THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE ACTION(!) – MARCH 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:

“While mass shootings have largely been absent from the public discourse over the past year, gun violence has not. Shootings surged during the pandemic, and public health issues like suicide and domestic violence were exacerbated by the trauma, isolation and economic upheaval caused by COVID-19.”

— Former Representative Gabrielle Giffords in USA Today op-ed, “Gabby Giffords on Boulder shooting: Listen to Biden. Pass new laws to stop gun violence”

“I very much resisted being in the political space for a long time. I always felt like politics and legislation were too overwhelming and the cards were stacked against Native people in general, and I always felt it was going to be a losing situation. It can no longer be said that anything is a one-tribe issue. There is a solidarity that I’ve seen grow.”

— Taylor Patterson, executive director for Native Voters Alliance Nevada in article for Nevada Current, “Native Americans organize to wield more influence on state policy”

“COVID-19 created a perfect storm for environmental justice communities…We’re bringing back scientific integrity and climate action. We are committed to bringing back underserved communities.”

— EPA Administrator Michael Regan remarks on EPA commitment to addressing environmental justice during the 2021 Ceres Conference

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LCV IN THE NEWS:

C-SPAN: Gene Karpinski on Biden Administration Climate Change and Infrastructure Policies
Cheddar: Environmental Groups Launch $10 Million Ad Campaign to Put Pressure on Biden Ahead of Infrastructure Negotiations
USA Today: Low-income and Latino neighborhoods endure more extreme heat in the Southwest, study shows
The Hill: Democratic lawmakers push Biden to get tougher on vehicle emissions rules
The San Diego Voice and Viewpoint: Voting Rights At Stake As Supreme Court Considers Arizona Case
U.S. News & World Report: With Biden Administration, Can Environmentalists Breathe Easy?

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:

Nevada Current (NV): Native Americans organize to wield more influence on state policy
Sag Harbor Express (NY): First Approvals Issued For South Fork Wind Farm; Wainscott Residents Vow To Continue Resistance
CT Examiner (CT): Six Bills To Watch in Connecticut, Say Advocates
Globe Newswire (NY): Scotts® expands commitment to Long Island water quality with Turf Builder® Long Island Lawn Food designed to help local residents protect water
VT Digger (VT): Senate unanimously favors restricting PFAS and other chemicals in consumer products
Los Alamos Reporter (NM): Legislature: Ban On Wildlife Traps, Snares And Poison On Public Lands Heads To Governor’s Desk
Florida Phoenix (FL): Lawmakers aim to replace massive toll-roads project with less-massive toll-roads project

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MCCABE + MALLORY TO THE FLOOR: On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the nominations of Janet McCabe to be the deputy administrator of the EPA and Brenda Mallory to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). If approved by the full Senate, McCabe will be returning to the EPA, where she served as acting assistant administrator from 2013-2017 and deputy principal assistant administrator from 2009-2013 for the Office of Air and Radiation. Mallory, through a career at the EPA and as general counsel for CEQ, has seen firsthand how policies can exclude communities — especially communities of color and low income communities overburdened by pollution. The confirmations of experienced climate leaders versed in environmental policy is a critical step towards advancing clean energy, environmental justice, and good-paying jobs while tackling the climate crisis.

OUR TAKE ON MCCABE: Prior to the Senate’s vote, LCV President Gene Karpinski sent a letter urging Congress to support McCabe’s nomination for EPA deputy administrator, stating, “McCabe will bring a wealth of institutional knowledge on both ends of EPA’s cooperative federalism model. She has experience working closely with various state and local officials to forge alliances and foster a transition to 100% clean and renewable energy, which will provide millions of well-paying, sustainable jobs in the process. McCabe’s prior public service, including in the Obama administration’s Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) at EPA, gives her firsthand knowledge and understanding of the unfair health burdens forced on communities of color from pollution and toxic chemicals, and how to implement fair and just solutions.”

OUR TAKE ON MALLORY: Noting that LCV will strongly consider these confirmation votes on the 2021 National Environmental Scorecard, LCV President Gene Karpinski sent a letter urging Congress to support Mallory’s nomination for CEQ Chair, stating, “Mallory is extremely knowledgeable about the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and will lead the Council’s efforts to strengthen and improve this law in ways that ensure people have a meaningful voice in projects that stand to harm or benefit their community. LCV also appreciates and supports the historic nature of Mallory’s nomination to serve as the first African American CEQ Chair.”

