¡Bienvenidos! Welcome to Chispa’s monthly newsletter! Our organizers across the country have been busy and I’m excited to share some updates with you.
February got off to a great start as across the country, communities of color worked to keep presidential candidates, utilities, polluters, and elected officials accountable to climate action and a #CleanRide4Kids. We’re excited to keep up the pressure to ensure our families have a sustainable, healthy planet for generations to come. Here’s a look at what we’ve been up to:
Chispa Nevada hosted a bilingual Democratic presidential debate watch party before the #NevadaCaucus. A poll by the League of Conservation Voters found that for Latinx Nevada voters, climate change ranked as the top issue of the 2020 presidential primary. Chispa Nevada organizers and volunteers made sure that candidates and their campaigns understood our concerns about climate justice and addressed them during the Nevada debate.
Chispa Arizona is continuing to host Se Fue La Luz, a series of educational workshops breaking down utility bills and explaining clean energy opportunities for Latinx families. In partnership with Wildfire and Vote Solar, these bilingual workshops help put power back in the hands of Arizona consumers. Studies have repeatedly shown that communities of color are disproportionately paying higher electric bills. It’s time to make the system work for us.
Chispa Maryland heads to the state capitol for #LobbyDay. With Maryland’s legislative session underway, Chispa Maryland has been busy advocating for policies that would protect our environment and fund a quicker transition to a more equitable, cleaner public transit. Maryland LCV Deputy Director Ramon Palencia-Calvo and community members testified in front of various committees in support of banning plastic bags and investing in electric school buses starting in 2022.
Protegete participated in #LatinoAdvocacyDay at the Colorado State Capitol. Two hundred and forty volunteers joined Protegete and other Latinx community groups in advocating for environmental, economic, and immigration justice at the 14th annual Latino Advocacy Day in Denver. Protegete’s Communities and Justice advocates led two sessions of the Environmental Justice Training with about 40people in attendance.
Great news: We started 2020 with a big victory in efforts to fight pollution and bring clean rides to kids in Arizona! Last week, we welcomed the arrival of the first electric school bus in the state’s history!
For the past three years community members, in partnership with Chispa Arizona, have worked to bring electric school buses to Latinx and communities of color across the state. And now, thanks to the tireless advocacy of students, parents and community members, we’re on the path to electrifying the state’s school bus fleets, starting with Phoenix Union High School District (PUHSD).
We owe a special thank you to the South Mountain High School students. These young activists, along with Chispa Arizona, attended every school board meeting for nearly an entire year to advocate for electric school buses and demand bold solutions from the school district to clean up our air.
Nearly 300,000 Arizona students ride school buses every day, making it the number-one mode of public transportation in Arizona (and across the country). Almost every public school bus runs on diesel fuel, generating toxic emissions and endangering the health of students and communities.
We are now making even greater strides towards ensuring a healthy community for all. Just before the bus was delivered, I had the opportunity to lead a delegation of Transportation Directors from several Arizona school districts on a visit to Twin Rivers Unified School District in Sacramento, California, to learn about electric school bus funding, charging, and manufacturing. Twin Rivers Unified School District currently has the largest electric school bus fleet in the country, with 30 buses and counting, so it was great to hear firsthand from leading electric school bus administrators how they achieved this.
Twin Rivers confirmed what we already knew: that electrification is a smart investment for school districts and a great way to clean up our air. School districts save money in the long term with electric buses, and children get to breathe cleaner air during every ride. Moreover, batteries can last for over five years and are recyclable. The future of electric buses is here, and we are excited to be part of this movement.
Our community-led programs are proof that our grassroots efforts are paying off. If we continue to engage and support our students, parents, and community, then we will be on a path to converting dirty diesel buses to clean electric buses across Arizona. We know that with your continuous support, together, as a community, this pilot program will be replicated throughout the state.
Thank you for all your support in bringing a clean ride for kids,
This past weekend, I was able to participate in the People’s Presidential Forum in Las Vegas, where progressive activists questioned three major Democratic presidential candidates — Julián Castro, Bernie Sanders, and Andrew Yang — on a range of issues, from housing to immigration to reproductive rights to, of course, climate change. I represented Chispa Nevada, an organizing program of the League of Conservation Voters where I’ve been volunteering since last summer.
