THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE ACTION(!) – APRIL 9, 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:

“Facilities intentionally place themselves in communities where they will not get pushback from the communities. And when they do get pushback from the communities, it still doesn’t stop them from placing themselves there.” 

— Bakeyah Nelson, executive director of Air Alliance Houston in KPRC 2 report, “Residents fight for environmental justice in Houston neighborhoods dealing with hazardous sites and air pollution”.

“If your Zip code is buried with garbage, chemical plants, pollution … you’ll find there are more people that are sick, more diabetes and heart disease. Covid is like a heat-seeking missile zeroing in on the most vulnerable communities.”

— Robert Bullard, a professor at Texas Southern University and the author of “Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality” in Washington Post article, “‘This is Environmental Racism’: How a protest in a North Carolina farming town sparked a national movement”.

“There’s hundreds of Flints all across America. How many of you know, when you send your child to school, the fountain they’re drinking out of is not fed by a lead pipe? How many of you know the school your child is in still has asbestos in the walls and lacks the ventilation? Is that not infrastructure?”

— President Biden during remarks on the American Jobs Plan this week.

“If we grow jobs of the future in clean energy we can make our world sustainable and hand our grandchildren a future we can be proud of.”

— Gina McCarthy, White House National Climate Advisor during an event on climate justice hosted by HBCU Green Fund to, “make the case for infrastructure based on jobs, environment”.

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LCV IN THE NEWS:

E&E News: Biden budget seeks major investments in energy, environment
E&E News: Granholm defends scope of Biden’s $2T proposal
Washington Examiner: Daily on Energy: Carbon capture industry sees huge boost within reach
Politico: Granholm defends Biden’s infrastructure plan from Republican attacks
E&E News: Battle erupts over the definition of ‘infrastructure’

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:

Washington Post (MD): Maryland lawmakers debate how forests lost to development should be replaced
Morrisons Cove Harold (PA): In Pa. Visit, Biden Proposes $16 Billion For Plugging Abandoned Oil And Gas Wells
NJ Insider (NJ): To keep our air from getting filthy, we must move faster | Opinion
Las Cruces Sun News (NM): ‘Community solar’ becomes law in New Mexico, to help shift away from oil and gas
WLRN (FL): Housing, Environmental Advocates Blast Housing Fund Sweep
Independent Record (MT): Time for a better deal for Montanans on oil, gas resources
Pennsylvania Capital Star (PA): ‘Not just climate change’: An activist explains how Biden’s infrastructure plan improves the environment
Concord Monitor (NH): Preserving winter: Climate change and the uncharted effect on N.H. tourism
Living on Earth (NY): Biden Boosts Offshore Wind

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HAALAND IN UTAH: On Wednesday, Interior Secretary Haaland travelled to Utah to meet with stakeholders as part of the review of former President Trump’s slashing the size and protections of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. This visit is a step towards prioritizing Indigenous communities in stakeholder engagements after the Trump years of ignoring groups such as the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition — who have called for reinstating protections to these sacred and ecologically significant national monuments that polluters would irrevocably damage. For more information on Bears Ears National Monument and the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition (BEITC) check out this helpful backgrounder from Utah Diné Bikéyah (UDB).

NAVAJO NATION PRESIDENTIAL TAKE: Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez stated, “This was an opportunity to share with Secretary Haaland the significance of Bears Ears to the Navajo people. This landscape is home to many historical and cultural sites, plants, water, traditional medicines, and teachings for our people. It also provided refuge for our people in times of conflict. One of our most notable leaders, Chief Manuelito, was born there, but it is more than that. Bears Ears is sacred and it deserves to be protected.”

OUR TAKE: Conservation Program Director Alex Taurel stated, “Secretary Haaland’s engagement with local stakeholders, particularly Indigenous communities, is a welcome change from the previous administration, which ignored the calls of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition and those of millions of people across the country when they unlawfully removed protections for Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monuments.  We are confident that Secretary Haaland’s review of the cultural, historical, and scientific importance of these national monuments will inspire President Biden to swiftly follow through on campaign promises to restore protections and provide Tribes with a greater role in the management of culturally significant landscapes.” 

GOP BACKTRACKING ON INFRASTRUCTURE: In the days since President Biden announced the American Jobs Plan, Republicans keep claiming it isn’t a ‘real infrastructure’ plan — but the hypocrisy couldn’t be more evident with Republicans’ long history of supporting wide-ranging investments in our nation’s infrastructure. The reality is, Biden’s American Jobs Plan will make a once in a generation investment in America, rebuild our infrastructure and put millions of people back to work in new good-paying, union jobs in the clean energy economy while tackling climate change and environmental racism. The plan itself, and investments in infrastructure and clean energy, are extremely popular — even with a majority of Republican voters. See a handful of examples of Republican support for infrastructure below and find more here

@ENERGY TAKE: During an event LCV hosted this week, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm stated, “I think that’s just an attack that doesn’t make sense in the 21st century … the rail, ports, airports, bridges, roads, broadband, transmission, water, all of that is classic infrastructure, whether [Republicans] want to admit that or not.”

