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Climate action dominates Democratic energy platform


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Climate action dominates Democratic energy platform

TheDemocratic Party's final policy platformfor the 2016 elections includes plans to slash carbon emissions, phase downfossil fuel production on public lands and get all U.S. electricity from "clean"sources by 2050.

Somesay the platform is the party's most aggressive yet to address climate change,but the document excludedproposals from more left-leaning Democrats to ban hydraulic fracturing acrossthe country and end new leases for oil, gas and coal production on federallands and waters. The platform is expected to be ratified at the DemocraticNational Convention starting July 25 in Philadelphia.

"Thisis the strongest platform in history when it comes to tackling the climatecrisis, transitioning off of fossil fuels, and growing our clean energyeconomy," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said.

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Theplatform mirrors many of presumed Democratic presidential nominee HillaryClinton's energy goals. Both the platform and Clinton's energy plan wouldboost the percentageof U.S. electricity from renewable and clean energy sources, including throughthe installation of half-a-billion new solar panels within four years.

Clintonand the Democratic platform also supportimplementation of the U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissionsfrom existing power plants; back the Obama administration's rejection ofTransCanada Corp.'sproposed Keystone XL crude pipeline; oppose Arctic drilling; and would requiremore stringent federal oversight and regulationof hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas production.

Democratswant the U.S. to generate half its electricity from clean sources, includingrenewable energy, within a decade and run entirely on clean energy by 2050.Those efforts mirror a recent commitmentamong North American leaders and would contribute to the party's goal ofslashing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 2005 levels by mid-century.

Oiland gas production would also be more heavily regulated. The platform seeks toclose the so-called Halliburton loophole that stripped the EPA of its authorityto regulate a part of the fracking process and proposed to cut U.S. methaneemissions from the oil and gas sectors by 40% to 45% from 2005 levels by 2025,in part through tougher standards for existing and new sources and thereplacement of leaky pipes.

More liberal Democrats, as well as Clinton's rival in theDemocratic primary race Bernie Sanders, pushed for a national moratorium onfracking. Those factions of the party were displeased with the compromiselanguage on fracking, which Clinton's energy adviser Trevor Houser proposedduring the platform drafting process. The platform supports a ban on frackingin states and local communities that oppose the practice.

"Ithink that we can solve [environmental concerns about fracking] withoutovernight cutting off two-thirds of all natural gas supply in this country,pushing us back to coal, and threatening the livelihoods of millions of unionhouseholds," Houser said at a July 9 platform meeting.

SomeDemocrats also sought to stop any new leases for fossil fuel extraction onpublic lands and advocated a carbon tax high enough to achieve the party'sdesired emissions cuts. But the drafting committee opted for more moderatepromises to "phase down" fossil fuel production on public lands andwaters and put a price on carbon, methane and other greenhouse gases to reflecttheir "negative externalities."

Theplatform includes commitments to uphold the U.S. pledge to the Paris climateagreement, which aims to keep global temperature increases to well below 2degrees Celsius. Democrats also vowed to eliminate "special tax breaks andsubsidies" for fossil fuels, while defending and extending tax incentivesfor clean energy and efficiency measures.

The Democratic platform contrasts the GOP's energy plan inmany ways. The Republican platformfor 2016 — which also mirrored party nominee Donald Trump's on energy — vowed to roll backmajor Obama administration climate policies, including the Clean Power Plan andParis agreement, and speed permitting for new energy projects. The RepublicanParty and Trump have also promised to approve the Keystone XL project ifTransCanada renews its application for the project.