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Sierra Club calls for end to natural gas infrastructure build-out

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Sierra Club calls for end to natural gas infrastructure build-out

The U.S. should reject natural gas infrastructure expansion and accelerate the transition to renewable sources of energy like wind and solar to meet climate commitments, the Sierra Club said in a report denouncing the country's increasing reliance on gas.

Through their quantity and locations, proposed gas projects threaten the climate and disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities, the environmental group said in "The Gas Rush: Locking America into Another Fossil Fuel for Decades." The Sierra Club said its analysis found that 60% of planned gas-fired plants in California would be built in "already overburdened areas" and that the expected build-out would have impacts on a large percentage of Americans.

The Sierra Club's report came after President Donald Trump signed actions paving the way for two stalled oil pipeline projects and calling for expedited environmental reviews of high-priority infrastructure projects. The Atlantic Coast gas pipeline project made a list obtained by the McClatchy news service of the Trump administration's 50 "priority" infrastructure projects.

According to the Sierra Club, Texas will be affected the most by "the gas rush," with more than one-quarter of the proposed new gas plant capacity. The state should instead look to solar power, especially after Austin Energy was offered more than 1,295 MW of solar generation for less than 4 cents per kWh, the group said. "Choosing more gas over cheap, abundant, renewable and job-creating solar energy in Texas — let alone concentrating 27 percent of the gas rush there — is nonsensical," the group wrote.

Moving toward alternative energy sources would also create new jobs, the Sierra Club said. The report references research it commissioned from the University of California's Berkeley Don Vial Center on Employment in the Green Economy, which found that replacing all fossil fuel-based electricity with renewable sources would create 4.3 million direct jobs in construction and related services.

A group representing gas pipelines argued instead for greater energy diversity. "Instead of picking one energy source over another, we should harness American creativity and competitiveness to drive efficiency from all energy sources," Cathy Landry, a spokeswoman for the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, said in an emailed statement. "Not only does natural gas generate about one third of the nation's electricity — as the report acknowledges — it also heats homes, cooks food and is used extensively in industrial manufacturing, creating a variety of products, some of which are used as the building blocks for renewable energy facilities."

The Sierra Club has regularly intervened in regulatory proceedings for gas infrastructure projects, challenging the commission's authorization of several pipelines and most LNG export terminals.