DAINES TAKE: In 2018, Senator Steve Daines stated, “Infrastructure seems to be on the top of many minds lately, not the least of which is our president’s infrastructure. And that doesn’t just mean roads and bridges, it also includes broadband, national parks, and, important for today and really important to Montana, energy infrastructure.” 

TILLIS TAKE: On August 5, 2020, Senator Thom Tillis stated, “With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing our economy to a grinding halt, we should be … supporting job-creating energy infrastructure projects.”

POLLUTER $$ IN POLITICS: On Wednesday, as part of the For the People Week of Action, LCV co-hosted a virtual event featuring LCV Voting Rights Program Director Justin Kwasa, Greenpeace Executive Director Annie Leonard, True North Research Executive Director Lisa Graves, Common Cause Senior Counsel Stephen Spaulding, and Georgia Sierra Club Conservation Organizer Angela Jiang, focusing on the influence of polluter money in politics, its negative impact on elections and environmental policy, and how S.1, the For the People Act, levels the playing field for more equitable representation in some of the most impacted communities — particularly communities of color and low-wealth communities. This year, 43 states have already introduced, prefiled, or carried over more than 250 bills to restrict or limit voting access — intentionally written to suppress the record numbers of Black and Brown voters who overcame barriers to vote last year. The restrictive voting law passed in Georgia last month is only the latest example, with potentially more on the way. The For the People Act would supersede these suppressive state laws that disproportionately silence people of color, young people, and people with disabilities and modernize our voting system to ensure a consistent and accessible process for voters across the country — especially for communities devastated by polluter interests. See the event and statements from our panel here.

OUR TAKE: LCV Voting Rights Program Director Justin Kwasa stated, “S.1 is the most ambitious shot at improving our democracy that we’ve seen in recent memory. The millions of dollars of polluter money in our politics drowns out the voices of communities most impacted by toxic pollution and climate change and negatively influences the priorities of our lawmakers.”

KICK OFF: On Monday, activists from coast to coast kicked off the For the People Week of Action with events focusing on protecting the right to vote. See photos from the activism event in front of the U.S. Capitol here

AMERICAN JOBS PLAN: On Wednesday, President Biden gave additional remarks regarding the American Jobs Plan released last week, reiterating that we must make bold, once in a generation investments towards a clean energy future and the jobs to get us there — while prioritizing the communities most impacted by polluters and the climate crisis, particularly communities of color and low-wealth communities. This administration’s commitment for 40 percent of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investments to go to the most at-risk communities, to transition to 100% clean electricity by 2035, to replace all lead drinking water pipes, and to electrify most transit buses and much of the nation’s school buses are significant steps towards tackling the climate crisis while rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure and prioritizing the communities most impacted by the multiple crises our nation is facing. The Treasury Department also released the parallel Made In America Tax Plan which contains the major tax provisions to incentivize clean energy, transportation, and building systems, end fossil fuel subsidies, and pay for necessary, bold infrastructure investments. See our memo on why centering clean energy, justice, and jobs in our economic recovery is both good policy and good politics and our note last week debunking polluter allies’ opposition.

PRESIDENTIAL TAKE: President Biden stated, “Talk to folks around the country about what really makes up the foundation of a good economy. Ask a teacher or a childcare worker if having clean drinking water — non-contaminated drinking water in our schools, in our childcare centers is part of that foundation — when we know that the lead in our pipes slows a child’s development when they drink that water. 

Ask the entrepreneur whose small business was destroyed by the second 100-year flood in the last 10 years in Iowa — or wildfires in the West that burned 5 million acres last year, an area roughly the size of the entire state of New Jersey.  More fires than ever. Or the devastating damage — seeing more frequent and more intense hurricanes and storms on the East and Gulf Coasts.

Ask all those farmers and small-business owners and homeowners whether investing in clean energy to fight the effects of climate change is part of infrastructure.”

CHISPA TAKE: Chispa National Director Johana Vicente stated,“The American Jobs Plan’s promise to electrify 20% of school buses is a great first step toward 100% clean buses for healthy ninos. Black, Indigenous, and children of color deserve to breathe clean air, especially on their way to and from school. Recognizing the urgency and existential threat of the climate crisis, which communities of color bear most, is a step in the right direction — we must rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, power our country with clean energy, and right the wrongs of past environmental injustices.”

OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski stated, “Today, President Biden made clear once again that we can’t afford not to make a once in a generation investment in jobs, justice, and climate action. The American Jobs Plan has the backing of labor unions, environmental organizations, environmental justice leaders, businesses, and local leaders from across the country. The majority of voters — Republican, Democratic, and independent alike — understand what’s at stake and support these investments in infrastructure and clean energy. It’s time for Congress to take up and 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.”

GRANHOLM ON ENERGY: On Tuesday, LCV hosted a virtual event featuring Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm, LCV board member and former U.S. Representative (MD-04) Donna Edwards, founder of the ReGenesis Community Development Corporation, member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and former South Carolina State Representative Harold Mitchell, Director of Regulatory and State Policy at United Steelworkers Anna Fendley, and LCV Vice President of Government Affairs Sara Chieffo. The speakers discussed the strategy for advancing bold economic recovery legislation that dramatically scales clean energy, invests in solutions that benefit environmental justice communities, and creates and sustains millions of family-supporting, high quality union jobs. Watch the event here.

@ENERGY TAKE: Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm stated, “The American people want to see massive, historic, once-in-a-generation investments in our clean energy future, and that’s exactly what this Administration is going to deliver. Between the new American Jobs Plan and DOE’s ongoing work, we’re going to Build Back Better by bringing new clean energy technologies online, creating millions of good-paying union jobs, and righting historic wrongs for communities that have been hit first, and worst, by climate change.”

UNITED STEELWORKERS TAKE: United Steelworkers Director of Regulatory and State Policy Anna Fendley stated, “Working people must be at the center of our country’s response to tackling the interwoven crises of economic inequality and climate change. We are ready to work alongside the Biden administration and Congress to maintain and create high-quality union jobs, rebuild our infrastructure, revitalize American manufacturing and make our communities healthier.”

WHITE HOUSE ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE ADVISORY COUNCIL MEMBER TAKE: Founder of the ReGenesis Community Development Corporation, member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and former South Carolina State Representative Harold Mitchell stated, “When we talk about transitioning our nation to a 100% clean energy future and building back better we have to talk about centering community-revitalization and addressing the environmental injustices faced by communities of color after generations of disinvestment. This means making lasting investments in communities to ensure they are free of toxic pollution, and have access to affordable clean energy and good-paying union jobs.”

BLUEPRINT BUDGET: On Friday, the Biden-Harris administration outlined their initial budget blueprint to Congress — showing a commitment of major investments to rebuild and tackle the climate crisis with an all of government approach. Their proposal calls for investments in climate research and innovation to develop solutions and understand the links between climate change and public health, investments in climate resilience as the nation sees natural disasters related to the climate crisis, and investments in equity for communities most impacted by polluters and environmental racism.

OUR TAKE: LCV Legislative Director Matthew Davis stated, “Elections have consequences. We are encouraged to see the Biden-Harris administration put their money where their mouth is and re-affirm an all of government commitment with $14 billion for climate action and justice for communities most impacted by toxic pollution and the impacts of the climate crisis in their budget blueprint. We’re especially thrilled to see the administration’s focus on rebuilding and boosting government agencies’ core capacities to support and complement the visionary investments outlined in the American Jobs Plan and the Made in America Tax Plan. We desperately need this historic and robust budget with climate action and environmental justice at the center in order to meet the scale of the interwoven crises we face. The voters who overcame historic barriers to elect President Biden and Vice President Harris are counting on it.”

DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE: On Friday, the Biden administration decided to not take action to shut down the Dakota Access oil pipeline as the Army Corps of Engineers conducts a new, court-ordered environmental impacts review. 

OUR TAKE: LCV Legislative Director Matthew Davis stated, “While the Biden administration is doing a lot of good for the environment and blocking other dirty pipelines, we strongly disagree with their decision not to shut down the dirty and dangerous Dakota Access oil pipeline while they conduct a legally required review of the pipeline’s environmental impacts. This decision jeopardizes clean air, safe drinking water, and the health and safety of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and millions downstream. LCV stands in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux and the many activists who have led the fight against DAPL for years. No community should have to endure a dirty pipeline jeopardizing their access to clean water or destroying sacred places of cultural and spiritual importance. The Biden administration must do the right thing and permanently shut the pipeline down after the Environmental Impact Statement is completed. ”

POWER DOWN POLLUTANTS: On Tuesday, environmental advocates urged President Biden to strengthen a suite of federal standards to protect the climate and people’s health from dangerous pollution that continues to spew from the nation’s coal and methane power plants. The groups are calling for bold protections tackling the toxic pollutants power plants emit — causing harm to public health and communities, particularly communities on the front lines of environmental racism and low-wealth communities. In addition, the letter calls for ambitious clean energy investments and further EPA authority to curb pollution. Read the group’s full letter and calls to action here.

