THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE ACTION(!) – MAY 21, 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:

“In America, I do believe a harm against any one of us is a harm against all of us, and we should all then recognize that interconnection between each of us. I believe we have an opportunity now to turn that pain into action. To turn that pain — that righteous anger because of the injustice of it — we have an opportunity to turn that into power.”

— Vice President Kamala Harris addressing over a year of increased documented hate crimes and racist incidents against Asian Americans at the first AAPI Victory Alliance Unity Summit

“My mother wasn’t trained or educated in the environmental sciences. But it was her mother wit that gave her the strength to challenge these injustices to protect children and families in our community.”

— Cheryl Johnson, speaking on her mother, Hazel M. Johnson, the ‘mother of environmental justice,” in Grist interview, “Here’s why Congress is recognizing Hazel M. Johnson, the ‘mother of environmental justice’”

“I never realized how long and storied the history of Asians in America has been. You also hear about stories that just never made the news or never made it into the standard AP U.S. history textbooks.”

— Nicholas Sugiarto, a Chinese Indonesian American biomedical-engineering major at Dartmouth College speaking on AAPI visibility in college courses in AP article, “Racist attacks renew demand for Asian American studies programs”.

“It’s really about how do we get beyond just stopping a new plant to how do we get to a place of creating. St James deserves to stop fighting plants and to start building what they really want in their community.”

— Kidus Girma, organizer with Sunrise’s Gulf south trek team and the Dallas chapter on the development of the Formosa plastics plants in the area known as ‘Cancer Alley’ in Guardian article, ‘This is environmental racism’: activists call on Biden to stop new plastics plants in ‘Cancer Alley’

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LCV IN THE NEWS:

Maryland Matters: Poll: Marylanders Overwhelmingly Favor Clean Energy Investments in Biden Infrastructure Plan
E&E News: Biden the (electric) car guy

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:

Sentinel Colorado (CO): LETTERS: Colorado’s environment needs SB21-200
Delaware County Daily Times (PA): Guest Column: Congress, legislature key to saving SEPTA, fighting climate change
Orlando Sentinel (FL): Chispa Florida lucha por un mejor ambiente para las comunidades latinas y de color en el Estado del Sol
The Hill (VT): Vermont governor signs first-in-nation restrictions on PFAS ‘forever chemicals’
Nevada Current (NV): Growth at what cost?
Missoula Current (MT): Opinion: Voting reform will wake us from ‘sleeping over a volcano’
Colorado Public Radio (CO): Colorado Is Committed To Solving Environmental Injustices. But First, We Have To Agree On What Those Are Exactly
Insider NJ (NJ): Assembly passes bipartisan bill to save New Jerseyan’s money on utility bills
Colorado Newsline (CO): Frustration mounts over Polis’ climate bill veto threat as supporters rally at Capitol
Spectrum News (NC): Interview with NC LCV Director of Govt Relations Dan Crawford on Infrastructure
Monterey Herald (CA): Suspense file day: Which controversial bills did California legislators kill?

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AAPI HERITAGE MONTH READINGS: Addressing environmental injustices in impacted frontline communities includes addressing injustices in Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, where AAPI disproportionately suffer negative health impacts from exposure to carcinogenic hazardous air pollutants, lead in soil, and pollutants from refineries, oil spills and landfills. In a series of Sierra Club articles, Editorial Fellow Aaron Mok highlights how, despite being overlooked in conversations regarding the climate crisis and environmental justice, AAPI environmental artists and writers are showing how AAPI communities are impacted by the climate crisis and are using their voices to be heard. Read Mok’s article here and see how artivism from AAPI communities can shape the environmental movement here.

