DC Councilmember Mary Cheh to Announce Strongest Climate Bill in the Country

DC Councilmember Mary Cheh to Announce Strongest Climate Bill in the Country

After Mayor Bowser commits to strong carbon reduction goals at Global Climate Action Summit, Councilmember and coalition announce new momentum behind nation-leading bill to meet DC’s climate goals

Bill includes the strongest renewable electricity requirement in the country and comprehensive, economy-wide approach to reducing emissions

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, DC Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3) announced the details of a nation-leading new bill that takes a comprehensive approach to reducing carbon emissions. The newly introduced bill, known as the “Clean Energy DC Act,” would implement the strongest renewable electricity standard in the country, create groundbreaking building efficiency standards, and increase an existing fee on dirty energy that would create revenue for clean electricity projects and low-income ratepayer assistance.

Today’s press conference comes on the heels of superstorm Florence, which brought intense floods that devastated North and South Carolina, killing at least 42 people. Experts say the flooding was worsened by global warming and sea level rise.

It also took place shortly after Mayor Muriel Bowser committed to bold new climate goals at a global summit in San Francisco, including carbon neutrality by 2050. Councilmember Cheh explained how the “Clean Energy DC Act” positions DC to achieve the ambitious climate goals to which Mayor Muriel Bowser recently pledged.

“The Clean Energy DC Act is an important step forward to meeting our cutting edge, progressive goals for greenhouse gas reductions,” said DC Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3). “This legislation puts the District of Columbia at the forefront of the nation in responding to climate change and also directly aligns us with the Mayor’s even more aggressive goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.”

“After mobilizing thousands of concerned residents over the last three years, the DC Climate Coalition applauds Councilmember Cheh’s leadership, Mayor Bowser’s vision, and Chairman Mendelson’s precedent in building real climate leadership here in the nation’s capital,” said Camila Thorndike, DC Campaign Director of the CCAN Action Fund. “For the District to reach its climate goals, Council must swiftly pass the Clean Energy DC Act. We stand with voters, businesses and residents who are counting on the Council to pass this critical Clean Energy DC bill before the close of the 2018 session.”

Previous to the global climate action summit, Bowser has committed to reducing DC’s fossil fuel emissions 50 percent by 2032. DC is currently not on track to meet these ambitious climate goals. The “Clean Energy DC Act” would put the District on track to achieve them. A recent analysis from the Department of Energy and Environment shows that by 2032, the “Clean Energy DC Act” would reduce DC’s annual greenhouse gas emissions 49.4 percent from 2006 levels.

“Right now we face the choice between staying where we are or choosing an economy that protects our planet and responds to needs of working people,” said Judith Howell, SEIU 32BJ Member and security officer. “Our communities deserve clean energy and the jobs it brings—not the fossil fuel pollution stealing air from our lungs, safety from our homes, and dollars from our pocketbooks. DC Council must pass this bill quickly.”

“Nurses are on the front-lines seeing patients whose health is negatively impacted by climate change,” said Katie Huffling, Executive Director of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments and a nurse. “We strongly support the Clean Energy Act of 2018 as it helps DC lead the way in protecting the health of its citizens from effects of climate change by developing the strongest plan possible, with the greatest reductions in carbon pollution of any city in the US.”

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.

Tyshaun Turner, a solar installer in DC, stated: “After completing several internships like Solar Works DC, I knew I wanted to be in the solar industry. Afterward, New Columbia Solar provided me a job with several growth opportunities and reliability.”

It also creates groundbreaking efficiency standards for new and existing buildings and funds 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 100 environmental and justice advocacy organizations, faith groups, unions, consumer advocacy organizations, D.C. businesses, and more.

CONTACT:

Denise Robbins, Communications Director, CCAN Action Fund, denise@chesapeakeclimate.org, 608-620-8819
Rebekah Whilden, Sierra Club DC Chapter, Rebekah.whilden@sierraclub.org, 828-242-6174
Justin McCarthy,  DC Climate Coalition, jlawrencemccarthy@gmail.com, 540-312-3797

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About the name change

About the name change

This coalition formed around the goal of putting a price on carbon in the District , which is why we were called the “Put A Price On It, DC” coalition.

What was eventually introduced by Councilmember Mary Cheh, the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act (“Clean Energy DC Act”),  is different than the carbon price we called for. However, Councilmember Cheh and the rest of our Councilmembers heard loud and clear that DC residents want strong action to reduce carbon emissions. They heard our demand for a transition to renewable energy sources to avoid the worst impacts of global warming, to protect our health and the health of our planet.

