Democrats Pass Aggressive Climate Change Plan, but Sanders Forces Lose in Opposing Trade Agreement

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Map showing the latest trends in global warming: Scientific Visualization Studio/Goddard Space Flight Center

By Glynn Wilson –

ORLANDO, Fla. – Democrats agreed to the most aggressive plan to combat climate change in the history of the party Saturday night by approving an accord that commits Democrats to fight for a price on carbon, methane and other greenhouse gases and for massive investment in renewable energy sources like wind and solar power, according to word trickling out of intense platform committee negotiations.

Supporters of Bernie Sanders on the committee came up short in a fight to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the Washington Post painted as “a short-term victory for the Obama administration that could spark another fight at the national convention this month.”

The climate change plank advances the goals of the grassroots environmental movement by applying the formula that was used to evaluate and ultimately oppose the Keystone XL pipeline to all future fossil fuel pipeline projects, according to a news release from the Sanders campaign.

“All federal decision making should look at the proposal’s impact on the climate,” Sanders says.

While the plan does not ban fracking nationally as Sanders has called for, it will significantly limit fracking by forcing companies to disclose the chemicals they pump into the ground by eliminating the Halliburton Loophole. It also protects the right of states and localities to ban fracking.

“I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished tonight. This is the most aggressive plan to combat climate change in the history of the Democratic Party,” Sanders said. “As a result of this plan natural gas is no longer regarded as a bridge to the future. The future of America’s energy system now clearly belongs to sun and wind power.”

Sanders claims the plank advances nearly all of the goals his campaign laid out to address climate change.

“But we are not finished,” Warren Gunnels, Sanders’ policy director, said in the announcement. “We have got to follow through on the promise of this agreement, to put people before the profits of polluters and solve the global crisis of climate change before it’s too late.”

The amendment to the Democratic platform reas as follows.

Democrats are committed to closing the Halliburton loophole that stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to regulate hydraulic fracturing, and ensuring tough safeguards are in place, including Safe Drinking Water provisions, to protect local water supplies. We believe hydraulic fracturing should not take place where states and local communities oppose it. We will reduce methane emissions from all oil and gas production and transportation by at least 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2025 through common-sense standards for both new and existing sources and by repairing and replacing thousands of miles of leaky pipes. This will both protect our climate and create thousands of good-paying jobs.

Page 19 Line 18, insert:

Democrats believe that carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases should be priced to reflect their negative externalities, and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy and help meet our climate goals. Democrats believe that climate change is too important to wait for climate deniers and defeatists in Congress to start listening to science, and support using every tool available to reduce emissions now.

Page 19, Line 26, insert:

We will streamline federal permitting to accelerate the construction of new transmission lines to get low-cost renewable energy to market, and incentivize wind, solar and other renewable energy over the development of new natural gas power plants.”

We support President Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. As we continue working to reduce carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gas emissions, we must ensure federal actions don’t “significantly exacerbate” global warming. We support a comprehensive approach that insures all federal decisions going forward contribute to solving, not significantly exacerbating climate change.

Democrats believe that our commitment to meeting the climate challenge must also be reflected in the infrastructure investments we make. We need to make our existing infrastructure safer and cleaner and build the new infrastructure necessary to power our clean energy future. To create good-paying middle class jobs that can’t be outsourced, Democrats support high labor standards in clean energy infrastructure, and the right to form or join a union, whether in renewable power or advanced vehicle manufacturing. During the clean energy transition, we will insure landowners, communities of color and tribal nations are at the table.

On TPP

By a vote of 116 to 64, the platform committee approved language critical of “trade agreements that do not support good American jobs,” but evasive on TPP, that had been hammered out by labor groups supporting Hillary Clinton.

Ben Jealous, the former NAACP president who introduced the brief amendment to the compromise language, argued that the Democratic Party would give away an electoral advantage if it was too slippery about trade.

“The majority of Democrats, like the majority of Americans, are against the TPP,” Jealous said. “Hillary is against the TPP. Bernie is against the TPP. Let’s not be bureaucrats — let’s be leaders.”

His amendment failed, making it clear that the Sanders forces would lose on the trade question.

“This is the Clinton campaign in a nutshell — surreptitious, and always with an agenda,” said environmental activist Anthony Rogers-Wright. “I didn’t really have much hope that the corporate wing of the Democratic Party would want to take a stand.”

Jim Hightower, the progressive commentator and Sanders delegate from Texas, offered another amendment and warned committee members that failing to go on the record would help Trump’s campaign.

“He is gonna hammer Hillary mercilessly on the wimpy language in her platform,” Hightower said. “I offer this amendment as a form of political viagra.”

The Hightower amendment failed, 71-104.

© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.