Another County Just Banned New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure


It’s The Real News. I’m Dharna Noor in Baltimore. On Monday, a six-month moratorium on the construction
or expansion of fossil fuel facilities passed in King County, Washington, the county that
includes Seattle, joining a number of other localities in the Northwest who have passed
similar legislation. Councilmember [Dave] Upthegrove introduced
the ordinance, which declares a state of emergency. It also requires the county to survey the
impacts of existing facilities, and examine the current regulations on those facilities
to eventually suggest changes to those regulations. At Monday’s hearing, environmental and climate
justice leaders testified in support of the measure. Many specifically noted the way that fossil
fuel facilities disproportionately impact people of color and poor people. Now joining me to talk about this is Anthony
Rogers-Wright. Anthony is a Seattle-based climate justice
advocate, he’s the deputy director of Regenerate Nebraska, and he’s also on the board of
the Center for Sustainable Economy. Thanks so much for joining us today, Anthony. Thanks so much for having me. Talk about the significance of this moratorium. What kinds of fossil fuel infrastructure are
in King County? What facilities will be impacted by this moratorium? Yes, so I mean, it’s huge for King County,
and obviously the entire state of Washington. We were still reeling from a pretty tough
defeat of I1631, which would have been the carbon fee. So to see the resiliency of the climate justice
community to keep going as they promised is really, really huge, and sends a message to
the fossil fuel industry that we’re not quitting. Now, in terms of the type of facilities that
this impacts in the next six months, our wholesale distribution facilities, terminals that are
refining fossil fuels, and large bulk storage facilities, like that. There are some limitations, unfortunately. You know, this doesn’t affect federally
regulated pipelines, nor, as we like to call them, bomb trains, or oil trains that traverse
King County, and specifically the city of Seattle. But overall this is a major step forward for
what our ultimate goal is, which is, of course, a fossil-free future for not just the state
of Washington, but the entire Cascadia region and eventually the entire country. OK, so there are some federal regulations,
or lack thereof, rather, that limit this ordinance. Is that also why the moratorium is also six
months long? Some people might say that doesn’t seem
very long. Yeah. So that’s also, as you mentioned, it is
an emergency ordinance. So there are some limitations when you are
declaring an emergency which would call for the additional studies that you also mentioned. So obviously we don’t want it to just be
six months. The idea is that in that six months we are
going to prove that this moratorium needs to be longstanding. And we also will take that time to hopefully
be able to fix our zoning regulations such that we can prevent new fossil fuel infrastructure
from operating or being constructed, as well as permitting as well that would also have
the effect of preventing new operations and construction of fossil fuel infrastructure. And other localities in the Pacific Northwest,
Portland, Oregon, Tacoma, Washington, and several others have also taken aim at coal
and oil and gas developments. And around here in Baltimore, too, some have
worked on related legislation. Last year, Baltimore banned the construction
of crude oil terminals and the expansion of existing ones. I covered that pretty extensively. And then also on the national stage there
is House of Representatives like Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib who are pushing a Green
New Deal that has also called for a similar kind of ban nationally. Talk about what the national strategy is here,
and how all of these individual localities are kind of working together. What’s the big picture? Right. You know, I think that’s a really good question,
because what we understand in the climate justice community is that this has got to
be the bottom up as well as a top down process. So I’m reminded of an amazing article written
by a very talented young woman named Victoria Scozzaro, who then was a student at Vermont
Law School, talking about the importance of home rule law. And that was really hitting on the power of
local municipalities to fix their zoning ordinances, as well as other permitting processes, to
prevent new fossil fuel infrastructure. Then, as well, we also are going to need some
help at the federal level for a uniform set of ideals and standards of what would actually
apply to a Green New Deal. So that includes things like a moratorium
outright on all new fossil fuel infrastructure, as well as other factors, like a just transition
for workers to ensure that workers who transition from the fossil fuel economy to a renewable
economy, or whatever other type of economy they want to be a part of, are taken care
of during that transition. So it’s really an exciting time to see sort
of this bottom up and top down process occurring simultaneously, because that’s really really
important. We also know that people from local communities