As a high school senior and as a Latina, I was excited that I got to ask a question. At the debates hosted so far, the questions have been left mostly to moderators or people living on the other side of the country. Here, we had the chance to ask about the issues Nevadans care about, and from diverse perspectives that reflect our communities.
I care about protecting our planet from the climate crisis that’s threatening the futures of young people like me. I want to hear what candidates plan to do to support clean, renewable energy that will take our communities off dirty, polluting fossil fuels.
My question was brief, and directed at tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang: I asked him why he supports storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles from my home, when Nevada doesn’t generate any nuclear energy.
The answer I got was pretty disappointing. Yang said it was a national issue, not just a Nevada issue. But if dangerous radioactive materials are going to be kept just miles away from millions of Nevadans, then it seems a lot like our problem. Yang kept trying to avoid the question, not answering a follow-up on how he would make our families feel safe from a nuclear accident. “It’s not really my decision,” he seemed to say. That’s not good enough for me, and it wasn’t good enough for the majority of the audience members, who waved red flags, a signal of disapproval, and booed.
Other candidates seemed to do better. When asked what he’d do to fight climate change by one of the local high school organizers of the Youth Climate Strikes, Castro said he’d not only rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, but that he’d go beyond it and achieve a net-zero pollution economy by 2045. He talked about his support for clean transportation and higher clean energy standards, putting a carbon fee on big polluters. And he talked about how clean energy is creating jobs right here in Nevada as well as across the country.
Sanders was also asked about how he’d protect our lands, water and life by a Western Shoshone woman. He agreed that climate is an existential threat and said he’d taken on the fossil fuel industry, and that he’d involve Indigenous communities in his decision making.
Both Sanders and Castro got big applause, and lots of (literal) green flags, when they described in detail their plans to tackle the climate crisis. I was impressed with their responses and how well they seemed to know Nevada. In my opinion, Yang missed an opportunity to address my concerns, shared with millions of Nevadans, about storing nuclear waste near our homes when we want to move to 100% clean and renewable energy. He also could have done a better job explaining what he’d do to fight environmental racism, another issue so many of us care about, since so many of us in communities of color face its consequences every day.
As a Nevadan excited to vote in my first election in 2020, here’s my advice to candidates: Talk about climate change and what you’re going to do. Understand what Nevadans are worried about, and why we care so much about transitioning to 100% clean energy. Come meet with our communities and hear directly about how we are affected by pollution and environmental racism. Listen and learn so that you can not only improve your plans, but also protect our planet.
Nevadans are paying attention. Young people like me are watching. Candidates who can show us they’re ready to take on this challenge and fight for our futures will do better in Nevada and across the country. We want answers, and we want climate action — now.
Washington, D.C. — In anticipation of the Trump administration’s expected deportation raids beginning this Sunday, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and LCV’s community organizing program Chispa issued the following statements:
“We should not and will not stand for the Trump administration’s abuses of power that scare our communities,” said LCV President Gene Karpinski. “LCV stands with immigrants, many of whom fled their home countries to escape the devastating impacts of the climate crisis, and condemns Trump’s inhumane ICE raids. We are fighting for a future where all of our communities are protected from harm.”
“This is a cold-blooded, manufactured crisis aimed at separating families, persecuting immigrant communities, and further dividing the public,” said Chispa National Director Fernando Cazares. “The raids are a shameful misuse of federal funds that will devastate our communities and cultivate fear and collective distrust in our institutions.”
The air in Maryland is going to be a lot cleaner thanks to a major win for Clean Buses For Healthy Niños!
HB1255, also known as the School Bus Transition – Zero-Emission Vehicles – Grant Program and Fund,was signed into law on May 13.This legislationwill create a grant structure for school districts to begin transitioning their school buses to an electric fleet in Maryland.
In Maryland, there are approximately 623,000 kids who ride school buses to over 24 school districts, which serve more than 879,000, over half of whom are Latino or black. And when those school buses are fueled by dirty diesel and let off toxic emissions, they make a big impact on people’s health — in Maryland, nearly 1 in 10 people suffer from asthma.
Electric school buses are the only kinds of buses to produce ZERO emissions. Thanks to this program, we will see a dramatic decrease in toxic emissions and our kids will live healthier, safer lives. Electric school buses are not just better for our health, but also cleaner for the environment, and ultimately cheaper; they can help local school districts save $10,000 to $12,000 money per year in maintenance and operation costs. They are the best investment in our children’s health.
