THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE (IN)ACTION – JANUARY 15, 2021

Contact: Emily Samsel, emily_samsel@lcv.org, 828-713-9647

THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE (IN)ACTION – JANUARY 15, 2021

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 the coming weeks, there’s guaranteed to be talk of whether fighting the American far-right, and holding Donald Trump accountable for inciting a raging mob, will detract from the Biden administration’s ability to make progress on Covid-19 relief, climate policy, and other urgent priorities in the first hundred days. The beauty of democratic reform is that it would help the country move toward all of these goals simultaneously.”

— Kate Aronoff in the New Republic article How to Fight Climate Change and Fascists at the Same Time  

“Climate activists—especially Indigenous water protectors—are rarely afforded the luxury of freedom these insurgents saw.”

— Yessenia Funes in The Frontline article, The Terror of White Privilege 

“I am angry that the attack on the Capitol and my subsequent illness have the same cause: my Republican colleagues’ inability to accept facts”

— Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman in a Washington Post op-ed, describing her experience, as a 75 year old who has battled cancer, sheltering in place with members of Congress who refused to wear masks  

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LCV IN THE NEWS:

Roll Call: Biden taps Clean Power Plan architect McCabe as EPA deputy
E&E Daily: How Biden could make his mark on the courts
Grist: How Merrick Garland could figure into Biden’s climate plans as attorney general
E&E Daily: Republicans turn on Trump ahead of impeachment
Washington Post: Before riot, Trump said ‘we got to get rid’ of Rep. Liz Cheney. Now she supports impeaching him.

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:

Palm Springs Desert Sun (CA): Newsom unveils budget with billions for the environment, publishes wildfire action plan
The Detroit News (MI): Enbridge says it won’t comply with easement revocation, plans to continue operating Line 5
Spectrum News (NY): Can Green Jobs Push Revive New York’s Economy?
NJ.com (NJ): New Jersey has to face the impacts of climate change | Opinion

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CHISPA ON DR. KING’S LEGACY: It’s a heavy time in our country. As we mend from the violent insurrection of our capitol and reconcile White Supremacy’s threat to our democracy, we know that our community is not ready to simply move on. BIPOC communities have borne the brunt of racism and white privilege for centuries; we are not surprised, but we are deeply disturbed. The Chispa team encourages you to join us in being gentle with yourselves as we progress to heal.

Next week, we will commemorate and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — particularly acknowledging his role in paving the way for environmental justice. Dr. King recognized that many of the struggles of his time, including racial inequity, poverty, politics, health, and human rights, were inexorably linked. Environmental racism shows up where BIPOC communities live, work, eat, play, pray, and learn, and combating it requires a civil rights and social justice approach. As one of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King was a critical predecessor to the first environmental justice legislation, like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

IMPEACHMENT NOT IMPUNITY: Just days after members of the 117th Congress were sworn in, Congress withstood a insurrection waged by White supremacists, for which the president and his allies — all of those who suggested election results could be overturned — need to be held accountable. LCV supports Congress’ use of immediate and appropriate processes to impeach Trump. In a historic vote, the House impeached the president for a second time, and with 10 Republican members voting for impeachment, it was the most bipartisan impeachment vote in history. Now, impeachment moves to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that a trial won’t begin until Trump is out of office.

OUR TAKE: LCV led an environmental coalition letter to Congress, stating, “President Trump’s refusal to take any responsibility or adequately disavow the acts of violence and insurrection, raise serious concerns about the harms he may continue to cause during his final days in office. Taking immediate steps to impeach President Trump ensures accountability for his dangerous behavior and sets a critical precedent that efforts to overturn free and fair elections are not tolerated. In addition, members of Congress who joined in the incitement of violence, or who returned to the ransacked Capitol building hours later and voted to overturn an election based on the same unfounded lies that motivated the mob, must be held accountable for violating their oaths of office.”

