The Energy and Environmental Policy Statements Set Forth in the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force Paper

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As one would expect, the 110-page document released by the Biden campaign of policy recommendations reached by its joint task forces with supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders includes  a number of energy and environmental policy statements.

The paper begins with the statement that “climate change is a global emergency,” and the impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed in our society and economy. Because the “remaining carbon budget” is almost exhausted, many actions must be taken to achieve “net-zero carbon emissions.” A clean energy revolution must begin, using federal resources and authorities across all agencies, which “ will create millions of family-supported an union jobs, update and make resilient our … infrastructure and develop and manufacture next-generation technologies to address the climate crisis right here in the United States.” The paper goes on to say, “we will rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement,” follow the science and the law, and put the United States back in the position of global leadership. Democrats will make investments to create these new jobs and the opportunity to join a union. The clean energy economy must represent the diversity of America ,and a new-style Civilian Conservation Corps will be established with young workers to conserve our public lands and deliver new clean energy to low-income communities and communities of color.

Since the world must achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050, Democrats commit to eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035. Wind and solar energy will be increased dramatically through the installation of 500 million solar panels and 60,000 made-in-America wind turbines.

Here are other relevant highlights from the paper:

  • Any clean energy infrastructure that is financed with federal support “through the tax code” should come with robust wage and labor requirements.
  • California’s primacy in Clean Air Act regulation of cars and trucks will be recognized and protected.
  • Oil and gas methane pollution will be reduced by the application of “robust” federal standards and targeted support for repairing and replacing aging distribution systems.
  • By 2030, all new buildings will achieve the goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Within five years, the Democrats will “incentivize” tens of billions of dollars in private-sector investments to retrofit four million buildings.
  • The entire fleet of school buses will transition to zero-emission buses to reduce harmful air pollution within five years.
  • There will be a strong emphasis on building environmental justice governmental institutions and practices. An environmental justice fund will be created to make “historic investments” in low-income communities, and remediating Superfund and other contaminated sites will address other issues afflicting these communities. Democrats will employ screening and mapping tools to ensure racial and socio-economic equity in federal climate, energy and infrastructure programs.
  • Recognizing the “historic wrongs” that have been perpetrated against Native Americans, particularly with respect to infrastructure permitting decisions, the Democrats pledge to honor these communities and commit to engaging in early and ongoing consultations with the Tribes. (Leasing and pipeline right-of-way matters were mentioned as requiring more attention.)
  • Fossil fuel companies will be held accountable for cleaning up abandoned mine lands ,oil and gas wells and industrial facilities so they can be safely “repurposed,” especially in the coal country.
  • Innovative technologies will be advanced that create cost-effective pathways for industries to decarbonize, including carbon capture and sequestration that will permanently store greenhouse gases and “advanced nuclear” that eliminates risks associated with conventional nuclear technology while ensuring environmental justice.
  • America’s natural carbon sinks on public lands will be increased by ensuring 30 percent of our lands and waters are conserved by 2030.

The separate Climate Unity Task Force recommends, among other things, that coal sites will be reclaimed and remediated to create jobs while restoring land and clean water. The task force states that environmental justice must be embedded at the heart of “our policy and governing agenda.” A new social contract must be forged with the American people. Polluters must be held accountable by EPA and the Justice Department, and, where needed, seek additional legislation to hold corporate executives personally accountable for affecting the health and safety of workers and communities, particularly when material information has been intentionally hidden or distorted—jail time may be warranted. In addition:

  • A new Executive Order should be issued on climate and environmental Justice.
  • Energy poverty must be eliminated.
  • A new “climate test” will be applied to ensure that all major domestic and international infrastructure projects that require federal approval will avoid or minimize climate impacts, including impacts from export terminals.
  • Fossil fuel subsidies will be repealed.
  • The Federal Government should be reorganized by transforming the CEQ into a Council on Climate Change; establish a new office of Environmental Justice within the Department of Justice; create an Office of Climate Mobilization in the White House; establish a White House Council on frontline Environmental Justice where community and national leaders would inform the design and execution of climate change laws, policies and programs.
  • Promptly hold an Environmental Justice summit after taking office.
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