THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE ACTION(!) – MARCH 19, 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:

“Racial justice is at the heart of how we’re going to solve the climate crisis. We have to address these transformative issues in a way that puts racial justice at the center, or we will fail.”

— Miya Yoshitani, Executive Director of Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) in Atmos article, Chevron, Violence, and Gentrification: The Bay Area Climate Threats to AAPI

“[The Environmental Justice for All Act] would go a long way toward making real every American’s right to breathe safe air, drink clean water and live on uncontaminated land — regardless of their ZIP code, the size of their wallet or the color of their skin.”

— Senator Tammy Duckworth in a statement following the re-introduction of the Environmental Justice for All Act

“Racism and misogyny are so deeply intertwined that they cannot be disentangled. We really can’t talk about one without talking about the other.”

— Writer Celeste Ng in response to the murder of six Asian women in Atlanta

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LCV IN THE NEWS:

Mother Jones: The Senate Confirms Deb Haaland to Be the First Native American Cabinet Secretary in US History
NBC: Green groups launch $10 million ad campaign pressuring Biden, Congress to spend huge on climate
Grist: The new symbol of climate action: Hard hats?
Business Insider: Deb Haaland is on the cusp of becoming Interior secretary. Here’s her journey from a single mom in New Mexico to a history-making role in Washington
E&E News: Biden asks court to close out Arctic drilling battle

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:

Common Dreams (NM): ‘Historic and Hopeful Moment’: Senate Confirms Haaland as Interior Secretary
The Nevada Independent (NV): Indigenous leaders, environmentalists urge lawmakers to pass protections for sacred swamp cedars
Politico (CA): Environmentalists drop opposition to California oil well cleanup bill
CBS Miami (FL): Florida Senators Back Plan On Sea Level Rise
Maryland Matters (MD): Ambitious Climate Bill Voted Out of Maryland Senate
Denver Gazette (CO): Bill on ag workers rights wins approval from Senate committee despite opposition from Polis administration
Bucks County Herald (PA): Democrats step in to counter GOP fracking suit

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HAALAND @INTERIOR: On Monday, the Senate cast a final vote to confirm Representative Deb Haaland as secretary of the Interior, who was sworn in on Thursday. Haaland’s confirmation is monumental — as the first Native American to serve in the presidential cabinet, her leadership is an important step toward ensuring that Native communities are included in the management of our nation’s public lands and waters.

HAALAND TAKE: In Haaland’s message to the Department of Interior staff this week, she highlighted the role played in her family growing up: “My mom served as a federal employee at the Bureau of Indian Affairs for 25 years. I saw her get up every day to do a job that she was proud of. She worked hard, sometimes without recognition, but she knew that what she was doing made a difference for the communities she served.” We’re excited for this sentiment to lead the Department of Interior’s efforts to Build Back Better.

OUR TAKE: LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld stated, “Congratulations to Secretary Deb Haaland on her well-deserved and historic confirmation! The significance of having an Indigenous woman lead the critical work of protecting our public lands cannot be overstated. We are thrilled for Secretary Haaland to lead the Department of Interior and implement a bold agenda based on science, equity, and environmental justice. Secretary Haaland will prioritize access to nature, tribal consultation, and responsible management of our public lands and resources for all people in this country — she will make a truly excellent addition to the growing Biden administration.”

TAI @TRADE REP: On Wednesday, the Senate voted to unanimously confirm Katherine Tai to serve as U.S. Trade Representative. This unanimous support for Tai as the first Asian American woman and first woman of color to hold the position is a truly historic moment, especially in light of the rising anti-Asian violence and rhetoric that culminated in the senseless murders in Atlanta Tuesday night.

REPRESENTATIVE TAKE: U.S. Representative Andy Kim (NJ) tweeted, “Thank you Katherine Tai for showing the best of what Asian Americans bring to this country. We needed your extraordinary example today more than ever after the tragedy in Atlanta. You will make all of us proud as you represent our nation to the world.”

OUR TAKE: LCV Vice President of Government Affairs Sara Chieffo said, “Congratulations to Katherine Tai on her historic confirmation today as U.S. Trade Representative. Tai is committed to increasing transparency and public participation in negotiations, and we look forward to working with her to help implement a new trade model that includes robust and binding climate, environmental, and conservation protections, strong enforcement provisions, and creates good-paying, family-sustaining jobs. The Biden administration has made it clear that we need a whole of government approach to address the climate crisis and we are excited to have Ambassador Tai leading these efforts in trade policy.”