NATIONAL DEMOCRACY WEEK: In the first week of the year, in Georgia, we saw the hope and outcomes of a more inclusive democracy. In the same week, we saw our democracy attacked by White supremacists in an effort to overturn election results. Now, more urgently than ever, is the time to strengthen our democracy. The new leadership in the White House and Senate can tip us toward the more inclusive version of democracy we saw in Georgia — and their first step can be to pass H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which would preserve voting rights, limit the influence of polluters, and hold elected officials accountable. LCV participated in multiple events with the Declaration for American Democracy’s National Democracy Week to advocate for H.R. 1.

OUR TAKE: In a new video created by the Declaration for American Democracy Coalition, LCV Voting Rights Director Justin Kwasa said, “LCV drives environmental progress through action. We understand that threats to our environment and democracy are interlinked, and that our nation’s biggest environmental challenges require political solutions.” 

CLIMATE DREAM TEAM: During presidential transitions, people often say, personnel is policy. With this week’s announcement that Dr. Cecilia Martinez, David Hayes, Maggie Thomas, Sonia Aggarwal, Jahi Wise and Jeff Marootian will join the White House climate team, and Janet McCabe will be deputy administrator of the EPA, the Biden-Harris administration is taking voters’ climate mandate seriously, delivering a historic, visionary team that will make their campaign promises to confront the climate crisis and environmental injustice a reality on day one. 

OUR WHITE HOUSE TEAM TAKE: LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld said, “What an all star team! We are thrilled for this slate of climate experts who center science and environmental justice to lead from the White House and set our country on a path to a just and equitable clean energy future. 

Dr. Martinez is an incredible force for environmental justice and the fenceline communities and communities of color disproportionately harmed by toxic pollution. We are beyond grateful for her leadership and so excited for her to take on this important new role at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. 

David Hayes and Jeff Marootian bring tremendous experience advancing climate, transportation and conservation policies in and out of government. Sonia Aggarwal and Maggie Thomas are on the cutting edge of policy innovation and building the coalitions needed to help advance them. And Jahi Wise adds the experience that will help ensure we can drive investments into climate solutions that are at the scale of the challenge and center equity.

OUR EPA TAKE: LCV Legislative Director and former EPA health scientist Matthew Davis said, “Janet McCabe is a fantastic choice to help lead the EPA. McCabe has deep experience with the climate and clean air standards that will be key to the Biden administration’s success on climate and environmental justice. And McCabe’s leadership will provide a needed morale boost at the EPA after four years of undermining science and health outcomes under the Trump administration.” 

BIDEN COVID-19 RELIEF PACKAGE: While Congress passed much-needed but bare-bones COVID-19 relief measures in December, more relief for workers and families is needed. This week, the incoming Biden administration unveiled the “American Rescue Plan,” a $1.9 trillion economic and health care relief package. The plan focuses on COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution and direct aid to families, businesses and state and local governments, but also includes utility disconnect moratoria and payment support, aid for transit agencies, and $45 billion in low-interest loans for activities like clean energy investment. The new administration has promised to deliver relief on day one, and get to work rebuilding our economy, tackling the climate crisis, and battling racial injustice — this plan is a good indication that they’ll hit the ground running.

CLIMATE ROUNDTABLE: On Wednesday, former EPA Administrator and LCV Board Chair Carol Browner joined WE ACT for Environmental Justice’s Peggy Shepard and moderated a virtual town meeting with Chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Kathy Castor. For an hour, Castor took questions from leaders across the climate community, discussing opportunities for Congress to work with the new administration to implement just and equitable climate solutions. During the event, Castor said, “This is a climate emergency; we have to act right away. We have to shoot for the stars. Everything we do has to have an element of equity to address the systemic racism that continues to burden this country.” 