AUTHOR TAKE: Sierra Club Editorial Fellow Aaron Mok wrote, “The reality is this: Asians and Asian diasporic folks have always been on the front lines of the environmental justice movement—whether that looks like Richmond, California’s Southeast Asian community organizing against the expansion of Chevron’s massive oil refinery or the millions of farmers in India protesting for fair labor conditions amid extreme drought and flooding. Furthermore, Asian and Asian diasporic folks have been contributing to the growing body of academic writing, poetry, fiction, and reportage on the environment for a while now, breaking the mold of what it means to relate to the natural world by doing so through the lens of migrants, children of immigrants, third-culture kids, and Global South communities on the front lines of the climate crisis.”

AUTHOR DOUBLE TAKE: In another Sierra article, Mok writes about how curator Lisa Pradhan understands the connection between language and the climate crisis, “the language around environmental issues is devoid of cultural nuance. For instance, the broader environmental movement, according to Pradhan, doesn’t acknowledge the loss of native tongue as a byproduct of the climate crisis (think about the climate refugees forced to settle in and adapt to a foreign land). And despite the fact that many Asian American communities engage in sustainable practices, the American discourse around sustainability doesn’t recognize these practices as “green” or “environmentally friendly,” but instead dismisses them as immigrant culture.”

ARTIST TAKE: In the same Sierra article, featured artist Priya Kaur Handa states, “Sometimes it isn’t as black and white as creating a canvas or a mural to engage with climate change. Sometimes it’s about using an artistic tool to get other people’s hands dirty so they can learn about another person’s struggle and see why solidarity is necessary.”

JUSTICE40 RECOMMENDATIONS: This week, the Equitable and Just National Climate Forum, the New School’s Tishman Environment and Design Center, and the Center for American Progress, along with other environmental justice advocates, academic experts, and national environmental groups, including LCV, released a set of recommendations for how the Biden-Harris administration can effectively implement their commitment to delivering 40 percent of climate investment benefits to communities impacted by environmental injustices — particularly in communities of color and low-income communities. On January 27, Biden’s executive order 14008 to tackle the climate crisis established the Justice40 Initiative to ensure the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Climate Advisor, in consultation with the Advisory Council, jointly publish recommendations on how 40 percent of federal investments can be made towards communities most impacted by environmental injustices.

LCV TAKE: In March, LCV President Gene Karpinski stated, “The American Jobs Plan’s Justice40 commitment to ensure that 40 percent of all investment benefits are directed to frontline communities and communities of color are a critical component of ensuring our nation’s recovery rebuilds a more equitable society. The president’s front and center commitment to providing clean, safe, affordable water to everyone, no matter their zip code, race, or income, is critical to creating healthy and thriving communities.”

GOP ROAD TO NOWHERE: With few details available for the GOP infrastructure plan, here’s a reminder of congressional Republicans’ real motive: push a do-nothing proposal that protects the profits of big corporate polluters. And unfortunately, that comes at the expense of taxpayers and is devastating for communities on the frontlines of environmental injustices. In addition, the GOP proposal is far smaller than it appears due to a disingenuous counting of funding that is already planned, so-called “baseline” funding (h/t Washington Post fact check). LCV released a memo this week highlighting how the GOP infrastructure plan won’t address clean energy, the climate crisis, or environmental justice — and will instead protect the profits of polluters.

LCV TAKE: In the memo, LCV SVP of Campaigns Pete Maysmith stated,”The first proposal from Senate Republicans was a road to nowhere and we expect this proposal will be more of the same. An infrastructure plan that doesn’t include clean energy, climate, or environmental justice will be dead on arrival. 

As recently released modeled data from LCV and Data for Progress reiterated, voters in every single state and congressional district — deep red to blue — overwhelmingly support the full American Jobs Plan, including investing $2.3 trillion to create good-paying jobs in the clean energy economy while tackling climate change and environmental racism. However, Republicans in Congress are more interested in fighting for Trump-era taxpayer giveaways to billionaires and corporations.”

