Celebrating the Enduring Legacy of Black Activists Who Birthed the Environmental Justice Movement
Feb 24, 2023
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.
“We might take a breather, but we’ve got all these disparities we’ve got to address and I mean all of them. While we got the momentum I hope we can get some of it done. We can have one America if we try.”
— Opal Lee, known as the grandmother of Juneteenth, said of the Senate passing a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
“We’re a Black township, and that’s generally where the injustice occurs. We’re not going to accept anything less than them fixing the problem that they’ve caused that we thought we were totally responsible for.”
— James Crudup, the mayor of Eagle Harbor, speaking on increased and more intense flooding from stormwater runoff from a Pepco power plant.
“The Nari Nari people have been using traditional knowledge to sustain our country for thousands of years. We can continue to protect the environment, preserve the Aboriginal heritage of the land and enable the intergenerational transfer of knowledge of caring for country.”
— Ian Woods, Nari Nari Tribal Chairman in Grist article, “How returning lands to Native tribes is helping protect nature”.
E&E News: ‘He could be a real dealmaker’: Luján eyes energy’s future
WNBC: NY Democratic Mayoral Debate
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:
Daily Herald (NV): Advocates work toward new southern Nevada national monument
Santa Fe New Mexican (NM): Coalition seeks tougher New Mexico auto fuel standards
Public News Service (CT): Advocates: Transportation Climate Bill Needs Vote in Special Session
Nevada Current (NV): Gov. Sisolak signs bill to move Nevada to front of presidential primary line
WRAL (NC): Major energy bill emerges at NC statehouse
Patch (MI): Poll reveals 76% of Michiganders Support Community Solar Legislation
RECOGNIZING JUNETEENTH: Ahead of Juneteenth, the Senate unanimously voted to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, recognizing the day that enslaved people in all Confederate states were freed, over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. LCV recognized our nation’s second independence day by hosting an Instagram Live on Thursday with LCV Chief Officer for Racial Justice and Equity Leslie R. Hinkson, PhD, LCV Conservation Program Director Alex Taurel, and Human Rights Watch Researcher and Advocate Dreisen Heath to discuss how deep rooted racism in this country has prevented Black communities from accessing their civil rights and how Black communities have long been targets of environmental injustices — we need the House to act to advance H.R. 40, which would create a commission to study and develop overdue reparation proposals for African Americans. Watch the livestream here and read Hinkson’s blog, “Reparations Will Help Build Power for People and the Planet,” here.
HRW TAKE: HRW Researcher and Advocate Driesen Heath stated, “This cumulative harm, for centuries, has now become a growing national debate that the US needs to pay in multiple forms, that doesn’t just mean compensation, that also means targeted investments, trauma informed care to treat psychological harms, that means targeted infrastructure investments for water and sanitation systems that have historically been disinvested in in black and brown communities…We have to recognize that we can’t just acknowledge that day alone, we have to be willing to take a step further, have a serious conversation about reparations and what is owed.”
OUR TAKE: LCV Chief Officer for Racial Justice and Equity Leslie R. Hinkson stated, “When you can ensure a certain group of folks can only live in a certain area you make it so that it is very difficult for them to escape environmental harm, environmental toxins, environmental pollution…The environment is one organism — if we are not careful about and caring about cleaning up communities that have been disproportionately impacted by pollution and other environmental toxins, I would say most of the time incredibly, intentionally, and by design we are putting the rest of the environment and the rest of the planet at risk”.
SIGHTS ON STATEHOOD: On Tuesday, LCV and 51 for 51 unveiled a new mural in Northwest D.C. in support of D.C. statehood. Mural artist César Maxit, climate justice activist and White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council Member Jerome Foster II, and 51 for 51 Lead Organizer Jamal Holtz joined LCV Voting Rights Program Director Justin Kwasa to speak on how D.C.’s admission as the 51st state will help ensure that all voters, especially voters of color who are historically left out of the electoral process, can equitably participate in our democracy. This colorful art activation celebrates Josephine Butler, a longtime activist who fought for racial and environmental justice in addition to community parks and civic engagement, and was the co-founder of the D.C. Statehood Party. Read more about Josephine Butler’s lifetime of activism from African American Intellectual Society, and see coverage from FOX 5 DC. View more photos and video from LCV’s latest art activation on LCV’s Twitter.
