THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE ACTION(!) – APRIL 16, 2021

Mika Hyer, mhyer@lcv.org, 940-783-2230

Your weekly resource to learn what the environmental movement is saying about the news of the day and the political fight of our generation. Be sure to follow LCV on Facebook and Twitter.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK:

“It’s a shame. The world is traumatized watching another African American man being slain — there was no need to even tase him.”

— Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, speaking on the senseless killing of Daunte Wright last Sunday at the hands of a police officer mistaking their lethal weapon for a taser.

“The Department of Justice has to get re-engaged again about looking at patterns and practice of investigations of police departments across the country. It doesn’t matter the size of the department — it apparently doesn’t even matter the training, because the training is violated so much. We still have a lot of work to do to make sure that these incidents don’t happen again.”

— Donna Edwards, LCV board member and former U.S. Representative, says in an interview on MSNBC emphasizing the need for nation-wide police reform

“The layered problems of economic racism, environmental racism and health racism create a situation where these kinds of crises will always hit communities of color and Indigenous people harder. It’s unfortunate that the lesson would have to be learned through events like the Flint water crisis or the COVID-19 pandemic. But I do hope we learn from it.”

— Kyle Whyte, University of Michigan professor and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation stated after his recent membership to the new White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council

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LCV IN THE NEWS:

E&E News: Court preserves Obama Arctic drilling ban
E&E News: LCV running $400K in ads for La. Democrat
Bloomberg: Biden EPA, Climate Budget Ask Starts Debate: Jobs Vs. Deficits
Common Dreams: 200 Groups to Biden: Align Federal Fossil Fuel Programs With U.S. Climate Goals
Ripon Advance: Upton helps lead bipartisan lawmakers in introducing PFAS Action Act

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
LCV’s affiliates are hard at work protecting the environment and fighting climate change in the states. Here’s what people are reading across the country:

Maryland Matters (MD): Opinion: Pass the Zero-Emission Bus Transition Act
News & Record (NC): Carrie Clark and MaryBe McMillan: Jobs Plan will benefit workers and the planet
CT Post (CT): Opinion: CT not immune to fight against voting rights
CBS Miami (FL): ‘It Affects All Floridians’: Sea Level Rise Bill Heads To Gov. Ron DeSantis
HeraldNet (WA): U.S. 2 trestle rebuild part of Senate transportation package
Courthouse News Service (CA): Strict Corporate Emissions Reporting Rules Advanced in California
Waste Dive (NY): Lawmakers in New York, Maine name packaging EPR among top priorities at Plastics Recycling Conference
WJCT (FL): On Climate Change, DeSantis Focuses On Infrastructure While Ignoring Heat-Causing Emissions

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RACIAL JUSTICE IS ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE: During a week when we continue to tragically confront the racism that is deeply embedded in our country and governance — especially in policing — the House Judiciary Committee voted to advance H.R. 40, which would create a commission to study and develop overdue reparation proposals for African Americans. The call for reparations for African Americans is a first and critical step towards addressing the deep-rooted racism in our nation. The racism embedded in our country’s governance and structures means that Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis — these communities are living near toxic areas, breathing more polluted air, face greater barriers to voting, and have been continuously and deliberately excluded from the spaces where decisions are made. Prior to the historic committee vote, LCV released a blog from LCV Chief Officer for Racial Justice and Equity Dr. Leslie R. Hinkson, PhD, “Reparations Will Help Build Power for People and the Planet,” which you can read here, and see our statement upon the bill’s passage here.

REPRESENTATIVE TAKE: During a committee debate on Wednesday, Representative Sheila Jackon Lee, who re-introduced H.R. 40 this Congress stated, “We’re asking for people to understand the pain, the violence, the brutality, the chattel-ness of what we went through. And of course, we’re asking for harmony, reconciliation, reason to come together as Americans.”

