The Time to Ensure a Livable Planet Is Now

After years of dedicated campaigning on many fronts, we find ourselves on the precipice of seeing Congress pass the largest investment in climate action, clean energy, and environmental justice in history. Recently, the Sierra Club held a field call with staff and volunteer leaders on which serious concerns were raised regarding the oil and gas leasing provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 as proposed. I feel those concerns in my bones. My father worked in fossil fuels, I have spent my career working with communities subjected to multi-generational impacts by the cruelty and killing wrought by the fossil fuel industry. I want every local leader, every volunteer, and every supporter to know that the leadership of the Sierra Club hears and shares these extremely valid concerns about the provisions in this bill that would force continued leasing for oil and gas extraction. We are also immensely grateful to our community who called or met with your members of Congress, wrote a letter to the editor, attended a protest, donated, or talked to your friends and family to build momentum for the positive things in the IRA. We wouldn't have made it to this point if it wasn't for the hard work and dedication of our grassroots leaders, chapters, and organizers who built an intersectional movement that helped redefine what is possible.

This bill puts the country on a pathway to reducing our carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. It invests billions of dollars in clean energy, transforming how we power our communities. It will further electrify our cars in a more equitable way while investing in the electrification of heavy-duty trucks and the postal service fleet, and ensure they’re available to every person, regardless of income bracket. It will invest billions of dollars to decarbonize heavy industry facilities and help give families a chance to breathe cleaner air across the country. And it allows us to build safer, cleaner, and more cost-effective buildings and homes, all while generating thousands of new, well-paying jobs. Perhaps most critical is how this legislation will invest in the communities that have been saddled with among the most polluted air and water in our country by addressing environmental injustices. Our Federal Policy team compiled a lengthy analysis that highlights the critical investments that communities would see as a result of passing the Inflation Reduction Act. Our communities and grassroot leaders have worked tirelessly for decades to reach this point, where such historic investments in climate action are possible. We cannot pass up this opportunity to drive transformational change and help ensure a healthier, safer future for all.

At the same time, trying to balance clean energy and manufacturing commitments with more oil and gas development will only perpetuate sacrifice zones and significantly harm some of the most neglected communities in this country. Sacrificing one area of the country to pollution from oil and gas development as part of a deal to unlock clean energy potential in other areas of the country is completely unacceptable. The leasing provisions in the IRA are of particular concern to coastal communities in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi in the Western Gulf of Mexico that are already facing the legacy of current oil and gas leasing, the continued outfall from the BP disaster, and the massive fossil fuel buildout of LNG facilities, refineries, and chemical plants. We are also concerned about reports of a potential side deal that would allow drastic changes to federal permitting requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to be included in must-pass legislation Congress will take up this fall. These changes could weaken environmental reviews of proposed fossil fuel infrastructure, as well as potentially green-lighting the fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline. Members of Gulf Coast communities — as well as in other disproportionately affected regions such as Appalachia and Alaska — have named loud and clear that they need the Sierra Club to show up for them. Our commitment to robustly invest in these communities and organizers for the long haul is not up for negotiation. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but that will not stop us from fighting. The Sierra Club will do everything in its power to fight the devastating effects of fossil fuel development and climate-fueled disasters until every community is safe from harm.

Once the bill is passed, the Sierra Club will prioritize resourcing implementation, driving conversations about where the money is going and who's going to benefit — and making sure communities most directly affected are prioritized. Sierra Club will also continue to hold space with communities and partners to ensure that those most impacted have their voices heard, and are empowered and resourced.

Two weeks ago, many in our movement believed Congress had reached an impasse and would be unable to pass any investments, much less the $369 billion currently slated in the IRA. We are now confident that we can secure passage of this once-in-a-generation investment in climate, care, jobs, and justice and also keep up the fight for environmental justice for frontline and fenceline communities. Together, we will.

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