This is an important step on the path to reducing air pollution from diesel that contributes to negative health impacts of our most vulnerable populations in Maryland. We thank all our partners and supporters and special thanks to our Chispa Maryland Promotoras for all their support and hard work to protect the health of our children.
Chispa Maryland Director, Ramon Palencia-Calvo and advocates join Governor Larry Hogan at the bill signing ceremony.
My name is Taylor Robertson, and I’m a senior at Hartford Public High School in Hartford, Connecticut. I got involved with Chispa in the Summer of 2016 through the Center for Latino Progress. When I first started working with Chispa, I had no idea what environmental justice was, but after that one summer I was hooked on trying to fight for the rights of clean air, water and energy. I felt an obligation to make sure that every person gets to live a healthy and clean life. I returned to Chispa earlier this year as Lead Promotora to the program, helping our staff train new Promotores and build relationships that will bring people together to protect our climate!
Since returning, I have done some awesome things. I was a featured speaker in the 2018 Connecticut Women’s March, and later on spoke on a climate justice and policy panel at the University of Connecticut. I am forever grateful to the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters and Chispa for not only helping me build my confidence, but also for the fact that I am able to be a part of a greater movement striving to protect the environment and health of my community.
Below is a poem I wrote:
Broken bottles and charred pieces of glass
Wadded up newspapers tossed on the grass
Pouring of concrete and tearing out trees
This is the environment that surrounds me?
Poisons and insecticides sprayed on our food
Oceans filling with thick oil crude
All sea life destined to a slow awful doom
These are the things we are to consume?
Mills pumping out iron expelling yellow fumes
Airlines emitting caustic gases from fuels
Weapons of destruction tested at desolate sites
And this is the air that’s to sustain life?
There has to be something that someone can do
Like raise the awareness to those around you
That if we don’t heed the problem at hand
It’s your life that’s at stake, the destruction of man.
“Peinate ese pajón!” is how my mother, my grandmother, my tias and all the women in my family tell me, in a not-so-nice way, to go to a hair salon, as I proudly parade my unruly curly afro that I refuse to relax.
This has been happening since my childhood. Dominican women are known for the way they can take kinky, curly hair and make it slick. Generations upon generations of Dominican women have grown up with the colonial mentality that white is beautiful. We are told from a young age to hide anything that resembles Blackness. This not only enables our own self-hatred, but ignores a huge part of our history—our Black history.
As I grew older, I began to recognize the prevalence of African roots in my Dominican heritage. How our culture, our food, our music, our dance and even our dialect have been influenced by Africa. I could see, from my hair to my skin to facial features, that I am not only Latina, but also Black. I felt proud to be Afro-Latina. Yet I also felt invisible. In school I was not Latina enough to fit in with other Latinas; the amount of melanin in my skin made me too different. But I was still not black enough to be Black. There wasn’t a space for me as both Black and Latina.
It’s not so different in the environmental movement. When I joined Chispa, a program of LCV focused on grassroots organizing of and by communities of color, I didn’t realize I was entering a predominantly white space—36 percent of LCV employees identify as people of color, and across the board, there are few people of color in environmental organizations. And there are even fewer Afro-Latinos. Even within Chispa, as an organizer, I’ve encountered issues our community doesn’t really want to talk about, like colorism. Latino volunteers struggle to understand that I can be Latina and look Black, that I can speak Spanish but still have a curly afro.
Things are slowly getting better. We’re having more conversations, as an organization and as a movement, about mixed-race people of color, about not just identifying people as either Black OR Latino. Conservation voters are beginning to learn what it means to actually address racial justice and equity for all people of color.
This is so important to achieve our goals. If we want to improve the lives and health of our communities, then we must create spaces for our brothers and sisters who are underrepresented, marginalized and often ignored even among communities of color. Even if it’s uncomfortable, we need to have genuine conversations within Latino communities about colorism and about how we include and bring with us people of all shades. We need to put mixed-race people of color in positions of power, and help them lead the way.
