Staffers who helped develop Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's widely-praised climate policy during his 2020 presidential run are now calling on congressional Democrats to adopt the bold initiatives included in the plan to make a shift to a renewable energy economy within coronavirus relief legislation.
The staffers formed an advocacy and political action group, Evergreen Action, on Thursday, a month after calling on former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden to adopt large portions of Inslee's multi-trillion-dollar plan. Progressive groups including Justice Democrats asked that Biden work closely with Inslee's team on climate action after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) suspended his presidential campaign.
Both Biden and Democrats in Congress must view the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to “jumpstart” the United States economy while transitioning away from fossil fuels and offering relief to the 36 million Americans who have lost their jobs so far as a result of the coronavirus, Evergreen Action says.
On social media, the group released a video along with a call for “an all-out national mobilization to defeat the climate crisis.”
Evergreen Action's first proposal, Clean Jumpstart for America, calls for a $1.2 trillion federal investment in clean energy and offers 21 areas in which Congress could ramp up spending to shift away from fossil fuels, including:
- Offering states a buy-out of revenue associated with fossil fuel projects on public lands.
- Stabilizing existing programs which support fossil fuel workers like the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, while also appropriating $4 billion for environmental remediation projects which would create new jobs.
- Creating a $4 billion Clean Careers Corps within the Department of Labor “to focus on the challenge of permanent job creation in a clean energy economy” and “to put people back to work, as soon as it is safe to do so, with a special focus on creating new pathways.”
- Establishing a new “GI Bill of Rights” for fossil fuel workers to provide a just transition to a renewable energy system.
- Adopting federal Buy Clean standards to establish a clean procurement process for all goods and services.
- Creating a $36 billion Department of Transportation program to expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
“Much of this investment could happen immediately, and it's definitely needed in the face of widespread job losses and hits to state budgets in the wake of the coronavirus,” wrote Dharna Noor at Earther.
By contrast, the HEROES Act which the House is expected to pass Friday includes no funding for a renewable energy transition.
“While aid to state, local and tribal governments is much-needed, this package, and the ones that came before it, is yet another missed opportunity to invest in growing the clean energy economy,” wrote the progressive think tank Data for Progress, which joined Evergreen Action in releasing the proposal. “Such investments are critical to capturing the United States' best economic opportunity for growth and confront the climate crisis that portends growing harm to the health of American communities.”
House Democrats also did not adopt language put forward by Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.) which would have blocked fossil fuel companies from accessing aid meant for small businesses.
“A stimulus package without clean energy is a… failure to recognize the centrality of these investments in the current moment of recovery,” Evergreen Action co-founder Bracken Hendricks told Earther. “We need to jumpstart our economy, and we need to get it moving in the right direction… away from fossil fuels.”
The Clean Jumpstart for America proposal also offers 11 ways in which Congress can assist states in promoting environmental justice and clean energy initiatives, including:
- Allowing states to access clean energy loan programs.
- Directing $10 billion to the Department of Energy State Energy Program, allowing states to invest in community projects and support job creation in renewable energy sectors.
- Supporting state and local upgrade projects to lower household utility bills.
Data for Progress and Evergreen Action released the Clean Jumpstart for America plan along with new polling data showing that majorities of respondents supported far-reaching climate initiatives as part of the country's recovery from the pandemic.
Sixty-nine percent of respondents were somewhat or very supportive of coronavirus spending on environmentally-friendly infrastructure, 63% supported the green retrofitting of schools across the country, and 62% said Congress should offer tax credits and incentives to promote the construction of energy-efficient buildings.