Top 5

Top 5 Stories Worth Reading — June 2024

Jun 28, 2024

Each month, LCV shares five stories about the impact of our work. This month, we’re featuring updates about judicial progress, clean buses for kids, environmental protections, the latest clean energy advancements, and recent primary victories by LCV Action Fund’s endorsed candidates.

This Month’s Stories

1. Pro-Environment Judges — and Biden’s Latest Milestone

Our environmental laws need judges who will uphold them. Judges are critically important to a functioning democracy, charged with ensuring that laws are followed fairly and accurately, and federal judges serve for life, ruling on cases that affect climate, clean air, clean water, voting rights, gerrymandering, reproductive health, and more.

  • The Importance of Diverse Judges

    To address our nation’s challenges, including climate change and environmental threats, we need judges who are able to rule impartially on critical issues and who bring a diverse set of perspectives to the bench. “Bringing a range of experiences and perspectives to bear allows judges to make better informed decisions and increases public confidence in their rulings,” according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

  • Trump's Judicial Wreckage

    When Donald Trump was president, he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reshaped the federal judiciary, appointing and confirming a slew of lifetime MAGA judges who hold extreme views and who will rule on critical cases for decades to come. These judges are largely White and male, and this lack of diversity creates a federal bench that is extremely out of step with our country and is already leading to huge rollbacks of environmental protections, voting rights, civil rights, and reproductive rights.

  • What LCV Is Doing About It

    LCV uses a range of strategies to advance a judiciary that will protect democracy and secure and advance climate action and environmental protections:

    • We mobilize constituents to support confirmation of diverse pro-environment, pro-democracy judges, generating thousands of calls to senators this month alone.
    • We hold senators accountable for their judicial confirmation votes by bringing public attention to their role, advocating, and scoring key judicial confirmation votes in the annual National Environmental Scorecard.
    • LCV Victory Fund helps elect democracy and climate champions to office, including those who nominate and confirm diverse pro-environment, pro-democracy judges.
  • Results: Biden’s Record-breaking Appointees

    Last month, the Democratic-led U.S. Senate confirmed President Biden’s 200th lifetime federal judge. Since taking office, Biden has put more women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and public interest lawyers into lifetime federal judgeships than any other prior president. His appointed pro-environment, pro-democracy judges include:

    • Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman appointed to the Supreme Court.
    • Half of all Native judges ever confirmed.
    • The first Muslim American man and woman on the federal bench.
    • The first out lesbian to serve on a federal circuit court.

    More than 40% of Biden-appointed judges (85) have backgrounds as public interest lawyers ― a huge break from the centuries-long tradition of overwhelmingly picking people for federal judgeships who were previously prosecutors or corporate attorneys to the exclusion of those with experience as environmental lawyers, voting rights lawyers, public defenders, or other public interest lawyers.

In addition to working to advance a diverse judiciary, LCV is also working to advance the Judiciary Act in Congress, which would expand and rebalance the Supreme Court with four new justices who will defend our environment and our rights instead of attacking them. At the same time, we’re urging passage of bills like the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act, to improve the Supreme Court’s ethical standards. You can help. Tell Congress to rein in the Supreme Court’s extreme right-wing justices.

2. $900M in New Federal Funding for Clean School Buses

More children across the country will now have a cleaner ride to school, thanks to newly announced funding for clean school buses from the Biden-Harris administration. This latest $900 million investment from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will help hundreds of thousands more children breathe cleaner air each day.

This investment is the latest in a series of the EPA’s clean buses funding opportunities, all stemming from funds allocated as part of the federal clean energy plan, which our movement helped roll out and defend over the last three years. 

Addressing Racial and Economic Disparities

More than 60% of the recently announced funds will flow to low-income, rural, and Tribal communities. Prioritizing low-wealth communities is especially important for environmental justice: “Toxic tailpipe pollution harms our children of color and children in low-wealth communities who are already the most impacted by the climate crisis with higher rates of respiratory illness and other health issues,” noted LCV Chispa Senior Director Estefany Carrasco-González.

Benefits of Clean School Buses

This latest round of investment will provide 3,400+ new clean school buses — 92% of which will be electric — to 530 school districts in 47 states, Washington, D.C., and several Tribes and U.S. territories. Along with the thousands of clean buses previously funded as part of the federal clean energy plan, these buses will:

  • Protect and improve air quality and children’s health.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Decrease school expenses.
  • Increase demand for U.S.-made batteries and vehicles.
  • Boost domestic manufacturing and create good-paying jobs.
Our Role

Wins like these are the results of years of strategic work and organizing by Chispa, the LCV program that builds the power of Latinx communities to achieve climate justice and environmental protections. Chispa began working to transition our nation’s 480,000 polluting diesel school buses to a clean, electric fleet in 2016 and has been essential in securing billions of dollars in federal funding. Chispa mobilizes concerned people to elevate this issue for decision-makers by training community leaders and organizing canvassing, phone banking, house parties, and lobbying efforts. 

