THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE (IN)ACTION – DECEMBER 4, 2020

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:

“Why are you voting in Georgia’s January 5 runoff elections? I’m voting for my nieces and nephews who want to see bold action on climate change; my parents who depend on reliable healthcare; and my brother who, like many others, deserves true criminal justice reform.”

— Stacey Abrams on the upcoming U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia

“The task for Biden to be a climate president begins on Day 1, flows through every agency, Cabinet-level or otherwise, and will require dedication to ensure the solutions he and his appointees craft serve all Americans.”

— Earther’s Managing Editor Brain Kahn and Staff Writer Kharna Noor in their article How Biden Can Ensure Every Federal Agency is Fighting Climate Change

“Voters, not lawyers, choose the president.  Ballots, not briefs, decide elections.”

— Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Trump appointee, denying the Trump campaign’s appeal to throw out millions of ballots in Pennsylvania

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LCV IN THE NEWS:

NPR: Biden’s Next Climate Chief Will Tackle ‘Existential Threat’ At Home
Washington Post: The Energy 202: Biden’s choice for a top economic aide is dividing environmentalists
WWD: New Administration, New Sustainability? What Biden Means for Green in Fashion and Beyond
E&E News: Greens bullish on Biden’s climate ‘mandate,’ Ga. runoffs
Sierra Magazine: What Do the Next Four Years Have in Store for Wildlife?
Politico: GOP picks McMorris Rodgers for Energy and Commerce; Westerman for Resources

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:

90.5 WESA (PA): Can Biden’s Climate Plan Spark Cooperation In PA?
CT Insider (CT): ‘Incredibly important step:’ CT environmentalists praise Biden’s decision to add a climate envoy
AL.com (AL): Alabama high schoolers making state a little greener
Mercury News, Seattle Times, East Bay Times (CA): Oakland, San Jose, and Seattle all roll out bans on gas in new buildings 

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📈ECONOMIC CABINET NOMINATIONS: President-elect Joe Biden announced nominations for his economic team this week, and it’s clear that this administration is assembling a historic team that is committed to addressing climate change and racial inequity on day one. LCV supports the nominations of Brian Deese to lead the National Economic Council, Neera Tanden as the first woman of color to be Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Janet Yellen as the first woman to be Treasury Secretary, Wally Adeyemo as the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, and Cecilia Rouse as the first African American woman  to lead the Council of Economic Advisors along with Heather Boushey and Jared Bernstein.

OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski had this to say, “Economic policy is climate policy, and President-elect Biden is assembling an incredible team committed to addressing climate change and economic and racial inequality. We are confident these appointments will help ensure climate and environmental justice are top priorities across the next administration’s domestic and international economic initiatives. This is what an all-of-government approach looks like. With these appointments and other recent announcements including a historic all-female senior communications team, we are thrilled to see the incoming administration continuing to deliver on their commitment to staffing the government with a diverse set of leaders more reflective of the makeup of our country.” Read the full statement here.

VOTERS REITERATE A MANDATE ON CLIMATE: This week, LCV, Normington Petts, and Global Strategy Group held a briefing on new post-election polling from 10 battleground states that elected Joe Biden. The survey explored key voters’ reactions to the climate crisis, and their expectations for the Biden-Harris administration to act on critical climate issues and results made one thing clear: voters are demanding climate action and they expect just that from the Biden-Harris administration. Watch the press briefing here and take a look at the slide deck here.

OUR TAKE: LCV Senior Vice President of Campaigns Pete Maysmith said, “The climate crisis was a defining issue of the 2020 election and that is a fact. “Voters understood what’s at stake and voted for the presidential candidate who would lead on climate, clean energy and the environment and economic recovery. The Biden-Harris administration will have the strongest mandate to act on climate and environmental justice of any U.S. president ever and that is exactly what voters across the country are demanding.”

DOUBLE TAKE: LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld said, “We’re really pleased that the Biden-Harris transition team is already acting on their climate mandate and preparing for an all-of-government approach to go big on climate and environmental justice starting on Day One. Economic policy is climate policy, and we’re confident they will ensure that climate solutions, environmental justice, and clean energy jobs are front and center as they lead our nation in rebuilding an economy that is more equitable, just, and sustainable.”

WISCONSIN + ARIZONA MAKE IT OFFICIAL: On Monday, the last two of six states where Trump has formally challenged his electoral defeat, Wisconsin and Arizona, certified their election results, bringing Biden-Harris even more certainty in official victory on December 14, when the electoral college meets. In November, a diverse coalition of over 81 million voters selected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to lead the executive branch, the greatest number of votes a presidential candidate has ever received, and they voted for the ticket with the most ambitious climate action and environmental justice plan in history. The Biden-Harris administration has the strongest mandate to act on climate of any administration ever, and we’re ready to get started.