COALITION TAKE: The coalition letter stated, “Coal- and gas-fired power plants are among the country’s largest industrial source of dangerous air pollution…Three-quarters of coal-fired plants still lack modern air pollution controls 30 years after the Clean Air Act was last amended, and every year they also discharge more than a billion pounds of toxic chemicals and other pollutants into the nation’s waterways and dump tens of millions of tons of coal ash into ponds and landfills that can leach into rivers and groundwater. As a result, these power plants still cause tens of thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of illnesses each year, are the nation’s largest stationary source of climate pollution, and cause massive damage to ecosystems and agriculture. The health harms, climate impacts, and other damages fall disproportionately on overburdened and disadvantaged communities.”

NEW BOARD MEMBERS: Last week, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (LCVEF) boards welcomed United Steelworkers (USW) International Vice President at Large Roxanne Brown, physician Dr. Lisa Minsky-Primus, and Innovo Foundation and Step Up in Crisis founder Ning Mosberger-Tang as LCV’s newest board members, as well as Washington Conservation Voters CEO Alyssa Macy as LCVEF’s newest board member. LCV and LCVEF are excited for this all-star group of women to use their incredible expertise and passion for engaging policymakers and stakeholders to protect the environment, support workers, promote democracy, and advocate for solutions that value the intersection of climate, justice, and jobs. See the full release with board member bios here.

LCVEF BOARD MEMBER TAKE: Washington Conservation Voters CEO, Alyssa Macy stated, “I have seen firsthand how climate instability impacts frontline communities, who bear the most burden of toxic pollution and the climate crisis — and how these same communities have taken bold action to mitigate these impacts. I’m honored to bring my passion for environmental justice to my work with LCVEF to help ensure that those most affected by environmental harm are at the table, informing and making decisions in meaningful ways.”

LCV BOARD MEMBER TAKE: United Steelworkers International vice president at large Roxanne Brown stated, “I have spent my career advocating for workers, and I am thrilled to join an organization that prioritizes the creation of high-quality, good-paying union jobs, clean energy infrastructure and American manufacturing. When the labor and climate movements work together we can build a brighter future for everyone.”

LCV BOARD MEMBER DOUBLE TAKE: Dr. Lisa Minsky-Primus, a physician and philanthropist stated, “The link between a healthy community and a healthy democracy is clear. I am excited to join an organization that is committed to reforming our democracy and making sure that people — particularly people of color, young people, and people with disabilities who have been targeted and silenced by restrictive voting laws and partisan gerrymandering — have access to a more just and equitable democratic process.”

LCV BOARD MEMBER TRIPLE TAKE: Founder of Innovo Foundation and board member of LCV affiliate Conservation Colorado Ning Mosberger-Tang stated, ”We must reform democracy to give power back to the people, which will refocus our government on their priorities like protecting the future of the planet. Democracy is about showing up, and I am eager to use the lessons I’ve learned organizing people around voting to help an organization that shares my values.” 

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STATES:

SOLAR IN NEW MEXICO (NM): On Monday, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed S.B.84, the Community Solar Act, into law, which will establish a statewide community solar program. The program is intended to expand access to solar power for low-wealth communities, requiring that 30 percent of each community solar facility serve low-income users. Making clean energy more accessible for more communities is a significant step towards transitioning towards a clean energy future. 

OUR TAKE: Conservation Voters New Mexico Policy Director Ben Shelton, stated, “Governor Lujan Grisham’s signing of the Community Solar Act is another step down the renewable energy path laid out by the groundbreaking Energy Transition Act in 2019,” Shelton said. “Community Solar will bring equitable access to the solar market and provide badly needed economic stimulus to businesses, local governments and the state. Along with other legislation waiting for the Governor’s signature, Community Solar will further a just transition for New Mexico’s renewable energy economy.”

TAINTED THIRST PREVIEW! (NV): Next week, on Thursday, April 15th at 4pm PDT, Nevada Conservation League (NCL) and The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada will host a screening of Tainted Thirst, a documentary focused on how the mining industry is negatively impacting our air quality, water sanctity, and the lives of Indigenous & rural Nevadans alike. Open-pit mining accounts for 90% of mining operations in Nevada, and the more than 30 gold and silver mines currently in operation throughout the state are polluting public and Indigenous lands and depleting water resources at an alarming rate. Following the film, NCL will give a briefing regarding pressing mining legislation, an open discussion, and opportunities to take action. RSVP for the event here.

COMING UP:

April 14 — The House Oversight Committee will vote on H.R. 51, D.C. Statehood
April 15 — LCVNV Screening of Tainted Thirst
April 15 — Public comment closing to inform the Interior’s interim report of the federal oil and gas program. Submit by email submission at: energyreview@ios.doi.gov.
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

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