THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE ACTION(!) – FEBRUARY 26, 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 is all of our country, this is our mother. You’ve heard the Earth referred to Mother Earth. It’s difficult to not feel obligated to protect this land, and I feel that every Indigenous person in this country understands that, which is why we have such a high rate of our people who serve in the military. We want to protect this country, and that means protecting it in every single way.”

— Representative Deb Haaland in remarks during Wednesday’s Secretary of the Interior confirmation hearing.

“It is hard not to notice that Rep. Haaland is being called out as “radical” for taking these positions. Were either of us the nominee to lead the Interior Department, we doubt that anyone would be threatening to hold up the nomination or wage a scorched earth campaign warning about “radical” ideas.”

— Former Senators Mark Udall and Tom Udall in USA Today op-ed, “Vehement opposition to Deb Haaland ‘motivated by something other than her record’”.

“My journey to record-breaking sailing success requires me to find a balance — between navigation, repairs, sleeping, eating, and mental and physical health. We must take the same approach to saving our ocean and planet — a balance that embraces new technology and phases out the old and invests in our communities. We can save our ocean and leverage it to fight climate change while safeguarding our most vulnerable communities.”

— Captain Donald Lawson, in a Capital Gazette op-ed, “If I can sail around the world, we can combat the climate crisis”.

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LCV IN THE NEWS:

Boston Globe: Debra Haaland as interior secretary — a champion for the land
Huffington Post: Rep. Deb Haaland Fends Off Republican Attacks At Contentious Confirmation Hearing
Agri-Pulse: New leaders for USDA’s FPAC and FSA bring diverse backgrounds
E&E: Groups ask Congress for climate, energy spending
E&E: Bill takes aim at refrigerated truck emissions

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:

Missoula Current (MT): GOP split on support for Haaland as Interior Secretary; Daines opposes
Great Falls Tribune (MT): ‘Join us on the right side of history:’ Thousands call on Daines to confirm Rep. Haaland
Maryland Matters (MD): Latino Environmental Activists Rise From the Grassroots
Maryland Patch (MD): Most MD Lawmakers Are Environmentalists, But 1 Falls Flat: Report
The Appeal (CA): California’s D.A. Association Misspent $3 Million. Environmental Groups Want It Repaid.
Colorado Pols (CO): Drillers, Enviros Hail Methane-Cutting Agreement
Hudson Valley 360 (NY): Headline + LinkNYLCV announces its Green Policy Priorities for 2021
Insider NJ (NJ): New Jersey LCV Applauds the Delaware River Water Basin Commission on Decision to Ban Fracking in Delaware River Region

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HAALAND HEARD: On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held confirmation hearings for Representative Deb Haaland as secretary of the Interior. While some Republicans questioned Haaland’s pro-environmental record, members from both parties praised Haaland’s record of working across the aisle and collaborating with colleagues to pass bipartisan legislation. LCV doubled down on the facts, releasing a factsheet demonstrating how Senators Steve Daines, John Barrasso, and Bill Cassidy prioritized the interests of fossil fuel CEOs while taking over $1 million each from the oil and gas industry. Haaland has a stellar record of fighting for people, science, climate action, and the protection of our iconic landscapes and cultural sites — with a 100% on LCV’s newly released 2020 National Environmental Scorecard, we need leadership like Haaland as secretary of the Interior.

NOMINEE TAKE: During opening remarks, Haaland stated, “The Department [of the Interior] has a role in harnessing the clean energy potential of our public lands to create jobs and new economic opportunities. The President’s agenda demonstrates that America’s public lands can and should be engines for clean energy production. President Biden also knows that restoring and conserving our lands — through a Civilian Climate Corps — has the potential to spur job creation.”

OUR TAKE: Follow the facts — LCV’s factsheet shows how polluter money-funded Senators were lying at Haaland’s confirmation hearing. The truth is, our oil and gas leasing system is broken — the oil and gas industry has lined the pockets of CEOs and funded campaigns while harming our public lands and waters, worsening climate change, and polluting communities of color and low-wealth communities the most. A clean energy future will create high-quality, good-paying union jobs, with opportunities to employ the oil and gas workers who are experts in energy production. 