The Clean Energy DC Act was introduced on July 10 and is currently co-sponsored by seven members of DC Council. If passed, the bill will take important steps to reduce DC’s reliance on fossil fuels. It will significantly cut emissions and place DC among the frontrunners of states and cities fighting climate change. It also reflects our campaign’s hard-won principles of strong, economy-wide emission reductions with a focus on equity

As such, this is a true victory that would not be happening without this coalition’s tireless advocacy.

That’s why we will fight for its passage, and why we are rebranding as the “DC Climate Coalition.”

We have two main goals: to make sure this bill is as strong as possible while protecting low-income residents, and to pass the bill THIS YEAR.

One thing is certain: Every day we fail to take action makes the climate crisis worse. It means more people will die in hurricanes intensified by warmer waters or get sick from extreme heat. There is no time to wait. We need serious climate action now, and that means passing the “Clean Energy DC Act” as soon as possible.

Our Coalition still believes that a carbon fee-and-rebate policy — with a carbon price strong enough to reflect the devastating costs of burning fossil fuels, aand a rebate to enfranchise all of us in the transitionis the best way to address climate change. But we also believe that the Clean Energy DC Act is a nation-leading policy that will serve a similar purpose. The funds raised by increasing the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund, for example, can be used to help us begin to pay for the needed transition to clean energy, and for special programs to assist low- to middle- income residents. They can also be used to help DC businesses invest in the clean energy economy. (Read more about the bill here.)

So, the “DC Climate Coalition” will continue to ask:

– What price would we be willing to pay for a healthy planet?

– What value would we give healthy children and grandchildren?

Most DC residents would agree on the answer: Priceless.

We’re all working together for a better future in DC. Let’s get it done!

Howard University students are ready for 100% clean energy in DC!

Howard University students are ready for 100% clean energy in DC!

Written by Chelsea Hodgkins 

Last Friday, August 17, 2018, more than a thousand Howard University students engaged in community service with organizations across DC for the university’s annual service day. CCAN partnered with a large group of students to build momentum for the Clean Energy DC Act of 2018.

As the Field Manager for CCAN, I was thrilled for the opportunity to engage youth — our next generation of leaders — in advocacy generally and in building support for clean energy in the District specifically. After I taught students about the bill, they spent the day hanging fliers to educate the public, tweeting the bill to the Council, and petitioning to collect signatures of support.

In just two hours, Howard students and volunteers hung more than 1,300 fliers across the District and gathered signed petitions of more than 250 residents backing clean energy! Organizations like Neighborhood Sun, NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Program, and more also joined students in tweeting to the Council.

This is only the beginning of actions and activities by CCAN and the DC Climate Coalition to advance advocacy for the Clean Energy DC Act. If passed, this bill will , reduce emissions from buildings and vehicles, increase funding for local sustainability programs, and transition DC to 100% renewable energy by 2032, making the District a nationwide leader in clean energy policy.

The Clean Energy DC Act of 2018 was introduced by Councilmember Mary Cheh on July 10, 2018. The bill is backed by seven Councilmembers and the 98 organizations in the DC Climate Coalition, representing faith groups; economic, environmental, and social justice organizations; businesses; and more. A Council testimonial hearing has been tentatively scheduled for September 24th.

We are building the movement to get this bill passed. Join us. Sign up to testify in favor of the Clean Energy DC Act here. Share this with your friends by clicking here

Contact DC organizer, Chelsea Hodgkins, chelseah@chesapeakeclimate.org for more information and to get involved.

 

WEBINAR: All about DC’s new climate bill

This fall, we plan to act with incredible force and focus here in the nation’s capital, by mastering the details of Councilmember Mary Cheh’s recently introduced Clean Energy DC Act.

The DC Council reconvenes in September, just over one month away. We need to push a strong and equitable Clean Energy DC Act across the finish line before the session ends this year! That will take all of us, passionate and determined as ever to save the places and people we love.

There’s a lot of new details in this bill, and a lot to learn — and now YOU have a chance to get up to speed.

Last week, key organizers for this campaign held a webinar explaining everything you need to know about DC’s new climate bill. Watch, then email Camila if you have any questions!

Hundreds of Howard University Students to Advocate for DC Climate Action as Part of Annual “Day of Service”

Hundreds of Howard University Students to Advocate for DC Climate Action as Part of Annual “Day of Service”

‘Clean Energy DC Act’ gaining steam as 500 students to advocate the community during the sixth annual Howard University Day of Service

WASHINGTON, DC — On Friday, August 17, up to 500 Howard University students will descend upon DC to spread the word about a local DC climate policy called the “Clean Energy DC Act.” This is happening as part of the sixth annual Howard University Day of Service (HUDOS), which builds upon the University’s legacy of service to humanity.

