THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE (IN)ACTION – May 10, 2019

QUOTES OF THE WEEK:

“It is the height of arrogance to only acknowledge climate change when you are tallying up its few benefits. The forces that open shipping lanes will also create disastrous consequences that should be calculated on the same balance sheet.”

Portland Press Herald Editorial Board in response to Secretary of State Pompeo’s spin that melting ice caps in the Arctic will open up new trade routes

 

“The top issue that New Hampshire Democrats are thinking about in choosing a presidential nominee is health care (41%), followed by environmental concerns (12% climate change and 12% environment in general), honesty and integrity (13%), and beating Trump (11%).”

— Monmouth’s May 9 New Hampshire Democratic Primary Poll is the latest 2020 presidential election poll to show climate at the top of voters’ priorities

 

***LCV Launches $2M Effort to Elevate Climate Action in 2020 Primaries***

This week, the League of Conservation Voters announced a $2 million effort, Change the Climate 2020, to elevate climate action in the 2020 presidential primaries. Recent polls have shown that climate change is a top issue going into the presidential debates and the primary season, and this effort includes a field program and a new online resource that tracks Democratic presidential candidates’ positions on climate change.

LCV SVP of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld said, “LCV is making a major investment in helping to create a race to the top on climate change in the primary because the 2020 election is our last, best chance to address this crisis once and for all. Scientists have warned that ‘unprecedented’ action is required within the next decade to combat the climate crisis — this is the fight of our lives.”

 

LCV IN THE NEWS:

NBC News: ‘Magic moment’: Climate rises to the top for Democrats and gets a big new push

E&E News: Greens spend $2M to inject climate into presidential race

The Hill: Opinion: The gap in Sen. Gardner’s environmental record

Politico: LCV unveils new effort to raise climate in Democratic primary

 

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:

Everett Herald (WA): Editorial: Lawmakers delivered wins for environment, climate

Northjersey.com (NJ): Public access to NJ’s beaches, waterways to increase this summer

The Post and Courier (SC): SC lawmakers reach compromise to expand solar industry

Tampa Bay Times (FL): Republican lawmakers pass bill to make it harder to amend Florida’s constitution

 

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CLIMATE ON THE TRAIL: 2020 candidates are prioritizing climate change. Check out this week’s roundup of what candidates have said and done to put climate action front and center.

THANKS CLIMATE CHAMPS: Following last week’s passage of the Climate Action Now Act in the U.S. House, LCV launched $38K worth of digital ads to thank members of Congress for their support to ensure the United States honors its commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement. LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld said, “The Climate Action Now Act is an important first step, and we are especially grateful to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Leader Steny Hoyer, Chairs Kathy Castor (FL-14), Eliot Engel (NY-16), Frank Pallone (NJ-5) and Democrats on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis for their leadership on the first piece of pro-climate action legislation to pass the House in nearly a decade. LCV applauds the many newly-elected members who prioritized this important vote for climate action in their first months in office, and we look forward to their next steps to address the greatest challenge of our generation.”

A MILLION SPECIES FACE EXTINCTION: A new report released by the UN this week says that a million species are at risk of extinction due to climate change and pollution. While this reality is taking effect, the Trump administration continues to roll back wildlife protections that help make sure endangered species don’t disappear.

BERNHARDT PASSES THE BUCK: Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, appearing at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, said that he had no responsibility to address climate change in his current role as head of the agency that controls federal land and natural resources. This came in response to Maine Representative Chellie Pingree’s question, “Isn’t this [fighting climate change] a part of your job?” — Bernhardt claimed that it’s not because there isn’t a law specifically requiring him to work on combating climate change showing once again how unfit he is to lead the Interior Department.

EPA IGNORED ITS OWN SCIENTISTS ON ASBESTOS RULE: Two internal memos from the EPA obtained by The New York Times this week show that the agency ignored the findings and advice of its own scientists and staffers when drafting new rules and regulations for asbestos. At least 13 EPA staffers urged the agency to ban asbestos, which officials did not do.

OUR CLIMATE CHAMPIONS IN CONGRESS: On Wednesday, House Democrats introduced a bill that would ban asbestos, ordering the EPA to protect public health. “It’s now clear that despite the best efforts of our committee the Trump EPA is not using the tools we gave it to regulate dangerous chemicals,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone said in a hearing this week.

