“Like the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis, water problems disproportionately impact the poor and communities of color. Our water and energy grids are inextricably linked. You can’t treat water or get it to people’s homes or hospitals without power. It’s time to reverse decades of denial and divestment in America’s communities, and start working on prevention and preparation. As the Biden administration ramps up relief efforts, it must prioritize communities that have been living on the fenceline of fossil fuels and other heavy industry, and left vulnerable to storms, flooding and extreme heat.”
— Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy Executive Director Colette Pichon Battle and We the People Detroit CEO Monica Lewis-Patrick in a Thomas Reuters Foundation News op-ed, “Equal water access must be a core part of our climate response”
“Every American deserves equal protection under the environmental laws — unfortunately not every community and not every American is getting equal protection under the environmental laws.”
— LCV Board Chair and former EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner, during her testimony before this week’s House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation hearing on restoring the mission of the EPA
“The African American descendants of the enslaved people who once worked the land are today the primary victims of deadly environmental pollution that these petrochemical plants in their neighbourhoods have caused.”
— UN human rights experts in The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) statement, “USA: Environmental racism in “Cancer Alley” must end – experts”
The Hill: Former EPA head says agency must ‘re-establish a commitment to sound science’
E&E News: Pressure builds ahead of Biden recovery push
Common Dreams: Over 350 Groups Urge President Biden to Stop the Line 3 Pipeline and Protect Indigenous Rights, Climate
E&E News: 100+ groups urge ban on pesticide tied to brain damage
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:
The Washington Post (NC): Senate confirms Michael Regan to lead EPA
The Washington Informer (AZ): Voting Rights at Stake as Supreme Court Considers Arizona Case
U.S. News and World Report (NV): Nevadans in Congress Proposing Big New Federal Lands Bill
Los Alamos Reporter (NM): Senate Passes SB 32 – Roxy’s Law
WisPolitics (WI): Wisconsin Conservation Voters: Legislature attacking our freedom to vote instead of delivering COVID relief
Washington Examiner (FL): Despite opposition, Florida Senate panel OKs energy infrastructure preemption bill
HAALAND TO THE FLOOR: On Thursday, the Senate voted for cloture on Representative Deb Haaland’s nomination for secretary of the Interior, moving her forward towards a final vote, which is scheduled for Monday. Haaland is very much on track to become the first Native American to serve in a presidential cabinet. This historic vote is a step in the right direction towards ensuring that Tribal communities — who have long been excluded from the decision-making process — have a voice in the management of our nation’s public lands and waters and a better partner for Indian Country at the Interior Department.
OUR TAKE: Last week, LCV President Gene Karpinski sent a letter to senators urging them to vote yes on Haaland’s nomination. In the letter, Karpinski notes, “Haaland is an inspired choice to implement the Biden-Harris administration’s bold nature conservation agenda, ensuring we use all of our tools to fight climate change and share nature’s benefits equitably with all communities.”
#SAYHERNAME: Tomorrow will be one year since Breonna Taylor lost her life at the hands of police brutality. Join Hip Hop Caucus this weekend in remembering Breonna and the countless women who have senselessly died due to police brutality with the hashtag #SayHerName. See how to participate here, and see co-founder of the Women’s March and Until Freedom Tamika Mallory’s interview with Hip Hop Caucus after her trip to Louisville seeking justice for Breonna Taylor here.
COVID-19 RELIEF: On Thursday, President Biden signed The American Rescue Plan, providing overdue relief communities have desperately needed — particularly communities of color and low-wealth communities who have been some of the most impacted physically and economically by the COVID-19 crisis. The plan included over $100 million in environmental justice grants, over $30 billion in funding for public transit, billions in assistance with energy and water bills, and more. Now that this critical relief is bound for communities across the nation, we are turning our attention to the next step in building back better — rebuilding our economy in a way that confronts racial and environmental injustice and the climate crisis.
OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski stated in anticipation of President Biden signing the American Rescue Plan, “Kudos to the new trifecta, and never doubt that elections have consequences! The enactment of the American Rescue Plan provides the relief communities desperately need — especially Black and Brown communities who are suffering the most from the pandemic’s devastating health and economic impacts. We’re pleased that the bill includes over $100 million in environmental justice grants to measure and address pollution disproportionally harming communities of color, increased funding for public transit, assistance with energy and water bills, and more.
The American Rescue Plan is an important first step that provides badly needed relief. It’s critically important that the Biden administration and Congress move quickly to broader economic recovery that centers climate solutions, makes transformative investments in healthy, equitable, safe communities powered by clean energy, and gets millions of people back to work in good-paying jobs. It’s time to Build Back Better!”
