UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is my favorite diplomat, even though — or really because — he’s not very diplomatic. He’s been calling out countries and corporations for years for ignoring the climate crisis, declaring after the world’s hottest week in July, that “Climate change is out of control. If we persist in delaying key measures that are needed, I think we are moving into a catastrophic situation.”
Last year he declared new funding for fossil fuel exploration “delusional,” and said, “Nations continue to play the blame game instead of taking responsibility for our collective future.”
Guterres is sponsoring a “climate ambition summit” Sept. 20, where the price of admission is a commitment to cease approving new fossil fuel projects. I’m not sure how many countries could qualify — certainly not the United States, where the Biden administration has been greenlighting major new fossil fuel projects, including, most recently, two huge gas and oil projects in Alaska and the Mountain Valley fracked gas pipeline (MVP) through West Virginia and southwestern Virginia, and possibly North Carolina.
The Arctic is heating up four times faster than the Earth as a whole, and the oil companies are going to have to refreeze the melting permafrost to even try to carry out their Alaska projects. The MVP project is blasting through some of the steepest, most unstable terrain in the country, inviting landslides and contamination of some of the purest water in the world.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Biden, and his energy secretary, Jennifer Granholm, went to bat for the MVP and made sure completing it was a requirement included in Section 324 of the debt ceiling bill (the Financial Responsibility Act) passed in early June. It gave a 21-day deadline for all approvals to be granted, and said any appeals would be transferred from the 4th Circuit, based in Richmond, VA — which had issued several rulings against the project and in defense of our bedrock environmental laws — to the DC Circuit Court.
The truth is, the MVP can’t be built without breaking these laws. The 4th Circuit had been considering two appeals, but just threw in the towel on Aug. 11, saying the inclusion of Section 324 tied the court’s hands.
One of the judges, Roger Gregory, wrote:
“…Section 324 is a blueprint for construction of a natural gas pipeline by legislative fiat. If that provision is likewise constitutionally sanctioned, the Congress will have found a way to adjudicate by legislating for particular cases and for particular litigants, no different than the governmental excesses our Framers sought to avoid. For that reason, I fear Congress has employed this Court’s constitutionally directed deference to legislative prerogatives to undermine the Constitution and in the process, it has made the Court an accessory to its deeds. If that is so, I wonder if Section 324 is a harbinger of erosion not just to the environment, but to our republic.”
The sad fact is that despite the support for renewable energy in the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, President Biden is in essence an all-of-the-above energy promoter, just as Obama was before him, even though the climate crisis is so much worse now.
Tens of thousands of people will gather in New York City on Sept. 17, before the summit, for a March to End Fossil Fuels and to demand that Pres. Biden declare a climate emergency, which would open the door to his taking emergency executive actions. The Center for Biological Diversity outlines five such actions: reinstate the ban on crude oil exports; end oil and gas drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf; restrict international trade and private investment in fossil fuels; grow domestic manufacturing for clean energy and transportation to speed the nationwide transition off fossil fuels; and build resilient and distributed renewable energy systems in climate-vulnerable communities.
Ever since I covered the obscenity of mountaintop removal coal mining in West Virginia starting in 2009 – a process literally blowing the tops off the mountains to access the coal seams beneath – I have felt a deep connection to the land and the people of southern Appalachia. I walked/drove along the 302-mile MVP pipeline route last year as part of the Walk for Appalachia’s Future, and participated in several protests in DC.
The fight to stop the MVP, the Alaska projects, and other fossil fuel projects will be a critical part of the march on Sept. 17. We need to End Fossil Fuels to keep rising sea levels from washing over our Connecticut shoreline, to keep heat waves and flooding due to heavy rainfall from getting even worse, and to keep ever more intense wildfires, whether far away, like in Hawaii, or near, from polluting our air. All are symptoms of our localized climate crisis.
Melinda Tuhus is on the Steering Committee for 350 CT and the CT Climate Crisis Mobilization.