It’s still a strange experience for me not to see other people who look like me in our organization. Sometimes I find it hard and overwhelming. What I love about the work I do is seeing abuelitas and moms come into our office, talk about issues they care about and realize that they can make a difference without having to have a ton of money. Even my own mom has joined our promotores team. It’s pretty exciting to see generations of women working together to build a better future for their kids and grandkids. Helping them create their own change lets me know I’m doing something right.
I have learned to own both my identities, with my family and at work. This is who I am and I’m great with it, and I won’t hide it. Now, unapologetically, I no longer feel obligated to explain my heritage, my black girl magic, or my Sazón Dominicano.
Owning my Afro-Latinidad has made me feel less alone, too. Yes, I work to give a voice to the Latino communities I organize in Nevada, but also to help other Afro-Latinos demand a place within the fight for a healthier environment. This space should belong to all of us. We have work to do.
This year, all across the nation, Chispa has used our grassroots power to influence policy makers and pressure polluters to protect communities’ rights to clean air and water, healthy neighborhoods, and a safe climate.
We focused much of our effort on fighting for Clean Buses for Healthy Niños. Since we started this campaign in 2017, Chispa has helped drive conversations about the dangers that toxic diesel school buses pose to children’s health, and we’ve connected communities with a historic opportunity to make change. Across the country, we’ve called on decision makers to use the Volkswagen settlement funds for clean, electric school buses — more than 100,000 parents, students and supporters have signed petitions, hosted community meetings, testified at legislative hearings, passed local resolutions and rallied for cleaner school buses for our kids.
Governors have taken note and have begun allocating Volkswagen funds to replace school buses in highly impacted communities, and we’re seeing partners celebrate the announcements of exciting electric school bus pilot programs and targeted allocations. But there is still more to be done — our teams are helping local school districts in low-income and communities of color apply for allocated funds directly. And where Volkswagen Mitigation Plans haven’t gone far enough to invest in electric school buses, we will continue to hold governors and governors-elect accountable.
Here are this year’s Chispa highlights from all across the country:
ChispaNevada, as part of its nonpartisan civic engagement program, worked to register and turnout Latino voters, who make up nearly 30 percent of Nevada’s population. Chispa Nevada’s promotores showed immense leadership, making more than 39,000 calls urging Latinos to vote. During these get-out-the-vote shifts, Chispa Nevada had special guests like America Ferrera stop by to energize volunteers and promotores.
Chispa Arizona joined the fight to ensure public lands are more inclusive of and accessible to all communities. Chispa Arizona authored “Parks for the People,” a report centering the Latinx experience in the fight for public lands and for a more just, relatable environmental movement. Working with local and state partners, Chispa Arizona then launched a localized campaign to save the Land and Water Conservation Fund and to raise awareness of such critical programs within Latinx communities, who are eager for cleaner, quality open spaces. During the 2018 elections, Chispa Arizona volunteers also knocked on more than 30,000 doors in Tucson helping to pass Proposition 407, which will invest more than $225 million into local parks and trails.
Colorado’s Protegete continued to build local leadership and power within Latino communities. After organizing a back-to-school seminar and backpack giveaway for 40 low-income families, Protegete recruited more than a dozen promotores who wanted to make change happen in their neighborhoods. The promotores joined an existing project to open a community garden and, with the help of local partners, opened the garden this year. Protegete promotores continue to be involved with the garden and are now taking a more active role in their communities, speaking on panels, writing letters to elected officials, and helping educate and mobilize other voters within their neighborhoods.
Chispa Maryland also worked to amplify decision making within local communities of color. The third annual Festival del Rio brought together more than 500 people and 30 exhibitors to connect Latinxs with local environmental organizations and issues. As one of the founders of Festival del Rio, Chispa Maryland organizes the yearly event to help communities of color learn more about local environmental issues, identify solutions, and join with others looking to address similar problems. Promotores and organizers are key to organizing the festival and will continue growing this community event to celebrate Latinxs’ connection to the natural environment.
Chispa Connecticut began an innovative program to help bring more community leaders into the conservation movement. Organizers created a training program for youth that combines organizing skills-building with the basics of film photography. Students not only learned how to organize their neighbors, they also used photography as a lens to analyze and illustrate the impact of environmental pollution on Connecticut’s communities of color. As Chispa Connecticut continues its work tackling environmental justice issues — such as joining university student groups in advocating for a just recovery for Puerto Rico — they are looking for new ways to demonstrate to promotores and volunteers the urgency and importance of organizing.
