Today, October 7th, Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) hosted a ZOOM press conference centered around the Build Back Better Act with veterans who are also elected officials and other elected officials whose communities seriously need the Act to pass. In Arizona’s Navajo community for 40 percent of the inhabitants, this means funding for water and electricity that they have never had.
If you missed the press conference, please access the recording of the event here:
We face multiple interconnected existential crises that threaten our shared humanity, our national security and our planet because of human caused climate change. The recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report spurred UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to say, “this is a Code Red for humanity.”
President Joseph Biden echoed his words touring the flood devastation brought by Hurricane Ida in the northeast and fire areas fueled by a 21-year historic drought in western states. Flooding and “fluke” storms have destroyed midwest and southern farms and heat waves, the most lethal type of weather phenomenon in the United States, are more frequent. A 2017 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists said 170 coastal communities will face chronic flooding at least 26 times a year in the next two decades, twice as many at-risk locations as today.
The science is clear: we must cut the carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels in half by 2030 Dirty fossil fuel power plants account for a third of our carbon footprint. They must completely stop adding more carbon to the atmosphere by 2050 — in order to keep the climate crisis from becoming a catastrophe where millions worldwide could parish. The IPCC’s report said significant reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases could, “in 20 to 30 years, help global temperatures to stabilize.” Action has to happen now, for that to become the reality the world needs.
This is likely our last moment to mitigate the worst consequences of the climate crisis, but time is running out.
“The challenge we face is immense. Our future and humanity are at stake. President Biden’s Build Back Better Act (BBBA) combines concrete actions to mitigate against climate change, rebuild our economy and advance environmental justice — while paving the way for good-paying, union jobs. That’s why Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) urges Congress to pass this once-in-a-generation opportunity to avoid a worsening climate crisis and give workers lifetime opportunities in a clean energy economy,” said Alex Cornell du Houx, President of the Elected Officials to Protect America and former Maine state lawmaker, Marine combat veteran.
On September 14th over 137 lawmakers, some who are also veterans, attended an Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) White House Summit on the climate crisis supporting urgent climate solutions and a Presidential Climate Emergency Declaration. Such a declaration would be the most immediate way forward.
Additionally, an EOPA letter, which over 320 lawmakers signed, supports a clean energy plan and asks for a climate emergency declaration. The BBBA’s climate plan and the EOPA clean energy plan match in many areas.
The lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of Americans, have already been affected by climate change. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing on September 29 to address worsening natural disasters across the country, with emergency officials from Ohio, Michigan and Virginia, as well as the American Red Crosstestifying. There is no doubt: the climate crisis is a national security threat. Veterans who are elected officials know this reality firsthand.
“Any nation that suffers from extreme natural disasters has its national security threatened,” said Paul L. Evans, Oregon State Representative Major, USAF Major (Ret.), EOPA Leadership Council Co-Chair. “While lawmakers across the nation are making strides to protect their own constituents with clean energy solutions and resiliency plans, extreme weather has no borders. Critical action on the federal level to mitigate the climate crisis is imperative. That starts with Congress passing the climate provisions in President Biden’s Build Back Better Act (BBBA).”
When extreme weather events strike the electricity goes off, frozen food and perishable goods rot. In locations where there are oil and gas refineries these operations shut down, which spews toxins in the air Hurricane Katrina caused at least ten oil spills. Last year, Hurricane Laura shutdown refineries toxic emissions are released in the atmosphere every time a refinery shutdown. Emergency services are strained, and fresh water stops running.
Last year’s Californian fires were coupled with heat waves forcing the electricity to fail and utilities to institute rolling blackouts that affected 800,000 customers. In February, a polar vortex caused havoc, death and destruction to Texas as their electric grid was paralyzed and went off-line. The storm disproportionally imperiled communities of color and killed 58 people from Texas to Ohio.
A Department of Energy study found that power outages cost the U.S. economy up to $70 billion annually.
The BBBA protects the grid by modernizing it and ensuring multiple clean energy sources feed into it while ensuring President Biden’s goal of 100 percent clean electricity by 2035 is achieved. As part of the BBBA, the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) invests a proposed $150 billion to help utilities accelerate clean electricity development. The funds will drive investment that reduces emissions, creates jobs and grows the economy. The CEPP also collects payments from power companies that fail to meet clean energy targets.