HOUSE OVERSIGHT PUTS PRESSURE ON INTERIOR: The House Oversight Committee threatened to withhold the salaries of any Interior Department employees who attempt or attempted to stop Congress from interviewing Interior staff, putting increased pressure on a department that has no shortage of ethics violations.

LCV SUPPORTS RIGHT TO ORGANIZE: This week, ahead of a House Education & Labor Committee hearing on the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, LCV, a member of the BlueGreen Alliance, a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations, issued a statement in support of the measure that aims to improve workers’ protections, benefits, and working conditions.

OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski said, “Protecting workers’ right to organize is critical to our transition to a clean energy economy — the jobs we create tackling the climate crisis and protecting communities in harm’s way must be good, family-sustaining jobs. Strengthening the labor laws and unions that protect workers is key to addressing income inequality and wage stagnation in this country. LCV is proud to stand in solidarity with our union partners in supporting the Protecting the Right to Organize Act.”

LCV URGES MOVEMENT ON MINING REFORM BILLS: This week, in response to the introduction of House and Senate mining reform bills by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva and Senator Tom Udall, LCV issued a statement in support of the legislation that would update mining regulations to protect people’s health and the environment.

OUR TAKE: “Designed for a time when mining consisted of a man and his pick ax, the archaic law currently allows mining companies to pillage our public lands without paying any royalties to taxpayers while also leaving behind polluted drinking water and forcing our communities to clean up their mess. As the demand for critical minerals increases with the growth of renewable energy, it is more important than ever for us to get mining reform right and put public health and the environment above the interests of dirty mining companies,” said LCV Deputy Legislative Director Madeleine Foote.

POMPEO PLAYS DUMB ON ARCTIC PLAN: At a meeting of the Arctic Council in Finland on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ignored climate change in discussing U.S. policy in the Arctic, instead stating that melting ice caps present “new opportunities for trade.” Also, in typical Trump administration fashion, the United States declined to sign onto the Council’s agreement that pledges to consider climate change when pursuing oil and gas drilling in the region.

SENATORS PEN LETTER TO TRUMP U.N. PICK: Senators Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island sent a letter to Trump’s pick for U.N. ambassador, Kelly Craft, asking her to pledge to prioritize climate change. Craft has ties to the oil and gas industry, including $60 million in fossil fuel investments, and her husband, Joe Craft, is a coal industry executive.

 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STATES: While Trump continues to undermine and roll back important environmental protections, state and local leaders are moving forward with climate action and helping us transition to a clean energy economy. Here are some highlights:

CALIFORNIA: According to a piece in the Los Angeles Times published this week, California has filed 49 lawsuits against the Trump administration, with nearly half going against the Environmental Protection Agency, Interior Department, and other environmental policy-producing agencies. So far, California has won 12 of its challenges to Trump’s environmental policies.

SOUTH CAROLINA: On Thursday, the Republican-controlled South Carolina state legislature unanimously passed the Energy Freedom Act, which will significantly expand the state’s solar industry and save thousands of good-paying solar jobs. The legislation now goes to the Governor’s desk for his expected signature. Our state affiliate Conservation Voters of South Carolina (CVSC) engaged in a broad grassroots campaign to educate the public about the legislation and build momentum for clean energy progress. The organization made over 1 million voter contacts since January to drive support for the bill, including over 88,000 mail pieces, nearly 671,000 digital impressions, knocking on over 6,100 doors, and completing a phone program that reached out to over 194,000 voters.

OUR TAKE: “Today we celebrate the passage of the most comprehensive clean energy legislation ever seen in South Carolina because tens of thousands of citizens spoke up and demanded it. The unanimous support for clean energy shows the power that a bipartisan coalition of clean energy supporters can have. With this win, South Carolina is leading the way in a new era of clean energy leadership, and we are proud to have played a role in getting us here,” said John Tynan, Executive Director of Conservation Voters of S.C.

WASHINGTON: Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a slew of climate bills this week, pledging to put his state on a path toward 100% clean energy by mid-century and to decrease pollution and emissions.

 

COMING UP:

May 15 – Interior Secretary Bernhardt to testify before the House Natural Resources Committee

May 15 – Ways & Means Committee Hearing on the economic and health consequences of climate change

May 15 – Energy & Commerce Committee Hearing on the risks posed by PFAS contamination

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