THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE (IN)ACTION – JUNE 26, 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:

“Climate Justice is Racial Justice, Racial Justice is Climate Justice” 

Hip Hop Caucus President Reverend Lennox Yearwood in a Shondaland op-ed.

And, in every response to climate change, we must focus on protecting communities, especially communities of color, who disproportionately feel the effects of climate change, and those most vulnerable to sea-level rise and catastrophic storms.

— U.S. Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in a Keys Weekly op-ed on protecting our oceans.

“We are spending our time fighting a last-minute battle to preserve a livable world for ourselves and future generations because corporations like Exxon knew the impacts of climate change, but continued to deceive the public for decades. Exxon chose profit over people. It’s time they’re held accountable.” 

— Juwaria Jama, an organizer and state lead for the Minnesota Youth Climate Strike, in response to Minnesota’s lawsuit against fossil fuel giants. 

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LCV IN THE NEWS:

Washington Post: The Energy 202: Biden consolidates support from mainstream environmentalists with new endorsement

Courier: Trump and His EPA Are ‘Using the Coronavirus as Cover’ to Gut Rules Against Climate Change

E&E News: How 200 Trump judges could shape environmental policy

Politico: House panel digs into DOJ auto emissions probe

Daily Kos: Morning Digest: Bowman declares victory but with many votes still to count, Engel does not concede

Suburban Times: Kilmer Helps Introduce Legislation to Make Outdoor Recreation, Public Lands Restoration Part of COVID-19 Economic Stimulus Efforts

 

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:

 

TechCrunch (NY): New York City could have an e-scooter pilot program by March

Grist (NY): This week’s primaries bode well for the Green New Deal

MiBiz (MI): Conservation groups praise movement on ‘Great American Outdoors’ bill

Capital Gazette (MD): Bowie’s draft climate action plan

Nevada Current (NV): Washoe aims to move ahead with electric school buses

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CLIMATE JUSTICE IS RACIAL JUSTICE: In this Shondaland op-ed by the President of the Hip Hop Caucus and LCV board member, Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr., he explains how saving the planet must include justice for the Black community. He recounts his arrest in DC outside of a Chase bank while exercising his right to protest banks and their loyalty to the fossil fuel industry. Structural racism and white supremacy are the common roots of injustices in policing and in the climate crisis. Encountering the police — or merely breathing — has historically proven to be deadly for the Black community. Reverend Yearwood calls on all of us to embrace this connection, “As racial justice activists are courageously organizing in ways that can no longer be ignored, the work that everyone should be doing right now is examining their own role in upholding racism and white supremacy. When you do this work, I encourage you to look at the climate crisis and racism through the same lens, for it truly is the same problem.” The Black community has a right to clean air, fresh food, safe outdoor space, and clean water — as these are human rights.

DC STATEHOOD: LCV led the following environmental group coalition letter to Congress ahead of the historic vote on H.R. 51, the Washington D.C. Admission Act, which passed today. The letter urges members to extend equal representation and a right to self-governance to the more than 700,000 residents of our nation’s capital. Read the full letter here.

OUR TAKE: Judiciary Program Director Ben Driscoll said, “Today’s historic vote brings us one step closer to achieving long delayed fair and equal representation in the federal government for taxpayers living in our nation’s capital — more than half of whom are people of color. DC residents of color are disproportionately impacted by toxic pollution and our federal government’s failure to act on climate — yet don’t have the power to make their voices heard. Currently, Congress has the authority to interfere directly with local actions, including efforts to protect DC’s air and water, and act on the climate crisis. It’s now on Leader McConnell — either follow the lead of the House and give power to the people, or allow inaction to perpetuate the racist disenfranchisement of DC residents.”

TRUMP CONTINUES TO PROTECT RACISM: Trump announced this week his plans to issue an executive order that would protect the removal of racist monuments. The Trump administration is more concerned with preserving racist memorabilia than the safety and value of people of color. This is especially hypocritical coming from a president who has approved the destruction of Indigenous cultural and natural heritage in places like the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument for construction of the border wall, around Chaco Canyon for oil and gas leases, and Bears Ears National Monument that was conceived by a consortium of tribes. It is important to note that the fight for removal of racist and colonialist monuments is not new — Black, Indigienous and organizations of color have been fighting this fight for a long time. Trump has called protesters “vandals” and “hoodlums” instead of acknowledging the centuries of hurt and brutality that has gotten people to this stage. We cannot tell people how to mourn, how to protest, or how to feel. The bottom line is that the outdoors are not truly for all until all can feel safe.