are going to know what the specific situations are in their local communities, especially
as it pertains to our frontline communities of color and low-wealth communities. I’m glad you mentioned that just transition
aspect of the ordinance, because here in Baltimore opponents of the crude oil terminals ban were
really concerned about the impact that this could have on employment, on potential employment
for Baltimoreans. And of course we have a big unemployment crisis
here. But also opponents often raised that this
could really hurt the city’s economy; that those looking to build this kind of infrastructure
would just go elsewhere. Are you seeing that kind of pushback in Seattle? And how do you respond to that. Right, sure. I mean, we obviously saw it bigtime in the
entire state of Washington. The fossil fuel industry spend $30 million
to defeat I1631. And it’s the, it’s the same old story
that we hear all the time, of somehow pitting a fossil fuel future against a robust economy,
like they’re mutually exclusive. We know that that is a very myopic way of
thinking, that in fact we can’t depend on fossil fuels as part of our economy. That’s just actually a death spiral, really,
because you can’t have an economy if you don’t have a habitable planet. We also know that renewable energy jobs are
outpacing fossil fuel jobs, and that it’s actually becoming increasingly more cost effective
to actually have a renewable energy economy. So that includes wind, solar, geothermal,
and localized wind, solar, and geothermal, as well. So we’re actually seeing a decrease in fossil
fuel jobs, including coal, which is an industry that is dying not because of the Democratic
war on coal, but just because of a market-based economy. I mean, this is like capitalism killing itself,
which is kind of a fun thing which every now and then. But you know, we need to stand up to those
arguments and make sure that when we’re telling our story we’re coming with facts,
and not just conjecture. Because these tired arguments from the fossil
fuel industry need to be addressed and dismantled if we’re going to move forward. And the best way to do that, the best way
to discuss climate change, to narrate climate change, is from a local perspective, because
that way the people are going to be able to see themselves, and they’re going to be
able to understand that this is affecting them directly right now, not at some distant
time in the future. And a lot of people who testified in support
of this ordinance talked not just about the long-term effects of investing in fossil fuel
infrastructure and the effects of climate change, but also the effects of this infrastructure
in the short term, the way that these infrastructures can pollute communities, can raise air pollution,
water pollution. Talk about that. Talk about the shorter-term effects of building
infrastructure like this. Absolutely. I mean, you did it an excellent report a few
months ago on the California wildfires, and the toxic air quality-
Thanks, Anthony. No, you’re welcome. And I think that–you know, and I was like,
I want to talk to her. Because the one thing I wanted to say was
that, you know, that toxic air quality that was a nuisance for some people is everyday
life for people in frontline and so-called fenceline communities, right. They are breathing in air like that all the
time. We’re talking about the Bay Area, specifically
communities like Richmond. So we have known for for decades now–I mean,
go back to 1987 where the United Church of Christ under the leadership of Dr. Benjamin
Chavis released a landmark report, Toxic Wastes and Race. And in this report it was proven that race,
moreso than class, had to do with the situating of toxic facilities. So these facilities are literally putting
communities of color–moreso communities of color and who happen to also be low wealth–in
absolute and imminent danger. We know about communities that have monikers
like Cancer Alley in the Gulf South. We see what’s happening to our Indigenous
sisters and brothers all over the country, specifically in the Gulf South. The brave sisters and brothers who are fighting
Kinder Morgan’s pipeline, Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota. So we know for a fact, and we’re not being
hyperbolic, that these fossil fuel infrastructure, as we like to say, hit communities of color
first and worst. And it’s been this way since there was a
fossil fuel industry. So this is specific. This is really white supremacy on steroids,
if I’m being honest. This is environmental racism. And those aren’t hyperbolic terms. This is just the reality of the situation
that the sooner we shut the industry down and these pieces of fossil fuel infrastructure
down, we are going to be saving more lives, we are going to be reducing healthcare costs. So it’s all interconnected. It’s all intersectional. Climate change is a radical system of oppression
that’s going to require a radical approach to address and eventually dismantle it. And some Indigenous organizers also backed
this moratorium. Can you talk a little bit about the impact
that this moratorium could have on Indigenous communities in Washington? Absolutely. I mean, we have seen time and time and time