OUR TAKE: LCV Chief Officer for Racial Justice and Equity Dr. Leslie R. Hinkson stated in LCV’s latest blog post, “We know that sometimes eyebrows are raised when we take positions on legislation that is seen as outside of “traditional” environmental issues. But we reject that premise. In not addressing reparations during Reconstruction, our government and society ensured that the legacy of slavery would endure. That enduring legacy includes a history and a present for Black people in America of housing segregation, redlining, voter suppression, state-sanctioned violence, intentional exposure to environmental toxins, and mortality and morbidity rates that exceed those of every other racial or ethnic group on almost every measure. By not addressing that legacy, we not only fail to understand how structural racism, and anti-Blackness in particular, has threatened our democracy, our environment, our people, and our planet, we continue to further those threats.”

OUR DOUBLE TAKE: After Wednesday’s vote, LCV Chief Officer for Racial Justice and Equity Dr. Leslie R. Hinkson stated, “H.R. 40 is just one first step toward reparations–and there is much that we have lost through centuries of systemic and structural racism that can never be recovered–but it’s an important step, and we sincerely hope it will move to the House floor. We commend those members of Congress who voted in support of H.R. 40 yesterday and those who have already signed on in support of both H.R. 40 and S. 40 and we urge those who have not yet done so to recognize the urgency of this moment in history and the opportunities that it presents. We cannot equitably build political power for people and the planet until we intentionally dismantle these racist structures and their legacies.”

DC EMANCIPATION DAY: Friday is Emancipation Day in the District, which marks the abolition of slavery in DC. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln freed 3,000 slaves eight months before the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the South on January 1, 1863. While DC. was the first to free slaves, slaves throughout the south were not all freed until June 19th, 1865, when Union soldiers reached Galveston, Texas to declare emancipation. Read more about the history of DC emancipation here.

51 TO 51: On Wednesday, H.R.51, The Washington, D.C. Admission Act, was voted out of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and will advance to the full House for a vote this coming Thursday. In a Congress more divided than ever, the unrepresented residents of DC — more than half of whom are people of color — deserve to have their voices heard at the national level, particularly on environmental justice issues including air pollution, contamination of waterways, and even contamination of soil from leaking underground storage tanks. DC residents of color are disproportionately impacted by toxic pollution and the climate crisis, and it’s past time for equal representation in our federal government and the fundamental right to self-govern for the more than 700,000 residents of our nation’s capital. Read our coalition letter from environmental organizations urging Congress to support H.R. 51 here.

DC MAYORAL TAKE: Prior to Wednesday’s vote, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser stated, “As we get ready to celebrate DC Emancipation Day, we are reminded that Washingtonians are still not free and we will not be free until we have the representation in Congress that we deserve as taxpaying American citizens. But today we are one step closer to finally righting this 220-year-old wrong. We thank Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney for fighting for Washingtonians and prioritizing DC statehood. Last year, we came closer to DC statehood than ever before. Now, with another House vote just one week away and historic support for DC statehood in the Senate, we are ready to finally end the disenfranchisement of more than 700,000 Americans and make Washington, DC the 51st state.”

OUR TAKE: Last month, LCV led an environmental group coalition letter urging the House to support H.R. 51, stating, “DC residents face a disproportionate impact of our federal government’s failure to act on climate and other pressing environmental harms. Low-income and Black communities have historically suffered the consequences of pollution and public health risks, and DC residents, more than half of whom are people of color, have experienced this environmental racism for generations.

Our nation is facing the unprecedented crisis of climate change, and the residents of DC deserve full federal representation in order to urge Congress to act. In addition to providing a vote in the legislative process, statehood would allow DC to participate fully in the budgetary and oversight authorities of Congress that govern the execution of our bedrock environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Finally, lifetime positions on our federal courts have a substantial influence on the future of our nation’s environmental protections, and DC residents lack any voice in the Senate confirmation process.”