Juntos: Our Air, Our Water in New Mexico has also taken on youth outreach, educating middle school students on environmental racism by touring specific examples of injustices within their communities. Along with the SouthWest Organizing Project, Juntos is helping staff at Washington Middle School develop an environmental justice curriculum that will continue this long-term education. Juntos has also been working with Together for Brothers (T4B) to participate in the Lots of Interesting Things (LIT) summit at another middle school. Our movement can’t grow without bringing the next generation to the table, and Juntos understands that engaging youth of color will add more voices speaking for our communities.
We’re excited to take on the next phases of this work, especially as we begin 2019 with a full national team. Astrid, Fernando, Johana, Julie and Pita bring decades of organizing and communications experience to the national Chispa team and are hitting the ground running. Together with our partners across the country, we’ll work every day to build the power of communities of color and secure our families’ access to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment for generations to come.
At every turn, the Trump administration has prioritized polluters over people. They’re now working to replace President Obama’s Clean Power Plan with a rule that could lead to 1,400 premature deaths, by the administration’s own calculation. In fact, this administration is so intent on shutting people out of the decision-making process that they only held one public hearing, in Chicago, to gather input on the proposal, which is more accurately titled the Dirty Power Scam.
The Clean Power Plan was the biggest step we’ve ever taken to combat the catastrophic impacts of climate change and would have helped us to meet our Paris Climate Agreement goals. Climate change is affecting our communities right now — from devastating wildfires record flooding, droughts to more powerful hurricanes. We must ensure moving forward that communities – particularly low income and communities of color – no longer suffer from the negative consequences of this administration’s attacks on our health and inaction on climate change.
Three members of LCV and Chispa staff flew to Chicago to ensure that our opposition to this disastrous proposal was heard.
Julio Zuniga, an organizer for Chispa Arizona, shared the struggles of the high school students he coaches in the South of Phoenix, Arizona: “It’s difficult to see so many of them suffer from debilitating respiratory illnesses. Our high school is located in a highly polluted area … This Dirty Power Scam is unacceptable. We cannot put the lives of Latino children at risk, causing them to miss academic and athletic opportunities because of preventable asthma attacks.”
Katherine Lorenzo, a senior organizer for Chispa Nevada, told the EPA that, “Repealing and replacing the Clean Power Plan would be a direct attack on Latino communities who already disproportionately suffer the effects of climate change … Latinos are suffering from asthma at higher rates and paying the price with their health, jobs and future. I know because I see it daily — in fellow organizers, in volunteers, and in their children.”
As Sara Chieffo, LCV’s vice president of Government Affairs, said, “This draft proposal also fails to do what’s best for the tens of millions of people in this country who suffer from asthma and other respiratory ailments exacerbated by air pollution. It perpetuates the environmental and systemic racism in this country that has meant communities of color and lower income communities are the ones bearing the brunt of our dependence on dirty fossil fuels.”
Read Julio, Katherine, and Sara’s full testimonies below:
Hello, my name is Julio Zuniga. I’m an organizer with Chispa Arizona, a grassroots organizing program of the League of Conservation Voters. I’m here today to ask that you reject the Trump Administration’s proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan and deny their efforts to replace it with this Dirty Power Scam that would put my community at risk.
I want to share with you today what it’s like to watch your students struggle to breathe each day.
I’m a high school coach in south side Phoenix, an area of town where many families of color live. I coach the girl’s track and field team, a group of motivated young women who are dreaming of earning scholarships for college. Most of my students come from black or Latino families of modest means, families who likely can’t afford to send their kids to college without financial help. As a Latino immigrant who grew up poor and undocumented, and who struggled to make it through college, I know what that’s like. I’m very proud of my team and of my student athletes.
That’s why it’s been difficult to see so many of them suffer from debilitating respiratory illnesses. Our high school is located in a highly polluted area, just a couple of miles from a major airport, three freeways, and a few industrial plants. Several of my students run and train each day with inhalers in their pockets. Four out of 20 students in my team have had asthma attacks in practice. Four. Four times in the field over the last year I’ve witnessed young girls buckle in pain, struggling to breathe.