ARTIST TAKE: Local artist César Maxit stated, “[Josephine Butler] is a key person for social movements in D.C. She was a co-founder of the D.C. statehood party. She was an environmentalist really before there was an environmental movement. This is supposed to be the land of the free. This is supposed to be the land of democracy. And here, we don’t have representation.”
51 FOR 51 TAKE: 51 for 51 Ty Hobson-Powell stated, “It kind of speaks for itself right, ‘Statehood for DC.’ We are living in a locale that has over 700,000 mainly Black and Brown Washingtonians who have all of the obligations of Americans, but not all of the same rights.”
OUR TAKE: LCV Voters Rights Program Director Justin Kwasa stated, “There can not be environmental justice without racial justice and all that is based on DC having the right to vote. The solutions to these issues need to be solved both on the local and federal levels and right now DC doesn’t have a say in either…One of the very important things we wanted to do was highlight some of the leaders we’ve had here for DC Statehood and so we’re so proud to feature Josephine Butler.”
MONUMENTAL RECOMMENDATIONS: On Monday, the Washington Post reported Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s recommendation to fully restore protections for national landmarks from which the Trump administration removed protections — including the sacred lands of Bears Ears, which the Trump administration reduced by 85%, Grand Staircase-Escalante, which was cut by nearly half, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monuments, where protections were entirely removed. The Biden-Harris administration committed to restoring protections for “America’s natural treasures” — with this recommendation from Haaland, President Biden should act now to carry out its promise to protect these national monuments.
OUR TAKE: LCV tweeted, “We applaud @SecDebHaaland for her leadership and for listening to stakeholders — particularly Indigenous communities — and concluding that these monuments should be restored. We hope @POTUS will act swiftly to restore protections for these sacred places.”
GO BOLD ON INFRASTRUCTURE: Based on reports about the latest bipartisan infrastructure proposal, Congress continues to stall passing a transformative infrastructure package that would put our nation on the path to an equitable clean energy future with good paying clean energy jobs. We have a once in a generation opportunity to make bold investments in our infrastructure while combating the climate crisis and address environmental injustices. As recently released modeled data from LCV and Data for Progress reiterated, voters in every single state and congressional district — deep red to blue — overwhelmingly support the full American Jobs Plan, including investing $2.3 trillion to create good-paying jobs in the clean energy economy while tackling climate change and environmental racism.
OUR TAKE: “Congress needs to pass the full American Jobs Plan as soon as possible to cut emissions by at least half by 2030 and put our nation on the path to 100% carbon-free energy powering our electricity grid and new cars, buses, and buildings by 2035. Neither the Biden-Harris administration nor members of Congress should agree to support any infrastructure legislation unless and until there is an explicit commitment to simultaneously enact legislation that acts on climate at the scale that science and justice require, including investing at least 40% of benefits in environmental justice and the most impacted communities and creating and maintaining millions of high-quality, good paying jobs. Time is up to act on the climate crisis and address environmental injustice — we must meet the moment.”
NO TO ARCTIC DRILLING: While the Biden-Harris administration has recently announced a pause on the oil and gas leasing program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, there is still more work to be done to permanently protect these lands sacred to the Gwich’in. Gwich’in Steering Committee Executive Director Bernadette Demientieff wrote an opinion article in the Washington Post, discussing the critical need for doing more to combat the climate crisis as the Arctic Refuge has seen dramatic changes to the lands, ecosystems, and infrastructures the Gwich’in people rely on. Congress cannot wait to act to fully protect these lands from the oil and gas industry.
GWICH’IN STEERING COMMITTEE TAKE: Gwich’in Steering Committee Executive Director Bernadette Demientieff wrote, “Indigenous Arctic people, my people, are experiencing dramatic impacts from climate change. The permafrost is thawing, threatening our infrastructure. Our rivers and lakes are warming, killing our fish. Spring is coming sooner, affecting the food available for migrating caribou. Ticks, something we never had to worry about, have made their way to our lands because of warmer temperatures.