MARK KELLY LANDS IN THE SENATE🚀: On Wednesday, Arizona’s new U.S. senator, Mark Kelly, was sworn in to replace Martha McSally, who left the Senate with an appalling 7% lifetime score on LCV’s National Environmental Scorecard. In 2020, LCV Victory Fund invested $1.7 million to defeat McSally and elect Kelly — and now, a state with some of the worst air pollution in the country has a senator who is committed to commonsense, science-based climate solutions that will protect all Arizona communities, especially communities of color and low-income communities that are most impacted by environmental injustice.

OUR TAKE: LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld said, “With two pro-environment Democratic Senators representing the Grand Canyon State for the first time in 70 years, today is a turning point for Arizonans’ health and wellbeing. We are over the moon to have Senator Kelly on the job in Washington, fighting for climate action and environmental justice for Arizona’s low income communities and communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by toxic air pollution. We look forward to working with Sen. Kelly as he delivers on his campaign promises to combat the climate crisis, continue our transition to clean energy, and create thousands of good-paying jobs in Arizona.”

SO-SO NDAA: Congress struck a deal for the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that does some good things … and some not so good. In positive news, the bill requires the Pentagon to remove the names of Confederate leaders from Army bases, a good first step towards ensuring that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color can feel safe and welcome in public spaces. It is also positive that the deal seeks to address the PFAS contamination crisis by banning some Defense Department uses of PFAS, expanding PFAS research, and by accelerating efforts to develop PFAS-free firefighting gear and firefighting foams. Unfortunately, the deal falls far short of what’s needed to address the PFAS pollution jeopardizing the health of  our service members and neighboring communities — despite the efforts of many members of Congress to make PFAS a priority. We’re also disappointed that a number of good land conservation provisions didn’t remain in the final bill, but we appreciate how hard leaders like Chairman Grijalva and Rep. DeGette fought on behalf of communities across the West.

GOV’T FUNDS: As time quickly runs low on government funding — it’s set to expire in a week — and Congress works toward a funding deal, LCV and a coalition of 45 organizations have urged Congress to include support for clean energy and clean transportation in must-pass legislation this year. Additionally, a coalition of 100 environmental organizations, including LCV, has urged Congress to remove a dangerous rider prohibiting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from considering listing the greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act from the final Fiscal Year 2021 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. In other efforts to remove dangerous riders that would tie the hands of President-elect Biden, we joined 44 other groups urging Congress to remove another dangerous rider which legislates indefensible science on emissions from biomass burning power plants and leads to damaging the climate, air quality, and local forests.

SPEAKING OF GOV’T FUNDS: With current House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey retiring at the end of this Congress, we’re excited to congratulate next Congress’ newly elected chair, Representative Rosa DeLauro from Connecticut. DeLauro has pledged to ensure that federal funding invests in communities that have long been overlooked and underserved, which will build on Lowey’s legacy and further greater equity in federal funding.

OUR TAKE: LCV Legislative Director Matthew Davis said, “Congratulations to Representative Rosa DeLauro on her election to lead the powerful Appropriations Committee. With a 95 percent lifetime score on LCV’s National Environmental Scorecard, Rep. DeLauro is an excellent choice to carry on outgoing Chairwoman Nita Lowey’s environmental legacy. We look forward to working with Chairwoman-elect DeLauro on rebuilding the budgets of federal agencies tasked with protecting our public health, air, water and lands, ensuring adequate funding to right environmental injustices communities of color face, and supporting President-elect Biden’s all of government response to tackle climate change.”

ARCTIC LEASE SALE: The Trump administration has recklessly decided to open the  Arctic Refuge for an oil and gas lease sale, which is now set to happen on January 6, 2021. As this administration rushes to finalize policies before vacating the White House on January 20, the Bureau of Land management is running this lease sale on an accelerated timeline, scheduling the sale despite the comment and nominations period continuing until December 17th. This expedited process appears to be an attempt to finalize sales before Inauguration Day, giving polluters a final handout at the expense of our climate and Alaska’s Indegenous communities.

