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Save Our Sequoias Act is Controversial, But Would Be a Bipartisan Climate Win

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Supporters of the S.O.S. Act say it will protect Giant Sequoias, following the unprecedented death of 20% of the iconic trees by wildfire in just two years. (Shutterstock)
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Kudos to all of our local Members of Congress for coming together in support of the bipartisan Save Our Sequoias Act (H.R.2989). Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is the bill sponsor, joined by Republican cosponsors David Valadao, John Duarte, and Tim McClintock, and Democrat Jim Costa. Total California House support includes 13 Democrats and 12 Republicans.

Devin Carroll

Opinion

The S.O.S. Act seeks to protect the Giant Sequoias, following the unprecedented death by wildfire of 20% of these iconic trees in just two years. Wildfires have grown more destructive from a combination of changing climate and a history of misguided policies of fire suppression. S.O.S. would speed clearing out underbrush around the remaining Sequoia groves.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby supports this bill. CCL is a nationwide non-partisan organization dedicated to climate solutions. CCL especially applauds the bipartisan cooperation. Bills need to pass to do any good.

Some respected environmental organizations oppose S.O.S. They say redwoods are adapted to fires. Many seedlings have already germinated around the dead giants. S.O.S. might allow logging where it is not appropriate.

Fast Action is Critical

Other environmentalists counter that fast action is critical. The current rate of clearing will take 50 years to complete. Environmental reviews will be streamlined, not eliminated. Restorative thinning is not the same as logging.

We need the current Congress to pass bipartisan legislation that will build on the climate progress made in the last session. Under the Paris Agreement of 2015, the United States committed to a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, starting from 2005 levels. Models estimate that even with last year’s Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, we will achieve only 28%.

CCL has four goals for policies that, if passed, would take us below our commitment, to about 60%.

Goal #1 is permitting reform. Our investments in clean power and power transmission will not help much if permitting for energy projects takes 10 years. Streamlining the process could reduce emissions by another 12%. But haphazard repeal of environmental review is not acceptable.  Good legislation should protect people’s health and safety, and encourage early input from local communities.

Compromise Will Produce More Clean Energy

Bipartisan legislation will include streamlined permitting for fossil fuel projects. This will alarm many environmentalists. But under present rules, fossil fuel permitting is often easier than for renewable energy. Interstate pipelines are easier to approve than electrical transmission. Drilling for natural gas is easier than drilling for geothermal energy. Plus, many more clean energy projects are already awaiting approval. So, this compromise seems worth it, since it will lead to many more clean energy projects than fossil fuel projects.

Goal #2 is Carbon Fee and Dividend. Charge oil, coal, and gas companies a fee when their fossil fuels leave the ground. Use the money to pay dividends to us, the people. Carbon fees are a policy favored by most economists, conservative and liberal. Models say they will give us another 12% reduction. A carbon fee would also allow America, under international rules, to impose a carbon border adjustment mechanism on goods coming from countries that don’t have  a market mechanism for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Europe already has a carbon border adjustment that American companies will pay, until we pass our own fee.

Goal #3 is promoting Healthy Forests, to increase carbon sequestration. The Save Our Sequoias Act is in this category.  Well-managed forests and more urban trees brings another 5% reduction.

Goal #4 is Electrification. Electrifying buildings, transportation, and other energy users could reduce emissions by 3%.

If we achieve all four of these goals, our emissions will be 60% less than in 2005, more than achieving our Paris commitment.

About the Author

Devin Carroll is a semi-retired Agricultural Pest Management Consultant.  He volunteers with Citizens’ Climate Lobby Fresno as the Lobby Team Leader and Youth Team Advisor.  He can be reached at fresno@citizensclimatelobby.org.

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