THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE ACTION(!) – APRIL 23, 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:

“This did not happen because the system worked. This happened because the people put in the work. At every hand, we had to press for the officers to be fired, for them to be charged, for there to be more serious charges.”

— Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney and activist in Minneapolis in NPR article, “Activist: Convictions In George Floyd’s Death Could Represent ‘A Huge Paradigm Shift’”.

“The folks whose lives have been the most expendable have been people of color, indigenous communities and the descendants of enslaved people in our country. There are ramifications for that racism. For Black folks, it’s a slow form of lynching. Our present fight is very much connected to previous fights and struggles that those who come before us fought in order for us to be here.”

— Justin J. Pearson, a native of Southwest Memphis and co-founder of the grassroots group Memphis Community Against the Pipeline (MCAP), in an ABC article, “’This is environmental racism’: Black community in Memphis resists proposed crude oil pipeline”.

“For generations we’ve put off the transition to clean energy, and now we face a climate crisis. It has fallen on those communities: communities of color, poor communities. You can bet that I’m going to do everything I can to help those communities to have an opportunity to build back better.” 

— Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland in Grist interview, “Deb Haaland is making room for marginalized communities in the Interior Department”

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LCV IN THE NEWS:

ABC: What Biden has done on climate change has activists applauding — and waiting
AP: Dems push $25B for electric school buses, a Biden priority
E&E News: Republicans’ $568B counteroffer draws mixed reviews
NBC: NAACP, teachers union part of group buying $1M ad spot in federal voting rights bill fight
WIVB4: Poloncarz joins 1,200+ leaders in signing letter urging Congress to pass the American Jobs Plan
Atlanta Tribune: National Voting Campaign Launches [VIDEO]
E&E News: La. race an energy fight between Dems in ‘Cancer Alley’
E&E News: LCV endorses Democratic nominee for Haaland seat
Financial Post: U.S. Treasury eyes corporate tax system as way to tackle climate change

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:

The Arizona Republic (AZ): A newsroom should match the diversity of its community. At The Republic, we’re closer to that goal than ever
The News & Observer (NC): In North Carolina, VP Harris pitches ‘good jobs’ tied to Biden infrastructure plan
KRWG – NPR/PBS (NM): Diverse Coalition of 21 Moves to Defend Biden Administration’s Oil, Gas Leasing Pause
Missoulian (MT): Opinion: The Montana Legislature should remember who they work for
WJCT (FL): Florida Elected Officials Join Environmentalists In Opposing Utility Preemption Bill
Richland Source (OH): Utility & fossil fuel interests still ahead in Ohio under House Bill 6
Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press (ID): Courts might decide fate of Idaho initiatives
NHPR (NH): ‘It’s My Future’: A New Generation Of Young Climate Activists Takes The Helm In New Hampshire
Grist (FL): Basically everyone in Florida is united against these new highways

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A MOMENT OF ACCOUNTABILITY: On Tuesday, the jury in the case against Derek Chauvin found him guilty on all three murder charges for the murder of George Floyd. While this is one moment of accountability, it’s clear from the killings of Ma’Khia Bryant in Ohio and Andrew Brown Jr. in North Carolina by police officers just this week that the criminal justice system continues to be broken. Racial justice IS environmental justice — this work means nothing if Black communities are not safe in the very environment we’re fighting for. No one should fear persecution or death because of the color of their skin — all lives cannot matter until Black lives truly matter. 

OUR TAKE: In response to the jury’s finding that Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is guilty on all murder charges for killing George Floyd, LCV’s Chief Officer for Racial Justice and Equity Leslie R. Hinkson stated, “No court verdict will ever deliver real justice for racist, state-sanctioned violence against Black people. Nor can it erase the collective pain and trauma of those across the country, particularly Black people, who have had to repeatedly witness George Floyd’s murder, and live through more of these deaths even as this trial was underway. Today we are grateful that George Floyd’s killer will face consequences, yet we simultaneously grieve for Floyd, for Daunte Wright, for Adam Toledo, and for every Black, Indigenous and person of color who has endured systemic racism and abusive policing practices for generations. Real justice requires comprehensive policing reform and transforming the institution to protect all communities, rather than protecting some at the expense of others

LCV exists to protect our planet and everyone who inhabits it — but this work means nothing if Black communities are not safe in the very environment we’re fighting for. No one should fear persecution or death because of the color of their skin. Black Lives Matter.”