I’ll never forget the first time this happened, when my student Jessica started gasping for air in front of me. I didn’t know what to do or how to help. At first I thought she was suffering from an anxiety attack, until it became obvious that breathing — the very act of breathing — was the problem.
Jessica got so sick from her respiratory illness that she spent weeks in the hospital and didn’t return to school for about a month. Once she came back, she was too weak to continue training. Her season was over. Jessica is a sophomore in high school and this set her back a full year in track and field. This significantly diminishes her chances of receiving an athletic scholarship for college.
As a coach, you’re used to being a little tough on your students. You want to motivate them, and you don’t want to hear excuses. But now I know, if one of my students says they can’t run, five times out of ten it’s because they’re struggling with their asthma. And so now I’m asking a new set of questions at each practice: Did you bring your inhaler? How’s your asthma today? Are you having trouble breathing?
It’s heartbreaking to be in this position. But it’s not surprising. Communities of color like the ones my students come from are much more likely to bear the burden of pollution. Families of color are more likely to live in neighborhoods with higher levels of toxins in the air. Latinos are 60% more likely to visit the hospital for asthma than their non-Hispanic white peers. Latino children are twice as likely to die from asthma attacks compared to non-Hispanic white children.
You heard that right: Latino children are twice as likely to end up in the hospital from asthma attacks. In Arizona, the American Lung Association has found there are 131,515 kids suffering from childhood asthma. Earlier this year, the ALA ranked the Phoenix metropolitan area as the 8th most ozone-polluted city in the nation. These levels of pollution don’t just affect the kids struggling to breathe; they hurt their entire family. Parents have to miss work, students have to miss school and families rack up tremendous medical bills in doctors’ visits or hospitalizations, not to mention the emotional toll.
I see these ripple effects each day not only as a coach, but as an organizer for Chispa Arizona. I joined Chispa because after seeing the injustices low-income and communities of color endure, I wanted to work for an organization that was fighting not only for the environment but for my community and my students’ rights to clean air and healthy futures. Working with Chispa, I’ve been able to advocate for an end to fossil fuel pollution, from asking Arizona to transition from diesel-powered school buses to electric, zero-emission school buses to calling on our elected officials to support 50% renewable energy by 2050.
Today, I feel a lot less powerless than I did that terrifying afternoon, watching Jessica suffer from an asthma attack. Because I know now that we can do better for our kids. The Clean Power Plan would help protect communities like ours by limiting carbon pollution from power plants. If enacted, the Clean Power Plan could prevent up to 90,000 asthma attacks in children, 300,000 missed work and school days, and 3,600 premature deaths every year by 2030. In comparison, the Trump administration’s proposal could cost up to 1,4000 lives every year by 2030.
This Dirty Power Scam is unacceptable. We cannot put the lives of Latino children at risk, causing them to miss academic and athletic opportunities because of preventable asthma attacks. By repealing the Clean Power Plan and replacing it with this Dirty Power Scam, we are robbing our children of a healthy future.
Our kids need and deserve to live in communities with clean air. I ask you to reject this proposal and instead implement the Clean Power Plan.
Hello and thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Katherine Lorenzo and I am from Las Vegas. I’m here today as a Senior Organizer for Chispa Nevada, a grassroots organizing program of the League of Conservation Voters, and I’ve come to ask that you reject Donald Trump and Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s Dirty Power Scam.
Being an organizer is something I’m truly passionate about. I started community organizing as a teenager, registering people to vote in the Southern Nevada Latino neighborhoods I grew up in. Since joining Chispa Nevada two years ago, I’ve come to meet and learn from dozens if not hundreds of mothers, fathers, children, students, and community members concerned about climate change, environmental pollution, and the futures of the next generation. Since learning of the Trump administration’s plan to repeal and replace the Clean Power Plan, we’ve been even more worried.
Repealing and replacing the Clean Power Plan would be a direct attack on Latino communities who already disproportionately suffer the effects of climate change. In Nevada, our communities are struggling to breathe in cities and counties that have received failing grades. Las Vegas has already been ranked the 12th most polluted city in the nation by the American Lung Association this year. More than 44,000 children and more than 180,000 adults currently suffer from asthma in the state. Latinos are suffering from asthma at higher rates and paying the price with their health, jobs and future. I know because I see it daily — in fellow organizers, in volunteers, and in their children.