REPORTER TAKE: There’s no question that Daines’ line of questioning for Haaland was night and day compared to his questions for the Trump administration’s secretaries of the Interior, Ryan Zinke and David Bernhardt. Chris D’Angelo from the Huffington Post breaks down Daines’ inequitable questioning here. Quite frankly, this disparity in questioning reveals disconcerting partisanship, racism, and sexism at work.

CLEAN SCHOOL BUSES ACT: On Thursday, the Clean School Bus Act was reintroduced in the House and Senate by Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Patty Murray, and Representatives Jahana Hayes and Tony Cárdenas. Over 25 million children and thousands of bus drivers breathe polluted air from dirty diesel school busses during their commute to and from school, and asthma attacks are a leading cause of school absences — particularly for communities of color and low-income communities. Clean buses can help combat climate change while improving health and educational outcomes for students. Members of the National Electric School Bus Coalition, including Chispa, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Earthjustice, Dream Corps Green for All, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group, released a coalition statement today responding to the reintroduced bill.

CHISPA TAKE: Chispa National Director Johana Vicente said, “We thank Senators Cortez Masto and Murray and Representatives Hayes and Cárdenas for leading this effort to help school districts upgrade from diesel-fueled school buses to zero-emission school buses. This is a strong down payment on our way to reaching full electrification of the nation’s school bus fleet. We know that we need so much more to ensure that 25 million children, especially in communities of color and low-income communities, are breathing healthy air on their way to school and in their neighborhoods. We look forward to working together to boost funding to accelerate the transition of the U.S. polluting school bus fleet to zero emissions.”

GRANHOLM @ENERGY: On Thursday, the Senate voted to confirm former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm as secretary of Energy. Granholm’s leadership investing in Michigan’s clean energy and transportation created economic growth and high quality jobs that pulled Michigan out of the last recession — confirmation as secretary of Energy is a step towards a 100% clean energy economy that will create good-paying, union jobs in renewable energy and transportation.

NOMINEE TAKE: After Granholm’s confirmation, she tweeted, “My sincere thanks to the Senate for your confidence in me. I’m obsessed with creating good-paying clean energy jobs in all corners of America in service of addressing our climate crisis. I’m impatient for results. Now let’s get to work!”

STATE TAKE: Executive Director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters Lisa Wozniak stated, “Governor Granholm has the expertise and innovative spirit to lead our country’s transition to 100% clean energy and achieve President Biden’s vision to put Americans to work in the clean energy jobs of the future. We have a real opportunity to revitalize our economy, protect our water, and create jobs as we transition to cleaner sources of energy and transportation, like wind, solar, and electric vehicles. The time to act is now.”

OUR TAKE: In a letter to the Senate, LCV President Gene Karpinski urged senators to confirm Granholm as secretary of Energy, stating, “As Michigan governor, Granholm led on policies to reduce pollution and accelerate clean energy, including establishing the state’s first renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, investing in battery storage, and promoting environmental justice. Additionally, Granholm’s experience helping to rebuild the American auto industry during the last recession will be invaluable as the Biden-Harris administration works to deliver a 100% clean energy economy.”

LANDS PACKAGE: On Friday, the House voted 227-200 on a package of Natural Resources Committee bills, the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act. The package includes key legislation to protect our nation’s air, water, and lands by protecting 1.2 million acres of public lands from new oil, gas, and mining claims — permanently protecting iconic landscapes like the Grand Canyon and Colorado’s Thompson Divide for future generations. This bill will also designate 1.49 million acres of public lands as wilderness and incorporate over 1,000 river miles into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. This package is a significant step towards preserving public lands for people and the outdoor recreation economy. 

WHITE HOUSE TAKE: On Tuesday, the White House released a statement in support of the lands package, calling for the restoration of “balance to the management of our public lands and waters, creating jobs, confronting the ongoing decline of nature, and aligning the management of America’s public lands and waters with our nation’s climate, conservation, and clean energy goals.” The statement added the bill, “puts in place protections for some of our nation’s most iconic natural and cultural resources and safeguards recreational opportunities for the benefit of current and future generations, while creating jobs and investing in the recreation economy. It is also consistent with the recommendation of scientists that, to safeguard the health and productivity of the natural systems upon which we all depend, the Nation must pursue a goal of conserving at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and ocean by 2030.”

OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski stated in a letter to the House that, “Listening to the wishes of communities in these states seeking to preserve nearby nature can help the country reach the science-based goal of protecting 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030. This legislation is a package of eight bills that help nature-deprived communities access parks and public lands, protect areas sacred to Indigenous peoples, ensure clean and safe drinking water, preserve wildlife habitat, and promote the outdoor recreation economy.”

GRAND PROTECTIONS: On Tuesday, Arizona Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly introduced the Grand Canyon Protection Act, which would permanently protect more than 1 million acres around Grand Canyon National Park from new mining claims — a crucial accomplishment for indigenous communities fighting to protect lands, waters, and communities from destruction and pollution. Uranium mining is toxic to the surrounding environment, ecosystems, and people, and has no place around the Grand Canyon.

CHISPA AZ TAKE: Chispa Arizona Executive Director Laura Dent stated, “The Grand Canyon is one of Arizona’s greatest treasures. It is a sacred and beautiful place, and like much of Arizona is home to indigenous communities that have been working to protect the region for generations. We thank Senator Sinema and Senator Kelly for introducing this bill, and working to see this natural and cultural icon protected. We look forward to seeing it move through Congress and get signed into law.”

OUR TAKE: Conservation Program Director Alex Taurel said, “Protecting the Grand Canyon would honor the Indigenous communities who have stewarded these sacred lands for generations, safeguard Arizonans’ drinking water, and boost the state’s outdoor recreation economy. Senators Sinema and Kelly are listening to local communities and working to protect this sacred and majestic landscape from the threat of further pollution at the hands of the mining industry. With the backing of Arizona’s senators, the momentum in the House behind Chairman Grijalva’s companion bill, and the Biden administration committed to protecting America’s public lands, this is the year to get permanent protections for the Grand Canyon over the finish line.”

SUPPORT FOR COVID RELIEF: In this moment, our country desperately needs bold action and leadership that will deliver on promises of long-overdue relief to the people who need it most, and this is a critical first step in rebuilding our economy and health infrastructure to be stronger, more equitable, and more sustainable. As we continue to tackle this pandemic, the coalition looks forward to working with Congress on a recovery package or Build Back Better plan to “tackle the climate crisis, build more resilient communities, rebuild infrastructure, create jobs, support equity, and reduce pollution.” (See below, “Climate Investment”)  

CLIMATE INVESTMENT: On Monday, a coalition of more than 50 organizations released a letter to Senate and House leadership urging Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Schumer, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to move swiftly on a suite of investments to build the economy back to be more just and equitable by maintaining and growing good-paying, high-quality union jobs and setting the country up for a successful transition to a 100% clean future. These investments must reduce and clean-up pollution, improve public health, promote equity and help dismantle systemic racism and economic inequality, including by ensuring 40% of investment benefits flow to environmental justice and other disadvantaged communities. Investments should support achieving the target of 100% clean power by 2035, rebuild clean energy, water, and transportation infrastructure, and promote conservation measures to ensure our lands and ocean are part of the climate solution.

SEAS THE DAY: A clean energy future means clean energy transportation both on land and by sea. Sailing the ocean for 28 years and seeing firsthand the devastating changes caused by humans, Captain Donald Lawson has made it his mission to do his part to protect our oceans by powering his sailboats with clean energy — including installing solar panels, hydro-generators, a wind vane, and a biodiesel engine. In an op-ed in the Capital Gazette, Captain Lawson underscores the need for bold, ambitious action with a focus on environmental justice to combat the climate crisis. 

CAPTAIN’S TAKE: Captain Lawson notes, “During the current Vendee Globe Solo Around the World Race, no less than five boats were damaged by trash they hit. It’s easy to feel cowed by the magnitude of this challenge, the same way I find myself humbled time and again by the vastness of our ocean. But in this immense challenge lies immense opportunity.” He adds, “We know that individual actions alone will not be enough. It will take ambitious policies to transform the ocean from a victim of climate change into a powerful source of solutions.”

HIGHLIGHTING ENVIRONMENTAL LEADERSHIP: Racially diverse leadership will reinforce the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to prioritize and center racial justice and equity in communities impacted the most by the climate crisis, racial injustice, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and economic inequality. ICYMI, see LCV’s February blog highlighting some of the Black leaders in the Biden-Harris administration tackling climate and environmental injustice.

