Broad Coalition of National & NY Groups Demand Sen. Schumer End Fossil Fuel Subsidies

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Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Today, a broad coalition of dozens of national and New York organizations released a letter urging Senate Majority Leader Schumer to reject billions of dollars in federal subsidies for the fossil fuel industry in the reconciliation bill being negotiated by Congressional leaders this week. The Congressional Democrats’ Build Back Better Act is a historic opportunity to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, including:

  • A subsidy enacted in 1916 (Sections 263(c) and 291) allowing many fossil fuel producers to deduct 100 percent of many costs associated with extraction;
  • A subsidy enacted in 1926 (Sections 611 through 613A and 291) that allows many producers to deduct 15 percent of gross income annually, which often results in a deduction greater than the value of actual assets;
  • A tax credit for “carbon capture and sequestration” (Section 45Q), an unrealized, faulty technological process that is falsely characterized by the industry as a solution to toxic climate emissions.

Just last week, the House failed to meet the moment, advancing fossil fuel subsidies within the reconciliation package, and even adding new ones like those for false solutions like carbon capture. As the Act moves into the Senate, groups across New York expect Senator Schumer to champion the issue and ensure no fossil fuel subsidies are left in the bill that passes the Senate.

Senator Schumer has called for the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies in the Act, and environmental, youth and justice organizations across the state, representing a wide swath of the Senator’s constituents expect him to deliver on his promise. With New York still reeling from deadly Hurricane Ida, a crisis supercharged by fossil fuel-driven climate change, the imperative to move off of fossil fuels is clearer than ever.

“For decades, our federal government has used public money to prop up polluters,” said Food & Water Watch Northeast Region Director Alex Beauchamp. “And New Yorkers like those who lost their lives or loved ones in Ida pay the consequences. Senator Schumer must stand up to this powerful industry and cut off their taxpayer lifeline — New Yorkers will be watching to see if he matches his words with action, and backs up his rhetoric with leadership.”

“Since the House dropped the ball on repealing domestic fossil fuel subsidies, Senator Schumer’s climate leadership is more important than ever,” said Britten Evans, Senior Regional Organizer with Friends of the Earth. “It’s bad enough that Big Oil poisons our planet; they shouldn’t get $15,000,000,000 in taxpayer dollars per year to do it.”

“Including fossil fuel subsidies in the infrastructure package spits in the face of the working class choking to death on toxic smog and dying in climate disasters like Hurricane Ida,” said Stylianos Karolidis, Organizer with the New York City Democratic Socialists of America. “We urge Senator Schumer to accept the science and eliminate fossil fuel subsidies from the infrastructure package. If he fails to do so he will continue this country’s coal, oil, and gas fueled march to global apocalypse.”

“New Yorkers know the extreme dangers of the climate crisis first-hand, with the recent deaths from Hurricane Ida serving as yet another tragic reminder,” said Pete Sikora, Climate and Inequality Campaigns Director with New York Communities for Change. “Now, we need Senator Schumer to stand strong and eliminate subsidies to the fossil fuel companies poisoning our communities for corporate profit.”

“Democrats need to deliver on their promises to voters, and Senator Schumer should take action to fulfill Democrats’ promises on the climate crisis, inducing ending fossil fuel subsidies,” said Paco Fabián, Director of Communications and Campaigns at Our Revolution. “Failing to deliver on ending fossil fuel subsidies will have consequences at the ballot box during the 2022 midterm elections and beyond.” 

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

New Mexico Lawmakers and Environmentalists Demand Senators Heinrich and Luján End Fossil Fuel Subsidies

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Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Santa Fe, NM – Nearly a month after delivering a letter to New Mexico Sens. Martin Heinrich (D) and Ben Ray Luján (D), lawmakers and environmental advocates held a press conference to demand a response from the senators and a commitment to oppose the inclusion of fossil fuel subsidies in the federal budget reconciliation package. 

President Joe Biden has proposed repealing the $121 billion in subsidies from the federal government to the fossil fuel industries, but the bill currently moving through the House of Representatives features no such cuts. While both Senators Heinrich and Luján have acknowledged that New Mexico must move away from relying on the oil and gas industry for state revenue, they have yet to openly support the President’s initiative. 

“It is untenable to continue providing free kickbacks to the fossil fuel industry in the middle of a climate crisis that they are responsible for fueling,” Food & Water Watch Senior Organizer Margaret Wadsworth said. “Senators Henrich and Luján know the importance of transitioning New Mexico’s economy away from fossil fuel dependence. Subsidies offer a dangerous prop to an industry that is not only contributing to global warming and usurping water resources, but also holding New Mexico back from a just recovery.”