The Arctic is warming at three times the rate as the rest of the planet. Burning Arctic refuge oil will accelerate this and raise carbon emissions even further. The Gwich’in Nation and other Indigenous peoples have been the caretakers of Alaska’s Arctic for millennia. Selling our sacred lands for corporate profit disregarded that legacy of stewardship. The Biden administration has taken a first step by suspending Arctic refuge leases, but for the long-term protection of the refuge, the entire leasing program must be undone. Congress must act — now.”
9 YEARS OF DACA: June 15th marked 9 years of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which gave some legal protections for Dreamers, and left them with continued uncertainty regarding their future. There can be no environmental justice without racial and social justice — it’s past time for Congress to take permanent action to ensure that Dreamers remain protected and have a path to citizenship.
VP TAKE: Vice President Kamala Harris stated, “Even with DACA in place, we know that Dreamers live in a constant state of fear about their status and about their future. It is critically important that we provide a pathway to citizenship to give people a sense of certainty and a sense of security.”
CHISPA TAKE: Chispa Deputy Director Estefany Carrasco said, “I know the uncertainty, anxiety, and fear of living without status and not being sure what the future holds for you and your family. In 2012, I was one of over half a million young people across the country who became DACAmented. DACA gave me a chance, it gave me a work permit, additional educational opportunities, I was able to buy my first home, but mostly, it gave me a sense of hope.”
REDUCING METHANE EMISSIONS: This week, current master’s student at Duke University and LCV Fellow Emma DeAngeli spoke at an EPA listening session, urging the agency to implement safeguards that will reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector 65% by 2025 and 90% by 2020. Methane is a greenhouse gas 84 times more harmful than carbon dioxide and is often released with other toxic chemicals at drilling sites. These emissions disproportionately impact communities of color and fossil fuel companies should be held accountable for their pollution.
OUR TAKE: LCV Fellow Emma DeAngeli stated, “From what we’ve seen in the news about the weather’s effect on the power grid in Texas, it’s clear that infrastructure in these areas is ill-prepared to handle such low temperatures. Unfortunately, storms and extreme weather events like this will only become more frequent if the oil and gas industry is allowed to continue to release more methane in the atmosphere. Methane regulations for the oil and gas industry are needed to slow climate change and mitigate extreme weather.
We know that climate change has a disproportionate impact on Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. In my environmental justice class, I learned about the many ways in which climate change impacts and pollution have fallen on communities of color, like the methane cloud over the Navajo Nation that exemplifies the disproportionate pollution burden and historic lack of tribal consultation in decision making processes. More regulation of methane would mean more justice for these residents whose health is being jeopardized.”
INTRODUCING CLIMATE HEALTH AND PROTECTIONS: On Tuesday, Representative Lauren Underwood introduced the Climate Health and Protection Act, which would strengthen the CDC’s Climate and Health Program, which aims to help communities prepare for the public health consequences of the climate crisis. We know that communities on the front lines of the climate crisis see the greatest consequences to their public health, and we know that communities of color are impacted by barriers to accessing health care and resources. This bill is a step towards supporting communities who have been and are increasingly at risk of facing health issues from the climate crisis.
UNDERWOOD TAKE: Representative Lauren Underwood stated, “Climate change threatens food security, worsens air pollution, and intensifies natural disasters—it’s a public health crisis. That’s why the CDC’s leadership, exemplified by the Climate and Health Program, is an essential part of America’s climate strategy. I’m leading the Climate and Health Protection Act to make sure local public health leaders have access to the data, expertise, and resources they need to protect their communities from the health impacts of climate change.”
OUR TAKE: LCV Legislative Director Matthew Davis stated, “Almost daily we are seeing climate change-fueled catastrophes across the country, and they are harming low-income communities and communities of color first and worst. And climate change poses grave threats to public health beyond the flooding, storms, and wildfires, too: increased number of bad air days, heat stress and stroke, worsening allergies, ubiquitous Lyme disease, and new vector-borne diseases, among others. LCV applauds Rep. Underwood for introducing this bill to reestablish the Climate and Health Program at CDC so that states and communities have support in protecting the health of their residents from this growing threat.”
