THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE (IN)ACTION – March 8, 2019

QUOTES OF THE WEEK:

 

“At the current pace that we are on, the scale of tragedy that will consume humanity is something we have not seen in perhaps recorded history if we don’t do something about it.”

— Former President Barack Obama said during a trip to Canada on Tuesday.

 

“Over the next few decades, climate change will affect every part of American life.”

— Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said on Wednesday morning while introducing a resolution to create a select committee on climate change in the Senate.

 

“As a fellow Great Lakes Governor, @GovTimWalz knows that we need to take action now to slow the effects of climate change for the next generation.  Proud to see Minnesota commit to 100% clean energy by 2050!”

 

— Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers Tweeted his neighborly support for Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s commitment to 100 percent clean energy   

 

LCV IN THE NEWS:

 

The New York Times: 2020: The year of the climate candidates

ThinkProgress: Republicans get history wrong by naming anti-Green New Deal caucus after Teddy Roosevelt

Bloomberg: Republicans Who Couldn’t Beat Climate Debate Now Seek to Join It

E&E News: Greens launch campaign to defend 9th Circuit

ThinkProgress: Republicans headed to House climate committee show how the party is changing on climate action

 

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:

 

E&E News (NY): Manhattan weighs driver fee to cut pollution

Anchorage Daily News: Dunleavy budget is a shock tactic to open Alaska to the highest bidder

WEMU (MI): 1st Friday Focus On The Environment: Environmental Priorities In Michigan’s New Administration

The Seattle Times (WA): Carbon fee returns in Olympia as lawmakers consider $15 billion transportation package

Real Vail (CO): Why didn’t Colorado get any more wilderness in recent public lands bill?

 

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2020 WATCH: Acting on climate change is a top tier issue for Democratic voters in early primary statesevery 2020 candidate who is currently in the Senate scored a perfect 100 percent on our National Environmental Scorecard. This week, LCV’s own SVP for Government Affairs, Tiernan Sittenfeld, spoke with the New York Times and put it into perspective: “For far too long, climate change didn’t get nearly the attention that it deserved, either on the campaign trail or off, and that clearly has changed in a major way.”

 

GOING ON OFFENSE: On Wednesday, Senator Chuck Schumer introduced a resolution to create a select committee on climate change. The Senate Minority Leader is also planning daily speeches to highlight Republicans’ inaction on climate change and to try to mobilize voters for the 2020 election — all of which Schumer described as going “on offense.”

 

GRAY WOLVES ENDANGERED: Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced that his agency plans to remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) safeguards for almost all gray wolves in the lower 48 states. LCV Conservation Program Director Alex Taurel had this to say in response: “Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is letting his own longstanding hostility to one of our nation’s bedrock conservation laws shape his policy decisions, rather than allowing science to inform protections for imperiled species… While there have been significant successes in restoring gray wolves to some of their former habitat, gray wolves still only occupy a small portion of their historic range.”

 

SENATE TACKLES CLIMATE CHANGE (FINALLY): On Tuesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee had its first hearing on climate change since 2012. The hearing focused on renewable energy, with Senator Joe Manchin remarking that climate change is an issue that must be addressed and solved, especially in rural areas where it will hurt communities the most.

 

FOR THE PEOPLE: The House of Representatives passed H.R. 1 – the For the People Act – on Friday. This bill would strengthen voting rights, increase transparency and fairness in our campaign finance system, and improve our ethics laws.

 

OUR TAKE: LCV Senior Vice President for Government Affairs, Tiernan Sittenfeld, said: “We believe that by working to ensure that the people’s voice, rather than outsized corporate influence, guides our elected officials, we can better address climate change and other critical issues facing our nation. For far too long restrictive voting laws and partisan gerrymandering have silenced voices of low income and communities of color who disproportionately face threats to clean air and water.”

 

HEARINGS IN THE HOUSE: The House Oversight Committee held a hearing on PFAS this Wednesday, which included witness testimony from U.S. Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick and Dan Kildee, as well as from EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water Dave Ross and Defense Department Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Environment Maureen Sullivan. Oversight Subcommittee on Environment Chairman Harley Rouda said in his opening statement, “These chemicals are toxic and poisonous…the information available is sufficiently alarming to trigger immediate action from this administration.”

 

MORE OVERSIGHT: On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing featuring Dr. Walter Cruickshank, the Acting Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). On Thursday, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife held an oversight hearing featuring Chris Oliver, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

 

AIRGUNS BLASTED IN COMMITTEE: Here is U.S. Representative Joe Cunningham taking on the practice of seismic airgun blast testing for offshore drilling (he uses an airhorn during the Thursday hearing to prove his point). During the hearings, he pointedly questioned BOEM Acting Director Cruickshank, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Oliver, and others about the harmful impacts of offshore drilling.

 

NC SPECIAL ELECTION: There will be a special election in North Carolina’s 9th District because  there was election fraud in the 2018 race, which resulted in the win of Republican Mark Harris, who will not be re-running. While no Republican has announced a bid for the seat so far, the pro-environment Democratic candidate, Dan McCready, will try again to win the toss-up congressional seat.

 

OUR TAKE: LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld said, “LCV Action Fund is thrilled to see that the residents of North Carolina’s 9th will have the chance to make their voices heard in a fair election, and we are proud to reiterate our full support for Dan McCready. We are confident that Dan’s record of creating clean energy jobs will continue to resonate with voters across the district and look forward to helping him win in September.”