The letter laid out why the myriad organizations support a pause on fracking and includes a well documented list of serious public health concerns that include increased risk for cancer and pregnancy complications. New research from Food & Water Watch confirms these heavy costs of fracking, borne disproportionately by frontline communities that are often rural, lower income and/or communities of color. New Mexico is the second-largest oil-producing state in the country and also one of the poorest states in the nation.

“To help the oil and gas industry right now just seems so counter to our values, not only as New Mexicans, but as Americans,” said New Mexico State Representative Andrea Romero D-46. “We are in a very tough position as legislators because it is such a big moneymaker for our state. We definitely need to get out of that and we should certainly not be subsidizing the businesses that continue to harm our communities and our environment. We need to find better ways to spend that money and reinvest into the people of New Mexico and not to the folks that are causing the problems.”

Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter Organizer Miya King-Flaherty: “Fossil fuel subsidies were designed to lower the costs of production, but they don’t account for the direct impacts to the environment, to public health, and to our air and water quality, and they serve to encourage more development that historically harms marginalized and poor communities of color. This perpetuates the cycle of sacrifice zones. In New Mexico, communities in the Greater Chaco region and the Permian experience public health impacts and other environmental harms directly caused by fossil fuel extraction.”

The United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change’s latest report issued a dire warning, indicating the climate is warming faster than initially anticipated and zeroing in on fossil fuel emissions as a primary culprit. 

“The oil and gas in the ground on state and federal lands belongs to the ultimate sovereigns: the people,” said Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez D-16. “It does not belong to the corporations who make money by exploiting this resource. Historically, oil and gas were seen as part of the nation’s energy policy with the idea that pursuing oil and gas was what was best for the nation. But we know now that oil and gas drilling and combustion are contributing greatly to climate change. And this is not climate change anymore, but rather a climate crisis.” 

“This should not be a difficult position for our Senators to take,” said Raena Garcia, Fossil Fuels and Lands Campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “In fact, they’ve already pledged to repeal fossil fuel subsidies in the past. In 2008, Senator Luján called for repealing Big Oil subsidies in order to pay for investments in renewables. Senator Heinrich also called for ending these subsidies in 2015 and has a similar track record for voting for Big Oil subsidy repeal. We need ambitious climate policy if we are going to achieve a sustainable future. And when we are looking for revenue to invest in our future, these Big Oil handouts should be the first thing on the chopping block.”

Watch the full press conference HERE.

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Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

US – EU Methane Pledge Proposal Should Be Much Stronger

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Climate and Energy

The United States and the European Union announced a methane pledge that aims to achieve at least 30 percent reductions by 2030 (compared with 2020 levels).

The most recent IPCC report added new urgency to the need to drastically reduce emissions of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas.

In response, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter released the following statement: 

“While it is encouraging to see governments’ pledge to take serious action, the emissions target should be much stronger. We know that more aggressive cuts in methane are well within reach over the next decade, and are necessary in order to deal with the climate crisis. There are also serious concerns about how to gauge progress, since agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency have continually underestimated methane emissions. 

“It is equally important that these emissions targets do not include factory farm biogas as a so-called solution to the methane problem. These schemes seek to entrench harmful industrial agriculture practices, or to even encourage their expansion under the guise of climate action. 

“Any plan to reduce methane emissions should start from the root source of the problem: Fossil fuel extraction. Meaningful climate action must be rooted in a rapid shift away from fossil fuels. The Biden administration can and must stop all new fossil fuel projects, including an end to dirty energy exploitation of our public lands. 

“We have known for years that the fracking boom — cheered on by so many political leaders — is creating an increase in methane emissions, water contamination, and air pollution. Instead of merely pledging to do better, governments around the world must put an end to the drilling and fracking that is fueling the climate emergency.” 

Federal Drilling and Fracking Update: Biden Promised a Ban – He’s Doing the Opposite

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Climate and Energy

This week President Biden traveled to Western states to sound the alarm on climate action. But his administration has so far failed to deliver on one of its signature campaign promises: stopping drilling and fracking on public lands.  

During the campaign, Biden made it clear where he stood: “No more drilling on federal lands, period.” From a climate perspective, Biden’s pledge was prudent and necessary; fossil fuel development on federal lands accounts for almost a quarter of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Since taking office, however, the Biden administration has approved thousands of new oil and gas drilling permits, while simultaneously pursuing a public lands strategy vulnerable to legal challenges. Food & Water Watch has been comprehensively tracking the many pro-fossil fuels statements and decisions made since the start of the administration.