BECERRA @HHS: Yesterday, the Senate took a final vote to confirm former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be the first Latino to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services. As we are over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Becerra will play a key role in our recovery and prioritizing and protecting the people most at risk to the virus — particularly communities of color and low-wealth communities who continue to be disproportionately at higher risk for infection, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.

BECERRA TAKE: At a recent confirmation hearing, Becerra stated, “I understand the enormous challenges before us and our solemn responsibility to be faithful stewards of an agency that touches almost every aspect of our lives. I’m humbled by the task, and I’m ready for it.”

OUR TAKE: LCV tweeted, “Congrats, @XavierBecerra! We’re thrilled to have a champion for clean air and water — someone who’ll listen to scientists and experts — leading @HHSGov.”

FOR THE PEOPLE: The For the People Act was introduced to the Senate on Wednesday as S.1, which 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 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 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. On Thursday, LCV hosted an event with Sen. Merkley and environmental justice advocates to discuss democracy’s role in solving environmental issues.

MERKLEY TAKE: Senator Merkley, the lead Senate sponsor of the For the People Act, stated, “Communities of color often bear the environmental burden of polluters contaminating their water, their air, and their homes. A healthy democracy—one in which ‘one person, one vote’ is not just a slogan but a reality—is a key step towards environmental justice. Frontline communities—particularly Black, Indigenous, and people of color—must have a seat at the table to find community-based solutions and prioritize these pressing climate issues. Voter suppression laws prevent Americans from making their voices heard by making the process difficult to navigate, difficult to access, and disproportionately targeting the votes of Black and Brown Americans. Strengthening our nation’s democracy shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Our nation is built on government of, by, and for the people—and it’s time to fully restore that vision.”

REVEREND TAKE: LCV Board Member and President of the Hip Hop Caucus Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr said, “Now more than ever, electoral reform must be a priority. Black communities, Indigenous communities, communities of color, and low-wealth communities historically bear the burden of the environmental crisis and face legislative barriers to access one of our nation’s most fundamental rights — the right to vote. The For the People Act is a fundamental piece of legislation to ensure that voters can trust our elections, hold their elected officials accountable, and exercise their right to cast a ballot during these uncertain times — whether it be at the ballot box, at the polls, from their home, or overseas. LCV is committed to working with our state partners to advocate for the Senate to implement a stronger democracy, for the people of our nation.”

CHISPA TAKE: Chispa Arizona’s Civic Engagement Director Nicole Morales discussed how Arizona’s suppressive voter laws impact Arizonans, “Harmful legislation targeting Latinx communities in Arizona has silenced voters within their own community. Arizona’s lawmakers are systemically sabotaging the voting rights of not only Latinx voters, but also Indigenous voters, through their attempts to limit opportunities for voter registration, create barriers to absentee vote, purge voting lists, implement stricter voter ID laws, and even introduce a bill to take away the voting commission’s ability to certify an election. The For the People Act would help protect the voice and rights of all voters across our nation to strengthen our democracy, despite a state’s attempts to silence them.”

OUR TAKE: LCV Voting Rights Program Director Justin Kwasa stated, “We applaud Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Jeff Merkley, and Rules Committee Chairwoman Sen. Amy Klobuchar, for their leadership in introducing S. 1, the For the People Act, a sweeping democracy reform package that will expand and protect the freedom to vote, end partisan and racial gerrymandering, get polluter money out of politics, and restore transparency and accountability in our government. 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.”

GREAT AMERICAN BUILD: This week, LCV and Climate Power launched The Great American Build, a campaign elevating the immediate need to Build Back Better and make transformational investments in clean energy and infrastructure. With the backing of additional climate and environmental organizations, racial justice organizations, organized labor, progressive groups and leaders across the country, The Great American Build aims to raise public awareness and encourage Congress to take bold climate action that will create jobs in big cities, small towns, and everywhere in between. Watch the campaign’s first ad, “Calling All Builders,” here.

OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski said, “The historic American Rescue Plan provides the resources we need to address the pandemic and for people to get the immediate help they need to get by. But just getting by is not enough. It’s critically important that we move quickly to a broader economic recovery plan that centers climate solutions, makes transformative investments in healthy, equitable, safe communities powered by clean energy, and gets millions of people back to work in good-paying jobs. We can and must build back better.”

