“Build Back Fossil Free” Week of Action Spotlights Environmental Justice

Last week, Thousands of activists across the nation ran, rallied, and posted on social media as part of a week of action, calling on President Biden to Build Back Fossil Free.

Activists organized socially-distanced events from San Francisco to Standing Rock to St. James Parish, Louisiana, urging President Joe Biden to protect and invest in Black, Indigenous, Brown and working-class communities and to launch a national climate mobilization to end the era of fossil fuel production.

Activists in the Bay Area urge Biden to #BuildBackFossilFree

The week of action was stewarded by the Build Back Fossil Free campaign, more than 200 groups representing millions of environmental, racial and economic justice advocates. They aim to hold President Joe Biden accountable to his promises for bold climate action.

The events demonstrated broad support for 25 specific executive actions Biden can take now to address the climate crisis and prioritize environmental justice. The campaign website awards partial credit to Biden for several steps he’s taken so far, including canceling a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and halting new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters. Activists participating in the week of action drew attention to actions Biden has not yet taken, including rejecting all federal permits for fossil fuel and other climate-damaging infrastructure projects like the Line 3 and Dakota Access pipelines.

In Washington, activists rallied in front of the White House and at the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency with banners hoisted on balloons, posters plastered on lamp posts, and a massive digital ad. Their message plays on the administration’s own mantra: If you want to “Build Back Better,” they say, “you must “Build Back Fossil Free.” 

Activists hoist a balloon banner in Washington, D.C.

“We are out here today in DC to demand that Biden build back fossil free,” said Liz Butler with Movement Catalyst. “People are calling for Biden to take immediate actions to end the era of fossil fuel production, including shutting down the Dakota Access Pipeline, stopping Line 3, and stopping the Formosa plastics plant. Communities across the country are counting on President Biden to take action.”

A video truck takes the #BuildBackFossilFree message to the EPA and White House

On Tuesday, despite sub-zero temperatures, Indigenous youth launched a 93-mile run to the site of the Dakota Access pipeline, encouraging activists across the nation to run with them and post videos online.

“We did this for one simple reason: the Dakota Access pipeline is illegal. It was pushed on our community, ignoring our treaties, just like Line 3,” said Jordin Sam, member of the Standing Rock Youth Council. “To build back fossil free, Biden must shut down the Dakota Access pipeline and stop Line 3.”

On Wednesday, groups opposing Formosa Plastics’ proposed petrochemical complex in St. James Parish, Louisiana, held demonstrations outside the Army Corps of Engineers office in New Orleans, at the project site in St. James, and in San Francisco, demanding that the project’s federal permit be revoked. The groups delivered more than 5,500 opposition letters to the Corps, citing concerns over environmental justice, wetlands destruction, and pollution.

Protesting Formosa Plastics

“We are calling on President Biden to stop Formosa Plastics,” said Sharon Lavigne, president of RISE St. James. “Formosa would be a death sentence for St. James Parish. The Biden administration can uphold its promise to elevate environmental justice and protect our communities.”

Organizers said they intend to continue pushing the Biden administration for further actions and executive orders to end the era of fossil fuels over the first 100 days of his administration.

The full set of executive action demands, as well as a list of over 200 organizations who support the demands, is available at www.buildbackfossilfree.org. The Build Back Fossil Free campaign builds on two detailed policy platforms: the #ClimatePresident Action Plan and the Frontlines Climate Justice Executive Action Platform. Together, they are supported by more than 500 leading climate, environmental, racial and economic justice, and youth organizations nationwide.