The administration has clear legal authority to immediately halt new drilling and fracking on federal lands. The fact that it continues to offer new leases (and approve new drilling/fracking permits on existing leases) is an intentional choice – one that blatantly defies Biden’s campaign pledges.

Solid Legal Basis for Drilling and Fracking Ban 

Shortly after taking office, the Biden administration announced a pause on new oil and gas lease sales while it reviewed the federal program. As Food & Water Watch noted in comments to the Interior Department filed in April, the statutes that give the Interior Department and the Bureau of Land Management the authority to conduct oil and gas leases also grant them ample discretion in whether or not to block fossil fuel leasing and drilling. 

The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 stipulates that lands “may be leased by the Interior Secretary,” but that is a discretionary policy, not a requirement. The Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) requires that public lands “be managed in a manner that will protect the quality of scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archeological values.” It also stipulates that the Secretary of the Interior “shall, by regulation or otherwise, take any action necessary to prevent unnecessary or undue degradation of the lands.” And the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act specifies that offshore drilling “subject to environmental safeguards” and must be done “in a manner which is consistent with… other national needs.”

Simply put, there are a variety of legal arguments the administration could make to justify stopping new oil and gas drilling on public lands – if it truly wanted to.

Biden Crumbles to Industry Pushback 

The industry fought back in court against the White House leasing pause. In a June decision, US District Court Judge Terry A. Doughty — a Trump appointee — issued a temporary injunction that essentially blocked Biden’s executive order temporarily pausing new leases. But instead of aggressively defending its initial, modest attempt to temporarily halt new leasing (while new permits for existing leases were still being aggressively approved), the White House rolled over at the first signs of industry pushback.

While the administration could have sought a stay of the injunction when it appealed that decision, it chose not to. The Interior Secretary also could have issued an evidence-based finding at any time over the past nine months declaring continued oil and gas expansion as being detrimental to the multiple use and sustained yield requirements of FLPMA; however, no such finding was issued. Furthermore, while pending appeal, Judge Doughty’s decision is only legally binding within the Western District of Louisiana. The administration could have chosen to constrain lease sales only to that area; instead it reintroduced sales nationwide.

Just days after Hurricane Ida wreaked devastation from the Gulf Coast to New York City, the administration announced a massive new lease sale of 90 million acres (nearly all the remaining leasable land) in the Gulf of Mexico. The administration downplayed the climate risks, even refusing to revise the Trump administration’s environmental analysis of this awful scheme. 

There is a clear path for the administration to halt new fossil fuel drilling and fracking on public lands – in a way that complies with relevant statutes and the Administrative Procedure Act. Unfortunately, every indication thus far is that the White House has no actual desire to do so. An administration that took office promising to end fracking on our public lands has approved thousands of drilling permits, is paving the way for thousands more, and shows no sign of even wanting to fight to win one of its most important climate policies.

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Environmental Advocates Claim Newsom Win As Victory For Climate Action

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA — Fresh from a victory against numerous Republican contenders in the fourth gubernatorial recall election of our nation’s history, Governor Gavin Newsom faces renewed calls from environmentalists to address the climate crisis by stopping all new fossil fuel permits, ending fossil fuel drilling and instituting immediate buffer zones between drill operations and community sites. 

Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy released this statement in response to the election: 

“Governor Newsom’s victory belongs to the environmental activists and constituents who delivered their support when it mattered most. Now Newsom must return that support to Californians in the midst of this climate crisis. Newsom has taken small but encouraging steps to phase out fracking — without which he surely would not have enjoyed the critical support of so many Californians who are demanding real climate action. But the crisis is deepening faster than Newsom is acting. Wildfires made worse and droughts lengthened by a warming planet point to one obvious solution: stop new fossil fuel permits, phase out fossil fuels immediately and institute 2,500-foot buffers between drill operations and community sites. Governor Newsom’s fight isn’t over because our fight isn’t over. We must protect our planet and our people from fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure expansions. It’s time to follow the guidance of scientists all over the world and end oil and gas drilling now.”

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Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Over 9,000 Comments Filed in Opposition to NY Danskammer Fracked Gas Plant Expansion

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Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Yesterday, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation public comment period for the Danskammer fracked gas power plant expansion ended. New Yorkers filed more than 9,000 comments in opposition to the project, which would take the Danskammer “peaker” plant from operating less than one percent of the time, to operating nearly all the time, emitting dangerous fossil fuel pollution into surrounding communities and contributing greenhouse gasses to the worsening climate crisis.

