WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01), Member of the House Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee on the Environment, led her progressive colleagues in calling on President Biden to live up to his campaign promises to protect our environment and mitigate the worst effects of the climate crisis.
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“We write to you to express our grave concern that ongoing actions by your administration threaten to undermine our shared goal to further climate, racial, and economic justice,” the Members wrote. “Now is the time to use your authority under existing law to immediately stop fossil fuel expansion and declare a climate emergency as a fundamental part of your push to invest in good jobs, environmental justice, a just transition, and a future powered by renewable energy.”
“The failure of the United States government to phase out fossil fuels,” the Members continued, “is inextricably related to rising asthma rates and the fact that nearly every household in Louisiana's Cancer Alley has lost someone to the deadly disease . . . The mistakes and failures that allowed Line 3 and other pipelines to proceed must not be repeated. Our communities demand better.”
Today’s letter is the latest step in Congresswoman Bush’s efforts to hold the Biden Administration accountable to delivering on the platform it promised during the election. In April, Congresswoman Bush partnered with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez in introducing the Green New Deal for Cities, legislation that would make sure every city, town, county and tribe can have a federally funded Green New Deal.
In May, Congresswoman Bush introduced the Public Power Resolution to shift energy utilities towards true public and cooperative ownership, renewable energy, and transparent management. In July, the Congresswoman introduced an amendment that passed the House to transfer millions of dollars from the US Department of Fossil Energy to the Department of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
Later that summer, the Congresswoman joined her sisters in service, Reps. Tlaib, Pressley and Omar, at the site of the Line 3 pipeline. The Members travelled across the region to bring attention to the hypocrisy of Biden’s pledge to respect tribal sovereignty while allowing a major new pipeline to be built across Native lands.
“Our neighbors in St. Louis are already dying from extreme heat, dangerous floods, and pollution driven by the same fossil fuels driving the climate crisis,” said Congresswoman Bush. “So far, President Biden has been working with us on a great agenda of public investments, but his ongoing support for the fossil fuel industry threatens to undermine our work. The President is doing so much, but he is simply not doing everything he can to deliver climate justice and save lives - and we need him to now. We cannot allow fossil fuel leases and infrastructure projects to move forward and undermine our collective work - they represent a direct threat to Black, brown, and Indigenous lives.”
“The climate crisis threatens every aspect of our lives and disproportionately impacts our most vulnerable, including our Black, brown, Indigenous, and low-income neighbors,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “During my visit to Minnesota last month, I saw firsthand the type of devastation that fossil fuel projects like the Line 3 pipeline would have on these marginalized communities, and I see the devastation caused by climate change in my district every day. We must take urgent action to protect our planet and save our economy before it’s too late—starting at the top. President Biden must use his authority to immediately halt all fossil fuel burning and development, declare a climate emergency, and finally treat the climate crisis like the existential threat that it is.”
"President Biden has the power to stop dozens of highly polluting fossil fuel projects with a stroke of his pen, and he must do so immediately,” said Collin Rees, U.S. Campaigns Manager at Oil Change International. “Any commitment to environmental justice and climate action rings hollow until Biden takes bold executive action to fulfill his promises and protect Indigenous and frontline communities being impacted first and worst by the fossil fuel supply chain and its deadly climate impacts."
“Right now, communities across the country are reeling from the impacts of the fossil fuel industry: we are suffocating from polluted air, children are sick from drinking contaminated water, families are fighting for survival as they face devastating climate disasters,” said Lauren Maunus, Sunrise Movement Advocacy Director. “President Biden must uphold his climate and environmental justice commitments, and explicitly reject and ban fossil fuel projects while working with communities to transition workers to safe, dignified, and good-paying jobs in a new clean energy economy. If he fails to do so, it’ll be a death sentence for our generation and the Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities at the frontlines of fossil fuel pollution and climate destruction.”
“With every fossil fuel project approval, this administration pushes us closer to irreversible climate catastrophe,” said Kassie Siegel, Director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “President Biden needs to declare a national climate emergency and stop fueling it with oil, gas and coal.”
The letter is co-signed by Reps. Mondaire Jones (NY-17), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D. (NY-16), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (IL-04), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), and Chairman James P. McGovern (MA-02).