HIGHLIGHTING ENVIRONMENTAL LEADERSHIP PART II: As Black History Month comes to a close, LCV is celebrating Black leaders who are on the forefront of advancing environmental and climate justice. This week, we celebrated Black leaders of the Conservation Voter Movement who are making history organizing their communities on the ground and building the power necessary to drive just and equitable action at every level of government. Read more about Brionté McCorkle’s leadership of Georgia Conservation Voters, Reverend Robert Leak III’s organizing with PowerUp in North Carolina, and Carolyn Smith’s role building grassroots power at LCV.  

EQUITABLE EV’S + REDUCING TRUCK EMISSIONS: In a busy week, Representative Yvette Clarke introduced two new bills that would combat the climate crisis and reduce air pollution. The first bill, which Senator Catherine Cortez Masto introduced in the Senate, would increase electric vehicle charging infrastructure in underserved and disadvantaged communities, particularly low wealth communities and communities of color. The second bill, which Senator Ed Markey introduced in the Senate, aims to reduce harmful emissions from refrigerated heavy-duty trucks, which produce more than 20 percent of emissions in the transportation sector. 

OUR TAKE: LCV Legislative Director Matthew Davis said, “We appreciate Representative Clarke’s leadership on tackling climate change, and emissions from cars in an equitable way – those communities of color and low-wealth communities that are impacted the most by fossil fuel emissions and climate change must reap the early benefits of the clean energy transition.”

SOCIAL CARBON COSTS: Greenhouse gas emissions have a cost — paid mostly by communities of color and low wealth communities. On Friday, the Biden-Harris administration released an interim social cost of carbon, which measures the estimated harm greenhouse gases cause to communities. Holding corporations accountable by implementing an updated social cost of carbon is crucial for some of the most impacted communities already bearing the burden of this pollution.

OUR TAKE: LCV Legislative Director Matthew Davis stated, “Nothing underscores the importance of accounting for the true cost of carbon like oil and gas executives celebrating hitting the ‘jackpot’ as natural gas prices surged during days of extreme cold, death and devastation for Texas families. It is refreshing to have an empathetic president who listens to scientists and experts. We are thrilled that President Biden and Vice President Harris have directed government agencies to take the true, massive costs of pollution into account when crafting policies and regulations. This is a step in the right direction for all of our communities — and especially good news for communities of color long exploited by oil and gas CEOs and disproportionately exposed to toxic pollution. We have a long way to go to achieve environmental justice and build a clean energy economy and look forward to continued progress from this administration.”

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STATES: 

NEW POLL: HEALTH AND SAFETY > LINE 5 OIL PIPELINE (MI): League of Conservation Voters and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters are releasing results of recent polling that asked Michiganders about several major issues including the Line 5 oil pipeline and the state’s coronavirus pandemic response.

TAKEAWAYS:

    • More than two-thirds (68%) had heard of the Line 5 oil pipeline.
    • 62% believe Line 5 poses a threat to Michiganders (31% worry that Line 5 operating in the Great Lakes poses a major threat to Michiganders, another 31% worry it’s a minor threat).
    • Whitmer coronavirus response job approval: 59%
    • Whitmer’s favorability overall: 55%

CLEAN BUSES HIT THE ROAD (MD): In Montgomery County, Maryland, hundreds of electric school buses will be replacing dirtier models that pollute the community’s air and put students’ health at risk. This week, the county school board approved a $169 million contract to lease 326 clean buses, the largest electric school bus contract in the country. Chispa Maryland volunteers and community leaders have been advocating for this initiative through the Clean Buses for Healthy Ninos campaign.

CHATTING FIRESIDE WITH ANDY KIM (NJ): Open spaces like New Jersey’s Pinelands, the Delaware River, and Rancocas Creek are major sources of drinking water and have provided much-needed respite and recreation during the pandemic. However, these spaces aren’t adequately protected from PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals”, which lead to many health consequences including low birth weights, immune system dysfunction, cancer, and thyroid hormone disruption. On Thursday, the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters hosted an event with Representative Andy Kim to talk about the current challenges and opportunities that exist at the federal level to protect people and the environment from PFAS.  

COMING UP:

ALL OF FEBRUARY – Black History Month
ALL OF MARCH — Women’s History Month
March 3 — Confirmation hearing for chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality nominee, Brenda Mallory
March 3 — Confirmation hearing for deputy EPA administrator nominee, Janet McCabe
March 8 — International Women’s Day

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