This is the first time that Howard University will participate in an initiative for the advancement of local DC climate policy. The students will go through a training about the “Clean Energy DC Act,” as well as a training in petitioning and other advocacy tools. Then, they will spread out throughout all eight wards to poster DC neighborhoods and spread the word about the policy through petitioning.

The Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018, or “Clean Energy DC Act,” was introduced by D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3) on July 10 with a majority support in the Council. If enacted, this bill would transition the District to 100% clean electricity by 2032 — the strongest renewable energy law in the country — while investing in energy efficiency, creating groundbreaking building standards, and funding local programs to help low-income residents and make the city a sustainable place to live.

Clara Ekezie, Site Coordinator at Howard University, stated: “We are excited to partner with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network as they educate the community about the ‘Clean Energy DC Act.’ As students at Howard University, we will live through the impacts of climate change if nothing is done to lower greenhouse gas emissions, so our peers know how important it is to take action and get involved in this initiative. It’s very encouraging to see hundreds of organizations and students coming together on an issue as important as this.”

“It’s incredible to know that hundreds students are actively engaged and supportive of clean energy in DC,” said Chelsea Hodgkins, DC Campaign Coordinator at the CCAN Action Fund. “We are thrilled to engage students in advocacy for clean energy specifically and the democratic process more broadly. It’s particularly exciting to partner with Howard students knowing that this is the beginning of their journey as the next generation of rising leaders in this movement and others.”

While the bill does not include a “price on carbon pollution” as has been requested by a 100-group coalition of environmental and justice groups over the past two years, it embodies the coalition’s principles of equity and strong carbon reductions, and would make DC a world leader on climate change.

The Howard University Day of Service (HUDOS) provides an opportunity for incoming students to embrace the University’s motto, “Truth and Service.” The Howard University Day of Service will continue to build upon the legacy of service to humanity. It is modeled after Howard University’s nationally recognized Alternative Spring Break program and will provide service-learning opportunities as a part of the students’ introductory experience to the University. Current Howard University students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni will volunteer across the Washington DC metropolitan area.

Howard University Day of Service 2018 will focus on five service-learning initiatives: education, environmental services, health, homelessness and poverty, and violence. This service learning experience will allow Howard University students to discover the power of lending a hand while engaging with the DC community.

A copy of the legislation is available here: Clean Energy DC Act.

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Faces of the Campaign: Meet Joanne Sims

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Joanne Sims

Faces of the Campaign is an ongoing series featuring our key organizers and stakeholders involved in “Put A Price On It, D.C.” Our coalition of 80+ organizations is comprised of racial justice activists, union workers, health advocates, moms, dads, kids, retirees, and business-owners alike. Joanne Sims is a summer intern working on the campaign. Here’s her story.

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Joanne Sims and I am an intern at CCAN on the DC carbon pricing campaign.

What woke you up to the climate crisis?

I feel like I’ve always cared about the environment in general but a television series called Years of LIving Dangerously produced by Arnold Schwarzenegger really enlightened me to the scope at which climate change effects all sectors of life.

Joanne Sims picture

Why does supporting equitable clean energy policy in DC matter to you?

I think that supporting equitable clean energy policy is an important step that, if done well, could lead to the expansion of the policy in other major American cities. Becoming a country that relies completely on clean energy is important for a successful future.

How is this campaign different from other environmental campaigns you’ve experienced in the past?

I think that the people I work with are very invested in the campaign and assertive in their approach. This definitely put them more on the radar of politicians then other campaigns I’ve seen.

How has climate change impacted your own community?

I have noticed an increase in storming and flooding in my community.

What was your favorite moment in this campaign?

I thought our Pops n’ Policy event was fun and also really effective. We ended up getting a bunch of letters written to send to Councilmember Mary Cheh.

Tell me about a time you’ve witnessed community power.

The Richmond community where I live is extremely vocal on issues, especially those surrounding the erasure of black history in the city. One of the issues they campaigned for and succeeded in achieving was having the University (VCU) remove a parking lot that they had placed on top of an African American burial site.

What was your biggest accomplishment on this campaign?

I always feel the most proud when I get businesses to sign onto the campaign. I’m generally very introverted, and getting others interested in the campaign shows that I have been able to get out of my own head successfully.

One word summing up your experience with this campaign:

Enlightening

What is your favorite pizza place in DC?

