Climate Activists Turns Up Heat On Democrats

Extinction Rebellion protesters participate in a hunger strike in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Office in Longworth House Office Building on November 18, 2019, in Washington, D.C.Sarah Silbiger / Getty Images

Democrats could send a powerful message by passing bold climate legislation ahead of the 2020 elections

Truthout - November 29, 2019

"Such language may fire up the Democratic base, but passing the bill into law with President Trump in office is virtually impossible. Trump has repeatedly threatened to cancel a small federal grant program for environmental justice communities, and his rollbacks of pollution controls are a threat to human life. With a majority in the House, Democrats could send a powerful message by passing bold climate legislation ahead of the 2020 elections. However, so far, they have failed to pass any significant climate legislation."

The fossil fuel industry knows it’s the world’s largest source of total greenhouse gas emissions, and that wealthy countries must take decisive action to reduce those emissions to avoid catastrophic global warming by the end of the century. The industry also knows that green tech and renewable energy is only getting cheaper. The latest climate report released this week by the United Nations (UN) makes these facts alarmingly clear.

The UN reports that emissions from the fossil fuel industry reached a record high in 2018, with no “peak” in sight. Every year of “postponed peaking” means deeper, faster cuts in emissions will be needed in the future. Change must come quickly. In response to these facts, the industry is pushing to establish infrastructure capable of sustaining oil and gas production for decades, even if developed nations turn away from fossil fuels for energy. For example, in the United States and across the world, the industry is hedging its bets on petrochemical and plastics plants fed by oil and fracked gas.

This brings us back to Cancer Alley, the petrochemical corridor along the Mississippi River in southern Louisiana where seven large new facilities have been approved since 2015, and five more are awaiting the go-ahead from the government, according to ProPublica. One of the proposed plants, a $9.4 billion plastics megaplex planned by the Taiwanese company Formosa in St. James Parish, could triple the level of toxic, cancer-causing air pollution in an area already inundated by industry.

The plant is slated to be built just down the road from Sharon Lavigne’s home, and she fears Formosa would wipe her historic, majority-Black community off the map. Along with other Cancer Alley activists, Lavigne has protested the proposal at one public hearing after the next and organized marches to the state capital of Baton Rouge. Opponents say it’s a classic case of environmental racism, but Formosa enjoys plenty of political support from local and state officials and has glided through the permitting process.

So, Lavigne took her case to Congress.

“People in St. James need help from our elected officials,” Lavigne said in her testimony to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce last week. “Our people are sick, and they are dying.”

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, hunger strikers with the climate direct action group Extinction Rebellion were camped out in the entrance of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, demanding the Democratic leader meet with them to discuss the climate crisis. After they learned Pelosi would not be returning before Congress went on break last Thursday, they stormed inside Pelosi’s office in protest of the “lip service” Democrats are paying to the climate crisis. Nine activists were arrested. ...
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