Chispa leads the Alliance for Electric School Buses (AESB), which includes 35+ national organizations working to provide cleaner buses for children. AESB has distributed toolkits and resources for advocates, school districts, and communities focused on transitioning the nation’s school bus fleet to zero-tailpipe-emission buses and also advises EPA on its clean buses programs.

Chispa programs in six states (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, and Texas) are continuing to work with local communities and school districts to access federal funds and ensure that decision-makers prioritize the needs of communities of color through equitable distribution of electric school buses.

See where clean buses have been funded by the EPA. 

3. Colorado Protects Communities, Land, and Air

Colorado residents will benefit from cleaner air, increased polluter accountability, investments in public transit, and conservation of public lands thanks to two laws recently passed by the state legislature. LCV’s state affiliate, Conservation Colorado (CoCO), was deeply involved in winning these legislative victories.

Why This Matters

The laws address harms to the environment and communities caused by the oil and gas industry and will:

  • Strengthen enforcement of air quality standards.
  • Increase scrutiny for air emissions permits in disproportionately impacted communities.
  • Help plug orphaned and low-producing oil wells.
  • Codify reduction targets for harmful nitrogen oxides emissions.
  • Establish a new fee for oil and gas production.

These production fees, which are projected to generate an estimated $138 million in annual revenue, will provide unprecedented state funding for transit and one of the biggest investments in Colorado’s parks and wildlife in a decade.

How LCV’s State Affiliate Won

CoCO played a lead role in securing these wins, including:

  • Working with a diverse coalition of partners to shape the legislation.

  • Facilitating critical negotiations between the governor’s administration, legislative leadership, environmental groups, and the oil and gas industry.

  • Leading multiple lobby days and organizing dozens of meetings with lawmakers and hundreds of activists.

  • Hosting educational webinars and legislative session kick-off events in municipalities statewide, connecting constituents with legislators to discuss policy priorities.

  • Mobilizing public support, including driving committee testimonies and 1,700+ messages to key legislators.

This legislative compromise — which CoCO helped to negotiate — also prevented over a dozen regressive ballot initiatives, filed by the oil and gas industry, that would have rolled back significant climate progress in Colorado. 

4. States Advancing Clean Energy

Decisions by state and local leaders are critical to combatting the climate crisis and meeting our nation’s clean energy goals. State and local officials are taking bold action across the country, including passing policies that take advantage of the historic clean energy investments stemming from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Thanks to the work of these state and local climate champions and LCV’s Conservation Voters Movement, tremendous progress has been made in recent years.

In 2024, governors and state legislatures have secured innovative policies to protect low-wealth communities and communities of color from pollution, reduce transportation emissions, and hold Big Oil accountable. Our movement won notable state victories in Colorado (see story above), Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, and Virginia, with other states poised to follow suit. Here are a few highlights from our recently published overview of 2024 state clean energy progress:

  • Maryland’s Ambitious Climate Plans

    Maryland Governor Wes Moore signed an executive order mandating a comprehensive, whole-government approach to address climate change and implement the state’s Climate Pollution Reduction Plan, and directed the state to establish a framework to achieve 100% clean energy by 2035. Governor Moore also announced $90 million for critical climate programs, with at least half of the funding dedicated to overburdened and underserved communities. The legislature also passed bills this year to update Maryland’s successful energy efficiency program, help make community solar projects more affordable, and charge state regulators with developing a plan to achieve Maryland’s offshore wind deployment goal.

  • New Mexico’s Clean Fuel Standards

    The Land of Enchantment became the fourth state in the nation to adopt clean fuel standards, with a target of reducing transportation pollution 30% below 2018 levels by 2040. Revenue generated by the program will be invested in transportation electrification and clean energy initiatives in rural and underserved communities.

  • Virginia’s Clean Energy Progress

    Virginia enacted clean energy policies that expand shared solar programs and the Savings Achieved Via Efficiency Act, which sets new state energy efficiency targets and creates a process for updating them every three years.

In addition to progress in individual states, multistate coalitions are also advancing clean energy, including the powerful New England Offshore Wind Coalition:

Later this year, we expect to secure additional progress in other states, including more wins in Massachusetts and New Jersey, adding to the list of successes made possible by the work of LCV’s state affiliates, climate champions, federal clean energy investments, and communities across the country.