MALLORY TO THE FLOOR: On Wednesday, the Senate, in a historic bipartisan vote, confirmed Brenda Mallory as the first Black Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Mallory brings expertise from her career at the EPA and as general counsel for CEQ, and she has seen firsthand how policies can exclude communities — especially communities of color and low income communities overburdened by pollution. The Biden-Harris administration’s latest addition of environmental champions to tackle the climate crisis is a critical step towards a clean energy future that addresses justice and equity for our most impacted communities.

CEQ CHAIR TAKE: Newly confirmed Chair of the White House CEQ Brenda Mallory stated, “President Biden has not wasted a moment in setting our nation on a path to a cleaner, healthier, and more just future, and I am thrilled and honored to have the chance to advance this work as CEQ Chair. By helping forge unity of purpose – across communities, across the country, and across government – CEQ will help our nation rise to the environmental challenges of our time, from climate change and the nature crisis to the environmental injustices that have plagued our country for too long.”

OUR TAKE: LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld stated, “Congratulations to Brenda Mallory on her historic confirmation to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality! Mallory is a true environmental champion with decades of experience and an excellent addition to the all-star Biden administration. We know she will work to foster collaboration and prioritization of the environment and public health across the federal government. We’re very excited for her leadership and commitment to environmental justice and know she will ensure that all communities have a meaningful voice in protecting our climate, air, water, and public health.”

ACT ON PFAS: On Tuesday, the bipartisan PFAS Action Act was introduced by Representatives Debbie Dingell and Fred Upton to protect people from PFAS, which are harmful “forever chemicals” that do not break down and are present in all kinds of products from firefighting foam to food packaging to dental floss. Despite the harmful health impacts of PFAS, including developmental issues, cancer, and hormonal issues, companies are still dumping PFAS into our water and air and using it in everyday products — disproportionately impacting low-wealth communities and communities of color. Studies have shown that in Michigan alone, 36,170 more low-income households (49% more than expected based on US census data) and approximately 134,488 more people of color (48% more than expected) live within five miles of a site contaminated with PFAS. The location of these contamination sites are not accidental — see the facts on these “forever chemicals” from our Michigan LCV partners here.

EPA TAKE: During the nomination hearing for Michael Regan to be the Administrator of the EPA, Regan stated, “I think there is a lot of wisdom in the vision and the direction that you are headed in order to have a full accounting of how these forever chemicals are entering into our water, as well as our air. So I think we need to take a look at the discharge of PFAS from a water quality standpoint. I think we need to take a very strong look at the emissions that are coming from the combustion and incineration of products that yield PFAS into our atmosphere. I can commit to you that on day one, that this is and will be a priority for this Administration to set limits on how much of this chemical compound is entering into our air and our water.”

OUR TAKE: LCV Deputy Legislative Director Madeleine Foote stated, “The PFAS Action Act is a critical step in tackling the growing PFAS crisis that is jeopardizing the health of communities all across the country. For too long, the federal government has abdicated its responsibility to protect our families from these dangerous chemicals, forcing states and localities to try to pick up the slack and leaving too many people vulnerable to PFAS pollution. We greatly appreciate the efforts of Representative Debbie Dingell and other champions in Congress who are leading the charge to hold chemical companies accountable for the damage they have done to our health and the environment. Congress should quickly take up and pass this important legislation. At the same time, we urge the Biden administration to act now and use all of its existing authority to stop the use of and clean up these toxic chemicals to ensure everyone has access to clean air, safe water, and a healthy environment.”

OFFSHORE DRILLING WIN: On Tuesday, the judges on the 9th circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decided to drop the lawsuit, League of Conservation Voters v. Trump, re-affirming a permanent moratorium on 128 million acres of ocean territory in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans.

EARTHJUSTICE TAKE: Earthjustice attorney Erik Grafe stated, “As the Biden administration considers its next steps, it should build on these foundations, end fossil fuel leasing on public lands and waters, and embrace a clean energy future that does not come at the expense of wildlife and our natural heritage.”

OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski stated, “This is a big victory for our oceans, marine life, and our climate — and all people who rely on clean beaches and healthy marine environments. We’re thrilled that the ban on oil and gas leasing will remain in place for millions of acres of vibrant and sensitive offshore waters in the Arctic Ocean and key parts of the Atlantic Ocean. Thank you to former President Obama for his visionary leadership to protect these waters and to President Biden for supporting these protections as part of the transition we need away from fossil fuel development on America’s majestic public lands and waters.

We could not be more grateful for our our co-plaintiffs — Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Greenpeace USA, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society — and our attorneys from Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council for their extraordinary work protecting people and the planet.”

EMISSIONS: On Wednesday, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a letter from over 1,500 scientists, calling on the Biden-Harris administration to set an ambitious national target to reduce emissions by at least 50% by 2030 and reach net zero emissions no later than 2050. Amidst the growing climate crisis, it’s clear we cannot wait to listen to science. The letter aims to ensure that the administration hears scientists’ voices loud and clear as it determines its nationally determined contribution (NDC) under the Paris agreement, ahead of the Biden-Harris administration’s world leaders’ summit on climate from April 22-23, and Earth Day on April 22nd.

EXPERT TAKE: Experts signing on to the letter stated, “Frontline communities—the neighborhoods at the greatest risk from climate change—are disproportionately low-income communities and communities of color. As we transition to a low-carbon economy and help the nation prepare for worsening climate impacts, we need to ensure that policies are created in partnership with these frontline communities, and that they receive sufficient investments quickly. Keeping communities safe in the decades ahead will require a national resilience and adaptation strategy, community access to legal means for holding fossil fuel polluters accountable, and the enhancement and enforcement of existing public health safeguards, including the clean-up of toxic pollution.”

NEW ADS: On Friday, LCV Victory Fund announced a new $400,000 advertising campaign, including TV and radio ads, to elect Karen Carter Peterson to represent Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District in Congress. Parts of Louisiana’s 2nd District have nearly double the risk of cancer than most of the U.S. due to dangerously polluted air from fossil fuel-burning oil, gas and petrochemical plants — prompting U.N. experts to raise concerns about the area known as “Cancer Alley”. Watch the ad, “Playground,” here.

EXPERT TAKE: U.N. human rights experts from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stated, “This form of environmental racism poses serious and disproportionate threats to the enjoyment of several human rights of its largely African American residents, including the right to equality and non-discrimination, the right to life, the right to health, right to an adequate standard of living and cultural rights. The African American descendants of the enslaved people who once worked the land are today the primary victims of deadly environmental pollution that these petrochemical plants in their neighbourhoods have caused. We call on the United States and St. James Parish to recognise and pay reparations for the centuries of harm to Afro-descendants rooted in slavery and colonialism.”

OUR TAKE:  LCV Victory Fund Senior Vice President of Campaigns Pete Maysmith stated.“For too long, polluters have gotten rich at the expense of south Louisiana communities — especially the communities of color suffering on the frontlines of toxic pollution in Cancer Alley. Karen Carter Peterson has experienced some of the worst impacts of climate change and toxic pollution first hand and she is the passionate leader we need to deliver climate and environmental justice for the residents of Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District.”

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STATES:

CLIMATE ACTION ADVANCES IN MD: As Maryland’s 2021 Legislative Session came to a close this week, LCV celebrated the significant victories for Maryland’s environment and communities, including advances in transit funding, a reformed Environmental Justice Commission, and a commitment to transition the state’s bus fleet to zero-emission vehicles.These measures have been a significant step towards a cleaner climate future for Marylanders. However, the legislature also failed to address the urgency of climate change by allowing the Climate Solutions Now Act to become stalled in the bureaucratic process.

CHISPA MD TAKE: Maryland LCV deputy executive director and director of Chispa Maryland Ramón Palencia-Calvo stated, “In the big picture, we still lack a comprehensive framework that advances equitable and just environmental policies in Maryland. We look forward to working with the reformed Commission to not only stop harmful pollution, but also support solutions that are community driven and geared toward creating social and economic opportunities in impacted communities.”