REGAN @EPA: On Wednesday, the Senate voted to confirm Michael Regan as EPA Administrator. When Regan testified before the Senate, he emphasized that the EPA, under his leadership, would listen and work with stakeholders “where they live, work, and serve.” He went on to tell an anecdote about meeting Amy Brown, the mother of two boys who were required to live on bottled water after a coal ash spill, “That night as I gave my son Matthew his bath with fresh tap water, I vowed this story would have a happier ending for Amy and her two sons.” With Regan leading the EPA, we’re optimistic that families, especially like Amy’s, will have a champion in their corner.
NC TAKE: North Carolina League of Conservation Voters Director of Governmental Relations Dan Crawford stated, “Michael Regan knows first-hand how pollution harms our health and quality of life. We’re excited to watch him do for the EPA what he did for North Carolina: put people and policy over politics, and work with scientists, stakeholders, lawmakers of both parties, and above all, the most impacted communities, to protect all Americans from polluters and climate change.”
OUR TAKE: LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld stated, “With his strong leadership and collaborative approach, Michael Regan is just the Administrator we need to ensure that the EPA is wildly successful in protecting our health and environment. We appreciate Regan’s commitment to advancing climate and environmental policies based on science and centered around justice and equity.”
RESTORING THE EPA: On Wednesday, LCV Board Chair and former EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, providing insight on ways to restore and recommit the EPA to its mission after four years of Trump’s destructive management. Browner, the longest serving EPA administrator in history and climate advisor to President Obama, highlighted the crucial role the EPA has to protect lands, waters, air, and communities, particularly communities of color and low-income communities who are hit the hardest by current EPA regulations that were gutted by the Trump administration. The Biden administration’s commitment to advance environmental justice, address the climate crisis, and follow and strengthen science is a step in the right direction for the EPA that will do its job to create a cleaner, more just environment for all communities. See highlights from Browner’s testimony here and the full transcript here.
CAROL’S TAKE: Browner stated, “The next decade is critically important both in terms of addressing the climate crisis and harvesting the health and economic growth benefits of transitioning to cleaner sources of energy and cutting pollution. We do not have to choose between a health economy and a healthy environment, we can – and should – have both. EPA, along with the other federal agencies, must act boldly to tackle climate change in a manner that protects public health; addresses environmental injustice; creates good-paying, family-sustaining jobs; promotes clean energy innovation; and diversifies and invests in communities that have been reliant on the fossil fuel industry.”
OIL & GAS REFORM: On Tuesday, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a legislative hearing on a number of energy bills that would revamp the broken federal oil and gas program by increasing royalty rates on federal land, reducing methane releases, and ensuring that the most vulnerable communities aren’t footing the bill for the costs of destructive industry practices. These bills address the kinds of problems that have long plagued the federal oil and gas drilling system and which prompted President Biden to pause and conduct a thorough review of the system. The bills, which were reintroduced last week, and hearing can be viewed here.
REPORTER TAKE: E&E News reporter Heather Richards said the bills, “Taken together — and in light of President Biden’s scrutiny of the climate impacts of federal drilling — the proposed changes would be the biggest reform of the federal oil and gas program in decades.”
INTERIOR REVIEW: On Monday, the Interior Department announced its steps to review the federal oil and gas drilling process on our public lands and waters. For years, the oil and gas industry has stockpiled and failed to use thousands of leases and drilling permits, wasting government resources as the oil and gas industry failed to utilize nearly 10,000 approved drilling permits, an increase of at least 32% from just five years ago. It’s past time to review programs to rebalance priorities of our public lands and waters to be part of the solution to tackling the climate crisis and advance environmental justice in our communities. See the facts on our broken oil and gas leasing system here.
OUR TAKE: LCV Conservation Program Director Alex Taurel stated, “We welcome the Biden administration’s review of the federal oil and gas drilling system that has rewarded oil industry executives at the expense of our public lands and waters for decades. It’s long past time to pause and take a hard look at the broken leasing system that is enriching Big Oil while fleecing taxpayers, harming our majestic public lands and waters, worsening climate change, and polluting communities, most often communities of color and low-wealth communities. It comes as no surprise that oil industry CEOs are saying ‘the sky is falling’ at any attempt to cut their taxpayer subsidies or give the public more of a voice in how our public lands should be managed.
The Biden administration is right to review this program and ensure it aligns with the best interests of taxpayers, our health, our public lands, and our climate. We must work with communities to urgently move away from volatile and declining boom-and-bust economies in ways that keep communities and families whole.”
