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Hullabaloo


Friday, November 06, 2015

 
Merkley & Sanders Introduce Bill to "Keep It In The Ground" on Public Lands

by Gaius Publius


Source: Bureau of Land Management. Does not show area available for offshore drilling



The idea of ending the hypocritical role of the federal government in aiding and betting the warming of our planet is not a hard idea to hold, especially if you're a climate-aware citizen, or climate-aware president. Yet, for some reason, the federal government, the guardian of land owned by the public, is still in the coal, oil and gas business.

Bernie Sanders and Jeff Merkley want to end that, with a bill called the "Keep It In The Ground" Act. Meteor Blades at Daily Kos (my emphasis):
Merkley and Sanders introduce bill to end new and non-producing oil and gas leases on public lands

Flanked by Sierra Club president Aaron Mair, tribal rights attorney Tara Zhaabowekwe Houska‎, and 350.org founder Bill McKibben, Sen. Jeff Merkley and Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced legislation Wednesday to stop issuing leases to extract fossil fuels from on- and off-shore federal lands. Titled the Keep It in the Ground Act, the bill would also terminate all existing federal leases that are not producing. Co-sponsors of the legislation are Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer, Ben Cardin, Kirsten Gillibrand, Patrick Leahy, and Elizabeth Warren.

Behind the legislation is a simple message: When the common good depends on our adapting to and ameliorating the impacts of climate change, it makes no sense for public land meant for that common good to continue as a source of the fuels that are driving global warming.

Standing with a crowd of supporters near the Capitol in Washington, Sanders and Merkley praised the aggressive grassroots environmental movement that has been at the forefront of climate change activism, including opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that looks closer than ever to extinction.

The two senators and Mair also spoke about ensuring that workers in the fossil fuel industry are not left behind. Merkely said their legislation, in particular, and fighting climate change, in general, by ending the extraction and burning of fossil fuels should not be an exercise in green vs. blue. Ours, he said, "must be a green and blue movement" with eco-activists working side by side with workers in the transition to renewable energy sources now underway.

Sanders said we have a "moral responsibility" not to bequeath a planet to our kids and grandkids "that is unhealthy and in some cases uninhabitable." You can't just "talk the talk" and then support extracting huge amounts of oil and gas from federal lands, he declared.
There's quite a bit more at the link, including this, about how to protect workers during the transition.
Mair, who has been president of the Sierra Club since May, said what is needed is a "green TARP" for fossil fuel workers, referencing the 2008 bail-out of financial institutions. Activists need to push a fully funded clean-green energy transition that protects workers, he added. He recommended "retooling" America just as was done to defeat the Axis powers during World War II. Houska, a member of the Couchiching First Nation, spoke in favor of the legislation, noting that indigenous people have been in the forefront of the climate change fight because they are among the most affected by those changes and by the extraction of fossil fuels.
Note the reference to World War II and its "retooling" of America. If I remember my history, that wasn't a "free market" effort — as in, General Motors didn't get to "free market decide" how many tanks and jeeps to build. The word for that kind of effort is "emergency mobilization." Stay tuned for more; this actually represents a way out of the worst of the mess we're headed for.

The article also notes that "Current extraction of fossil fuel from federal lands and waters accounts for nearly one-fourth of all emissions in the United States" (my emphasis) so this is not nothing. On the other hand, it will take quite a bit to get this passed.


How You Can Help

What this bill does:

1. It lays down a marker, a stake in the ground. "Keep it in the ground" is a moral obligation and a doable one. It's also easy to understand and an easy phrase to remember.

You can help — by asking, as the writer says, "every candidate for public office, Democrat or Republican—from city councils to state legislatures to Congress—whether they agree climate change has created what Sanders calls a 'major, major, major' crisis and if so, what they propose to do to meet the challenges that crisis presents." As the writer correctly notes, "Anybody who blows off such questions or treats them as a side issue is worthy of progressives' disdain, not our support."

2. It tells you what a President Sanders would strive to do if he achieves the Oval Office. That's big. Will any other announced candidate back this bill, and by implication, support the ending of climate-killing carbon leases on public land?

You can help — by supporting Bernie Sanders in his bid for that office. Adjust the split any way you wish at the link. You can also help by asking Mr. O'Malley and Ms. Clinton the same question. They deserve the right to answer.

(A version of this piece appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.)

GP



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