 

NOT A NATIONAL EMERGENCY: Enough Republican senators announced this week that they will vote against Trump’s national emergency declaration that the resolution of disapproval will likely pass.

 

DUMP TRUMP’S DENIAL PANEL: Fifty-eight former national security officials, from military generals to intelligence officers, wrote a letter urging President Trump to disband his proposed climate denial group that would work to dispute currently-held scientific findings on the effects of climate change. The letter points out, “Imposing a political test on reports issued by the science agencies, and forcing a blind spot onto the national security assessments that depend on them, will erode our national security.”

 

NEW REPORT SHOWS CARBON INCREASE: The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center released a report this week which shows how damaging the Trump administration’s regulation rollbacks will be for the environment, especially in regard to increased carbon emissions. According to the report, Trump’s rollback of environmental standards, rules, and regulations could add more than 200 tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere by 2025. The clean car standard rollback will also cost drivers hundreds of millions of dollars in added fuel costs.

 

COAL CONTAMINATION: A new report out this week shows extensive water contamination from coal power plants across the country. Ninety-one percent of these plants reported increased pollution in nearby groundwater, rising far above EPA’s health standards. This news is even more worrisome in the wake of last week’s Senate approval of former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to officially lead the EPA.

 

UNETHICAL INTERIOR (PART 1): Next week, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva is holding a hearing to look into the Trump Administration’s attempt to shrink Bears Ears National Monument in 2017. Officials at the Department of the Interior met with staffers from Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc. in late 2017. That company is invested in uranium processing around Bears Ears, and the meeting took place right before Trump asked Interior to review the National Monument and ultimately decided to shrink its area. Coincidence? We shall find out.  

 

UNETHICAL INTERIOR (PART 2): In what has drawn much criticism and what may be an unlawful act, Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt approved more than $250 million in funds to keep National Parks open during the shutdown, taking money from visitor entrance fee funds meant for park maintenance and employee payments. Bernhard had instructed Parks Service staff to drain funding during the shutdown, according to an internal memo, which they feared would hurt their strained budget.

 

WHO WILL PROTECT THIS HOUSE: The environmental community is spotlighting the importance of 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which is the largest of the federal circuit courts and covers 75 percent of all public land. It hears more environmental cases than any other appeals court. The “Defend the 9th” campaign is an effort highlight the importance of fair and independent courts, and to stop the parade of unqualified and hyper-partisan judicial nominees from the Trump Administration.

 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STATES:

 

ARIZONA:  Last Wednesday, the Public Lands Day Resolution HB 2271 passed the Arizona Senate Committee Hearing with overwhelming support. HB 2271 would designate the first Saturday of April as a day to celebrate and honor our public lands – from the Grand Canyon to our neighborhood parks and open spaces. Chispa AZ promotorxs were present at the hearing and Advocacy Director Gloria Montano Greene provided testimony on behalf of Chispa, speaking to the importance of public lands to the Latino community. This bill has overwhelming bipartisan support and has moved swiftly through the Arizona Legislation.

 

 

MINNESOTA: Minnesota Governor Tim Walz introduced a proposal to make his state run entirely on renewable energy by 2050, following in the footsteps of states like California and Hawaii that have already passed similar initiatives. If approved by the Minnesota state legislature, many power companies would have to set their own goals to phase out of carbon-emitting energy sources.

 

FLORIDAFlorida’s Congressional House Delegation penned a letter last week to Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt asking him to protect Florida’s coasts from offshore drilling. While former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke promised that the Sunshine State would be exempt from drilling, Florida representatives want assurance that those words still stand. “Senators Rubio and Scott sent Bernhardt a similar letter this week. But if Bernhardt keeps
waters off Florida in Interior’s drilling plan, will the senators still vote to
confirm him as secretary?”

 

MARYLAND: Maryland state legislators are set to pass a bill that would make the state run on 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, and 100 percent by 2040, adding it to a list of other states who are pushing toward similar clean energy standards. The bill would help create roughly 20,000 jobs in solar energy and 5,500 jobs in offshore wind energy by 2030.

 

NEW MEXICO: The New Mexico State Senate voted 32-9 in favor of a measure to shut down the San Juan Generating Station, a coal-burning plant, and strengthen New Mexico’s renewable energy standard to 80% clean energy by 2040 on Wednesday. But first, the chamber had to shut down a three and a half hour filibuster and a charity basketball game between the New Mexico Senators and the New Mexico State Representatives. A “call of the Senate” sent New Mexico state police to the House vs. Senate game to round up the Senators for votes. The Senate forfeited, and several members were granted permission to participate in floor debates in sweaty t-shirts— rather than the customary jacket and tie.

 

ILLINOIS: According to Vox, “Illinois’s general assembly is weighing a bill that sets an aggressive target of decarbonizing the state’s energy by 2030 and running the state completely on renewable energy by 2050.The bill also calls for cutting emissions from transportation and for vastly expanding the clean energy workforce.”

 

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT: A group of 21 teens have sued the federal government for not protecting the climate, and it’s gaining traction. Over a dozen new amicus briefs were filed last week in support of the suit, including one co-signed by 30,000 young people asking the Ninth Circuit to finally hear the case after months of delay. The case, Juliana v. United States, was introduced in 2015, and claims that the federal government has purposefully invested in practices and policies that harm the environment despite knowing the drastic consequences of climate change.

 

COMING UP:

 

TBD – Hearings begin for David Bernhardt for Interior Secretary

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