MEMBERS SPEAK OUT ON DROUGHT: On Thursday, LCV hosted a Twitter Q&A on the devastating drought and desertification in western states with members of Congress as California and Arizona are seeing life-threatening wildfires — both already experiencing nearly twice the burned acreage this year compared to last year. It’s clear that we are experiencing more extreme weather resulting in droughts, desertification of lands, and wildfires — which impacts the lives of communities, especially communities of color, who are most at risk of being unable to prepare for or financially recover from wildfires, and who are already at risk of respiratory illnesses exacerbated by wildfires, with Black communities three times more likely to die from air pollution than their white counterparts. See more tweets from our environmental champions in Congress here.
PORTER TAKE: Representative Katie Porter tweeted, “California’s wildfire season gets worse year after year, in large part because the climate crisis is causing longer and more intense droughts—like the one we are currently experiencing. Homes get destroyed, families breathe in toxic air, and entire ecosystems are lost.”
ROSEN TAKE: Senator Jacky Rosen tweeted, “According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the entire state of Nevada is experiencing a drought, with nearly half of the state facing “exceptional drought” conditions. This could bring us devastating wildfires and historically low water levels. That’s bad news for Nevadans.”
GRIJALVA TAKE: Representative Raul Grijalva tweeted, “The health of the Colorado River, to name one example, is not a strictly local issue. More than 88% of the western U.S. is in drought. Western communities have limited resources. The impacts of climate change on millions of people & large ecosystems have national implications.”
MEMBERS SUPPORT CLIMATE, JUSTICE & JOBS: On Wednesday, members of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis came together to demand that Congress act on climate and support the American Jobs Plan. We know that we need bold investments in our infrastructure to move our nation towards a clean energy future and create clean energy jobs — we can’t wait to address the climate crisis and environmental injustices. See remarks from members of Congress here.
ENERGY + NATURAL RESOURCES HEARING: The Senate ENR Public Lands Subcommittee held a hearing on several great conservation bills this week, including S.173, the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act and S.567, the Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act. Our state partners, Conservation Colorado and the Nevada Conservation League are very excited about expanded protections and economic opportunities in these bills. Check out their full statements when the Colorado and Nevada bills were introduced earlier this year.
CLF TAKE: As Jocelyn Torres, Senior Field Director for Conservation Lands Foundation, said in her testimony about S. 567, “It would be the largest conservation bill in Nevada history, help address the climate crisis by opening up funding opportunities for local sustainability and climate projects, and invest in the local economy by addressing the needs of a rapidly growing region in a thoughtful manner. In addition, the legislation would restore lands to the Moapa Band of Paiute.”
COCO TAKE: Conservation Colorado Executive Director Kelly Nordini stated, “The long-anticipated CORE Act is a cornerstone of Colorado’s part in the effort to conserve 30 percent of our U.S. land and water by 2030 — a bold and achievable goal that requires immediate action. Senator Bennet, Representative Neguse, and countless local leaders have worked for years to craft a strong bill that protects some of Colorado’s most popular, iconic, and historic places. Our new pro-conservation Congressional majority should act swiftly to pass it.”
NCL TAKE: Nevada Conservation League Executive Director Paul Selberg stated, “Clark County – and all of Nevada – must find bold, smart, and sustainable ways to tackle our climate crisis while balancing the future growth of our state and addressing our community’s most pressing needs of affordable housing and new jobs. As the largest conservation bill Nevada has ever seen, Senator Cortez Masto’s and Congresswoman Titus’ landmark legislation addresses the needs of our community while protecting nearly two million acres of public lands and waters, including Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area, Desert National Wildlife Refuge, and Lake Mead National Recreation Area.”