The letter is endorsed by Food & Water Watch, Sunrise Movement, Amazon Watch, The Democracy Collaborative, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Our Revolution, Friends of the Earth, Center for Biological Diversity, Zero Hour, Oil Change International, Climate Hawks Vote, Clean Energy Action, People's Justice Council, The Climate Mobilization, Earth Action, Inc., Progressive Democrats of America, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Empower our Future – Colorado, and Our Revolution Michigan.
October 22, 2021
The Honorable Joseph R. Biden President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Biden,
As we continue our work to advance the Build Back Better agenda and create millions of good climate jobs, we write to you to express our grave concern that ongoing actions by your administration threaten to undermine our shared goal to further climate, racial, and economic justice. We want to commend you for your commitments to a “whole-of-government” climate mobilization, federal relief for toxic pollution in Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities, and respect for Tribal sovereignty, self-governance, and vigorous consultation. However, we are deeply concerned about the administration’s ongoing support for fossil fuel infrastructure, pipelines, and leases, including through government subsidies. Continuing to develop and burn fossil fuels actively jeopardizes the lives and livelihoods of our community members, and it undoubtedly undercuts the hard-fought investments we’ve secured for our districts.
Earlier this year, the International Energy Agency reiterated what scientists have made clear for decades: oil, gas and coal expansion must stop now to align with the absolute maximum 1.50 C climate limit that science and justice demand. Moderate and technical organizations are agreeing that we must never build fossil fuel infrastructure again.
As such, now is the time to use your authority under existing law to immediately stop fossil fuel expansion and declare a climate emergency as a fundamental part of your push to invest in good jobs, environmental justice, a just transition, and a future powered by renewable energy. In the process, we are committed to ensuring that industry workers have equivalent or superior wages, working conditions, benefits, and labor rights than they have now.
Fossil fuel projects fuel the climate crisis while disproportionately polluting Black, brown, Indigenous, and low-income communities and destroying natural landscapes. The failure of the United States government to phase out fossil fuels is inextricably related to rising asthma rates and the fact that nearly every household in Louisiana's Cancer Alley has lost someone to the deadly disease. Our communities — and many others all across the country — have been fighting for their health and their way of life for generations.
We have joined our Indigenous siblings in calling on your administration to deny and revoke federally issued permits for pipelines including Line 3, Dakota Access, and the Spire pipeline. Line 3 is a massive tar sands crude oil pipeline that will lock in a future of dangerous carbon pollution. Many of us visited Line 3 this fall and were horrified by its pathways through treaty lands and across sensitive habitats. It is obvious that an environmental impact assessment has still not been conducted. The process of rapid construction disregarded treaties and enabled horrific police violence against water protectors. The project has already spilled thousands of gallons of toxic drilling fluid into Minnesota’s waters, and is now on track to cause more pollution and climate impact than 50 new coal-fired power plants.
The mistakes and failures that allowed Line 3 and other pipelines to proceed must not be repeated. Our communities demand better. As such, we stand together in calling on you to use existing law to do the following:
- Direct all agencies within your administration to reject all fossil fuel infrastructure permit approvals, from pipelines and export terminals to petrochemical plants;
- Follow through on your promise to ban federal fossil fuel leasing and drilling;
- End fossil fuel exports by reinstating the four-decades-long crude oil export ban using your authority under the National Emergencies Act, and directing the Department of Energy to reject applications for gas exports to the extent allowed by the Natural Gas Act;
- Work with us to immediately develop a just transition program to give all affected workers up to six years of full pay and benefits, retraining and relocation money, guaranteed housing, utilities, and health care, as well as a bridge to retirement; and
- Declare a climate emergency under the National Emergency Act and the Defense Production Act to launch the biggest jobs stimulus since World War II – redirecting a portion of military spending to accelerated construction of renewable energy projects, and providing critical loan guarantees to support a rapid, just buildout of renewable energy.
As elected officials, it is our duty to safeguard the public interest. We are committed to working with you to ensure our communities can flourish, and that inherently means taking the actions needed to urgently phase out fossil fuels as integral to addressing the climate crisis.
CORI BUSH, Member of Congress