Brooklyn Boro

OPINION: From Brooklyn to Philly, the clean energy revolution

July 6, 2016 By Eric Weltman For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Eric Weltman. Photo courtesy of Food & Water Watch

Brooklyn residents will join thousands of people heading to Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. But they’re not going as party delegates. They’re joining the March for a Clean Energy Revolution.

On July 24, the day before the convention gets underway, college students, senior citizens, union members, faith leaders and other New Yorkers will join together in calling for a just transition from dangerous energy to clean, renewable power. 

Hold on a second. New York banned fracking, right? And Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio support renewable energy, yes? So what do we have to worry about. 

While those are important steps in the right direction, New Yorkers still need a radical transformation in federal, state and local energy policy. New York remains threatened by fossil fuel infrastructure, like oil and gas pipelines, dirty power plants, petroleum storage and export facilities. Nuclear power plants still endanger our safety. And, as Brooklyn residents have experienced firsthand, climate change can wreak havoc on our neighborhoods. 

There are three projects in New York that embody the urgent need to wean ourselves from dangerous energy. One is the AIM pipeline, a gas project under construction that is treacherously close to the Indian Point nuclear power plant. Another is the Pilgrim Pipelines, a twin set of pipelines that would transport fracked oil through half a dozen counties. A third is a petroleum storage facility in the Finger Lakes that would endanger the water supply for thousands of residents. 

These projects threaten the health and safety of New Yorkers, and increase our reliance on dirty fossil fuels. They face mounting public opposition led by committed grassroots activists. And they can be stopped by our elected officials.

But it takes bold leadership to take on the power of the oil and gas industry. Cuomo courageously defied the dirty energy business by banning fracking. But there’s much more to be done.  We must forge a quick path toward 100 percent renewable energy in New York — and, for that matter, everywhere else. The technology — from wind power to solar panels to energy efficiency — exists to make that transition. It’s up to us to create the political will to do so. 

We can make New York the leader in creating a “just transition” to renewable energy. We can create good, well-paying union jobs in the clean energy sector. We can put solar panels on the rooftops of schools and other public buildings. We can promote resiliency in our neighborhoods by supporting community-owned green energy projects. We can spur the construction of wind farms off Long Island.

None of that is easy — but is absolutely necessary. To do it we need more leadership by de Blasio and Cuomo in making that transition. That will require saying no to the fossil fuel pipelines, power plants and other infrastructure that stand in the way, and saying yes to a clean energy revolution. 

Of course, it’s not just New York that must act. We need more leadership in Washington to enact policies to prevent climate change catastrophe. For example, we need to undo the authority of agencies like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that rubber stamp approval for gas pipelines. We need to ban fracking on public lands. And we need to put a stop to exports of petroleum and other fossil fuels around the world.

There’s a lot that must be done, and it’s up to us to make it happen. That’s why on July 24, we’ll be marching in the streets of Philadelphia for a Clean Energy Revolution. We hope you’ll join us.

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Eric Weltman is a Brooklyn-based senior organizer with Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit environmental organization.