FOR THE PEOPLE: On Wednesday, the Senate Rules Committee held a hearing on the For the People Act, which was introduced to the Senate last week and would be a monumental step to strengthen our electoral process to be more fair, more accessible, and more inclusive of all 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 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 — particularly for those whose communities are devastated by polluter interests. With the restrictive voting law passed in Georgia yesterday, it’s clear that Congress must address the inequities of suppressive voter legislation so that all voters can be heard without barriers.

OUR TAKE: In response to the Senate introduction of the For the People Act, LCV Voting Rights Program Director Justin Kwasa stated, “Passing S.1 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 and clean energy. Since the 2020 election, state legislatures across the county have introduced more than 250 bills aimed at strategically silencing the voices of Black, Indigenous and other communities of color from our democracy. We’ve seen Georgia pass bills that limit early voting and eliminate no-excuse absentee voting. Arizona is trying to pass bills that would purge voter rolls and make it harder to vote without a driver’s license. These attacks have made it clear that federal legislation is needed that will ensure we have a democracy that is representative of and responsive to all of our communities.”

BIDEN + SCHUMER HEARD: On Thursday, President Biden held his first press conference where he addressed how clean energy jobs will put the nation on the path to economic recovery. In addition, Senate Majority Leader Schumer sent a letter to Senate colleagues laying out priority issues for the Senate to immediately take action on for the nation’s economic recovery, including how to rebuild our infrastructure and create clean energy jobs while tackling the climate crisis and addressing environmental justice.

BIDEN TAKE: President Biden stated, “There’s so much we can do. Look at all of the schools in America…how many schools where the kids can’t drink the water out of the fountain? How many schools are still in the position where there’s asbestos? How many schools in America we’re sending our kids to don’t have adequate ventilation? How many homes, buildings, office complexes are wasting billions of barrels of oil over time because they can’t hold in the heat or the air conditioning because it leaks through the windows that are so porous and the connections? It’s amazing. So there’s so much we can do that’s good stuff, makes people healthier, and creates good jobs.”

SCHUMER TAKE: Senate Majority Leader Schumer stated, “We will also keep a laser-focus on our recovery and ensuring our long-term economic growth benefits every American. In the coming weeks and months, the Senate will consider legislation to rebuild our infrastructure and fight climate change, boost R&D and domestic manufacturing, reform our broken immigration system, and grow the power of American workers. This week, the Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously reported a bipartisan Clean Water infrastructure bill that will double annual funding and make a significant investment in environmental justice.”

OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski stated, “We commend the Biden-Harris administration and Congress for staying true to their commitments to address the four interconnected crises and deliver relief to our communities  through the historic American Rescue Plan. As Senate Majority Leader Schumer said today, ‘failure is not an option’ as the nation turns from relief to recovery. Specifically, failing to act on climate is not an option — we were thrilled to hear President Biden begin to make a strong case to follow science and make ambitious investments in climate action and clean energy today. Voters elected President Biden, Vice President Harris and pro-environment majorities in Congress because they know we need to combat the climate crisis and transition to a clean energy future. LCV is all in to work with this administration and Congress to ensure that investments in clean energy, justice, and family-sustaining union jobs are central to our economic recovery. We can and must build back better — people can’t wait any longer.”

DC STATEHOOD: On Monday, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing on H.R. 51, The Washington, D.C. Admission Act, which would grant D.C. statehood. In a Congress more divided than ever, the unrepresented residents of D.C. — 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. D.C. 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.

OUR TAKE: LCV led an environmental group coalition letter urging the House to support H.R. 51, stating, “D.C. 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 D.C. 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 D.C. deserve full federal representation in order to urge Congress to act. In addition to providing a vote in the legislative process, statehood would allow D.C. 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.”

CALL FOR RECOVERY: On Tuesday, LCV released a letter led by the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform, along with environmental justice and environmental advocates, to call on Congress to pass a recovery package that addresses the intersecting health, climate, environmental justice, and economic crises — particularly in the communities suffering the most from disproportionate impacts. For decades, communities of color and low-income communities have borne the brunt of climate impacts and have been excluded from reaping all the benefits of a clean energy economy.