I see it in Jacob, one of our youth promotores. Jacob is just a teenager, but he’s suffered from asthma for years, His asthma has gotten so bad that he’s taking steroids. His family has had their entire lives changed because of this, having to alter their daily routines and budgets to fit in more doctors visits and trips to the hospital. I see it in Pablo, Jacob’s friend, who was just diagnosed with asthma and is beginning a new, difficult journey. I see it in William, the three-year old son of our state program director who had his first asthma attack this summer and spent nearly a week in the hospital, breathing through tubes.
Yet asthma attacks are preventable and the effects of climate change can be reduced, and at Chispa Nevada, we’re fighting back by organizing Nevadans of color around the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign, an effort demanding the state use Volkswagen settlement funds to replace dirty diesel school buses with zero-emission, electric school buses. We’re also calling on Nevada to embrace its clean energy potential by increasing the share of energy we get from renewables to 50 percent by 2030. And we’re giving our community members the tools they need to organize their own families and friends to speak up when they see or experience environmental injustices.
Because Latinos want our elected leaders to act. Nearly 80 percent of Latinos see climate change as a serious problem and 90 percent want to see actions taken to address it. Latinos recognize that the best way to reduce the pollution that makes climate change even worse is to transition to clean, renewable energy. In fact, 86 percent already support limiting carbon pollution from power plants, like the Clean Power Plan does.
Being an organizer, I know what it takes to get public support for a project. And we saw as the EPA received more than 8 million comments supporting the Clean Power Plan. The Trump administration has ignored this massive public support, choosing instead to put the interests of polluters above the health of the people. With this Dirty Power Scam, Wheeler is letting polluters off the hook at the expense of our health. They can’t get away with this.
What makes me excited and keeps me organizing each day is knowing that more and more of our volunteers are sharing their stories and using their voices to hold our representatives accountable. Toxic pollution is making our kids sick and our air more dangerous to breathe. Latinos want to see the Clean Power Plan be made stronger, not repealed. We won’t sit on the sidelines anymore. Latinos are calling on you to say no to this dangerous Dirty Power Scam and support the lifesaving protections of the Clean Power Plan.
Thank you for your time.
My name is Sara Chieffo, and I’m here today as a concerned mom and as the Vice President of Government Affairs at the League of Conservation Voters. The League of Conservation Voters has more than 2 million members across the country, and our mission is to turn environmental values into national, state, and local priorities. We work to advance these goals in close partnership with the Conservation Voter Movement, a network of roughly 30 state partners, including the Illinois Environmental Council.
Thank you for this opportunity. I am here to speak in strong opposition to President Trump and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s effort to gut the lifesaving Clean Power Plan and to replace it with a backwards-looking and life-threatening proposal. While this administration has branded its proposal as the Affordable Clean Energy rule, it is more accurate to call it the Dirty Power Scam.
Put simply, the EPA’s draft proposal picks polluters’ profits over people’s health and a safe and stable climate for our children and future generations. It turns a blind eye to the climate change impacts that are already harming communities across our country – from record-breaking wildfires in the West, to droughts and heatwaves, to more intense hurricanes and historic flooding that have ravaged the Carolinas, Texas, Florida, and Louisiana. Hurricane Maria was one of the deadliest storms on record and it is unacceptable that a year later Puerto Rico has still not gotten the support it needs to recover and rebuild.
This draft proposal also fails to do what’s best for the tens of millions of people in this country who suffer from asthma and other respiratory ailments exacerbated by air pollution. It perpetuates the environmental and systemic racism in this country that has meant communities of color and lower income communities in this country are the ones bearing the brunt of our dependence on dirty fossil fuels.
This proposal seeks to bury the Clean Power Plan, which set the first federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants – a major source of the pollution that exacerbates climate change – and encouraged a transition to a clean energy economy. The Clean Power Plan was the result of unprecedented public outreach that included 4 two-day public hearings and more than 8 million comments to the EPA in support of standards limiting carbon pollution from new and existing power plants – the most ever received by an agency. The Clean Power Plan also gave states the flexibility to craft their own plans to reduce emissions and transition to cleaner sources of energy.
This administration’s own analysis finds that the Clean Power Plan would have had significant climate and health benefits, including preventing as many as 4,500 premature deaths each year by 2030, preventing tens of thousands of asthma attacks, and avoiding hundreds of thousands of missed days at work and school.