TEARING DOWN RACISM: America’s statues demonstrate the values we uphold as a nation. The American Museum of Natural History is removing a statue of Theodore Roosevelt from its entrance. The statue shows Roosevelt on horseback with an African man and a Native American man standing on the ground below him, depicting America’s colonial expansion and racial discrimination in a positive light. As Mayor Bill de Blasio said, the statue “explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior.” Removing hurtful symbols of racism brings us one step closer to creating spaces that are welcoming to more people, yet we have many more steps to take.

A HOMETOWN UNDER WATER: We are so thankful for our colleague Dawn Cohea, LCV Director of Data & Analytics, for her leadership and strength as Climate Power shared her story about how her predominantly Black community was impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Cohea’s hometown of Port Arthur, Texas faced disproportionate hurricane devastation because of systematic racism and injustice. She recounts that Governor Greg Abbott gave oil companies the green light to shut down as quickly as possible, despite not having taken steps to prevent harm to the surrounding environment, “the community will never know how much benzene and how many other cancer causing chemicals were put in the air that day.” Cohea is standing up for her community and fighting for climate justice because her elected officials have failed to do so time and time again.

FIGHTING FOR OUR OCEAN: Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26) celebrates World Ocean Month by reaffirming her commitment to protect our ocean, especially in Florida’s fight against climate change. In her op-ed, Mucarsel-Powell outlines the importance of addressing ocean acidification caused by carbon emissions, and emphasizes the need to support existing conservation efforts such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund as part of a larger campaign to protect at least 30% of the ocean by 2030. She calls for legislation to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, to restore wetlands and coastal habitats, and to protect communities of color that are most vulnerable to sea level rise and storms. Protecting our ocean should not be just one more item on the conservation to-do list but, instead, we should harness the power of the ocean to make it an integral part  of our climate policy. 

GEORGE FLOYD JUSTICE IN POLICING ACT: This week, in response to the weeks of national protest sparked by the killing of George Floyd the House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to take steps toward improving policing in the United States. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is led by the Congressional Black Caucus and aims to “hold police accountable, end racial profiling, change the culture of law enforcement, empower our communities, and build trust between law enforcement and our communities by addressing systemic racism and bias.” The bill calls for much overdue reforms to policing, including a ban on using the chokehold that claimed George Floyd’s life and the no-knock warrant that allowed officers to shoot Breonna Taylor in her bed. The sponsor of the bill and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Representative Karen Bass (D-Calif) commented, “the profession that has the power to kill should be a profession that has national standards, is transparent and is accountable to the public.”  

VOTE BY MAIL: LCV launched a $3.5 million vote-by-mail generation program to encourage close to 750,000 voters who historically face barriers that keep them from the polls or who have never voted by mail to request ballots ahead of the November election. Experts predict that a majority of voters will cast a ballot by mail this year – whereas past elections were closer to one in four. LCV’s program will make millions of calls in order to have multiple touch points with voters. The goal is to encourage voters to sign-up for a mail ballot and encourage those who have already signed up to vote by mail to spread the word to their friends and family. The program will specifically target people of color, young people, and single women who are eligible to vote.

OUR TAKE: LCV Vice President of Civic Engagement Matt Davis said, “We’re adapting to this unique moment in our nation’s history in order to reach historically underrepresented communities, especially voters of color and young voters, and make voting as accessible as possible during a health crisis that is disproportionately impacting the communities we are fighting for. More people than ever before will vote by mail this year due to the coronavirus pandemic — we’re launching this nonpartisan program to make that process as safe and easy as possible. There’s no blueprint on how to mobilize voters to turnout during a global pandemic, but research shows that when people need to switch vote methods, education is crucial to prevent suppressive impacts.”

MOVING FORWARD ACT: House Democrats are gearing up for a vote next week on the $1.5 trillion green infrastructure package, the Moving Forward Act. This week, they announced new details of the bill. The main goals of the bill are to accommodate more renewable energy, strengthen water and transportation infrastructure and make renewable energy more accessible to low-income communities. The bill would provide billions of dollars towards improving transportation systems in hopes of reducing emissions and building more energy efficient and sound infrastructure for public housing, hospitals, and schools. It also contains the tax incentives for deploying energy efficiency technology, clean energy, and electric vehicles, and supporting environmental justice programs at colleges and universities in the Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now (GREEN) Act, formally introduced this week.