COALITION TAKE: The letter sent to Congress states, “Environmental regulations and investments in pollution cleanup do not guarantee healthy environments for all communities. Many communities suffer from the cumulative effects of multiple pollution sources. Economic recovery legislation must not abandon or diminish the important goal of reducing all forms of toxic pollution, particularly in communities that are overburdened by high concentrations of pollution near where people live, work, go to school, play and pray. The recovery package is an important opportunity to support an innovative and comprehensive approach to reducing the health, environmental and economic disparities created by systemic racism. Congress must design the recovery package intentionally to ensure that it improves the health, well-being and prosperity of communities hit hardest by the pandemic while not creating additional health and environmental risks.”

PLASTICS BILL: On Thursday, Representative Alan Lowenthal and Senator Jeff Merkley reintroduced the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, which would require 50% recycled content in products, and would place a three-year moratorium on establishing new plastics facilities, including chemical recycling operations, as well as incinerators. During the pause on plastics facilities, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institutes of Health will study the impacts of existing facilities on environmental justice and pollution. Low-income communities and communities of color suffer the most from plastics — they are more likely to be impacted by the negative health effects of pollutants and are more likely to live near plastics facilities.

OUR TAKE: LCV Legislative Director Matthew Davis stated, “We commend Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. Alan Lowenthal for the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act. Our over-reliance on plastics is bad for our health, air quality, the climate, local waterways, and the oceans, and particularly for those low-wealth communities and communities of color who bear the brunt of air, water, and climate pollution from their fossil fueled production. Nothing we use for a minute should pollute our environment for hundreds of years. It’s time for us to reduce the use of plastics, increase recycling, and maximize the use of recycled materials.”

FIXING THE BROKEN FEDERAL OIL + GAS SYSTEM: On Thursday, the Department of the Interior held a forum on its ongoing review of the federal oil and gas program, as a follow-up to President Biden’s executive order placing a pause on new leasing. For years, the broken oil and gas program has wasted agency resources, prioritized corporate profits over fair returns for taxpayers, shifted billions in orphaned well liabilities from industry to the public, and put important public lands, water, and wildlife at risk. It’s past time to review the program to rebalance the priorities of our public lands and waters to be part of the solution to tackling the climate crisis and advance environmental justice in our communities. See the facts on our broken oil and gas leasing system here. The Interior will be taking public comment April 15 to inform the Interior’s interim report by email submission at: energyreview@ios.doi.gov.

HAALAND TAKE: Secretary Haaland stated in introductory remarks, “Too often, the extraction of resources has been rushed to meet the false urgency of political timetables, rather than with careful consideration of the impacts to the environment and future generations of Americans. The potential impacts to people, water, wildlife, and climate were deliberately ignored – something the courts continue to address…The pause in new oil and gas lease sales gives us space to look at the federal fossil fuel programs that haven’t been meaningfully examined or modernized in decades.”

OUR TAKE: LCV Conservation Program Director Alex Taurel stated, “For too long the oil and gas industry has reaped the benefits of a broken leasing system that is rigged in favor of oil industry executives and leaves our public lands, waters, and communities to pay the price. It is past time to take a hard look at this program that rebalances the priorities of our public lands and waters, makes them part of the solution to tackling the climate crisis, and expands access to nature and makes it more equitable.

“We are thrilled to see Secretary Haaland and the Interior Department leading this effort to reform the unjust oil and gas system on our public lands and waters. Following four years under the Trump administration where oil industry CEOs and lobbyists had their run of the place, we especially applaud this Interior Department for listening to the voices of Tribal communities, environmental justice advocates, conservationists and others advocating for charting a new path forward for our public lands and waters. As we undergo a necessary transition to clean energy, we have an obligation to ensure that workers and communities that powered our growth have the resources and tools to thrive in this new era.”

ICYMI IN MT: In case you missed it, Montana Conservation Voters Education Fund launched a campaign on Monday in support of the federal leasing review, highlighting potential benefits to taxpayers and need for greater access to public lands.