OBAMAS’ TAKE: Following the verdict, former President and First Lady Obama released a statement saying, “Today, a jury in Minneapolis did the right thing. True justice requires that we come to terms with the fact that Black Americans are treated differently, every day. It requires us to recognize that millions of our friends, family, and fellow citizens live in fear that their next encounter with law enforcement could be their last. While today’s verdict may have been a necessary step on the road to progress, it was far from a sufficient one. We cannot rest. We will need to  follow through with the concrete reforms that will reduce and ultimately eliminate racial bias in our criminal justice system. We will need to redouble efforts to expand economic opportunity for those communities that have been too long marginalized.” Read their full statement here.

51 TO 51: On Thursday, the House voted to pass H.R. 51, the Washington D.C. Admission Act, advancing the bill to the Senate for a vote. DC residents experience environmental injustice across the District, including air pollution, contamination of waterways, and even contamination of soil from leaking underground storage tanks. Underrepresented DC residents — over half of whom are people 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.

OUR TAKE: LCV Voting Rights Program Director Justin Kwasa stated, “This is a victory for our democracy and environment. On this 51st anniversary of the first Earth Day, one of the very best things we can do to protect people and the planet is to ensure everyone can participate equitably in our political system. Low-income and Black communities have historically suffered the consequences of pollution and public health risks, and D.C. residents, more than half of whom are people of color, have experienced this environmental racism for generations — yet have been denied full representation in Congress. By establishing Washington D.C. as a state, while preserving a constitutionally required Federal District, this legislation finally grants power to the people, where it belongs. Now it’s up to the Senate to right a historic wrong, fully enfranchise the more than seven hundred thousand people in Washington, D.C., and realize our nation’s values of equal representation.” 

TALKING CLEAN ENERGY: This week, President Biden and Vice President Harris took a look at what’s possible in manufacturing with a clean energy future. On Monday, Vice President Harris travelled to North Carolina to visit Thomas Built Buses, a unionized electric school bus manufacturing plant, to discuss the bold $20 billion dollar commitment to invest in converting gas and diesel buses to zero-emission electric. On Tuesday, President Biden virtually toured another electric school bus manufacturing plant in South Carolina, operated by Proterra. To close out the week, Vice President Harris travelled to New Hampshire on Friday, speaking on how clean energy jobs will help lead our nation in tackling the climate crisis while addressing equity and justice. 

VP TAKE: During Monday’s remarks at Thomas Built Buses and North Carolina’s Guilford Technical Community college, Vice President Kamala Harris stated, “We are not going to take it slow, and we are not going to take it one step at a time. Nope. We are going to take a giant leap into the future. This Thomas bus is a model for the country and the world on what is possible.”

CHISPA TAKE: Chispa National Director Johana Vicente stated, “Vice President Harris is a true champion for kids and families facing the worst environmental pollution. After years of parents, students, and advocates organizing and speaking out for a clean ride for kids in their communities and statehouses, we were so proud to see the Biden-Harris administration include $20 billion in the American Jobs Plan to electrify school buses. This investment is a great starting point to create more good-paying manufacturing jobs here in the U.S. and ensure that all niños can breathe cleaner air in the formative years when their lungs are developing. We look forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration and Congress to get bold investments across the finish line for low-income communities of color who are most impacted by toxic pollution.”

NCLCV + AFL-CIO TAKE: North Carolina LCV Executive Director and LCV board member Carrie Clark and North Carolina State AFL-CIO President MaryBe McMillan published an op-ed prior to Harris’ visit stating, “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.”

CLEAN BUSES: On Wednesday, Representatives Jahana Hayes and Tony Cárdenas and Senators Alex Padilla and Raphael Warnock introduced the Clean Commute for Kids Act, a bill that would authorize a bold investment of $25 billion to rapidly transition almost a third of the nation’s school bus fleet to clean, electric buses over ten years — prioritizing grants to school districts serving the most impacted communities with unhealthy air pollution, which are often communities of color and communities with low wealth. Wednesday’s standalone bill introduction builds on the related provision Representatives Hayes and Cardenas helped place in the House’s CLEAN Future Act. Chispa and members of the national Electric School Bus (ESB) Coalition praised the electric school bus provision in the CLEAN Future Act earlier this year. 