&Pizza

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Jiayu Xu

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Jiayu Xu

Faces of the Campaign is an ongoing series featuring our key organizers and stakeholders involved in “Put A Price On It, D.C.” Our coalition of 80+ organizations is comprised of racial justice activists, union workers, health advocates, moms, dads, kids, retirees, and business-owners alike. Jiayu Xu is a summer intern working on the campaign. Here’s her story.

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Jiayu Xu. I am a rising junior who majors in International Relations and Environmental Studies at Tufts University. As a nature lover, I care about the environment.

What woke you up to the climate crisis?Jiayu Xu

Majoring in Environmental Studies and taking courses entirely or partially devoted to climate change have made me aware of the climate crisis. However, I still attribute the COP23 I have attended as the event that I personally felt the imminency of this crisis. At the international conference, I was overwhelmed by statistics, lectures, pavilions, and conversions which were all exclusively focused on the topic of climate change. Being surrounded by scholars, representatives from diverse NGOs, and delegates all over the world further made me realize the climate crisis which is urgent and which deserves the attention worldwide. It occurred to me that the professional and intergovernmental discussions of reducing carbon emissions and of adapting to climate change were truly taking place around me, instead of appearing remotely in the news.

Why does supporting equitable clean energy policy in DC matter to you?

Clean energy policy matters to me because I think it is necessary to switch to renewable clean energy in order to lower carbon emissions. The fact that clean energy is getting cheaper and cheaper means that clean energy is more economically affordable to the public. Meanwhile, I care strongly about the policy being equitable, because I never want low-income families to bear the cost of policy disproportionately.

How is this campaign different from other environmental campaigns you’ve experienced in the past?

The environmental campaigns I have previously been engaged with were solely environmental-oriented, such as animal conservation, renewable energy. By combining economics and environmental policy, this campaign introduces monetary incentives into the goal of reducing carbon emissions. By taking the course named Environmental Economics at university, I had the chance to do the calculations to understand the magnificent effect of carbon pricing, which managed to both reduce substantial amounts of carbon dioxide and generate abundant revenues. As a result, I personally regard carbon pricing as the most effective tool for combatting climate change, by introducing the positive effects that money can bring to the environment. Thus, I am honored to work on this campaign.

How has climate change impacted your own community?

The climate change has brought increasing amounts of rainfall during summer in my city, Nanjing. Sometimes it rains so heavily that the city gets flooded, which causes huge inconvenience to residents and damage to properties. In recent years, it becomes quite common that the city is flooded, on average, two or three times in the summer, which is something that has never happened before. To me, seeing my beloved city undergoing such negative change is disturbing and prompts me to focus on the climate change.

What was your favorite moment in this campaign?

My favorite moment in this campaign was to have the chance to collectively work towards the same goal with other interns who share the same passion about the environment. Though we come from different backgrounds and studying at different universities, we are lucky enough to come together to the forefront of pushing for aggressive clean energy policy. After witnessing several environmental rollbacks, I feel that simply the daily scene of ten of us sitting at the same table in the office is a powerful message to myself, which continuously reminds me that I am not alone.

Tell me about a time you’ve witnessed community power.

The time I have witnessed community power is by participating in the Women’s March in Boston. That was my first time to see so many people clustered at downtown Boston. Everyone, no matter what age, ethnicity, gender, and occupation, was holding up signs and shouting out loudly what they wished to change. At that moment, Boston represented a voice that was so strong.

What was your biggest accomplishment on this campaign?

My biggest accomplishment on this campaign is to become more confident to communicate. Petitioning sharpens my oral skills to deliver our message to people of different backgrounds. Thus from time to time, I need to rephrase my pitch in order to make the idea more acceptable to others. Also, I enjoy the active interactions with other people. Some people are willing to share with me their own insights on this topic, which give me the precious chance to understand the policy in different contexts. Meanwhile, birddogging councilmembers is something I have never done before, and something I have never imagined myself doing. But two weeks ago, I managed to do it!

One word summing up your experience with this campaign:

Persistence

Best place to get breakfast in DC?

Tony Cheng with dim sum.

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Clarissa Libertelli

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Clarissa Libertelli

Faces of the Campaign is an ongoing series featuring our key organizers and stakeholders involved in “Put A Price On It, D.C.” Our coalition of 80+ organizations is comprised of racial justice activists, union workers, health advocates, moms, dads, kids, retirees, and business-owners alike. Clarissa Libertelli is a summer intern for the campaign. Here’s her story.

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Clarissa Libertelli and I’m a part of a team of interns working on behalf of clean energy and environmental justice in DC.

Clarissa Libertelli headshot

What woke you up to the climate crisis?