PITIFUL POLLUTION PENALTIES: In the Trump administration’s final hours, as our country reels from White supremacists’ invasion of our Capitol as urged by the president, his administration continues to quietly set last-minute policies that undermine public health and input while benefiting polluters. Trump’s Department of Transportation is intent on trying again to let the auto industry off the hook for making cars that don’t meet efficiency and emissions standards. This time, with a highly condensed 10 day public comment period, the administration is seeking to delay inflation adjustments to the civil penalties that automakers incur when their cars pollute more than is allowed. By rendering these fines inconsequential, automakers are allowed to sidestep responsibility for polluting our air.  

AND ANOTHER ONE: Not only did Trump’s Department of Transportation sneak in dubious, last-minute environmental rollbacks (☝), so too did the Environmental Protection Agency, which finalized a rule that would exempt many polluting industries from greenhouse gas limits. Specifically, the rule, which the Biden administration is unlikely to implement, would only apply the Clean Air Act’s carbon pollution limits to sectors that contribute more than 3% of U.S. emissions. The oil and gas industry, which contributes between 2.5% and 3% of our country’s emissions, would get a free pass on carbon pollution. 

ICYMI MIDNIGHT RULE ROUND UP: While many of us were taking some time to reflect on the last year and the pain suffocating our nation, the Trump administration was busy ramming through anti-environment rules that will harm communities and exacerbate environmental racism in our nation. Last week, we put together a list of the Dirtiest of All Time’s last ditch efforts to buddy up to Big Oil and polluters, giving more handouts as a parting gift on the way out the door.

CLEAN ENERGY JOBS: The year-end numbers for clean energy jobs are in, and as we continue to experience a pandemic and the economic fallout, the impacts on the clean energy sector are proving challenging. E2, E4TheFuture, ACORE, and BW Research released an unemployment report showing that, in December, the clean energy sector gained 17,000 jobs nationwide, yet 70% of clean energy workers remain jobless, which means we ended 2020 with the fewest people employed in clean energy jobs since 2015.  Furthermore, women, particularly women of color, and Latinx clean energy workers continue to experience disproportionate unemployment — overall, these workers lost jobs in December, despite slight growth, overall, in the industry.   

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STATES:

JUSTICE OVERDUE IN FLINT (MI): As part of a new investigation into the Flint Water Crisis, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has been charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty in connection to his involvement with the crisis, which deeply harmed the community and is still ongoing. In the New York Times, Melissa Mays, a mother and activist from Flint put it in perspective, “We in Flint have been living in prison for the past almost 7 years, being forced to pay for water that’s still being piped through corroded and damaged infrastructure while the people responsible have been walking free…We in Flint deserve REAL justice and that means wealthy, white politicians and agency heads going to jail for their actions and inaction that’s caused so much harm and loss to us.”

CVM TAKE: Michigan League of Conservation Voters Executive Director Lisa Wozniak said, “It has been almost seven years since the Flint water crisis exploded into the national spotlight, and we are finally seeing repercussions for those involved. This development is long overdue for Flint residents who have been fighting for justice for years. This is not the end of the Flint water crisis and it will not erase the damage that has been done, but today’s action by Attorney General Nessel shows that no one is above the law and you will be held accountable for the epic failure to put people’s lives over your own political career.”  

BOARD POWER (NE): Nebraska Conservation Voters’ Deputy Director Chelsea Johnson was appointed to the Lincoln Electric System (LES) Board. In November, LES voted unanimously to commit to net-zero carbon by 2040, a commitment that, along with actions by the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) board, means that more than half of Nebraskans live in a place committed to net-zero carbon electricity generation. Congratulations Chelsea!  

AROUND-THE-CLOCK CLEAN ENERGY (IA): Iowa’s capital has adopted what is thought to be the strongest clean electricity goal of any U.S. city — to run on renewable energy around the clock by 2035.

The Des Moines City Council voted unanimously Monday night to adopt a resolution to establish the 24/7 clean energy goal, which aligns with President-elect Joe Biden’s climate plan to eliminate carbon emissions from the U.S. power sector in the same time frame.

COMING UP:

January 18: MLK Day
January 20: The Biden-Harris Administration Begins

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