ICYMI, GENE ON CSPAN: On Sunday, LCV President Gene Karpinski joined C-SPAN’s Washington Journal for an interview to discuss the urgent need for the Biden administration and Congress to take action to get millions of people back to work in new good-paying jobs in the clean energy economy while tackling climate change and environmental racism. During the interview, Karpinski stressed the importance of investing in communities most impacted by pollution and the climate crisis — particularly communities of color and low wealth communities — and investing in and transitioning to clean energy jobs. See more highlights here and the full interview and transcript here.

GENE’S TAKE: “The Build Back Better Plan is about investing in the jobs of the future. And making sure 40% of those investments go to those most impacted, communities of color and low-income communities that have been most affected by pollution and the climate crisis.”

FREIGHT TRUCK POLLUTION LETTER: This week, a coalition of environmental organizations, including LCV, sent President Biden a letter encouraging his administration to adopt standards that would eliminate dangerous pollution from freight trucks and buses. The letter identifies that we “must address the disproportionate impact of these contaminants on the many communities and neighborhoods who have been afflicted by the heavy burden of pollution” and calls on the administration to work with environmental justice communities and leaders to design pollution control policies.

CIVIL RIGHTS SOLIDARITY LETTER: In the aftermath of last week’s disturbing killing of six Asian women in Atlanta, 207 organizations, including LCV, joined together to condemn the deeply rooted racism and misogyny of these violent attacks. The letter calls for leaders to be held accountable for normalizing racist and hateful rhetoric that incites violence, “When political leaders who seek to deepen divisions and their enablers dehumanize communities of color and sow hatred through rhetoric and policy, they embolden white supremacists to commit horrific violence…we cannot allow this bigotry to continue unaddressed.”

REPORT ON CLEAN ENERGY INVESTMENTS: On Tuesday, the Rhodium Group released a new report highlighting the economic and environmental impacts of bold investments and standards in clean energy, and how these investments can address environmental injustices. The report, “Pathways to Build Back Better: Investing in 100% Clean Electricity”, also explores clean energy infrastructure investment and regulation pathways that could accelerate progress toward 100% clean electricity by 2035 in the US.

RHODIUM FINDINGS: Highlights from the report include, “While reducing emissions from the electric power sector is only part of what’s needed to decarbonize the US economy, the power sector is where the fastest and cheapest emission reduction opportunities reside. Over the past 15 years, carbon emissions from the electric power sector in the US have dropped by 40%—more than any other US sector.

We find that a combination of investment and regulations can achieve CO2 emission reductions of 69-76% below 2005 levels in 2031, accelerating progress towards the 2035 goal. This can be done without imposing new costs on households while also cutting conventional pollutants by up to 84% in just the next five years.”

CHARGE UP TRANSPORTATION: On Thursday, LCV joined CHARGE, a new coalition of transportation, industry, environmental, labor, health, equity, and civic organizations committed to supporting smart policy to electrify America’s transportation system. CHARGE advocates for three primary principles with specific policy recommendations — clean energy public transit, infrastructure for electric vehicles, and electrifying the medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sector.

WOMEN + CLIMATE + COVID: This week, the Women of LCV published a blog that highlights the way women, especially women of color, are being hit hardest by the pandemic and the effects of climate change. And, In light of last week’s traumatic killing of six Asian women in Atlanta — which reflects 150+ years of anti-Asian xenophobia, racism and deeply intertwined misogyny — we’ve provided a list of frontline community organizations that are fighting to #StopAsianHate. To build back a better world, existing policy and infrastructure must shift to support and elevate women, especially women of color.

BONUS: Download these Women’s History Month Zoom and mobile backgrounds to celebrate all of the strong women in your life.

REINSTATING STANDARDS: On Wednesday, 79 members of Congress sent letters led by Senator Markey and Representative Matsui to President Biden to address the importance of setting ambitious and achievable targets for clean energy and reinstating greenhouse gas emissions reductions of passenger vehicles through 2025.
The Senate letter asked the Biden-Harris administration to establish rigorous vehicle greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy standards and encourage the widespread adoption of electric vehicles.”
The House letter urged, “the Administration to, at minimum, reinstate the California Clean Air Act waiver and restore the Obama-Biden greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards” which will “embolden the next set of more ambitious standards that will move us towards our shared goal of transitioning the fleet to zero-emission vehicles.”  Read the press release here.