I was raised by two environmental activists in the DC area, so I’ve always been passionate about environmental activism. Studying the environment and politics at the University of Vermont, as well as seeing how the Trump administration addresses (or fails to address) environmental and social justice issues, has increased my sense of urgency.

Why does supporting equitable clean energy policy in DC matter to you?

I read recently that by 2050 possibly all the summer days will be over 95 degrees. That’s scary as a DMV resident and as someone with poor body temperature regulation!

How is this campaign different from other environmental campaigns you’ve experienced in the past?

Too often liberal environmentalism fails to address issues of equity and environmental justice. I feel that CCAN’s policy is a bipartisan answer to the intersectional effects of climate change.

How has climate change impacted your own community?

I joke with my friends that you can always tell when you’re in the city because the sky at night is orange from air pollution. Also, as a Maryland resident, I’m aware of how climate change and rising temperatures affects the already delicate Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.

What was your favorite moment in this campaign?

It’s been particularly rewarding to interact with enthusiastic and supportive DC residents who can clearly see the potential the policy has in their communities, as well as to represent CCAN in solidarity with other important movements advocating for the disenfranchised. Also, it was fun to be memed.

Tell me about a time you’ve witnessed community power.

Agitating on behalf of racial justice on my college campus, I’ve seen firsthand how organizing locally has the potential to hold leadership directly accountable, give voice to minority groups, and empower young activists.

What was your biggest accomplishment on this campaign?

So far, I’ve had the most success directly interacting with DC residents through petitioning and community events.

One word summing up your experience with this campaign:

Energizing

If you were a fruit, what kind would you be?

I would be a pomegranate!

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Peter Braun

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Peter Braun

Faces of the Campaign is an ongoing series featuring our key organizers and stakeholders involved in “Put A Price On It, D.C.” Our coalition of 80+ organizations is comprised of racial justice activists, union workers, health advocates, moms, dads, kids, retirees, and business-owners alike. Peter Braun is a summer communications intern working on the campaign. Here’s his story.

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Peter Braun and I am a Communications Intern DC CCAN office. I’m the guy writing the clever tweets and Facebook posts for @PutAPriceOnItDC. I’m also a student at University of Richmond and an intern at the City of Richmond, Office of Sustainability.

Peter Braun headshot

What woke you up to the climate crisis?

I have always loved the natural sciences. At some point in middle school, I looked around and realized that no one else seemed to care about what was happening to the Earth as much as I did. It wasn’t until the summer before my first year in college that I realized no one was going to take responsibility for the environment, so I had to step up.

Why does supporting equitable clean energy policy in DC matter to you?

Energy giants need to start taking responsibility for what they are doing to our world. So many average people like my family want to do their part to fight climate change, but they just do not have the resources to do it. This policy will start in DC, but I hope it inspires other cities to enact radical clean energy policies. I am fighting for DC because I want DC to set an example for my home town and spread this movement.

How is this campaign different from other environmental campaigns you’ve experienced in the past?

I have never seen so much action, engagement, and thoughtfulness on an environmental campaign before. There is an outpouring of support to the people we talk to when we go out to petition. There is so much enthusiasm and hope. The leaders of this campaign have worked with community organizations and made sure all DC residents are represented.

How has climate change impacted your own community?

Growing up just outside DC, and now living just outside of Richmond, you see just how vulnerable the homeless and poor are to the environment. Seeing reports of heat waves causing health problems in my own community is shocking. Knowing that my family could be so vulnerable makes me want to find a way to protect our common home, both the environment and my community.

What was your favorite moment in this campaign?

It’s simple, but every Monday our team of about 10 interns and our supervisor Chelsea begin the week with a meeting. We start out with news about the campaign and fun, random facts. It’s about coordinating for the week as a team, but it really builds a great community.

Tell me about a time you’ve witnessed community power.

In my first full week on the campaign we had a big press conference and rally outside of the DC City Council building for the announcement of a draft bill. A big crowd of more than 100 supporters showed up, there was a series of inspiring speeches, and we hand delivered literature and information about our draft bill the each of the council members offices. It was a really powerful demonstration of how we can enact change if we work together and use all of our skills and assets. (I also saw Matt Ackland from FOX 5, <3 wow!)

What was your biggest accomplishment on this campaign?

The first time I went out petitioning, I happened to run into a local, high-profile faith leader. He was our first signature! It was just the best start to the campaign I could have gotten. I even got to help set up and attend a meeting to discuss our campaign!

One word summing up your experience with this campaign:

Inspiring!

Best place to get breakfast in DC?

I’ve been spent a lot of money at Takoma Beverage Company. I always get a latte and a honey-pistachio pastry.

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