CHISPA TAKE: Chispa National Director Johana Vicente stated, “After years of parents, students, and advocates organizing for a clean ride for kids, we are excited to work with Congress to pass funding to bring more electric school buses to communities throughout the country. Investing $25 billion to help 25 million children riding school buses breathe cleaner air in the formative years when their lungs are developing will make a big difference in their lives. Directing significant portions of this funding to low-income communities of color, who face the worst effects of environmental pollution, will ensure that we are addressing the needs of impacted communities first. This is the bold investment that we need to accelerate the transition of the nation’s fleet from dirty, diesel-fueled school buses to zero-emission, electric school buses.”

OUR TAKE: LCV Government Affairs Advocate Darien Davis stated, “We applaud Representatives Cardenas and Hayes and Senators Padilla and Warnock for their deep commitment to advancing the manufacture and adoption of zero-emission school buses. Their proposal, which complements school bus pieces outlined in the American Jobs Plan, would create millions of good-paying union jobs. With a $25 billion investment in electric school buses, children across the country can breathe easier as they return back to in-person learning.”

51% ON 51ST: Thursday marked the 51st annual Earth Day and the start of the World Leaders’ Climate Summit, where President Biden announced a new commitment to the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), aiming for the United States to reach a 50-52 percent reduction from 2005 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. These renewed commitments, under the Paris Agreement we just rejoined, are a critical step towards the United States showing leadership in tackling the climate crisis on the world stage. 

OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski stated, “This is exactly the kind of strong international commitment we need to drive domestic ambition to solve the climate crisis, center environmental justice communities, and transition to a 100% clean energy economy once and for all. The Biden-Harris administration is off to the strongest start we’ve ever seen when it comes to action on climate and environmental justice and today’s announcement is another important piece of the larger picture. There is a clear path ahead — we must rapidly invest in just and equitable climate actions and infrastructure that creates millions of high-paying union jobs accessible to the communities, especially communities of color, who have been hit hardest by the nation’s interconnected crises. LCV is all in for international climate action and we look forward to working with this administration and Congress to move quickly as we work to pass recovery legislation that implements climate solutions, maintains and creates jobs here in the U.S., and propels America forward without leaving any communities behind.” 

OUR DOUBLE TAKE: LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld stated, “President Biden has done more to combat the climate crisis, to advance clean energy and environmental justice in his first 100 days – it has been the strongest hundred days of any presidential administration ever when it comes to these issues. He campaigned more strongly on climate and environmental justice and clean energy than any presidential candidate ever. They focused a lot on it during the transition, and they really hit the ground running,” 

LOCAL LEADERS ON AMERICAN JOBS PLAN: Less than three weeks after President Biden announced the American Jobs Plan, state and local officials from across the country are calling on Congress to pass an economic recovery plan centered around clean energy, climate, justice, and good paying union jobs. In a letter, organized by LCV and Climate Power, 1,266 signers representing all 50 states and Washington, DC asked Congressional leaders to “seize a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help our communities recover by creating and sustaining millions of good paying jobs, putting us on the path to 100% clean energy, and building a more equitable and just society.” See more statements from local electeds here and read the full letter here.

GOVERNOR’S TAKE: Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers said, “Every Wisconsinite has experienced the effects of climate change, and communities of color, low-income Wisconsinites, and our farmers have been among those most disproportionately affected. It’s time we embrace a future where we don’t have to choose between protecting our environment and good-paying jobs and a strong economy—we can do both. That’s why I’m proud to support President Biden’s Build Back Better infrastructure investment plan that will do just that.”

OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski stated, “This many signers from every corner of the country is the clearest call yet that state and local leaders have waited long enough for a real recovery plan that tackles climate change and invests in clean energy jobs. They know we have a once-in-a-generation chance to fix our broken infrastructure. We can put millions back to work in new good-paying, union jobs in the clean energy economy that address the climate crisis, decades of pollution, and environmental injustice. Congress should heed this clarion call for transformational action.”

GOP ON INFRASTRUCTURE: On Thursday, Senate Republicans introduced a gutted infrastructure plan that fails to address the climate crisis, clean energy, environmental justice, or good-paying, union jobs. Yesterday, over 1,200 state and local elected officials released a letter calling on Congress to pass President Biden’s American Jobs Plan. Additionally, new polling shows overwhelming and growing support for the American Jobs Plan and the inclusion of climate action in the proposal, with 68% of all voters supporting the plan after a short description and support growing to 71% after additional information is presented. 