again that sovereign treaties have been broken by the various governments of the United States
of America at the federal, state, and local levels. So this is a small step in returning the original
sovereignty to the original people of what is now known as North America. And I would just say that anyone who’s listening
to this that wishes to start a campaign that addresses fossil fuel infrastructure, if you’re
not including the people who are indigenous to that land you’re actually doing a disservice
to your to your movement and to your community. So it’s always a blessing and an honor to
to work with the people who are indigenous to this land. And you know, it’s really unacceptable to
not be in partnership with them, because they are also on the front lines of fossil fuel
infrastructure, as it pertains not only to their health but also to their way of life. So we’re trying to defend that, as well. The Fossil Free movement is up against so
much, though, not only on the local stage but also the national stage, obviously. We have a former industry lobbyist heading
up the EPA; proposals for the Select Committee on the Green New Deal were shut down. Talk about how in the face of all of this
opposition, all this monied opposition, organizers like you can ensure that this doesn’t just
become the six month moratorium that fizzles out after that six months. This is, this is hard work, and it’s definitely
not something that you can do intermittently, right. It’s every day. I’m reminded of Cat Brooks, who just ran
for mayor in Oakland, said, you know, I’m talking about every morning, every day, every
night. You know, this is how we keep going. We know that we can beat big money with big
organizing, right. Ocasio-Cortez proved that. You know, she was she was up against all odds. Ayanna Pressley, the new congresswoman from
Boston proved that. Here’s a black woman who actually beat a
white man in Boston, you know, who had more money than her. So those are some cracks of light that we
can exploit and turn into broad daylight. We know it’s not going to be easy. I mean, we are trying to kill an industry
that essentially is worth trillions and trillions of dollars. We’re asking an industry to keep 80 percent
of how they make their money in the ground. That 80 percent is roughly estimated to be
in the vein of $22 trillion. And we have to be honest, if someone asked
us to give up $22 trillion, we probably wouldn’t do it without a fight. So we always knew this was going to be a fight. But what we’re seeing, though, is that it’s
becoming more of an intergenerational community, working its way to becoming an international
movement of young people, of women, of African Americans. Intergenerational, intergenderational. And I think that what we’re learning is
that we have to come together on this. You know, we have some discrepancies within
our community and environmental community that we have to work on. And the sooner that we work on ourselves we’ll
be able to work on repairing the world, and repairing ourselves, and repairing relationships. And when that happens there’s not really
much that can that can stop us. We take plenty of knowledge from our elders
and from movements of the past, like the Civil Rights Movement, which was up against massive
white supremacy and massive investment in upholding white supremacy. And we know that we’ve made some inroads. Still not anywhere close to where we need
to be. But we know that we can make those inroads
if we keep fighting, we keep coming together, we keep listening to each other and treating
each other with love and respect, and just really telling our story, telling our truth,
more and more people will come on board. We’ve already seen in polls that more and
more people in the United States are becoming concerned with climate change, because they
see it affecting them now. More and more people are open to the idea
of what will eventually make the Green New Deal, which includes a federal jobs guarantee,
massive investment, and job creation, as well as healthier air, water, and whatnot. People are starting to see children, young
people, being impacted, and that’s why it’s so beautiful to see young people not waiting
for the torch to be passed to them. They are taking it right now, because they
know that their birthright is under attack right now, and they’re not going to just
sit back and allow that to happen. So when you see, like, 10, 12, 13-year-old
young people getting involved, as well as young people in their 20s like our good friends
from the Sunrise movement, Indigenous Environmental Network, UPROSE Brooklyn, historically black
college and universities climate change initiative–they’re leading right now, and that’s a beautiful
thing to see. You can’t deny young people for good. And when young people have decided that enough
is enough, you know, I think that’s going to galvanize even more people. All right. Well, as we see how this moratorium plays
out, this study and these new regulations in King County play out, and the Fossil Free
movement across the nation play out. We’d love to stay in touch with you. So thanks so much for being on today, and
hope to talk to you soon. Thank you so much having me. Yeah, thank you so much. And thank you for joining us on The Real News
Network.

