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Time to stop letting fossil fuels run Washington

Time to stop letting fossil fuels run Washington

Originally posted in The Hill on Nov. 15, 2018

Last Tuesday’s election is a victory for the activists who took to the streets, protesting and marching against the Trump administration over the past two painful years.

Voters took to the polls, rebuking the Trump administration. The election was also a watershed moment that saw a new generation of leaders who will define the climate politics for a generation to come.  

Outrage and resistance propelled this new class of Democrats to victory. The old guard must recognize the progressive momentum has driven them back into power in the House and has chosen them to be the elected wing of the resistance.

In a stark warning to those in the Democratic Party still searching for the middle ground on climate, a full third of the incoming freshman class has pledged to refuse campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry.

Even before they take office, the new House majority must embrace two roles. They must protect the country from the excesses of the Trump administration while living up to a progressive vision capable of addressing the biggest challenges facing the country and the planet.   

The new House Democratic majority’s top priority must be oversight of Trump and his administration. For the past two years, cabinet secretaries and the Trump children’s ethical lapses have been at taxpayers’ expense.

Aside from the president himself, the worst offenders have been those entrusted to protect our environment. Both former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have eviscerated climate protections while widening the revolving door of government to fossil fuel industry executives.

Pruitt got sweetheart deals on housing from lobbyists while indulging in first-class travel and extraordinary spending. Before resigning in shame, he racked up over a dozen federal ethics investigations.

Zinke has racked up 17 federal investigations into his conduct, including an investigation into an illegal land deal with the chairman of oil giant Halliburton.

The Trump administration has crippled environmental protections and poured time and resources into stifling climate scientists and gutting protections for clean air and water.

Republicans have used their time in power to accelerate climate change, ending what little climate leadership America provided in the past.

As a wave of new Democrats come to power in the House, they must act quickly to stop the existential threat of climate change.

But the sad truth is, the Democratic Party as a whole hasn’t coalesced around an environmental framework, let alone a plan or policies to slow climate change before it is too late.

Despite the recent report from the United Nations that called for an immediate transformation of world economies to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, no Democrat has had the vision or the policy proposals needed to both transform our economy and protect the communities most at risk of such a dramatic economic change.

We need to begin a rapid transformation of our economy centered on clean, renewable energy and agricultural systems not controlled by major corporations.

We must enact policies that will end our dependence on fossil fuels and stop investing in the infrastructure that supports an energy system that is polluting the planet.  

As a wave of new Democrats come to power in the House, they must act quickly to stop the existential threat of climate change.

And, we need to put an end to the big oil and dirty money in politics that prevent us from taking the steps we know can save us from catastrophic global warming.

The time for these structural changes must be now.

This election is proof that voters embrace progressive values and policies. We need a government that is accountable to the people, and we need leaders who strongly believe that climate change should be a top priority.

The newly empowered House Democratic must uphold and defend a new progressive vision for America — one based on equity, justice and environmental stewardship that benefits all Americans.

The voices of this freshman class, who have lived and breathed the resistance and harnessed it to bring new leadership to Congress and state houses across the country, must become the heart and soul of the party.  

Elevating these new voices will increase the power, diversity and electability of the Democratic Party, help restore our democratic institutions and save the planet upon which we all depend.