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While the just released language for the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 includes benefits for some frontline and environmental justice communities, sadly, the harms far outweigh the benefits. By relying on polluting industry to solve the economic crisis through ramped up fossil fuel relationships and production, Democrats are ensuring future generations of frontline communities will be sacrificed to subsidize this dying and outdated industry.
With the inclusion of funding to develop and expand harmful, unproven techno-fixes that purport to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but actually increase pollution in Black, Indigenous and other frontline communities, we are missing an opportunity for bold action to support clean and effective climate solutions. Instead, we can ensure economic recovery and jobs through an increased support of local, community-controlled renewables that truly foster a Just Transition for all communities, especially those most impacted by the climate crisis today.
Although the plan lays out ways to “invest in communities and environmental justice” it does so without real measures to track and ensure harm is actually reduced and not continued in Indigenous and frontline communities as a whole. Additionally, it encourages and expands fossil fuel exploration and production through tax credits and other measures. If the Democrats really want to stop the climate crisis they must stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry and keep fossil fuels in the ground. Moreover, President Biden should immediately declare a climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act; this will unlock special powers to fast track renewable projects that will benefit us all.
Bineshi Albert, Co-Executive Director of CJA expanded, “Legislation that supports measures to address the health of polluted communities on one the hand, while ramping up projects that increase pollution and unsafe practices on the lands of other frontline communities on the other, such as carbon capture and storage, is wrong. Hard fought measures for Environmental Justice that support our communities are now being positioned alongside things that harm us, essentially holding us hostage to the needs of the fossil fuel industry. This will only harm us in the future.”
Basav Sen, Climate Policy Director at the Institute for Policy Studies went on, “This bill continues the flawed logic of “net zero” – net zero emissions, net zero harm. It rests on the premise that some increases in greenhouse gas emissions are fine as long as the “net effect” is a 40 percent reduction by 2030, if the claims by the White House are to be believed. And it sacrifices the health of frontline communities who will be harmed by more oil and gas extraction, carbon capture, hydrogen, and nuclear energy on the premise that this harm is somehow offset by improvements in energy efficiency and building heating decarbonization somewhere else. This logic is fundamentally flawed. True justice means that no community is turned into a sacrifice zone.”
Tom BK Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network said, “The Inflation Reduction Act exacerbates a pathway of climate and environmental injustice to Indigenous, Black and People of Color communities. This Act is more of the same climate false solutions we have seen previously from this Administration. But it goes further with a quid pro quo guaranteeing offshore oil leases in exchange for renewable energy. From agriculture, soils and forests pushed into the voluntary carbon markets to aviation biofuels as offsets, to the expansion of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies and CO2 pipelines, this administration locks in the violence of the climate crisis and consequences to Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous nations and frontline communities for decades to come. The Act does not provide climate nor energy security and will not cut emissions at source at the level that is needed to address this climate emergency.”
Elizabeth Yeampierre, CJA Board Co-Chair and Executive Director of UPROSE, Brooklyn’s oldest Latino community-based organization, elaborated on climate priorities for frontline communities in New York. “As an organization committed to community led solutions, we know community-controlled renewable energy ensures clean and safe energy in our neighborhoods. While, this bill supports these types of community led projects, it also backhands our communities by incentivizing continued development of harmful and unhealthy fossil fuels. We applaud the effort to address frontline and environmental justice communities in this new bill but we need to do that by promoting energy security for all of us, not just the extractive industry. By pairing renewable energy expansion with massive oil and gas lease sales we are hindering a truly Just Transition. I know our elected officials want to and can do better.”
Juan Jhong-Chung, Climate Justice Director of the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition shared, “The environmental and climate justice movements have fought bravely and tirelessly to finally get Congress to act on climate. But this bill is not what we asked for. Our communities in Michigan are dealing with heat waves, flooding, air pollution, lead in drinking water, and the legacies of racism and political disenfranchisement. We cannot afford half-baked proposals when our planet is burning. Hundreds of billions are set aside for harmful and unproven technologies like nuclear energy, carbon capture, and hydrogen. At a critical time when we need to be phasing out fossil fuels, this bill increases dirty and polluting developments in federal lands, and leaves the door open for more pipelines. The small amount of Environmental Justice investments in this deal feels like window dressing. They will never offset all the harms that many of our people in Michigan and around the country will suffer from our elected leaders caving in to the fossil fuel agenda. As it stands, this bill will prolong unjust harms in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities. We deserve to thrive! ”
“Clean” Hydrogen, tax credits for various forms of Carbon Capture and Storage, Nuclear energy, Biofuels, Aviation Sustainable Fuels, a 45Q tax credit for enhanced oil recovery, just to name a few, continue to sacrifice the most impacted communities so that fossil fuel CEOs can make record profits. These false corporate schemes only fuel the climate crisis; they don’t fix it. If we truly want to safeguard the economy and our communities this plan must invest deeply in clean and safe renewables, as defined by local communities.