Local Journalism Happens With YouSupport

Electeds: We’ve Got One Shot on Climate

You have to start working with us, now.

President-elect Joe Biden campaigning in Bristol, PA, on Oct. 24, where he clarified that he’s “not banning fracking in Pennsylvania or anywhere else.” (PHOTO: Joe Biden | Flickr)

This country came together to stop the Trump administration from absolutely ravaging the last public vestiges of democracy, but we’d be fools to lose sight of the fact that the American presidency has for a long time been under the heavy influence of industry.

If you’re an elected official, now is the last good chance you have to take action on climate. Do you have children? Read that sentence again for their sake.

While Biden may have ousted Trump, already we’re off to an unsurprisingly terrible start as far as the transition team and climate-adjacent appointments are concerned.

Politico reported on Tuesday U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond made it into the first round of White House hires. Biden wants him to lead the White House Office of Public Engagement and, notably, serve as a liaison between “the business community and climate activists.” I linked Politico’s article as a nod toward transparency, but it says next to nothing and ends on a glowing endorsement from Rep. Jim Clyburn. The link you should definitely follow and read is from David Sirota, Julia Rock, and Andrew Perez, who compiled a scathing profile of Rep. Richmond.

Some highlights:

  • “During his 10 years in Congress, Richmond has received roughly $341,000 from donors in the oil and gas industry — the 5th highest total among House Democrats. . .”
  • “Richmond has raked in that money while representing a congressional district that is home to 7 of the 10 most air-polluted census tracts in the country.”
  • “Richmond has repeatedly broken with his party on major climate and environmental votes. During the climate crisis that has battered his home state of Louisiana, Richmond has joined with Republicans to vote to increase fossil fuel exports. . .”
  • His response to the Green New Deal or whatever Green Dream you want: “When we govern, we will govern with our values but when we can’t pass legislation, we shouldn’t be out there talking about it.”

Sounds like a great guy! But, look, this isn’t a rehash of the research behind that article. This is a call-in to the wise electeds who read KNOCK.LA.

It’s time to do more, better, and faster. Regardless of the posturing of the Biden campaign on climate (which is laughable), by now we should all know the drill: Campaigns can say whatever they want, but how an official governs is demonstrated by their actions and the people they surround themselves with. Biden already seems to be embracing the wrong (climate/energy/environment) folks in the transition.

All over the country advocates and organizers haven’t been waiting around. While Trump has been an unmitigated nightmare for public lands and climate action, organizations like Food & Water Action have been building support for bold legislation like the Fracking Ban Act (Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders) and the Future Generations Protection Act (Schakowsky). Policies have been laid out on the table, legislators only need to pick them up and run with them (and yes — dare to speak about visionary legislation and policy, especially when it seems difficult to pass).

In 2020 alone, local organizers have been winning major fights: community choice energy programs are passing in places like New Jersey, Santa Barbara residents defeated major proposals to further drill the Cat Canyon oil field, and movements are carrying candidates into office on climate platforms.

While it remains to be seen what Biden will do, what you do is up to you.

Full disclosure — I’m a staff organizer for Food & Water Action in Los Angeles. From 2017 through 2020, we built support in Congress for some of the most ambitious climate policies to date. Now that Trump has been unseated, we’re all in a position to boldly push for a different vision of what’s possible.

That’s why we’re recruiting as many elected officials as possible — at every level of government — to sign onto a letter and call on Congress and President-elect Biden to act. The first step in holding President-Elect Biden accountable to our future is to demonstrate that elected officials (and the voters who elected them) want bold action on climate. From there, we can take action together.

The framework for this letter summons its demands from frontline organizing and the 2020 Fracking Ban Act (Ocasio-Cortez). Elected officials need to call on Congress to:

  • Stop new permits for fracking on federal lands, as well as federal permits for fracking or fracking infrastructure to extract, refine, transport, or burn natural gas or oil.
  • End federal subsidies for the fracking industry and other fossil fuel companies.
  • Revoke permits for current oil and gas wells within 2,500 ft of homes, schools, or other inhabited structures.
  • Work with Indigenous Peoples, workers, unions, and frontline community organizations to immediately invest in a just transition and comprehensive economic plan for communities and workers impacted by the fracking industry.
  • Ban the practice of fracking nationwide, effective no later than 2025.

Hopefully, each of those tenets make sense to you as we roll into 2021. Market-based approaches and backroom deals don’t fix the climate crisis. Celebrity cameos, while nice, don’t fix the climate crisis. Billionaires and their bizarre side projects don’t fix the climate crisis. We need a from-the-ground-up overhaul of our energy system that works in good faith with impacted communities and workforces to pivot into a green energy economy. Nothing short of doing that will guarantee a livable future for the next generation.

So stand up. We need to know who we can count on. We want you to add your name to our letter so we can build a bench of climate allies, and dial up the volume on the climate action megaphone. It’s a small step, but we’ve got you. Let’s take it together.

Well, What If I’m Not an Elected?

That’s cool. We need your help, too. In addition to calling on elected officials, we want to distribute trainings and empower folks across the country to hold their elected officials accountable to strong policies on climate and fossil fuels. If you want to join us in that work, add your name here, and we’ll follow up soon!

Walker Foley is a senior organizer with Food & Water Action.