DISCLOSING CLIMATE RISKS!: This week, LCV sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives urging members to support H.R. 1187, the Corporate Governance Improvement and Investor Protection Act of 2021, adding that these votes will be strongly considered in the 2021 National Environmental Scorecard. This legislation is a package of five bills, which would improve transparency and accountability in corporate governance, in addition to requiring companies to disclose and take steps to mitigate their climate risks. LCV had previously endorsed two of the five component bills: H.R. 1187, the ESG Disclosure Simplification Act from Rep. Juan Vargas and H.R. 2570, the Climate Risk Disclosure Act from Rep. Sean Casten. The full package narrowly passed the House by a 215-214 vote on Wednesday and now heads to the Senate for consideration.
OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski stated, “We urge you to SUPPORT H.R. 1187, which gives investors the tools to assess climate-related risks and accelerate the market transition from fossil fuels to cleaner and more sustainable energy sources that mitigate climate change. We will strongly consider including votes on this legislation in the 2021 Scorecard.”
CLEAN ENERGY JOBS IN ILLINOIS: This week, Illinois failed to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which would have put Illinois on track to reach 100% clean energy by 2050 with a focus on job creation and economic development, and prioritizing low income communities and communities of color. The bill was derailed due to disagreements over phasing out coal plants and a nuclear plant bailout. It is critical that Illinois moves forward to enact comprehensive energy legislation centered on economic justice.
IEC TAKE: The Illinois Environmental Council (@ilenviro) tweeted on Tuesday: “The people of Illinois could pay the price of the Senate’s unwillingness to act today. Our communities deserve a clean energy future on a livable planet. IEC remains committed to passing the governor’s nation-leading climate plan with the urgency this crisis merits.”
LABOR + CLIMATE PERSPECTIVE IN MA: Environmental League of Massachusetts president Elizabeth Turnbull Henry and Massachusetts AFL-CIO president Steven A. Tolman penned an opinion piece urging Massachusetts Congressional leaders to pass the American Jobs Plan. Massachusetts has taken multiple steps toward a clean energy future, including a goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and the American Jobs Plan will jumpstart these efforts.
ELM + MA AFL-CIO TAKE: “We are at a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. We can tackle long deferred infrastructure needs, address climate change, create new, good-paying union jobs, and advance racial justice, or we can maintain the status quo and see our infrastructure continue to crumble and watch as the U.S. is further outpaced by other nations.”
STARTING PRIMARIES IN NEVADA: Last week, Governor Steve Sisolak signed Assembly Bill 126 which attempts to make Nevada the first state in the nation to hold future presidential primaries. Sisolak stated his intention to push back against the recent national trend of infringing upon voting rights and instead do “everything we can to expand access to the polls”. While critics wish to “preserve the historic process” of holding the first presidential primaries in New Hampshire and Iowa, the demographics of Nevada depict the rest of the country far more accurately.
CHISPA NV TAKE: Chispa Nevada Civic Engagement Director Guillermo Barahona stated that by making Nevada’s primary the first in the nation “our state has a historic opportunity to have our diverse voices guide who will represent us.”
UTILITY REFORM IN SOUTH CAROLINA: On Tuesday, Governor Henry McMaster signed a bill to reform the state-owned utility, Santee Cooper. Until now, Santee Cooper – South Carolina’s largest electric utility – made its own major decisions without outside review. The new legislation now requires that the utility’s plans are reviewed and approved by the Public Service Commission and include public input through a stakeholder process. Santee Cooper must also analyze the cost savings of phasing out coal-fired power plants and evaluate pathways to achieve net zero carbon pollution by 2050.
CVSC TAKE: Conservation Voters of South Carolina Campaigns Director, Natalie Olson said, “this legislation has the potential to bring Santee Cooper into the 21st century, turning our publicly owned utility into a leader on the clean energy future our state deserves.”
ALL OF JUNE: Pride Month
ALL OF JUNE: National Immigrant Heritage Month
June 19: Juneteenth – a celebration of the end of slavery in the United States that, as Vann R. Newkirk II wrote, “celebrates liberty in America as it actually is: delayed”
June 22: House Natural Resources Committee hearing on Chairman Grijalva’s Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act (H.R. 3764)
June 24: Digital Rally to Protect the Arctic Refuge