Labor-Enviro Coalition Calls for RES in Lame Duck

Photo by Kate Sheppard.

With the lame duck session of Congress starting Monday, a coalition of labor and environmental groups is renewing the call to pass a federal renewable electricity standard (RES). Advocates have been trying to keep hope alive that an RES, which would require states to draw a percentage of their power from renewable sources, could pass this year, and were boosted in late September when a bipartisan group of senators called for it to pass as a stand-alone measure. The RES they’re calling would require utilities to draw 3 percent of electricity from renewable sources starting in 2012, ramping up to 15 percent in 2021.

In a busy but likely not very eventful lame duck session, passing an RES is probably a longshot. But four Republicans are backing the effort, along with 21 Democrats. The Blue Green Alliance, an enviro-labor coalition that includes the Sierra Club, the United Steelworkers, and 11 other union and green partners is pushing to keep it on the RES on the agenda. 

“We can put people back to work with policies like an RES and investments in manufacturing,” said Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers. “We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines as China and Europe pull ahead in the race for clean energy. “

The alliance called for the RES as part of their “Seven Simple Steps” for moving the green jobs agenda forward in this session. That also includes passage of the Home Star and Building Star bills, two measures meant to encourage building efficiency improvements, and the extension of the advanced energy manufacturing tax credit. They are also calling for the passage of a bill to improve health and safety standards for miners.