THE AMERICAN DREAM: The American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 would provide permanent protections for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders who are currently living in uncertainty about their legal status. These communities also face a higher rate of harm from exposure to toxic pollution, are often hit first and worst by climate change’s impacts, and far too often are not able to participate equitably in our democracy. In 2019, LCV included votes on this bill in the LCV National Environmental Scorecard, and will consider doing so again in the 2021 Scorecard.

OUR TAKE: Ahead of a vote on The Dream and Promise Act of 2021, LCV President Gene Karpinski urged Congress in a letter to support the bill, “Many of the individuals who have qualified for TPS have come to the U.S. in the wake of natural disasters that have devastated their homelands, including earthquakes and hurricanes, and because of wars over diminishing natural resources, much of which is being driven by the growing climate crisis. We believe that Dreamers, TPS, and DED holders’ contributions to our society should be honored; they deserve to have the safety, stability, and legal means to fully participate in our democracy.”

30×30 LETTER: This week, 120 members of Congress sent a bicameral and bipartisan letter to President Biden in support of the national goal to protect 30 percent of our country’s land and water by 2030, a goal known as 30×30. The letter comes at a time when momentum for 30×30 is building: earlier this year, LCV released letters of support from mayors and state and local electeds, and polling has consistently shown high levels of public support for the goal.

OUR TAKE: LCV Conservation Program Director Alex Taurel said, “We are thrilled to see President Biden making such a historic and ambitious commitment to conserve our lands and ocean and applaud Chairman Grijalva, Rep. Neguse and Senators Blumenthal and Luján for leading the way to support a locally-driven process to meet the national 30×30 goal. Achieving 30×30 gives us the opportunity to make access to nature in this country more inclusive and equitable and we are all-in to help reach and exceed this goal.”

EJ FOR ALL: On Thursday Chairman Grijalva, Representative McEachin, and Senator Duckworth re-introduced the Environmental Justice for All Act, a landmark bill that puts frontline communities and environmental justice leaders at the center of climate policy.  This bill was first introduced last year after a yearlong process with environmental justice advocates and stakeholders including Chispa Arizona, LCV’s Latinx organizing program in Arizona, the Moving Forward Network, Alliance for Appalachia, the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, and many more. View the full timeline of environmental justice action in Congress along with fact sheets about the bill here.

GRIJALVA TAKE: The original introduction of this bill and others from the 116th Congress were highlighted in LCV’s recently released These Votes Have impacts Report. At a February event discussing the report, Chair Grijalva stated, “I want to thank the League of Conservation Voters for their critical efforts to protect the Grand Canyon and prioritize The Environmental Justice for All Act. We will need an all hands on deck approach if we are to combat the climate crisis and ensure frontline communities are not left behind. I look forward to partnering with LCV to pass comprehensive environmental justice legislation and preserve our public lands through the Grand Canyon Protection Act.”

NEXT STEPS: On Wednesday, Environmental Justice for All authors Chair Raúl M. Grijalva and Rep. A. Donald McEachin sent a letter to the Biden-Harris administration urging Biden to revoke permits for a proposed plastics plant in Louisiana’s “cancer alley”. Reps. Grijalva and McEachin state, “On day one, your administration clearly signaled your resolve to combat the climate crisis and meaningfully address environmental justice. By taking swift action against the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks and advancing a whole-of-government initiative to advance racial equity, you have offered the American people a small glimpse of what is to come. Your revocation of harmful permits that ended the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline represented a historic victory for frontline communities across the country.”

JUSTICE 40 RECOMMENDATIONS: The Equitable and Just National Climate Forum, along with environmental justice advocates, academic experts, and national environmental organizations, released recommendations for ways the Biden-Harris administration can deliver on their commitment — Justice40 — to ensure 40% of climate investments benefit disadvantaged communities. The recommendations include actions in six categories: Identifying and mapping environmental justice and other disadvantaged communities, establishing inclusive processes for input, identifying service gaps, providing clear program criteria, improving and creating new federal programs, and ensuring accountability. Read the recommendations here.

DC TO 51: Mark your calendars – on Monday, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform will hold a hearing on the DC statehood bill H.R. 51, Making DC a State. In a Congress more divided than ever, the unrepresented residents of DC — 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. DC residents of color are disproportionately impacted by toxic pollution and the climate crisis, and it’s past time for this racist disenfranchisement to end.

