The provisions that the CLEAN Energy and NOW Acts would repeal threaten to “hold clean energy development on our public lands hostage to continued oil and gas leasing.”

By Julia Conley
Common Dreams

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was among three House Democrats on Wednesday to introduce legislation aimed at undoing what climate advocates have called “unfortunate” and “absurd” provisions that were included in the Inflation Reduction Act under pressure from right-wing Sen. Joe Manchin, which locked the U.S. into continued fossil fuel development despite clear warnings from experts that oil and gas extraction is driving the climate emergency.

Manchin (D-W.Va.) supported the historic $740 billion climate and healthcare legislation only after securing “poison pills” that mandated oil and gas lease sales be held anytime a permit for onshore solar or wind power production was granted or an offshore wind lease was sold.

Those mandates would be repealed by the Comprehensive Legislation for Expanding and Advancing Nonrestrictive (CLEAN) Energy Act, introduced by Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.), and the Nonrestrictive Offshore Wind (NOW) Act, introduced by Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Deborah Ross (D-N.C.) on Wednesday.

“The climate crisis is a national emergency for the United States and disproportionately impacts our most vulnerable communities, including Indigenous communities and communities of color,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “In the midst of this crisis, there is no reason that we should require more oil and gas drilling as a prerequisite for building renewables. This legislation will help end the stranglehold oil and gas has kept on our country while enabling good, union jobs in renewable energy development.”

The legislation was introduced days after the American Clean Power Association reported that the IRA, which invested $369 billion in climate action and clean energy, has already led to accelerated development in the industry, with nearly 80 manufacturing facilities announced since the legislation was passed last August. The previous seven years combined saw the same number of facilities built.

“The Inflation Reduction Act is already supercharging clean energy investments and jobs, but has yet to reach its full potential due to mandatory oil and gas leasing that continues exacerbating climate change, polluting our communities, and endangering public health,” said Laura M. Esquivel, senior legislative representative for Earthjustice.

The provisions that the CLEAN Energy and NOW Acts would repeal threaten to “hold clean energy development on our public lands hostage to continued oil and gas leasing,” Esquivel added.

An analysis published in 2021 by the ocean conservation group Oceana found that protecting all unleased federal waters from offshore drilling could prevent more than 19 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions—equivalent to taking every car in the U.S. off the roads for 15 years—and prevent more than $720 billion in damage to people, property, and the environment.

The two pieces of legislation were introduced as wildfires destroyed dozens of homes in Oregon and parts of the Southwest continued to face record-breaking heat which has killed more than a dozen people. The World Weather Attribution reported on Tuesday that the extreme heat would have been “virtually impossible” without the climate emergency.

“It is absurd and counterproductive to forcefully hold back the expansion of clean wind energy unless we continue to expand dirty and dangerous offshore drilling. Building offshore wind energy should never come at the cost of more fossil fuels, and this bill allows us to make that a reality,” said Michael Messmer, acting campaign director for Oceana, in support of Ocasio-Cortez’s legislation. “The climate crisis is here, now, and it’s affecting all of us through more frequent and intense weather events charged by fossil fuel use. Our oceans can and should be part of the solution.”

“The NOW Act,” he added, “is the logical next step in our fight to protect our coasts, advance the transition to a clean energy future, and safeguard a habitable planet for future generations.”

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams, which originally published this story, licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Photo: Public Domain government photo (photo shows oil rigs off Long Beach, CA)

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