LCV DOUBLE TAKE: In response to this week’s meeting between the administration and Senate Republicans regarding the GOP infrastructure plan, LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld said, “The GOP’s original infrastructure proposal falls unacceptably short of what voters in the deepest red to the brightest blue congressional districts are calling for — big investments to create good-paying jobs in the clean energy economy while tackling climate change and environmental justice. An infrastructure plan with no mention of clean energy, climate, or environmental justice should be dead on arrival. Senate Republicans are once again completely disregarding the will of the American people and instead prioritizing Trump-era taxpayer giveaways to pad the pockets of billionaires and corporations. It is beyond shameful.”  

ELECTRIC VEHICLES: Ahead of President Biden’s trip to Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan, LCV and environmental advocates sent a letter urging Biden to ensure that a comprehensive portfolio of manufacturing grants, loans, and tax incentives are a part of any infrastructure packages proposed. In addition, LCV launched a digital ad campaign in Michigan supporting the president’s plan to invest in climate, clean energy, high-quality union jobs and environmental justice. See the facts on how investments in electric vehicles will charge the future of manufacturing and transportation here.

MILCV TAKE: Michigan LCV Executive Director Lisa Wozniak stated, “President Biden continues to support investments in renewable energy and electric vehicles, which go hand-in-hand with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan that will protect our health and put Michiganders to work in the growing clean energy sector. As major automakers continue to accelerate their transition to electric vehicles, President Biden’s American Jobs Plan will make Michigan a leader in manufacturing the clean vehicles and technologies of the future.”

LCV TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski stated, “President Biden has been a long time champion for clean energy jobs, and we must seize this opportunity for rapid job growth in the domestic electric vehicle manufacturing sector. With his visit today, he will highlight how pollution-free vehicles create good-paying union jobs at every step of the manufacturing process. We are at a turning point – the U.S. has a historic opportunity to invest in EV manufacturing on a massive scale by passing the American Jobs Plan. We urge Congress to build on existing programs to provide incentives for pollution-free vehicles so we can fight climate change, create high-quality jobs, and advance racial justice.”

ANOTHER CLIMATE EO!: Yesterday, President Biden issued an executive order directing agencies to address the financial risks that the climate crisis poses to workers, families, businesses, and the federal government itself. While communities are already experiencing the hardships of the climate crisis — whether it be from extreme heat and weather, rising sea levels, or poor air quality — the financial risks climate change poses to our homes, businesses, infrastructure and more often go unrecognized. The Climate-Related Financial Risk executive order will disclose these risks to the public, giving them the power to make informed decisions, while the government also takes steps to reduce these financial and budgetary risks. This is another win on climate that prioritizes the wellbeing of people across the country.    

LCV TAKE: LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld stated, “We commend President Biden and his team of climate champions throughout the administration for continuing to put communities first when it comes to combating the climate crisis. Guarding against the myriad financial and budgetary risks posed by climate change could not be more important as our country recovers from the pandemic and its economic fallout. Importantly, this new Executive Order from the President builds on the administration’s all-of-government approach toward a just and equitable clean energy future. The Biden-Harris administration is off to the strongest start of any presidential administration when it comes to climate change, and now it’s time to couple it with transformational legislation by enacting the American Jobs Plan into law this summer.”

HIRING LOCAL:This week, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg announced that the Department of Transportation will be expanding local hire and workforce development pilot programs. The programs will help prioritize good construction jobs in low-wealth and other disadvantaged communities. As the White House and Congress continue to engineer a transformational investment in our country’s infrastructure, which needs to create good-paying jobs while tackling climate change and environmental injustice, the administration is already taking steps to get people back to work in their communities.   

EQUITABLE TRANSPORTATION: This week, Senators Alex Padilla and Jeff Merkley  introduced the Community Decision-Making Pilot Program Act, which would create a pilot grant program to support partnerships between planning organizations and community-based groups to ensure that new transportation projects are equitable and effective. Decisions should be made by the communities who will be impacted by these choices — particularly in communities of color and communities of low wealth, who are the most likely to be left out and pushed out of conversations.