GENE ON CSPAN: On Sunday, LCV President Gene Karpinski will join C-SPAN from 8:45am to 9:30am EST to discuss the Great American Build — a multi-million dollar public awareness campaign organized by Climate Power, LCV, and Potential Energy Coalition urging lawmakers and the Biden-Harris administration to confront both the economic crisis and the climate crisis with transformational investments for good-paying clean energy jobs.

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STATES:

CLEAN ENERGY JOBS ACT (IL): In Illinois, the House Energy and Environment Committee approved the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA), which is now headed to the Illinois House floor. The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition — which includes LCV state affiliate the Illinois Environmental Council — helped orchestrate an inclusive process to inform CEJA, gathering input from every Senate District in the state. This resulted in a bold policy vision that puts racial and economic justice at the center of Illinois’ transformation to 100% clean energy. For more, check out this video.

IEC TAKE: “CEJA takes on the climate crisis, creates equitable jobs in every part of Illinois, and holds utilities accountable by ending automatic rate increases. The passage of this comprehensive energy package out of committee marks a critical step forward and away from the days of backroom deals that put utility company profits before people,” said Illinois Environmental Council Deputy Director Colleen Smith. “The product of years of grassroots-driven conversations held in communities across Illinois, CEJA is a community-focused approach to our energy future – one which will grow green jobs in the communities most in need and play an important role in the economic recovery from COVID. CEJA can’t wait.” 

CLIMATE SOLUTIONS NOW ACT (MD): In a bipartisan vote this week, the Maryland state Senate passed the Climate Solutions Now Act, an ambitious bill that would, over the next ten years, cut carbon pollution to levels 60% lower than experienced in 2006. To achieve this goal and its benefits of a cleaner, healthier future, the bill suggests proactive solutions such as planting 5 million trees, electrifying the government’s vehicles, and creating more energy efficient schools — and doing so in a way that supports a just transition and centers racial equity.

MDLCV TAKE: Maryland League of Conservation Voters Executive Director Kim Coble said, “We applaud the Senate for taking definitive action today in support of the Climate Solutions Now Act. This is a huge leap forward in correcting the long standing inequity of climate pollution in communities of color and fighting climate change”.  

MASSACHUSETTS CLIMATE BILL (MA): Yesterday, the Massachusetts House passed the NextGen Roadmap Bill—landmark climate legislation that sets the strictest emission limits in the country and includes critical environmental justice protections 20 years in the making. The bill was advanced by a coalition led by community-based, frontline organizations in partnership with environmental groups. Despite being vetoed in January by Gov. Charlie Baker and subsequently refiled with amendments, further legislative discussion has only made the bill stronger. The Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM) believes that with sustained public pressure over the next few days, the bill will finally become law.

ELM TAKE: Environmental League of Massachusetts Assistant Vice President for Government Relations Casey Bowers said, “we commend the Legislature for their commitment to return a strong climate bill to the Governor’s desk with an urgency that matches the crisis we face, and for maintaining the substantive core of the bill, particularly the emissions limits. The recent amendments and refinements strengthened the legislation, including the Governor’s provision to add cumulative impacts to environmental justice reviews. This legislation will set the Commonwealth on a course for a cleaner, more equitable, and more prosperous future”.

COMMUNITY SOLAR FOR THE WIN (NM): In New Mexico, The Community Solar Act passed the state legislature and is pending Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s signature. This legislation will make solar energy accessible to more New Mexicans, particularly in communities of color, rural communities, and communities with low-wealth, and will offer Tribes and Pueblos the option to power their communities with local solar energy. A study from the University of New Mexico shows that community solar energy in New Mexico could support 3,760 good-paying jobs and generate over $517 million in economic impact over the next five years.

CVNM TAKE: Conservation Voters New Mexico tweeted, The Community Solar Act (SB84) PASSED the House and is on its way to the Governor! All New Mexicans deserve to benefit from the #renewableenergy transition and have access to solar savings. Community Solar provides a pathway. #nmpol #nmleg

COMING UP:

ALL OF MARCH — Women’s History Month
March 21 — LCV President Gene Karpinski interview with C-SPAN
March 22 — House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on DC Statehood
March 25 — Interior Department forum on the broken federal oil and gas drilling system
April 22 — Earth Day & World Leaders Summit on Climate Change

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