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300 Groups Ask Senate for More Powerful Climate Bill

WASHINGTON, DC, August 26, 2009 (ENS) – A coalition of more than 300 groups, representing the faith, human-rights, social justice, and environmental communities, sent a letter to U.S. senators today demanding energy and climate legislation that is much stronger than the measure approved by the House of Representatives in June.

The coalition says that bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, HR 2454, known as the Waxman-Markey bill, contains “massive giveaways to polluting special interests and would fail to ensure a rapid transition to clean energy.” The bill establishes a market-based cap-and-trade system for the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

“We haven’t yet seen the bold leadership from Congress that’s required to solve the climate crisis,” said Church World Service Director of Education and Advocacy Rajyashri Waghray. “We’re sending this letter to demonstrate broad grassroots support for such leadership.”

“We have to have a stronger climate bill than the watered-down version that passed the House,” said San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society Conservation Chair Drew Feldmann.

The Harrison coal-fired power plant in West Virginia (Photo courtesy Allegheny Energy)

The groups plan to hand deliver the letter to senators’ state offices next week as part of a larger, grassroots mobilization demonstrating support for what the coalition calls “bold leadership in the fight to solve the climate crisis.”

In the letter, the groups express “profound concern” about the the Waxman-Markey bill and ask senators to usher in “the transformational change and greenhouse emissions reductions required to avert catastrophic climate impacts.”

The front burner issue in Congress at the moment is health care reform, and as soon as that is resolved, the climate change legislation is the next big issue before the Senate.

There is an urgent deadline. The Obama administration wants to have a climate law in place before December 7 when the United Nations climate change conference opens in Copenhagen to finalize a global deal that will replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Members of the coalition feel that urgency too. “We’re organizing on the ground, in communities around/throughout the country, to mobilize the everyday people who will feel climate impacts, and to defeat the entrenched, polluting special interests in Washington and pass a truly strong bill in the Senate,” said Appalachian Voices legislative associate J.W. Randolph.

“The everyday people of America have been left out of the climate debate. We are building a grassroots movement that reflects the diversity of America, to mobilize everyday people who are experiencing the affects of climate change. We aim to defeat entrenched fossil fuel polluting special interests in Washington and pass a truly strong climate bill,” said Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

The coalition’s letter calls for legislation that:

  • Reduces atmospheric CO2 concentrations to a safe level of below 350 parts per million
  • Maintains existing Clean Air Act protections against global warming pollution
  • Minimizes the use of offsets and other loopholes
  • Protects vulnerable populations and communities
  • Promotes abundant clean energy
  • Eliminates polluter giveaways
  • Adheres to preexisting U.S. commitments to the rest of the world

“There’s an impressive breadth of groups on this letter, and it demonstrates that the status quo isn’t acceptable. Congress must pass a bill that actually gives us a fighting chance of avoiding runaway global warming. There’s no other option,” said Tyson Slocum, who directs Public Citizen’s energy program.

Other organizations signing the letter include the Center for Biological Diversity, Center on Race Poverty and the Environment, Central California Environmental Justice Network, Corporate Ethics International, CREDO, Communities for a Better Environment, Franciscan Sisters of Mary, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Friends of the Earth, Global Exchange, Greenpeace, International Rivers, Network for Environmental and Economic Responsibility United Church of Christ, Rainforest Action Network, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, and hundreds of others.

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