MATSUI TAKE: Representative Matsui tweeted, “After four years of reckless rollbacks of our auto fuel and clean air standards from the Trump Administration, it is crucial that we make bold investments to protect consumers, the environment, and our public health. That’s why I led 70 of my colleagues in a letter to @POTUS. For decades, CA has led the way in developing the gold standard for emissions. In my district & home state, we have long recognized the need for action. That’s why we must reinstate the state’s Clean Air Act waiver & return to the highly effective Obama-Biden era standards.”

MARKEY TAKE: Senator Markey tweeted, “We must be more ambitious than ever before on vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards. There is only room to go bigger and bolder—we must not compromise on our future.”

LCV BOARD CHAIR TAKE: Former EPA administrator and LCV Board Chair Carol M. Browner stated, “We can create millions of jobs and reduce dangerous carbon pollution if we go big on cleaning up pollution from cars, trucks and buses and make the investments we need to transition to electric vehicles and other pollution-free transportation options. The ‘Better’ in President Biden’s ‘Build back Better’ plan means rebuilding our economy in a smarter way, not just doing it the way it was done before. That includes making major investments that create an electrified and cleaner transportation sector and build the clean infrastructure of tomorrow, and using all of the President’s authority to set tough pollution protections that foster innovation and job creation in clean energy and other industries.”

CONVERSATION WITH GRANHOLM: On Thursday, April 1 at 1:30 p.m. ET, LCV will host a virtual event featuring newly confirmed Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm, LCV board member and former U.S. Representative (MD-04) Donna Edwards, and LCV Vice President of Government Affairs Sara Chieffo. They’ll discuss the strategy for advancing bold economic recovery legislation that dramatically scales clean energy, invests in solutions that benefit environmental justice communities, and create and sustain millions of family-supporting, high quality union jobs. RSVP for the event here.

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STATES:

LA SPECIAL ELECTION: Over the weekend, Louisiana held a special election to fill vacancies in the House delegation, securing state Senator Karen Carter Peterson’s position on the ballot for the April 24th runoff election in the 2nd District.. LCV Action Fund endorsed Karen Carter Peterson because of her commitment to fighting for climate and environmental justice for all communities. Carter Peterson’s experience as state senator and prioritization of passing a Green New Deal that “creates thousands of high-paying, green jobs and brings clean air, clean water, and clean energy to all Louisianans” while fighting against polluters is critical as Congress works towards economic recovery. If elected, Carter Peterson will be the first Black woman to represent Louisiana in Congress.

CARTER PETERSON TAKE: At a cookout prior to Saturday’s special election in a polluted area known as Cancer Alley, Peterson stated, “We can’t afford to have plants continue to come in this community and you not have leadership when people are dying of asthma and cancer and all these other health implications from these industries that are just ignoring … Black communities.”

MASSACHUSETTS CLIMATE BILL (MA): Today, after months of negotiation,Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker finally signed the NextGen Roadmap Bill into law after previously vetoing the legislation in January. This landmark climate legislation sets the strictest emission limits in the country and includes strong environmental justice protections. The bill was advanced by a coalition led by community-based, frontline organizations in partnership with environmental groups. After the governor’s veto, the state legislature refiled the amended legislation which resulted in a stronger bill, especially for environmental justice.

ELM TAKE: In anticipation of Governor Baker signing the bill into law, Environmental League of Massachusetts President Elizabeth Turnbull Henry stated, “Once again, Massachusetts is demonstrating to the nation that monumental, bipartisan climate legislation can be enacted. This law will set the Commonwealth on a course for a cleaner, more equitable, and more prosperous future. The bill builds on the Governor’s commitment from early 2020 to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 by codifying that goal into state law and solidifying our plans to achieve it in a way that drives equitable and sustainable growth. The legislative process strengthened this bill–we now have a strategic and data-driven roadmap to reduce our emissions at the pace science demands, environmental justice protections for our most overburdened communities, and significant scaling up of our state’s greatest renewable energy resource in offshore wind. We are proud of our policymakers for enacting a law that will improve the environment, public health, and economy of the Commonwealth for decades to come.”

COMING UP:

ALL OF MARCH — Women’s History Month
March 27-April 9 — Congressional Recess
April 1 — Conversation with Secretary Granholm Event
April 22 — Earth Day & World Leaders Summit on Climate Change
April 24 — Louisiana 2nd Congressional District Runoff Election

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