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Draft of Green New Deal calls for jobs but omits ban on fossil fuel

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, awaits the start of the 116th Congress on the floor of the US House of Representatives at the US Capitol on Jan. 3, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

WASHINGTON — Guaranteed jobs, health care and housing are in a draft of the Green New Deal environmental package set to be unveiled by Democrats this week, but the proposal doesn’t explicitly include the ban on fossil fuels called for by some supporters.

Instead, the draft of the much anticipated resolution being crafted by Democrats Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York representative, and Ed Markey, a Massachusetts senator, calls for 100 percent power from “clean, renewable and zero emission energy sources.” While the proposal calls for reaching “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions,” it omits specific language sought by some progressives, who could be feel betrayed after rallying behind the plan at an early stage.

Corbin Trent, a spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez, said the document has yet to be completed and is still changing. But the five-page draft obtained by Bloomberg provides early details of how Democrats plan to define what is quickly becoming a centerpiece of their agenda on Capitol Hill and the 2020 campaign trail.

“This is the most ambitious climate and economic justice plans for Congress in our lifetime,” said Stephen O’Hanlon, a spokesman for Sunrise Movement, the grassroots group that has partnered with Ocasio-Cortez to push for the Green New Deal and did not provide the document. “We want to be clear that in the Sunrise Movement’s view the resolution is a road map for organizing the Green New Deal over the coming year and going to work with think tanks, political leaders and different stakeholders to develop the vision for the Green New Deal for the coming year.”

The draft framework, a nonbinding resolution that aims to firm up what had been a loosely defined legislative wish list to halt global warming, calls for a series of “Green New Deal Projects.” Those include a dramatic expansion of renewable energy, energy and water efficiency upgrades for all U.S. buildings, and an overhaul of the country’s transportation system to eliminate pollution and emissions from the sector “as much as technologically feasible,” with a nod to investment in zero-emission vehicles, public transit and high-speed rail.

Others tenets of the proposal range from grand: “massive growth in clean U.S. manufacturing, removing pollution byproducts and greenhouse gas emissions from that sector as much as technologically feasible” to funding to harden and lessen the impacts of climate change, to building the smart grid, and cleaning up hazardous waste sites and restoring threatened lands.

The proposal didn’t specify funding sources, but the draft cites a landmark climate report released late last year by the Trump administration that said climate change is expected to cause more than $5 trillion in lost economic output in the U.S. by the end of the century. “Accounting for the true cost of emissions” and new public investment will be required, the document says.

The omission of a specific ban on fossil fuels is a nod to moderates who feared it was unfeasible and seen as too extreme and was a nod to labor unions who had concerns with the language. At the same time inclusion of the phrase clean energy leaves the door open to nuclear and carbon capture loathed by some in the environmental community. The omission of a specific ban on fossil fuels, which is still subject to change, was earlier reported by Politico.

“While the resolutions contain bold and important proposals, they remain incomplete in addressing the climate crisis comprehensively due to their failure to address fossil fuel production,” David Turnbull, a spokesman for the environmental group Oil Change International, said by email.

“Our climate crisis requires that we stand up to the fossil fuel industry and ramp down our fossil fuel production, not allow it to continue its planned expansion,” he said. “Any comprehensive approach to the climate crisis must include a plan to manage the decline of fossil fuel production and ensure a just transition for workers and communities.”

However, the omission of such language could make the proposal more acceptable to labor unions and Democrats on the presidential campaign trail and some environmental groups indicated they were amenable to the wording.

“We are confident this initial plan will help us get there even if there is not an implicit ban on fossil fuels,” said Thanu Yakupitiyage, a spokeswoman for the environmental group 350.org. The group noted the resolution has language related to eminent domain and trade that could serve as an intervention to pipelines and oil exports.

By Ari Natter, Bloomberg News

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