PADILLA TAKE: Senator Alex Padilla stated, “Far too often, local voices have been overlooked when it comes to planning transportation projects. I’m proud to partner with Senator Merkley on this bill that will help give residents a seat at the table in setting their community’s key transportation priorities, explore new ways to better engage impacted neighborhoods, and promote equity in future transportation projects.”

MERKLEY TAKE: Senator Jeff Merkley stated, “The people who know a community best are the people who live, work, and raise their families in that community. When it comes to planning big transportation infrastructure projects that work for all of our working families—regardless of the color of their skin, their zip code, or their income—community voices are essential. This legislation will help us support the partnerships that amplify community voices, and help put us on track to build communities where everyone has access to the infrastructure they need to get from Point A to Point B.”

SACRAMENTO TAKE: Sacramento Area Council of Governments Executive Director James Corless stated, “The Sacramento region is home to diverse communities and there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ transportation investment to meet their needs. This pilot program will support a community-driven planning process that is more collaborative and better enables reaching out to communities to learn how transportation access can improve their quality of life.”

RAILS-TO-TRAILS TAKE: Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Director of Government Relations Patrick Wojahn stated, “The consistent failure to provide a true seat at the table for communities impacted by transportation investment, especially low-income communities and communities of color, has had devastating impacts on those communities. This pilot program will help transportation planners develop the best possible tactics to ensure that our transportation dollars are spent in a way that benefits all communities equitably.”

NEW POLLING: A new survey released today from BlueGreen Alliance finds that ninety percent of voters across six key battleground states and across the political spectrum prioritize repairing and modernizing America’s aging physical infrastructure and rebuilding and retooling American manufacturing to build more products and technology here in the United States. Voters agree — we can’t keep waiting to invest in clean energy infrastructure while communities can’t access clean water and are relying on outdated infrastructure for electricity and transportation. 

UTILITY WORKERS TAKE: Utility Workers Union of America President James Slevin stated, “Our workers are ready to repair and modernize our infrastructure systems across the board. Rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure—from our aging water systems to modernizing our electric grid for the 21st century—will not just create good jobs and reduce energy and water waste, but it will set our nation up for success for generations to come. Voters support this and Congress should act now on the American Jobs Plan to deliver for their constituents.”

STEELWORKERS TAKE: United Steelworkers (USW) International President Tom Conway stated, “The majority of Americans support common-sense initiatives like rebuilding our infrastructure, strengthening our supply chains, and modernizing our manufacturing sector because they understand that our success as a nation hinges on having good jobs today and in the future. Now, we must carry this unity forward and make the robust investments that will keep our communities safe and allow us to remain globally competitive.”

SERVICE WORKERS TAKE: Service Employees International Union (SEIU) International President Mary Kay Henr stated, “Voters strongly support investment in care jobs to transform the lives not just of individual workers but of whole communities. President Biden has recognized this need and proposed a $400 billion investment in care in the American Jobs Plan that would for the first time recognize the care work done by predominantly women of color and immigrant women as valuable and important. Now it’s time for Congress to make that investment a reality.”

BLUEGREEN ALLIANCE TAKE: BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director Jason Walsh stated, “The results of this survey are very clear: no matter who they voted for, people want infrastructure and manufacturing to be the focus of our economic recovery, and they want to make these investments to build a cleaner, healthier, and more equitable economy. What’s more is that there is wide agreement that this recovery must bring good-paying jobs back to the United States, focus on communities that have been left behind, and include measures that ensure that the economy we rebuild today creates the good-paying jobs of the future across the country.”

LCV TAKE: League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski stated, “Voters in the Midwest support investing in clean energy to sustain and create millions of good-paying jobs across a wide range of professions here in the United States,” said “They support companies operating in an environmentally friendly way that reduces pollution. They want policies that will stop offshoring and support making products here in America. It’s time for the White House and Congress to deliver on what voters want and pass the full American Jobs Plan to address the inter-related challenges of climate change, economic inequality, and environmental injustice.”