OUR TAKE: LCV Legislative Director Matthew Davis said, “With 620,500 clean energy workers out of work during a pandemic that is exposing deep injustices in our country, including the deadly health impacts of air pollution on communities of color, Congress must act quickly to provide the immediate support to clean energy workers and incentives for environmental justice programs outlined in the GREEN Act. This immediate support will help accelerate emissions reductions and our transition to a cleaner, more equitable future. The innovative provisions in the bill to advance equity and environmental justice are also critically important to pass as our country confronts its ongoing systemic racism and white supremacy culture. As this legislation evolves, we hope that incentives are not extended for energy sources that pollute our air, such as burning trash. We applaud Chairman Neal, Subcommittee Chair Thompson, Rep. John Lewis, Rep. Judy Chu, Rep. Gwen Moore, Rep. Terri Sewell, Rep. Steven Horsford, and the other Ways and Means members for pulling together these critical tax policies into the GREEN Act.”

 COALITION FOR CLEAN ENERGY AND HEALTHY COMMUNITIES: This week, LCV and 40 other green groups and community organizations launched the Coalition for Clean Energy and Healthy Communities (CCEHC), dedicated to the goal of advancing safe and healthy communities as the country recovers and rebuilds from the pandemic. The mission is to demand green policies in any future stimulus or assistance packages. We need strong legislation that will protect our communities from pollution, create clean jobs and solve the many racial inequities linked to environmental justice, including the COVID-19 disparities. 

OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski said, “Our nation is in pain due to the growing economic and health risks from the global pandemic and the deep racial and social injustices ingrained in our nation’s systems and institutions. The racist political and economic forces that perpetuate police violence against Black communities, expose communities of color to higher levels of toxic pollution, and put communities of color at higher risk of death from coronavirus are the same. Congressional action must prioritize protecting families and workers most impacted by these intertwined crises, and focus on investments that build cleaner, more resilient and equitable communities, protect public health, improve built and natural infrastructure, and create good, high-quality jobs and a stronger economy.”

600,000 ARIZONANS: This week, LCV Victory Fund released its first Arizona TV ad in opposition to Senator Martha McSally’s re-election campaign. The ad, “600,000,” is the first of two that will run from June 23 – July 15 in the Phoenix media market for a total $1.5 million ad buy.

WATCH: “600,000”

OUR TAKE: LCV Victory Fund National Campaigns Director Emily Crerand said, “With coronavirus cases on the rise, voters need to know that Martha McSally is only making it harder to breathe in Arizona. McSally voted to gut clean air protections, putting Arizona communities, especially communities of color, at an elevated risk of health complications including asthma, heart disease, cancer, and more severe outcomes from the coronavirus. To make things worse, McSally has opposed protections for pre-existing conditions, so insurers can deny care to those who need it most.” 

CLIMATE CURIOUS: The Solutions Project, an organization dedicated to seeking solutions to the climate crisis and upholding environmental justice, launched a new web series this week titled, Climate Curious. This weekly web series will discuss the intersection of race and climate change. New episodes will air live on The Solutions Project’s Facebook and Youtube channels, Tuesdays at 4:00pm ET. 

200 JUDGES, 0 CLIMATE ACTION: With the confirmation of voting rights opponent Cory Wilson to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Mitch McConnell confirmed Trump’s 200th lifetime judicial nomination, while continuing to ignore the climate, racial justice, and public health crises that continue to threaten our future. This wave of conservative, predominately white male judges hasn’t just distracted the Senate from addressing pressing issues for our nation – their legacy will make it harder for future generations to seek justice of any kind.

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STATES: 

CLEAN TRUCKS (CA): California is barreling full speed ahead on clean trucks regulation. California on Thursday adopted the Advanced Clean Trucks Regulation, the first regulation in the world intended to boost sales of zero-emissions trucks. This new rule would require manufacturers to sell a certain percentage of zero-emissions trucks starting in 2024 with a goal of 300,000 electric trucks on the road by 2035. If adopted, California could completely phase out diesel trucks by 2045. Diesel trucks produce a third of California’s smog, concentrated in “diesel death zones” populated largely by low-income communities and communities of color. Northeastern states have already announced their plan to adopt the Advanced Clean Trucks Regulation. We know this regulation would be a huge win for a clean energy future, and we hope the Trump administration can resist the urge to block its passage.