In addition to the thousands of comments submitted in opposition to the fossil fuel power plant, 175 New Yorkers testified at public hearings last month against the project — only 19 speakers at the hearings spoke in support. Advocates pledged to turn out further opposition at the next hearings on the project, scheduled for September 28th and 29th with the New York Public Service Commission.

Food & Water Watch Hudson Valley Organizer Emily Skydel issued the following statement:

“For more than a year, New Yorkers have made our staunch opposition to Danskammer’s fracked gas power plant clear. A bigger Danskammer facility will bring more polluting fossil fuels into the Hudson Valley at the very time that we need to quickly ramp down our reliance on these destructive energy sources. It’s time for Governor Hochul to put an end to this scheme, and direct her DEC to deny Danskammer its permits. In the meantime, we’ll keep making our voices heard.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

In Wake of Hurricane Ida, Activists Urge Speaker Johnson and Council to Pass Gas-Free NYC Bill

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Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Today, the New York City Council held a hearing on Hurricane Ida, the deadliest storm to hit New York City since Hurricane Sandy. As council members discussed the serious storm impacts, activists urged passage of the Gas Free NYC bill, Int 2317. The legislation, which currently has 23 co-sponsors, would end gas use in new construction and gut renovations in New York City.

Food & Water Watch Senior Organizer Eric Weltman issued the following statement:

“Fossil fuels are driving the climate crisis, and they’re super-charging disasters like Ida that took the lives of thirteen New Yorkers. Speaker Johnson and the New York City Council have the moral imperative to take bold action to combat the climate crisis. That starts with the Council’s passage of the Gas Free NYC bill. To make progress on climate, we need to stop burning fossil fuels — New York can and must lead the way.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

More than 6,000 Comments Filed in Opposition to Astoria NRG Fracked Gas Plant

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Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Yesterday, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation public comment period for the Astoria NRG fracked gas power plant ended. Over two and a half months, 6,000 comments were filed in opposition to the project, which would bring more fossil fuels onto the grid and intensify the pollution in Astoria, a neighborhood which already bears the moniker, “asthma alley.”

In addition to the thousands of comments submitted in opposition to the fossil fuel power plant, 156 New Yorkers testified at public hearings last month against the project — only 12 speakers at the hearings spoke in support. With the close of the public comment period yesterday, Gov. Hochul and her Department of Environmental Conservation now have 45 days to decide whether or not to approve the project.

The No Astoria NRG Plant Coalition issued the following statement:

“The people of New York have spoken — there is no need and no desire to bring more dirty, polluting fossil fuel projects into Astoria. As Hurricane Ida made crystal clear, the impacts of climate change are upon us now. It’s time to get serious about climate change, and that means that New York simply cannot bring any more fossil fuels onto the grid. Governor Hochul must listen to New Yorkers and stop the Astoria NRG fracked gas power plant.”

The No Astoria NRG Plant Coalition is made up of Food & Water Watch, NY DSA, Sane Energy Project, Queens Climate Project, NYPIRG, Sierra Club, New York Communities for Change and 350Brooklyn.

Contact: Phoebe Galt, Food & Water Watch, [email protected]

Tampa Climate and Youth Activists Rally at Rep. Castor’s Office to End Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Tampa, FL — Today, climate and youth activists representing Food & Water Watch, Sunrise Movement, Tampa Bay Climate Alliance, Physicians for Social Responsibility Florida, Florida Student Power Network and Central Florida Jobs with Justice rallied at US Representative Castor’s Tampa office, urging her to end fossil fuel subsidies.

American taxpayers currently spend $15 billion each year subsidizing the dangerous fossil fuel industry, and the latest bipartisan infrastructure bill includes approximately $25 billion of new subsidies for the dirty industry. Representative Castor has called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies since taking office in 2007, including most recently in a conversation with Brooke Errett of Food & Water Watch. With weeks left before the House vote on the reconciliation package, advocates rallied to demand Rep. Castor shows up to end fossil fuel subsidies now. 

“The time for climate symbolism is over — now is our time to act,” said Brooke Errett, Food & Water Watch Florida Senior Organizer. “Our actions today to keep fossil fuels in the ground and cut off taxpayer-funded subsidies, ending the fossil fuel industry’s lifeline, will pay dividends for generations to come. Representative Castor has repeatedly called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies, and it’s time she used her position of influence to show up for the end of these destructive subsidies. We need to end fossil fuel subsidies now, and expect Rep. Castor to lead on making it happen.”

