DC Climate Advocates Hold Beach Volleyball “Flash Mob” Before Key Council Hearing on Historic Climate Bill

DC Climate Advocates Hold Beach Volleyball “Flash Mob” Before Key Council Hearing on Historic Climate Bill

Event Signifies “Endless Summer” to Come Without Serious Climate Action like the Groundbreaking “Clean Energy DC Act”

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, dozens of climate advocates in beach gear played volleyball on Freedom Plaza before the DC Council held its final hearing on the country’s strongest bill to address climate change. The action signifies the harmful “endless summer” that would come without swift, immediate climate action from the DC Council like the “Clean Energy DC Act.”

In the spirited event, more than 30 activists — dressed with pool noodles, beach floaties, lifeguard t-shirts, and a shark costume, played with a giant inflatable Earth in front of the Wilson Building before the key climate hearing. “Despite the lighthearted nature of this event, we are terrified of the year-round August temperatures we face without climate action,” said Camila Thorndike, DC Campaign Director at the CCAN Action Fund. “Deadly heat waves, infectious mosquitos, and disastrous flooding are the nightmare of an endless summer. We are tired of politicians playing games with our lives and futures. We are grateful that the DC Council is approaching this existential crisis with the urgency and seriousness it demands with the Clean Energy DC Act.”

Initial photos available via Twitter hereand Facebook Live video available here.

The event preceded a hearing in the Committee of Business and Economic Development, where more than 80 advocates have signed up to testify in support of the bill (out of 109 total). Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5) chairs that committee, and activists are looking to him to bring the bill out of his committee to a full floor vote.

“By passing this bill, DC will become nation’s undisputed leader in battle against climate change, taking the first of many significant steps in paving a sustainable future for humanity for generations to come,” said Nikhil Balakumar, founder of the Greentel Group.

The climate crisis has reached a new level of urgency since the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report finding that the world has 12 years to take drastic action and prevent catastrophe. The report calls for global carbon emissions to be cut in half by 2030 and for fossil fuels to be almost entirely phased out by 2050. The “Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act of 2018,” or “Clean Energy DC Act,” is seen as the District’s answer to the IPCC. It takes a comprehensive approach to reducing carbon emissions, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 49.4 percent by 2032 according to an initial analysis from the Department of Energy and Environment.

“We hope that passing strong climate legislation in the nation’s capital that meets the goals of the IPCC report will set an example of smart energy policy that works and inspire Congress to act,” said Stephanie Doyle, National Outreach and Partnership Coordinator at Citizens Climate Lobby.

Advocates in favor of the Clean Energy DC Act represent faith communities, justice advocacy groups, small businesses, environmental groups, and more. “For dozens of faith groups throughout the District, climate change and clean energy is a moral issue that deeply affects our communities,” said Avery Davis Lamb, Director of Faithful Advocacy at Interfaith Power and Light (DC.MD.NoVA). “That’s why representatives from diverse DC religious communities are coming together today to speak out in faith to support the Clean Energy DC Act.”

The bill is formally supported by eight of the 13 members of the DC Council, with Councilmembers Mary Cheh (Ward 3), Charles Allen (Ward 6), Trayon White (Ward 8), Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), and Chairman Phil Mendelson co-introducing the bill, and Councilmembers Vincent Gray (Ward 7), Robert White Jr. (At-Large), and David Grosso (At-Large) co-sponsoring it. Councilmember Brandon Todd (Ward 4) has tweeted his support for it as well.

This bill had its first hearing on October 9 in the Committee of Transportation and the Environment on October 9, which is chaired by Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3), who introduced the bill. About 90 people signed up to testify, and nearly all of them testified in strong support. That hearing was covered in the Washington Post, NPR, and many other outlets.

The “Clean Energy DC Act” would strengthen the District’s renewable electricity requirement to 100 percent by 2032 through the Renewable Portfolio Standard. This would put DC on the fastest timeline to 100 percent clean electricity in the country — California recently passed a bill for 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045.

It also would create groundbreaking efficiency standards for new and existing buildings and would fund local programs to assist low-income residents as the city transitions to more sustainable clean energy systems.

In addition, this legislation takes aim at emissions from home heating and transportation. It would scale up an existing heating fee called the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund (SETF), which would raise up to $70 million to finance renewable energy projects and provide assistance to low-income DC residents. It would also adjust the vehicle excise tax to incentivize clean cars and make owning dirty vehicles more expensive. The legislation also authorizes the District to put a price on transportation fuels if Virginia and Maryland commit to the same.

This bill is supported by the “DC Climate Coalition,” which is comprised of more than 110 environmental and justice advocacy organizations, faith groups, unions, consumer advocacy organizations, D.C. businesses, and more.

