(Bloomberg) -- Sweeping climate legislation unveiled Tuesday by House Democrats is drawing fire from a surprising source: environmentalists.
The criticism from some progressive green groups illustrates the challenges House Democrats face in appeasing both the left and moderate wings of their party as they aim to pass major climate legislation this year. It also underscores the clash between idealism and pragmatism on how to best reduce emissions.
The proposed legislation, the first major Democratic climate bill in the House in more than 10 years, was released Tuesday by New Jersey Democratic Representative Frank Pallone and other leaders on the Energy and Commerce Committee. It sets a goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and require utilities to obtain 100% of their electricity from clean sources.
But the bill’s failure to phase out fossil fuels is drawing the ire of progressive environmental groups, such as Friends of the Earth, which says it not only leaves open the door for coal but could end up incentivizing the use of natural gas through a clean-energy credit trading program.
“We need to take radical steps to de-carbonize our economy before 2030,” said Lukas Ross, a senior policy analyst for the group. “Leaving intact the national build out of natural gas that was commissioned earlier in the millennium is unacceptable. We need to be getting rid of fossil fuels not allowing them to profit.”
House Democrats Unveil Climate Goal Short of Ocasio-Cortez’s
The Sierra Club also slammed the idea that coal and gas could be counted as clean energy.
“We are counting on Congressional Democrats to show bold climate leadership by making clear that dirty fossil fuels including gas are not clean or a part of our transition to 100% clean, renewable energy,” Liz Perera, the Sierra Club’s climate policy director said in a statement.
And the Natural Resources Defense Council stopped short of endorsing the bill but said in a statement prior to the bill’s release that it looked forward to “working with the committee members, to ensure that it rises to meet the growing dangers we face from climate change.”
New York Democratic Representative Paul Tonko, a senior member of the energy committee, called for setting “aside past disagreements” in order to work together to fight climate change.
“Americans are living, and dying, in the path of unprecedented flooding, raging wildfires, and battering storms driven by Earth’s changing climate,” Tonko said in a statement.
The criticism comes as progressive members, such a Green New Deal author Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic New York representative, have called for achieving net-zero emissions by as soon as 2030, arguing that urgent action is needed to stave off a climate catastrophe.
But backers of Pallone’s effort say their target is more politically realistic as well as technologically achievable.
Other highlights of the bill include stringent vehicle emissions requirements, stronger energy efficiency standards for buildings and appliances, the creation of a National Climate Bank to spur investment in clean energy technologies, and a “Buy Clean” program requiring federal purchases of construction materials meet greenhouse gas requirements.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vowed to act this year on climate “with everyone at the table,” an effort that is also being informed by the recommendations of a special climate committee being led by Florida Democratic Representative Kathy Castor by the end of March.
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