MDLCV TAKE: Maryland LCV’s Executive Director Kim Coble stated, “The session was unprecedented in many ways because of the coronavirus, but Marylanders on the whole should be proud of the breakthroughs that were made on important environmental issues. The transit funding bill will mean safer, and more equitable transit options for Marylanders, with the associated benefit of providing family-sustaining jobs. A reformed Environmental Justice Commission similarly sets us on a path for a more equitable Maryland, with fairer representation of more community members. And transitioning the state’s bus fleet to zero-emissions buses will be a win-win for budgets, communities, and our public health.

Science tells us we need stronger, faster emissions reductions to meaningfully address the urgency of the climate crisis, and statewide polling tells us that’s what Maryland voters want. It is disappointing that for the second year in a row, legislators were not able to pass a comprehensive bill that would adequately address the climate crisis…we look forward to working with the Maryland General Assembly and the Department of General Services to take even bolder steps to address the climate crisis in the very near future.”

STRENGTHENING NC JOBS: Last week, News & Record published an op-ed from North Carolina LCV Executive Director and LCV board member, Carrie Clark, and North Carolina State AFL-CIO President, MaryBe McMillan, which focused on how the American Jobs Plan will create good-paying, clean energy jobs while tackling the climate crisis and addressing environmental racism.

NCLCV + AFL-CIO TAKE: North Carolina LCV Executive Director and LCV board member Carrie Clark and North Carolina State AFL-CIO President MaryBe McMillan wrote, “As we recover from COVID-19, now is the time for millions of people to get back to work, with new jobs in a clean-energy economy. Clean-energy jobs are among the fastest-growing in America, particularly in North Carolina, and offer a huge opportunity for high-quality, union jobs that will help rebuild the middle class.

With the president’s plan, we finally have a chance to address the intersecting health, economic, social and climate crises we face, through bold investments that can truly Build Back Better with justice and equity.”

STRENGTHENING OH JOBS: On Tuesday, the Columbus Dispatch published an op-ed from Ohio Environmental Council executive director Heather Taylor-Miesle, who drew attention to the critical infrastructure needs in Ohio and how the Biden-Harris administration’s American Jobs Plan will invest in Ohians, with a priority for frontline communities who suffer the most from the impacts of the climate crisis.

OEC TAKE: Ohio Environmental Council executive director Heather Taylor-Miesle stated, “Ohio is thought to be second in the nation for lead service lines, with an estimated 650,000 lines carrying water to families’ homes. And since the early 2000s, the Ohio EPA has worked with communities in southeast and southwest Ohio to monitor and remediate PFAS in drinking water systems. Federal investment to address these serious and complex infrastructure issues is welcome, especially when investment benefits frontline communities and creates good-paying union jobs across Ohio. As we emerge from the pandemic, it is clear that this is not an either/or moment. The American Jobs Plan will bolster our economy, protect our environment, and fight climate change — all while supporting healthier and more resilient communities. We urge our elected officials to choose the win-win-win.”

TAINTED THIRST (NV): On Thursday, Nevada Conservation League (NCL) and The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada hosted a virtual screening of Tainted Thirst, a documentary focused on the negative impacts of the mining industry on air quality, water sanctity, and the lives of Indigenous & rural Nevadans alike. Open-pit mining accounts for 90% of mining operations in Nevada. There are more than 30 gold and silver mines currently in operation throughout the state, polluting public and Indigenous lands and depleting water resources at an alarming rate.

COMING UP:

April 21 — Women’s Wednesday with Congresswoman Kuster and the NH Women’s Foundation
April 22 — Earth Day & World Leaders Summit on Climate Change
April 24 — Louisiana 2nd Congressional District Runoff Election
April 28 — President Biden to address Joint Session of Congress
April 29 — Biden-Harris administration’s 100th day in office
May 8 — John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Day of Action

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