CJA CALLS ON THE NEW JERSEY SENATOR TO REJECT NUCLEAR AND OTHER FALSE SOLUTIONS

From the onset of the 2020 electoral cycle, Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) has been clear about its desire to see bold climate plans that center frontline communities and workers, and include a pathway to a regenerative economy that leaves no one behind. A key component of CJA’s evaluation process for these plans includes the extent that they Fight the Bad” and “Change the Rules.” Senator Cory Booker’s “Plan to Address the Threat of Climate Change,” hits the mark on fighting the bad  through commitments to center the frontlines, hold Big Oil and Big Ag accountable for their legacy of pollution and environmental racism and plans to protect workers who are displaced by the transition from fossil fuels and an extractive economy. 

The establishment of a United States Environmental Justice Fund (EJ Fund) that would direct the replacement of drinking water service lines, the clean up of all superfund sites, including abandoned coal and uranium mines, and accountability for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations is a welcomed approach that would lead to benefits and some justice for communities of color, including those in Indian Country,  that have been historically targeted and treated as sacrifice zones. Too often, frontline community members are left out of the process, so it’s very encouraging that Sen. Booker apparently believes that the Advisory Council of the EJ Fund should adhere to the Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing by including the leadership of frontline/EJ community and national leaders. 

CJA Steering Committee Member and Director of Environmental Justice and Community Development for the Newark-based Ironbound Community Corporation, Maria Lopez-Nunez, spoke to the need for greater inclusivity and self-determination for frontline communities: “Newark is no stranger to environmental racism. Historic pollution from the region’s largest incinerator, the biggest superfund site in the country (and the largest dioxin-contaminated site in the world), and the current water crisis indicates the need to better protect and center frontline communities. A National EJ Fund that prioritizes our communities is a welcome element that should be a standard included in all climate platforms. I appreciate Sen. Booker’s call for increased accountability from the corporations that are exacerbating the climate crisis and targeting our communities for their toxic operations and pollution “

While Sen. Booker’s plan lacks an explicit call for a Just Transition to ensure that workers, both in the workplace and as members of EJ communities, do  not get left behind and become mutual beneficiaries of a regenerative economy, CJA is pleased to see his call for the creation of millions of renewable energy jobs with high labor standards  that would allow for workers to organize and collectively bargain through implementation of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act. CJA looks forward to  learning more about the Senator’s Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act and how it will adhere to the Principles of Just Transition. 

Senator Booker’s plan includes some direct remedies to protect family farms, including his proposed Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act. However, CJA would like more details on Sen. Booker’s plan to center Black, Brown and grassroots Indigenous farmers who have been historically excluded from programs and who have been disproportionately impacted by the intersecting crises of climate change and rising economic inequality. It will be important for Sen. Booker, who hails from a state with a significant agricultural sector, to provide more explicit details on his plans to massively decentralize and  transform the industrial ag sector to one that adheres to the tenets of Agroecology. 

CJA is concerned that Sen. Booker’s plan to increase research and development  through a 50-state “Moonshot Hub,” includes funding for the development of nuclear energy. We need to see more plans that include ‘Commit to Omit’ language as it pertains to false solutions. Unfortunately, we aren’t seeing that in Sen. Booker’s plan. 

Moreover, CJA requires more information on the Senator’s “carbon fee and progressive climate dividend” proposal. While it’s clear that this proposal isn’t market-driven, and intends to incorporate a “polluters pay principle” that holds corporations accountable, it’s less clear on mechanisms that would rapidly reduce emissions at source in a way that benefits environmental justice communities. 

CJA Executive Director, Angela Adrar, offered her opinion on Booker’s carbon fee saying, “While it’s necessary to protect low-wealth and low-income people from potential utility price hikes, it is also necessary to protect their health and well being.” She went on to explain that waiting until 2030, as Booker’s plan stipulates, to impose a fee would allow for dirty industries to continue a business-as-usual scenario of the slash, dump, dig and burn economy that is already harming people and the planet. “Rogue corporations like Exxon have known about their contributions to the climate crisis for nearly 50 years. We should not be giving them any more time. We should be signalling to them that their time is up.”

Senator Booker should be applauded for centering frontline communities and proposing bold ideas that could reverse a tragic history of environmental racism, poisoning of sovereign Indigenous land and water, and an extractive economy that forces too many workers to put their health at risk to put food on the table. It’s the things that his plan doesn’t say that prevents it from being as impactful as it could be. In summing up Booker’s plan, Adrar added, “As the only Senator that lives in a majority Black and Brown EJ Community, we are hopeful that Sen. Booker will build on his lived experience and center the wisdom and leadership of frontline communities. One way he can do this, is by working with these leaders to omit false solutions like nuclear, geoengineering and pricing schemes that don’t reduce pollution at source.” 

CJA invites the Senator to get more comfortable using terms like Just Transition, Energy Democracy and Food Sovereignty. These practices are frontline-centered solutions that are pillars of a regenerative economy that’s inclusive, equitable and transformative. With some adjustments, including the rejection of false solutions, Senator Booker’s plan would be even more effective and demonstrate his leadership and commitment to protecting and uplifting frontline communities.

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The Climate Justice Alliance is a growing member alliance of 70 urban and rural frontline communities, organizations and supporting networks in the climate justice movement. CJA is dedicated to building Just Transition away from extractive systems of production, consumption and political oppression, and towards resilient, regenerative and equitable economies.

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