewable energy costs continues to decline dramatically.
  • State policies are no longer the only driver of utility clean energy deployment. Companies with ambitious renewable energy sourcing goals are using their voice as major energy users to encourage utilities to offer more renewable energy. A consortium of major companies pledged not only to promote 60 gigawatts of new renewables development, but also to help overcome the barriers that complicate clean energy procurement. Companies are sourcing ever-greater amounts of clean energy directly from utilities.
  • Performance is not the only measure of clean energy leadership, which should include utility support for clean energy policies. For example, National Grid and PG&E have been outspoken supporters of energy efficiency, while FirstEnergy has been a vocal critic of Ohio's energy efficiency policy and supported efforts to freeze the state's goals.

"Seeing the leaps the renewable energy leaders have made in just two years has been amazing," said Ron Pernick, managing director of Clean Edge, a clean-tech research and advisory firm, which co-authored the report with Ceres. "Governments, corporations and individual customers continue to demand clean, efficient energy and some utilities are answering that call."

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