OUR TAKE: LCV Conservation Program Director Alex Taurel had this to say, “The Trump administration is once again steamrolling over public opinion, science, and human rights to push forward their plans to destroy the sacred Arctic Refuge — this time with just days left in office. We stand in solidarity with the Gwich’in Nation in the fight to protect an area they call “the Sacred Place Where Life Begins.” The Refuge is ground zero for climate change and selling it out to big polluters is unconscionable. With all of the major U.S. banks having committed to not finance Arctic drilling, it is clear that any company contemplating purchasing a lease will run serious financial, reputational, and regulatory risks in seeking to drill there. President-elect Biden has been a champion for the Arctic Refuge, and we’re counting on him to do everything in his power to protect this majestic place. We will not stop fighting until this sacred land is protected permanently.”

⛔🚫PEBBLE MINE: Just before the Thanksgiving holiday the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the permit for the Pebble Mine in Alaska’s pristine Bristol Bay. This is an enormous win for many Alaska Natives who have fought for years to preserve this watershed, which is home to the largest salmon run in the world.

OUR STATE AFFILIATE’S TAKE: The Alaska Center’s Community Organizer Shanelle Afcan said, “This permit denial shows that Alaskan voices are being heard. The permitting process should be based on good science and the health and economic needs of the Bristol Bay community. It’s heartening to see the work of so many people finally having an effect on this administration’s policies.  But the Pebble Partnership has millions to spend on litigating themselves out of the grave (they have done it before) — that’s why it’s even more crucial that our elected leaders push for an EPA veto.  Alaskans deserve certainty, we deserve long term protections for Bristol Bay.”

EPA TURNS 50: On Wednesday, the EPA turned 50, and we’re looking forward to a Biden-Harris EPA that returns to its core mission of protecting human health and our environment, not corporate polluters. As the Trump administration races to attack environmental safeguards in their final days, House climate committee members demanded that outgoing Trump officials immediately stop the eleventh-hour rollbacks that will threaten the health and wellbeing of families across the country, especially in communities most impacted by a legacy of pollution.    

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STATES:

FUNDING CLIMATE ACTION A MILE HIGH (CO): In November, Denver voters approved Measure 2A, which increases the city’s sales tax rate by 0.25% and should generate between $20 and $40 million a year to fund energy efficiency and climate transition programs in frontline communities. Portland passed a similar measure in 2018 and is a part of a growing trend of cities taking climate action into their own hands.

MAINE WON’T WAIT (ME): On Tuesday, Maine Governor Janet Mills’ Climate Council released the state’s finalized four-year climate action plan, which they’ve called “Maine Won’t Wait.” Over the last year, the Council, which includes more than 250 leaders from across the state, held hundreds of meetings to devise a plan that will reduce emissions, prepare for climate change impacts, and strengthen Maine communities. Among many exciting specifics, the plan provides incentives for cleaner technologies, including electric vehicles, heat pumps, and properly-sited renewable power generation. It also sets a goal to increase the total acreage of conserved lands in Maine to 30% by 2030, and it creates a new, ongoing equity subcommittee to ensure that Maine’s climate strategies benefit all people in the state.

OUR STATE AFFILIATE’S TAKE: Maine Conservation Voters Director of Policy and Partnerships Kathleen Meil said, “Through the dedicated work of a broad cross-section of Maine leaders and strong public support, Maine’s Climate Action Plan signals a bold new direction for Maine’s clean energy and climate future.

GOVERNOR MILLS’ TAKE: Governor Janet Mills said, “Let this plan be today’s call to action — once again to protect the natural beauty of our state, to improve the lives of our families and the livelihoods of our people, and to ward off future natural disasters and economic crisis.”

JOHN KERRY’S TAKE: Biden-Harris administration nominee for Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry said, “Maine won’t wait.  Maine is going to lead. Maine is going to be ahead of the curve and get the job done for us and help set an example for every other state.  I congratulate you.”

RED STATE TURNING GREEN (NE): Nebraska is the only state in the country with completely publicly owned power. Last week, Lincoln Electric System, one of Nebraska’s three major utility boards, voted for a goal of zero carbon electricity by 2040. Omaha made the same commitment last year. The final piece is the statewide board, which just held an election in November where Nebraskans voted in a clean energy majority board. A final vote would make Nebraska the first state Trump won to pass 100% clean electricity.

ANOTHER PLAN (NV): On Tuesday, Nevada released a plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, proposing potential policies to decarbonize the power and transportation sectors in the state. As Nevada prepares to start its legislative session on February 1, 2021, this “living document” lays out potential policies that the Legislature can take up to help Nevada meet their goals.

COMING UP:

December 6: 60th anniversary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
December 11: Government funding expires
December 31: 2020 expires
January 3: Swearing in of the 117th Congress
January 5: Georgia runoff elections for federal Senate races
January 6: Arctic Refuge lease sale
January 20: Trump’s presidency expires

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