Zephyr Teachout Rides Wave of Moral Outrage and Scientific Clarity on Fracking and Climate Change
With no polling on the New York Governor primary race, we have no idea if Zephyr Teachout is leading Governor Cuomo. We have no idea what the depth of breadth of her support is. But I can tell you that that the excitement for her campaign is skyrocketing—because that is how people respond to real leadership and vision.
I see Teachout buttons everywhere, my inbox is flooded with emails about campaign potluck dinners all over the state, and I am greeted by her supporters at community gatherings and farmers markets. But more important than all that, I see something in Zephyr Teachout's supporters that I haven't seen in a while—real enthusiasm, real trust and real excitement.
Zephyr has that wicked buzz that a true political leader inspires in people—a re-awakened optimism—a belief that things can actually get better. So it is not surprising that she has unexpectedly and deservedly gained the endorsements of the Sierra Club, National Organization of Women and many many more. She's the real deal. She's that smart. She's that poised. And she's that clearheaded.
And that has woken up something highly unusual in New York state politics, so unusual that it feels almost unreal—actual inspiration. I know because it happened to me—I was as jaded as can be about electoral politics, and she inspired me to not only dream of a better future in New York, but dream that it could actually occupy the Governor's Mansion. So I am writing something unusual, something I feel compelled to write.
Can we dream out loud?
Can we dream of a New York Governor that lifts the toxic cloud of the threat of fracking once and for all?
Can we dream of a New York Governor that truly stands for and embodies progressive values?
Can we dream of a New York Governor who understands that New York's economy can be restored and lifted up based on vigorous renewable energy development?
Can we dream of a New York Governor who is one of us—who doesn't come from the political ruling class and who doesn't kowtow to big business over the people?
Can we dream of a grassroots electoral movement in New York?
Can we dream of Zephyr Teachout?
(Did we actually dream her up? A person, and a name, like some fantastical progressive super-heroine from a Pete Seeger song?)
Movements and politics are all about tipping points—moments when something fundamental shifts in the world—where an idea, a passion, a calling, becomes an inevitable surge. When that happens you can either get on the right side of history or you can miss the boat and be left on the shores of the broken ignorant past. That tipping point has happened on fracking in New York—the people have called for a ban, the facts are clear, the science is clear and New York has moved to make history. We do not want our water fracked, we do not want our air fracked, we do not want our land and communities and our media and our climate and our public health fracked. And right now, importantly, we do not want our politics and our democracy fracked.
Zephyr Teachout is riding a wave of moral outrage and scientific clarity on fracking and climate change that Andrew Cuomo has missed. While I do credit him with having the courage not to open New York to fracking despite incredible pressure from the gas industry, the time to listen to the science is now. Cuomo continues to delay while Teachout gives the straight talk loud and clear. We need to lead the world and ban fracking now. We need to lead the world and adopt a vigorous path towards 100% renewable energy across the state.
New York has always had the ability to lead the world. On so many fronts New York has historically taken up the mantle of leadership—from labor, to issues of race and equality, to energy innovation and progress, New York state has led. In the tradition of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, New York has always striven to be at the forefront of world moral and progressive leadership.
And right now, by rejecting fracking, by pioneering a real renewable energy economy, by upending the oligarchic politics that plague New York and the U.S., by standing for true progressive values, New York Democratic primary voters can once again lead the world. Andrew Cuomo has had the chance to be a real leader on all of these issues and make history in New York and yet in four years he has declined to do so.
On all of these issues, Zephyr Teachout is truly leading New York and with her New York has a chance to lead the world.
And that is where my heart and my conscience wants to be.
I encourage you to vote your progressive conscience, vote your moral outrage, vote your scientific clarity on fracking and climate, vote your state back into world leadership—Vote Teachout on Sept. 9.
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For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.
Moderates Feeling the Heat<p>If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.</p><p>The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval. </p><p>Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden's reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter. </p>
The Push for U.S. Fuel Exports<p>As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.</p><p>That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/freedom-gas-energy-department.html" target="_blank">freedom gas</a>."</p><p>Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts. </p><p>Still, Trump's foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers. </p><p>Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. "That's a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world," says Mr. Hutchison. </p><p>Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. "U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that's focused on methane emissions and intensity," says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. </p>
Stepping on the Gas<p>In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove's developer, Canada's Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide "reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world."</p><p>As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.</p><p>But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. "They are putting infrastructure in a state where there's no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas," she says. </p><p>Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it's only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions. </p>
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