OUR TAKE: Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld stated, “The infrastructure proposal put forward by Senate Republicans is unacceptable and flies in the face of what voters — Republicans, Independents, and Democrats alike — are asking for: action on the climate crisis centered in justice and equity. And it’s shameful to see this plan introduced on Earth Day, of all days, with no mention of climate, clean energy, environmental justice, or good-paying union jobs. 

The American Jobs Plan has the backing of labor unions, environmental organizations, environmental justice leaders, businesses, and local leaders from across the country — it’s not just good policy, it’s good politics. It’s disappointing to see Senate Republicans once again putting the special interests of big polluters first and failing to provide the investments required to propel our nation forward and ensure no community is left behind. When it comes to the climate crisis, time is not on our side. President Biden has proposed a transformational plan, and we are counting on Congress to seize this once-in a-generation opportunity.”

MILLION DOLLAR AD BUY FOR THE PEOPLE: This week, the Democracy for All 2021 Action Coalition, which includes LCV, the NAACP, the Service Employees International Union, the American Federation of Teachers, Sierra Club, and other advocates, political organizations, and labor groups, launched a one million dollar ad campaign in Georgia, Arizona, New Hampshire, and DC to highlight how the For the People Act will expand voting rights and improve voting access for communities who face barriers to participate in our democracy. A healthy democracy and a healthy environment are inextricably linked — communities, often communities of color and low income communities, who face barriers to participating in our democracy are also the most impacted by poor environmental policies and electeds who put polluter interests before people.

OUR TAKE:  LCV President Gene Karpinski stated, “Communities of color most impacted by toxic pollution and climate change are the same communities whose voices are being silenced by restrictive voting laws. Passing the For the People Act and unrigging our political system would return power to the overwhelming majority of people in this country who want to see meaningful action on climate change, environmental justice, and clean energy.”

NEW ENDORSEMENT ALERT: On Tuesday, LCV Action Fund, which works to elect pro-environment candidates, announced its endorsement of Melanie Stansbury for election to the U.S. House of Representatives from New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District. In 2018, Stansbury was the first woman and first Democrat elected to serve as state representative in House District 28 and has earned a 97 percent lifetime score from Conservation Voters New Mexico. During her time as a state representative, Stansbury passed legislation to foster resilience in food and water systems and support stewardship of energy resources, and introduced and passed a bill to modernize New Mexico’s electrical grid and advance a more data-driven approach to water management. Additionally, Stansbury has passed legislation to support New Mexico’s farmers in improving soil health and agricultural practices and to expand access to school meal programs. See Stansbury’s statement on the endorsement here.

CVNM TAKE: Conservation Voters New Mexico Political & Policy Director Ben Shelton stated, “Melanie was one of the top environmental policy minds in the Roundhouse the minute that she stepped into the building. Her skill and compassion as a legislator stood out immediately. I have no doubt that she will continue to be a rising star in the conservation and climate arena as the CD 1 representative in Washington D.C.”

OUR TAKE: LCV Action Fund Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld stated, “Representative Melanie Stansbury is one of the foremost environmental champions in the New Mexico legislature and we know she will be an incredible leader for climate and environmental justice in Congress. We are proud to support her for election because she will bring her expertise driving equitable and bold policies to Congress to fight for good-paying union jobs and continue Secretary Haaland’s strong legacy centering the voices of communities who are most impacted by the climate crisis and pollution.”

CLEAN ENERGY FOR AMERICA ACT: On Wednesday, Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden introduced the Clean Energy for America Act, which would overhaul the federal energy tax code, boost clean renewable energy, vehicles, and efficiency incentives, end fossil fuel subsidies, create jobs, and combat climate change. 

OUR TAKE: LCV Legislative Director Matthew Davis stated, “We applaud Chairman Wyden for leading a visionary bill to accelerate our transition to clean electricity, transportation, and buildings. Taking a holistic, decade-long approach to tax incentives for decarbonizing these three major sectors, and eliminating subsidies for fossil fuels, would help put us on track to meet the science-based carbon reduction goals needed to stave off the most severe impacts of climate change, which is hurting communities of color and low wealth communities the most. We’re happy to see inclusion of requirements that will ensure this clean energy transition maintains and creates good-paying union jobs and look forward to making sure these investments also translate into domestic manufacturing of clean energy components and grow the U.S. supply chain.”

