It should be unthinkable that in the wake of the worst oil disaster in history, the Senate has not yet passed a bill that would hold BP accountable for the damage they have wreaked on Gulf communities and businesses.
And yet, here we are.On Tuesday, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid announced that, with every single Republican senator blocking the way, the Senate will not vote on clean energy or climate legislation until September at the earliest.
This is a shame: We expect our leaders to protect our economy, our health, and our environment, not polluter profits.
Over the past year, clean energy supporters across the U.S. sparked a movement for clean energy. We've made tens of thousands of phone calls, sent hundreds of thousands of messages, we've held rallies, house parties, and we've met with our elected officials. We passed clean energy and climate legislation in the House of Representative, defended EPA from Big Oil attacks in the Senate, and won legislation to hold BP accountable in the House—and after all of this activity, corporate polluters still maintain their vice-grip on Senate Republicans.
These big oil and coal companies rely on a minority of Republican senators to block action that would create badly needed jobs, hold polluters accountable, and reduce our dependence on oil.
And if that wasn't bad enough, these same polluters are looking to Congress to weaken existing laws under the Clean Air Act to reduce air pollution and protect our public health.
Thankfully there has been progress made on clean energy at the state level. One example comes from Texas, where after a year-long campaign involving more public education meetings and more than 2,000 comments generated by the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, the State Energy Conservation Office updated Texas' minimum energy codes from 2001 to 2009 International Residential Code and International Energy Conservation Code standards. The measures will greatly increase building energy efficiency, save consumers money, and create jobs.
Another state progress example comes from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (UNC). In May of this year, the school announced it was committed to ending its use of coal by May of 2020—starting with transitioning the campus' cogeneration plant off coal. UNC officials attributed this change on campus to increased pressure from student organizers and the Sierra Club's Coal-Free Campus Campaign about the importance of fighting global warming by quitting coal and switching to clean energy.
Clearly we can make a difference: We just need to keep applying the pressure.
We also need to push a Renewable Electricity Standard: We encourage more organizations and people to join the wide coalition of energy, labor, agriculture, environmental groups (including the Sierra Club) and utilities calling on Sens. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell to pass one when the Senate returns from its August recess.
It's time to take a stand on the national level. Tell your senators we will not watch polluters stand in the way of a clean energy future and attempt to weaken laws that protect our air.
In the coming months we must be even stronger and more determined in our efforts to defend the Clean Air Act, to hold BP and polluters accountable, and to end our addiction to dirty, dangerous, and deadly fossil fuels.