As Chair of the Select Committee on Climate Crisis, Rep. Castor has a crucial role to play in showing up to end fossil fuel subsidies. Activists delivered a sign on letter from twenty-six Tampa Bay organizations urging her to do just that. In tandem with the rally, activists invited Rep. Castor to champion the issue by ‘cutting up the check’ to end subsidies to fossil fuels by the House of Representatives’ projected September 27th vote.

“Ending fossil fuel subsidies means a livable planet for my generation,” said Mary-Elizabeth Estrada, Florida Student Power Network. “This industry has spent billions of dollars lobbying for subsidies to actively destroy our planet, when they could have been investing in clean renewable energy for our future. The time is now to cut the check to fossil fuel companies.”

Images of the event are available here, and a livestream is available here.

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Residents, Climate Advocates Win in Court Against Teaneck Over Rejected Petition Signatures

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Climate and Energy

Teaneck residents and Food & Water Watch won in court on Monday against the township for their refusal to accept petitions that were signed electronically during the COVID-19 pandemic in support of an ordinance for a 100% renewable Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program. 

This ordinance would authorize the town to bulk purchase electricity from clean renewable sources and offer it to residents at discounted rates. 

Under the Faulkner Act, Teaneck residents have the right to initiative and referendum, meaning that any group of five residents (the Committee of Petitioners) can introduce an ordinance via a petition with signatures from ten percent of the number of votes from the last state assembly election. That amounts to 791 signatures in Teaneck. Typically these petitions are circulated on paper. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Governor Murphy signed several executive orders allowing signatures to be collected electronically to protect public health.

Residents and clean energy advocates collected signatures electronically until the executive order expired on July 4, and switched entirely to paper petitions after that. Residents and activists delivered approximately 875 to the clerk for review in early July. Following the 20 day review period, the committee of petitioners were notified that all signatures collected electronically were rejected because they were delivered after the executive order expired. Food & Water Watch and Teaneck residents understood that the end of the executive order meant that electronic signature gathering must cease and petitions must be submitted in person. But that did not mean that petitions with electronic signatures must be turned in before the expiration.

“The Climate Emergency is here. Moving Teaneck to 100% Renewable Energy would be an important step to prevent things from getting worse. Teaneck’s attempted rejection of electronic signatures mandated by Governor Murphy to keep people safe during the covid pandemic is shameful,” said Paula Rogovin, Teaneck resident and plaintiff. “We are pleased that the court has ruled in favor of placing the ordinance on the ballot for the people to decide in the November election. We anticipate a massive yes vote from residents. This will be a victory for our Earth and for democracy!” 

“As a CCA co-sponsor, the Teaneck Democratic Municipal Committee strongly supports the people’s effort to switch to cost-effective clean energy alternatives. It’s unfortunate that in order to ensure (that) democracy prevails in Teaneck, we had to go to court,” said Alexandra Soriano-Taveras, Chairperson of the Teaneck Democratic Municipal Committee. “CCA is about giving the residents of Teaneck the choice to make an informed decision about the township’s energy sources,  environmental responsibility, and the preservation of our future.”

Food & Water Watch has worked with residents to win similar 100% clean energy programs in Edison, New Brunswick, Collingswood, Asbury Park, Piscataway, East Brunswick, South Brunswick, and Red Bank. This year, the organization also supported residents to submit petitions for this program in Woodbridge, Long Branch, and North Brunswick whose councils all adopted the ordinance in August. 

“The devastating impacts of Hurricane Ida that we felt across the region just two weeks ago remind us we cannot wait any longer to take bold climate action. “A community choice aggregation program to achieve 100% clean energy sources by 2030 is a critical tool for fighting climate change at the local level,” said Food & Water Watch organizer Sam DiFalco. “We are excited the court ruled in favor of the people and we will be on the ballot so Teaneck residents can vote YES for clean energy this November.”

The plaintiffs were represented by the New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center, which has experience dealing with legal issues associated with Faulkner Act petitions.

“This is not just a win for clean energy activists but a win for democracy,” said Renée Steinhagen, attorney with NJ Appleseed representing the plaintiffs in this case. “Teaneck residents have the right to public participation in government, so despite the township’s attempt to undermine the democratic will of their constituents, we are glad the judge ruled in our favor.”