Denise Robbins, Communications Director, CCAN Action Fund, denise@chesapeakeclimate.org, 608-620-8819
Barbara Briggs, 350 DC, barbarahbriggs@gmail.com, 412-417-9384
Justin McCarthy, DC Climate Coalition, jlawrencemccarthy@gmail.com, 540-312-3797



We’re Winning the Climate Fight! — The Full Story of Cheh’s Climate Bill

We’re Winning the Climate Fight! — The Full Story of Cheh’s Climate Bill

We have news — and it’s quite the mixed bag.

I’ll start with the good news. WE HAVE A BILL! On Tuesday, DC Councilmember Mary Cheh finally introduced a climate bill. The “Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act of 2018” features policies that, if passed, will significantly cut emissions and place DC among the frontrunners of states and cities fighting climate change. The bill reflects our campaign’s hard-won principles of strong, economy-wide emission reductions with a focus on equity, and that is a true victory that would not be happening without your tireless advocacy.

Before I get to the bad news, I have a quick favor to ask: Will you send a message to Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie of Ward 5 asking him to do everything in his power to advance and pass this strong climate bill? It will need to move through his committee this fall. Take one minute to send a message right now.

Now on to the bad news. What’s hard to believe, and impossible to celebrate, is that Cheh left the carbon fee out of this bill. This happened despite her public commitment of support for the carbon-pricing policy and her repeated expressions of confidence that a majority of the Council would support a carbon fee. And after two years of passionate community support and careful analysis generated by our campaign, we were shocked when she turned her back at the last minute.Camila Thorndike speaking w Cheh at bill intro

When Councilmember Cheh announced her re-worked version of the climate bill at the Wilson Building on July 10th, I sat feet away from the dais busy with Councilmembers and staff, in an out-of-body experience of conflicting emotions. This was the day you and I worked for years to realize.

But part of my heart was broken and betrayed. Local leadership on the most powerful solution for a just and livable future, a carbon fee and rebate, had evaporated just weeks after Cheh’s office had proposed moving forward with the strong carbon price we endorsed.

Part of me was irate. This about-face happened because of the power of the fossil fuel industry. Near the very end of months of working group meetings with business lobbyists, Washington Gas proposed to swap the carbon fee for a modest increase on the preexisting Sustainable Energy Trust Fund (SETF), raising funds for commercial energy efficiency programs. Big business and utilities want all carrots, no stick. A well-designed and steadily increasing carbon price holds polluters accountable for the damages of climate change. Unfortunately, the Councilmember let them off the hook.

Yet another part of me was incredibly impressed — by our movement. Although Cheh’s omnibus bill falls short of our expectations, it features a very strong set of landmark policies that will significantly enhance the District’s commitment to clean energy and energy conservation. The final effect of the bill is that all dirty energy is made slightly more expensive in the city, dirty electricity is phased out completely by 2032, and the revenue raised from the bill — an estimated $26 million in year one — would be invested in green infrastructure and other programs.

Not bad, not bad at all.

Similar to a carbon tax in Boulder, Colorado, the SETF fee proposed in Cheh’s bill would apply to electricity generated by fossil fuels. It goes beyond the Boulder approach by including a modest fee on natural gas and fuel oil too. The bill also increases DC’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to require that 100% of the District’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2032, and requires suppliers to purchase a high percentage of their energy through long-term renewable power purchase agreements (PPAs). This would establish the strongest such goal in the country. (Yes, very cool). It would also establish strong building efficiency standards and would allocate 20% of the funds raised by the energy fee for rate-payer assistance for low-income households.

So, my friends, mixed bag. We lost a big battle for courageous climate policy, but if we stick together and fight as hard as ever, we are on the way to winning the war for a clean energy transformation in the District.

Will you take one minute to send a message to Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie? His support is key for passing this bill.

Cheh’s suite of ambitious solutions were just great ideas in a report until you came along. Now they are on the way to becoming law. Congratulations on this real progress — seriously. Thank you for fighting so hard to get the District this far.

Activists Attend Bill Introduction

Your advocacy is THE countervailing force to big utilities and businesses who don’t want any climate policy with teeth to pass. We are still in for a big fight. Lobbyists for fossil fuel companies have strong access to Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, chair of the committee through which the bill must pass after Cheh’s committee. So, once again, please, join me in urging McDuffie to advance this bill in its full strength this fall. The opposition is working overtime to bend the Council to their will. We must resist. Take action now!

It’s been a strange week, but thanks to this coalition’s tenacity and good cheer, I am dusting myself off and tightening the boxing gloves. Climate progress depends on grassroots power. The momentum we’ve built together has infused equity into local environmental politics and forced politicians to act. Let’s double down until they finish the job.

Thank you for all your hard work and support. Onwards!

— Camila Thorndike, DC Policy Director at the CCAN Action Fund