SPECIAL ELECTION SATURDAY: Tomorrow, Saturday, April 24th, is Special Election Day in Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District. Last week, 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 District. 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.”

CHISPA ARIZONA CLIMATE EVENT PREVIEW!: Tomorrow, Saturday, April 24th, Chispa Arizona is partnering with EDF, Corazon Latino, and Climate Power to co-host a town hall with Univision Arizona both on television and online for a discussion on steps all of us can take to help heal our planet and combat the climate crisis while creating jobs and economic prosperity. Watch the livestream here.

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STATES:

NEBRASKA UTILITY TAKES FIRST STEP TOWARD SOLAR: Earlier this month the Omaha Public Power District signed a contract to build an 81-megawatt solar farm – the state’s first utility-scale solar project. In 2019, OPPD committed to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and announced a plan to develop 600 megawatts of solar. This new solar project will generate enough electricity to power 14,000 homes.

CVM TAKE: Chelsea Johnson, Deputy Director of Nebraska Conservation Voters said “NCV is excited about the progress that this project, which will soon be Nebraska’s largest solar farm, signifies for Nebraska’s transition to a clean energy economy. This project is the first step toward achieving OPPD’s 600 MW solar commitment and will help OPPD meet its decarbonization goal.”

CALIFORNIA BANS FRACKING: Today California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a ban on fracking in the state by 2024. The directive calls for the Department of Conservation, which regulates the state’s oil and gas industry, to create a mandate to stop issuing permits for new fracking projects. Newsome also included a charge for the California Air Resources Board to examine how the state could completely phase out oil extraction by no later than 2045. This is the latest action from the Governor to make progress on California’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

CVM TAKE: California League of Conservation Voters Chief Executive Officer, Mary Creasman, said: “The Governor’s announcement is the consistent leadership our state needs if we stand a chance of preventing major climate catastrophe. As wildfire season approaches, this is the critical next step that California must take in addressing the driving cause of the climate crisis head on–our dependence on oil and gas. We thank Governor Newsom for using the tools at his disposal to ensure the climate fight continues in California when corporate and special interests defeat critical legislative efforts.

As important as this action is, this is just a piece of the policy change that needs to happen this year. Millions of Californians, primarily low-income people of color, live near dangerous oil and gas extraction sites and can’t wait for their government to protect them from the public health impacts they are experiencing daily. The Legislature needs to do their job and pass Senate Bill 467 to ban oil and gas production now. Today’s announcement is the beginning of the conversation when it comes to transitioning away from fossil fuels, and we will work with partners and leadership to expand these goals to gas, accelerate this transition to 2030 and 2035, and ensure communities most impacted health-wise and economically are supported and protected.”

OFFSHORE WIND OPTIMISM IN MAINE: On Thursday, Maine Conservation Voters Civic Engagement Manager, Will Sedlack, wrote an op-ed for Bangor Daily News, highlighting the exciting economic and environmental benefits offshore wind can bring to Maine. Read the full op-ed here.

MCV TAKE: Maine Conservation Voters Civic Engagement Manager Will Sedlack stated, “The development of offshore wind energy in the Gulf of Maine represents a tremendous economic, environmental, and community development opportunity for our state. The prospect of wind turbines right outside our visual but within our economic horizon, simultaneously propelling us into a better climate and clean energy jobs future, is something to celebrate.”

NOT SO SUNNY NEVADA: Currently rooftop solar is only available to property owners in Nevada – limiting access for low-income communities and communities of color. While there are some initiatives to expand solar access in the state, more needs to be done and Chispa Nevada is fighting to change that. Program Director, Rudy Zamora, was quoted in an article this week in Las Vegas Weekly talking about the need for greater and more equitable solar access.

CHISPA TAKE: Chispa Nevada Program Director Rudy Zamora stated, “I’ve been fighting for rooftop solar access, especially in communities of color. A lot of [people in] our community don’t own their roof, so we can’t put rooftop solar on or make that decision ourselves, because we’re renting. So we’re looking at other ways to make solar more accessible to communities. In my ideal world, equitable solar would be something that everyone would have access to.”

COMING UP:

April 24 — Louisiana 2nd Congressional District Runoff Election
April 28 — President Biden to address a Joint Session of Congress
April 29 — Biden-Harris administration’s 100th day in office
May 8 — John Lewis Voting Rights Act Day of Action
June 1 — New Mexico 1st Congressional District Election

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