ARCTIC REFUGE DAY OF ACTION: On Thursday, LCV co-hosted the Artic Refuge Day of Action with the Arctic Refuge Defense Campaign calling on the Biden administration and Congress to permanently protect the Arctic Refuge from oil drilling. President Biden moved to temporarily protect the Arctic Refuge in an Executive Order on Day One — now, LCV stands with the Gwich’in people in calling for this sacred land to be permanently protected. 

@CLARKE TO THE FLOOR: On Tuesday, in a procedural vote, the Senate approved moving forward with Kristen Clarke’s nomination to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, breaking a tied committee vote. Next up, Clarke’s nomination will go to a full floor vote, and, if confirmed, she will become the first woman and first woman of color in charge of the division responsible for enforcing laws that prohibit discrimination, including upholding voting rights and oversight of policing. As a long-time civil rights attorney who served in the Department of Justice, Clarke brings experience in nearly every area of civil rights enforcement.     

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STATES:

CHISPA FLORIDA: Last week, a spotlight in the Orlando Sentinel highlighted how Chispa Florida is fighting for low-income, Latino and other BIPOC communities at the intersection between social justice and protecting the environment to achieve climate justice, community health and environmental protection, and demand accountability from polluters and decision makers. 

CHISPA TAKE: Chispa Florida Director Maria Revelles stated, “This is our mission, to give a voice to those who don’t have it, as we transition towards the clean renewable energy our state needs. Currently, Black, Latino, Indigenous and low-income communities are the most affected by the climate crisis and we need to make sure that this stops now.

CO GOVERNOR BLOCKS CLIMATE PROGRESS: The Colorado Senate is currently considering important legislation that would set strong and enforceable greenhouse gas emissions regulations in order to achieve the targets in the state’s 2019 Climate Action Plan. There’s one problem – Governor Jared Polis has declared his intention to veto the bill. This comes in contrast to previous actions by the governor who released a climate roadmap last year that details sector-specific emissions reductions targets. However, Polis’s plan lacks firm deadlines and enforcement. Senate bill 200 would strengthen the climate roadmap and get Colorado on track to meet its goals – which recent modeling shows the state needs in order to succeed. 

COCO TAKE: Conservation Colorado Executive Director, Kelly Nordini, said, “our climate goals are only as strong as our plans to execute them. This bill takes Governor Polis’ climate goals and works to ensure that his plan happens.”

ELECTRIC TRANSIT IN ILLINOIS: Governor J.B. Pritzker released a new plan for Illinois’ Volkswagen settlement money. After violating emissions requirements in the Clean Air Act, VW was ordered to pay states money to mitigate the damage. The state’s revised spending proposal prioritizes funding electric public transit and school buses with the remaining $88.6 million – a major shift from the original plan which was heavily influenced by industry and fossil fuel-friendly.

BIG CLEAN WIN (MN): This week, the Minnesota House and Senate passed the Energy Conservation and Optimization Act, the most significant energy legislation the state has approved in years. Among many things, the legislation doubles investments in low-income energy efficiency programs, helping households upgrade appliances and increasing the amount that utilities are required to spend on conservation, especially to low-income households. Next, the legislation is headed to Governor Tim Walz’s desk, and he is expected to sign this bill into law — which will mark a significant win for Minnesotans!

FLORIDA LEGISLATIVE RECAP: This week, LCV Florida Executive Director Aliki Moncrief joined State Representative Anna Eskamani and Friends of the Everglades Policy Director Gil Smart for a panel discussion breaking down the “good, the bad, and the ugly” of Florida’s recent legislative session, which failed to tackle Florida’s climate crisis by putting oil and gas polluters over people. 

 

COMING UP:

All of May: Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month
All of May: Asthma Awareness Month

 

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