5. LCV Action Fund-Endorsed Candidates Win Primaries

This year, the U.S. House and Senate are up for grabs — with opportunities to achieve a pro-climate majority in the House and maintain pro-climate leadership in the Senate. LCV Action Fund is working to help elect pro-environment candidates in both chambers who are committed to addressing the climate crisis and strengthening our democracy.

LCV Action Fund’s endorsed candidates swept 13 recent primaries, advancing them to the general election and better positioning climate and democracy champions to win in the U.S. House and Senate.

  • Iowa Primary Wins
    • Lanon Baccam (IA-03) — Veteran who centered farmers in climate solutions during his time at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and is now running against a Republican incumbent who flipped this seat in 2022 by less than one percentage point.
    • Christina Bohannan (IA-01) — Iowa state representative now running in a toss-up race for the U.S. House, with a strong background in environmental engineering and constitutional law and a history of working to protect the environment.
  • Nevada Primary Wins
    • Rep. Susie Lee (NV-03) — Incumbent running for a fourth term with a strong track record of protecting public lands, including successfully championing the effort to designate Avi Kwa Ame National Monument.
    • Sen. Jacky Rosen — Incumbent seeking a second term who championed successful legislation to protect Nevada lakes, fund clean energy initiatives, fight climate change, and invest millions in wildfire prevention.
  • New Jersey Primary Wins
    • Sue Altman (NJ-07) — Organized for environmental justice with the Green New Deal Network, and is now taking on a first-term Republican in a toss-up district carried by President Biden in 2020.
    • Rep. Andy Kim — Representative running for his first Senate term who is a strong advocate for renewable energy investments, stopping offshore oil drilling, and building better storm resilience.
    • Rep. Rob Menendez (NJ-08) — Incumbent running for a second House term who is a champion for environmental justice and sustainable transportation.
    • Rep. Bill Pascrell (NJ-09)  — Incumbent running for a 14th House term who is a member of the Committee on Ways and Means and a steadfast supporter of the EPA’s authority, supported the Green New Deal, and has championed offshore wind.
    • Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) — Incumbent running for a sixth term with a strong history of working to advance climate action, reduce pollution, address economic disparities, defend the Clean Water Act, and halt the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • New Mexico Primary Wins
    • Sen. Martin Heinrich — Incumbent seeking a third term who is a leading Senate voice on public lands, has championed clean energy and conservation, and has sponsored legislation to modernize energy infrastructure.
    • Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (NM-03) — Incumbent who made history as the first Latina elected to New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District in 2020, advocated for a “New Mexico Green New Deal,” and has worked on Tribal law, affordable housing, civil rights, and community solar.
    • Rep. Melanie Stansbury (NM-01) — Incumbent seeking a second term who has championed conservation, climate action, solutions to water scarcity, and economic development and recovery.
    • Rep. Gabe Vasquez (NM-02) — Incumbent seeking a second term who won his first race by fewer than 1,300 votes, has a passion for conservation and racial equity, and has actively championed clean school buses.
  • Virginia Primary Wins
    • Rep. Don Beyer (VA-08) — Incumbent seeking a sixth term who opposes offshore drilling and is a member of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition and Safe Climate Caucus.
    • Rep. Gerry Connolly (VA-11) — Incumbent seeking a ninth term who is a clean energy champion and the co-chair of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition and the House Green Dogs, the largest environmental caucus in Congress.
    • Missy Cotter Smasal (VA-02) — Serves on the Chesapeake Bay Commission, focuses on Bay restoration and the health of those who live in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and is running in a toss-up district.
    • Rep. Jennifer McClellan (VA-04) — Incumbent and the state’s first Black woman elected to the House, with a strong history of leadership on environmental justice, clean energy, water protections, and clean cars.

The LCV Action Fund team evaluates candidates’ policy positions to endorse candidates who can win and who will fight to protect our air, water, and health. Since the 1990 election cycle, LCV Action Fund has helped elect and re-elect 95 U.S. senators and 482 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Over the last several years, our efforts have also helped elevate climate change and clean energy as critical issues in key elections. LCV Action Fund-endorsed candidates can be found here.


Tell Congress to Rein in the Supreme Court’s MAGA Justices

Extremist MAGA Supreme Court justices have severely limited the federal government's ability to regulate climate pollution from power plants, stripped Clean Water Act protections from most of the wetlands in the U.S., rolled back voting rights, and overturned Roe v. Wade. To protect people, our planet, and our democracy, Congress must rein in this unbalanced, unaccountable, and unethical Supreme Court majority.

Tell Congress: Rein in MAGA Justices
Supreme Court of the United States building