UTILITY RELIEF (IL): As states across the U.S. consider new stages for COVID-10 responses, consumer advocates are highlighting Illinois as a model for utilities management. The Illinois’ utilities shutoff moratorium has been extended until late July with an additional $47 million in bill relief funding. This program will provide significant aid to families struggling to pay energy bills, many of which were already facing difficulties prior to the pandemic — qualifying families will receive up to $500 to cover overdue payments. For the 1.3 million Illinois residents who have filed for unemployment, this relief cannot come soon enough. This is especially true for communities of color who are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nobody should have to choose between paying the utility bill and putting food on the table. We are proud to see Illinois taking these steps to prioritize people over industry. 

DEFRAUDING THE PUBLIC (MN, DC): ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and American Petroleum…you have been served. On Wednesday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a lawsuit against these three fossil fuel giants, claiming violations regarding consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices, misrepresentation, and failure to warn. The lawsuit not only seeks to end deceptive practices going forward, but also demands restitution for the harm perpetrated against Minnesotans. AG Ellison stated that these fraudulent practices have “harmed Minnesotans’ health and our state’s environment, infrastructure, and economy,” and have disproportionately impacted low-income communities and communities of color in the state. Following suit, on Thursday District of Columbia District Attorney General Karl Racine sued oil companies ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Shell. Racine will be leveling similar claims to those filed in MN, stating that “for decades, these oil and gas companies spent millions to mislead consumers and discredit climate science in pursuit of profits.”

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE FOR ALL (NJ): Governor Phil Murphy announced his support for a bill that would force applicants seeking environmental permits to draft an impact statement explaining the effects of their project on nearby “overburdened communities.” This legislation would allow the state Department of Environmental Protection to reject applications that may cause harm to those communities. The bill defines overburdened communities as communities where at least half of households are low-income and are 40% Black, Latino, members of a tribal community or have limited English proficiency. These communities are disproportionately affected by pollution and industrial damages. This seemingly bureaucratic move would be a huge win for the environmental justice movement as it shifts power away from polluters and towards people. 

PUT UP OR SHUT UP (NY): The state of New York is beginning to make good on its promise to reach net-zero carbon by 2050 and 100% renewable electricity by 2040. On Tuesday, New York announced $10.6M in grants to increase access to affordable solar energy. Resource barriers prevent low-income residents and communities of color from transitioning to clean energy. These grants will assist low-income households and install solar and energy storage facilities that will benefit entire communities. This initiative brings New York one step closer to meeting the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act standards, one of the most ambitious emissions-reduction and environmental justice plans in the country. 

CLIMATE WINS (NY): Earlier this month LCV Action Fund and New York LCV endorsed Representatives Grace Meng (NY-06), Yvette Clarke (NY-09), and Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). LCV Action Fund also endorsed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14). This week, New York had their primaries where environmental champions Meng, Ocasio-Cortez, and Espaillat won their respective districts (Clarke’s race has not been called, but the results are looking good)! Climate won this week in New York! 

CLEAN CARS NEVADA (NV): This week, Governor Sisolak announced “Clean Cars Nevada,” which will provide Nevadans with more choices for low and zero emission electric vehicles that will decrease carbon emissions and air pollution in the state. 

CVM TAKE: Alexa Aispuro, Youth Organizer for Chispa Nevada, a program of the League of Conservation Voters, said: “We thank Governor Sisolak and his administration for taking this important step to clean up our air and fight off climate change. Black, Indigenous and people of color throughout Nevada disproportionately live in neighborhoods with dirtier air, more extreme heat and fewer resources. It’s why communities of color, particularly Latinx Nevadans and youth of color, view climate change as a top threat to our wellbeing, and are calling on our elected leaders to take action and ensure the rule advances transportation equity in low-income communities and communities of color. Our families deserve to breathe clean air, and getting polluting cars off Nevada’s roads and bringing Clean Cars directly into our neighborhoods would significantly improve our health, our environment and the futures of our communities.”  

RUNOFF VICTORIES (SC): This Tuesday, voters in South Carolina cast their ballots for several State House and Senate elections. Five of Conservation Voters South Carolina’s PAC endorsed candidates won their run-off with only one loss. In total, Conservation Voters of South Carolina PAC invested over $100,000 in primary and run-off elections and supported these candidates through direct contributions, paid mail, and digital programs.

 

COMING UP:

 

July 18-26: Latinx Conservation Week

November 3: Election Day

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