Areas once thought to be safe are now at risk from the climate crisis. Using new technology a report concluded that6 million homes in states such as Utah, Idaho, Vermont and Tennessee that didn’t require insurance because they were thought to be safe from flooding are actually at risk. Power outages will become more common.
“We’re completely reliant on electricity. Everything comes to a halt when the power goes off and lives and livelihoods are put at risk,” said Glenn J Wright, Chair of the Utah Summit County Council, Air Force Vietnam Veteran. “Modernizing America’s electric grid with a diverse portfolio of renewable energy sources is of national security importance. The more clean energy sources available to feed into the grid — the more secure our nation and economy will be.”
With every major weather disaster, the area affected usually needs The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Guard to assist in the recovery, which takes months and sometimes years. Some areas never make it back. The more extreme weather hits, the more we create migrations in America. Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico four years ago, claiming lives, collapsing an electric grid based on imported dirty fuels and turning individuals into climate refugees. The Colorado River is drying up, affecting millions who rely on this water source in the U.S.A. and Mexico.
Communities already hardest hit by systemic racism and environmental injustice tend to be located in areas most susceptible to deadly heat waves, flooding and other extreme weather events. These communities also face increased health burdens from pollution compared to the overall population.
“With extreme flooding and hurricanes becoming the norm, more North Carolinians are put at unnecessary risk. We have to mitigate the climate crisis with the President’s Build Back Better Act,” said Natalie Murdock, North Carolina State Senator, EOPA Leadership Council. “Communities that have been systematically neglected need the transformative change the BBBA could bring. This is the hopeful promise of a more inclusive America, one where one’s zip code doesn’t predetermine your future.”
The transportation sector is the leading source of carbon pollution in the U.S., and a prime contributor to air pollution that poses major risks to public health, especially in communities of color. However, electric vehicles (EVs) are still unavailable for many Americans. The BBBA would extend and expand tax credits for businesses and consumers to increase manufacturing and create more jobs.
“The Build Back Better Act puts billions into transforming our systems to use clean energy. A robust tax incentive program to spur growth in clean power and clean transportation will put us on the road to a clean energy economy,” said Peshlakai Jamescita, Arizona State Senator. “The creation of the Civilian Climate Corps builds on FDR’s classic program that gave dignity back to hundreds of thousands. In this incarnation it can help right the injustices of the past by giving good paying jobs to those hardest hit by environmental racism.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps. put people back to work restoring our landscapes as we emerged from the Depression. It gave veterans jobs again, along with thousands of unemployed workers who were suffering from no fault of their own. They built national park infrastructure, conservation and flood relief. President Biden’s CCC will create hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs, with valuable training in climate resiliency, to help secure a stable climate for all. It will build healthy and safe communities that are resilient to storms and floods, expand access to renewable energy, weatherize buildings and install electric vehicle charging stations. It would also help President Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative by rehabilitating forests and wetlands, planting trees, building urban parks and repairing trails and public lands..
The United States experienced 22 climate caused disasters that exceeded a record $1 billion each in damages in 2020. When supply lines are disrupted, costs increase and consumers and businesses suffer.
Recently, more than 300 American business leaders signed a letter calling on Congress to immediately address the climate crisis by passing President Biden’s BBBA. These business leaders also explicitly expressed support for the revenue measures needed to pay for the investments.
“While our state has become a leader in advancing policies and market innovation aimed at creating a more equitable clean energy economy over the long-term, our communities and businesses remain among the most vulnerable to climate impacts in the near-term. In the race between reaching clean energy or climate tipping points, we’re way behind,” said Richard Lawton, Executive Director of the NJ Sustainable Business Council. “America needs bold big investments to ensure we become leaders in the clean energy economy that we’ve been lacking behind in. The costs of inaction are escalating; we must seize this tremendous opportunity before it’s too late.”
EOPA will keep their letter open so that additional elected officials from across America who wish to call for immediate action to mitigate the climate crisis can easily add their support.
About Elected Officials to Protect America: Elected Officials to Protect America is a network of current and former elected officials who care deeply about protecting our planet and people. EOPA is committed to solving the climate crisis, ensuring environmental justice, and protecting our lands and waters. We educate through value-based storytelling, training lawmakers, and connecting elected officials to inspire strong environmental leadership.
October 7, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Ramona du Houx,
Elected Officials to Protect America