19 thoughts on “Another County Just Banned New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

  1. I think these people need to park their jets and get on their own climate bandwagons! I just don't see the leaders leading by example here, do you? What about work in that sector? Where is the replacement heating and replacement jobs for those in that sector? Sounds hypocritical to me.

  2. Act now, climate change is upon us and it will only get worse. An outbreak of the polar vortex is just a start of the "waming" to come.

  3. Love your coverage and love this story. Thank you for your reporting; so hard to find it in the mainstream. Another thing that rarely gets reported in the mainstream is that one of the LEADING causes of climate catastrophe is animal agriculture and the use of animals as commodities. I am a scientist at Imperial College London, and trust me when I say the science is in; we HAVE TO move to a plant based diet if we want any chance of survival. Please report this more as it is extremely dire and our lives depend on it. Thank you.

  4. It is a beautiful thing to see mankind one his self into the ground by the time man gets through with himself we will regret this day the devil has a mind all messed up anything just black it aint just white is everyone from the elite to the poor white trailer park we will all suffer in the ear thank God for man's stupidity

  5. I agree completely BUT it discredits videos showing cooling towers large streaming plumes of steam at power plants leading people into thinking it’s a polluting smoke. The EPA regulates the infrequent smoke emitted from the very tall skinny stacks at power plants. ( That’s another story for another time. ) Please don’t discredit your videos & viewers w/ deceptive shots of steam. Other than that I approve & agree w/ everything said. Keep fighting the good fight.

  6. On a macro-level, Venezuela's oil reserves the largest known to man is reason enough to confront the forces in denial of climate change.
    US Oil companies and its companion auto industries are the scourge of the earth they produce more cars that run on gas.
    Maduro is less a threat than Jimmy Morales is in Guatemala, a president who is sending migrants for which a wall is sought, Trump does nothing about.
    There are reasons for these contradictions in the actions of the Trump government toward supposed immoral characters in Central and South America has to do with its anti-socialist agenda.
    To the few in his administration the Cold War has not been won until all socialism in its hemisphere is eradicated and can never return again which presupposes the American government must police Latin American countries indefinitely.

    On a micro-level, people are too quick to assume there is nothing more to the accumulations of private capital in the workplace than an extra couple of hours given here and there to the boss.
    The fruit of exploited labor after it is capitalized is deducted from the average total capacity of that group of employees than it becomes obvious the working day is also a notorious process for extracting surplus labor. The more your boss asks you to do this or that, more work is added to work done for that day, is indiscriminately asked of all employees to do the same becomes an objective condition to work.

    Recommendation: The point of departure for a mass movement is the lack of equality and dignity at work, hours of work, and working conditions, effects of excess work internally and externally and by means of de-privatization of the workplace resolving these exploitations from the workplace.

  7. You can't have an honest talk about the climate without the discussion of geoengineering and the aerosol assaults bring done to every living thing on our planet. Systematic poisoning of the entire ecosystem from the sky down.. including the breathable air column.

  8. Why oh why does climate change have to be turned into a race problem? It’s a social problem and class problem to some extent, yes. But why do we always have to say in about any circumstances “poor people and especially people of color”? This is bullshit. We’ll never get a broader movement for initiatives like this if you imply the exclusion of white folks, by talking about the issues as if they were only properly handled if we bring in this intersectionality nonsense. Of course, many problems can’t be handled with a so-called colourblind approach, but this is almost an exception. I actually appreciate his activism, but quite frankly, if color blindness is often just white virtue signalling, it would be better if he was actually more color blind. Makes it easier to win over the white majority.

  9. Climate people are the lunatics, evil and dangerous if people don’t stand up against them they will bring famine and death to the world that’s their plan.

  10. Every painting begins with one stroke – this young man is a role model. I am 74, look back to the 60s & 70s – listen to the music, watch old news – We gave you the plan. Now do it better! (but please stop bitching & whining so much, just do it)

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