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Nov. 5, 2023 |  By: Deborah Van Fleet - Public News Service

Nebraska climate advocate receives largest climate grant offered to individuals

wind energy

By Deborah Van Fleet - Public News Service

Nebraska environmental leader Jane Kleeb has received the largest environmental award offered to an individual, a $3 million Climate Breakthrough Award.

Kleeb is founding director and president of Bold Alliance, formerly Bold Nebraska.

She said after 13 years of fighting pipelines, they are moving into being energy builders. Energy Builders is also the name of the project the award money will fund. Kleeb pointed out the "unlikely alliance" of farmers, ranchers, tribal nations and climate advocates fighting pipelines has, unfortunately, often been on the other side of unions. She expects it to change as they begin a "new chapter."

"Because a lot of those jobs are not union jobs right now," Kleeb explained. "Workers that I talk to that are building wind and solar talk about how they wish that they were union jobs because they know that the pay they're getting is not fair and equitable to what is happening in fossil-fuel jobs."

Kleeb noted they are excited about working in solidarity with unions because in addition to developing clean energy projects they will be creating good-paying jobs for young people who want to stay and raise their families in rural communities.

The other 2023 Climate Breakthrough winner is from Indonesia, and Kleeb is only the third U.S. recipient among the 19 awardees so far.

Kleeb added they also will work to bring more "parity" to state and national energy policy.

"Pipelines get away with leaving their pipe in the ground, not having decommissioning plans, using eminent domain, and wind and solar have much stronger regulations," Kleeb outlined. "Some of this work is going to be us working at the ground level in the states to make sure that all energy projects are actually living up to the same standards as clean energy."

Another major focus will be ensuring the people and communities affected by new energy projects receive their fair share of the profits.

"I'm excited about not only making sure we are building more clean energy for climate change, but making sure that individuals are building wealth, not just energy corporations," Kleeb emphasized. "And that we are getting out of this box of only fossil fuels dominating our energy."

Savanna Ferguson, executive director of the group Climate Breakthrough, called Kleeb a "remarkable leader," and said the amount of wind, sun and land in the Midwest make it a prime location.

"There's an incredible opportunity in the Midwest to expand renewable energy," Ferguson asserted. "It's not just about stopping fossil fuels; it's about where do we go from here. How do we have a healthy and robust energy system that benefits the people in rural America?"