PRO ACT: This week, the House voted on the PRO Act, which would dramatically grow workers’ power by expanding union membership, reforming decades-old labor laws, banning so-called “right to work” laws, and ending employer intimidation or interference in union drives. As relief measures reach communities across and we set our sights on building back better in ways that will confront the climate crisis — like investing in clean energy jobs — we need initiatives like the PRO Act to transform labor rights, ensuring a more just and equitable future. LCV joined three letters of support for the PRO Act, one as a part of the BlueGreen Alliance, one with a broad spectrum of over 100 groups, and one including over 60 environmental organizations.
MAKE WAY FOR WIND: After years of delay under the Trump administration, the Biden-Harris administration’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has taken action toward approving Vineyard Wind, our country’s first large-scale offshore wind farm. In Biden’s first week in office, he committed to doubling renewable energy from offshore wind by 2030, and approving Vineyard Wind could be an important step toward making that commitment a reality while also creating well-paying construction jobs.
CELEBRATING WOMEN IN THE ENVIRONMENT: This week, Chipsa kicked off their Poderosa Series honoring leaders Johana Vicente and Margarita Parra for their commitment fighting for clean buses for children. Last week, members of the national Electric School Bus (ESB) coalition praised the Biden-Harris administration for taking steps to invest $25 billion to rapidly transition some of the communities most impacted by poor air quality to clean school buses — particularly communities of color and low-wealth communities. The work from leaders like Johana and Margarita to help transition to clean buses will impact over 25 million children and thousands of bus drivers who currently breathe polluted air from dirty diesel school buses.
CHISPA TAKE: Chispa National Director Johana Vicente said, “For years I have been working to build the power of communities of color to protect our Madre Tierra and comunidades and make sure that we are front and center in the environmental movement. To know that because of my work, my niece will one day go to school on an electric school bus motivates me to keep going. Mi familia, my community drive me.”
CLEAN ENERGY WORKS TAKE: Clean Energy Works Director of Transportation Program Margarita Parra said, “Having grown up in Bogotá, Colombia with many old diesel buses and used to see and smell the black smoke, I am committed to eliminate tailpipes, to help everyone breathe clean air and to cool our Earth!”
NEW HAMPSHIRE EVENT: On Monday, LCV hosted the New Hampshire Climate and Clean Energy Youth Forum. The New Hampshire delegation, scientists, environmental justice champions, and business leaders spoke with students and young professionals about climate and energy policies and plans for a more equitable, clean energy future.
REPRESENTATIVE TAKE: Rep. Annie Kuster tweeted, “Climate change poses a serious, immediate threat to our environment, economy & way of life—the time for #climateaction is now. Today I joined the Climate & Clean Energy Youth Forum to talk about how we can address climate change & protect our environment for generations to come.”
STATE ENERGY POWER GRAB (AZ, FL): In Arizona and Florida, Republican-led legislatures are trying to eliminate local control over energy policy. These are the first states experiencing serious attempts to prevent more clean energy by taking complete control of energy policy.
In Arizona, the state’s utility regulator, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), passed a proposal to require utilities to use 100% carbon-free sources by 2050. But the legislature just passed out of committee House Bill 2248 and its twin Senate Bill 1175 to curb the ACC’s authority and put the legislature in charge of setting the power mix, timing it to enact just before the 100% rule would be implemented.
In Florida, several cities like Miami and Tampa have made major moves to implement new solar infrastructure, electrify their vehicle fleets, and build new charging stations. A package of bills just passed through committee and would invalidate any local government comprehensive plans that restrict land use related to fossil fuel and renewable energy and prevent local governments from prohibiting natural gas fracking, nullify their solar permitting ordinances, weaken Southeast Florida’s climate compact, end renewable energy grant programs, and eliminate county authority over pipelines along roadways. The package even peels back existing protections and clean energy goals.
FLORIDA TAKE: Florida Conservation Voters executive director Aliki Moncrief said, “In a shocking power grab, Florida’s monopoly utilities and their allies in the state legislature are trying to strip local authority over all aspects of how we power our lives.”
Florida Conservation Voters deputy director Jonathan Webber said, “This legislation as written now will have unfathomable consequences for local policy and local safeguards that are decades in the making and will cause widespread confusion about countless other local ordinances zoning codes resolutions contracts.”
ALL OF MARCH — Women’s History Month
Saturday, March 13- Sunday, March 14 — #SayHerName Campaign
Monday, March 15 — Haaland Final Confirmation Vote
March 25 — Interior Department forum on the broken federal oil and gas drilling system