This administration’s analysis admits that the draft plan we’re discussing today will lead to 1,400 deaths in 2030. This is simply unacceptable. The EPA can and must do better. The reality is that the scale of the climate crisis means the Clean Power Plan should be made stronger, not gutted.
As a young child, I can remember watching nervously as my twin sister had to be given breathing treatments at home or rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night due to another severe asthma attack. This summer, I was visiting family in Southern Oregon and the air was thick and choked with smoke from the wildfires burning across the region. The rising sun appearing as a glowing neon orb on the horizon, my young daughters complained their eyes were burning and they couldn’t breathe. It had been like this for weeks.
But despite all the overwhelming evidence and broad public support for the Clean Power Plan and climate action, Trump and Wheeler are instead focused on accommodating a few big polluters. And, this is part of a pattern that is all too familiar for this administration who, from day one, have systematically tried to block climate progress by taking the U.S. out of the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, reversing course on common-sense clean car standards, and undoing methane pollution limits and more.
It is time the EPA got back to its core mission of protecting our health and our environment. That’s why I am proud to join others here today to support the lifesaving clean air protections provided by the Clean Power Plan and to say no to Trump and Wheeler’s scheme to bury them.
As we cap off Hispanic Heritage Month, Chispa is celebrating the many ways Latinx communities contribute to and help lead conservation and climate justice efforts across the country.
A Warm Welcome to Our New National Director!
Chispa is excited to welcome our new national director, Fernando Cazares!
Fernando was born in Michoacán, Mexico and migrated to South Central Los Angeles, CA in 1990. He studied Public Policy at Occidental College in Los Angeles and received a Masters Degree in Public Affairs and Urban and Regional Planning from Princeton University. He has spent 15 years working within local government, Congress, and electoral campaigns. In 2013, he built Latino grasstops support for the Clean Power Plan and, most recently, he provided technical assistance advancing climate resilience investments by municipal and nonprofit stakeholders. In his free time, Fernando likes to watch and play soccer (he even went to the 2018 World Cup in Russia!) and enjoys salsa/Latin dancing. Here is Fernando’s message: “I am excited to work with the Chispa family and channel our collective vision to grow engagement, leadership and power within communities of color, especially around environmental, racial and climate justice issues across the country.”
Celebrating La Madre Tierra During Latino Conservation Week
This summer, Chispa joined communities across the country in celebrating Latino Conservation Week (LCW) by enjoying the outdoors with friends and family. Protégete took a team of volunteers to Great Sand Dunes National Park and the Chimayo Sanctuary, where Coloradans got to experience firsthand the landscapes and wildlife they fight so hard to protect. Chispa Nevada hosted a picnic at the Spring Mountain Ranch State Park with other community partners, while Chispa Maryland learned about clean up efforts as they sailed down the Anacostia River.
Taking the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños Fight to the National Governors Association
More children ride school buses every day than other form of public transit. That’s why more than 125 parents, children, activists, and supporters of the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign joined A People’s Convening: Rally for Clean Air, rallying and marching at the National Governors Association (NGA) summer meeting in Santa Fe. There, we called on governors to prioritize children’s health by investing Volkswagen settlement funds in electric school buses.
During the NGA events, Chispa families met with with Governor Jay Inslee of Washington. A New Mexico mother and Juntos organizer, Martha Favela, shared her family’s struggles with respiratory problems because of diesel pollution. Governor Inslee thanked Martha and Chispa for leading the fight for electric school buses and shared with us why he chose to invest Washington’s Volkswagen settlement funds in electric school buses: his three grandkids. We thank Governor Inslee for listening to our families and for supporting a #CleanRide4Kids.
Growing Our Team
Our family continues to grow! Chispa Connecticut graduated another six promotores at Waterbury City Hall, where State Representative Reyes welcomed our newest community organizers. Chispa Nevada also hosted a graduation for dozens of promotores in Las Vegas.
One of America’s best parks program is at risk. Chispa continuously pressed Congress to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) before it expired on September 30th. Chispa Arizona spent a day exploring the wonders of Grand Canyon National Park and Slide Rock State Park to draw attention to the many cherished parks projects LWCF has funded over the years. Chispa AZ also hosted a cafecito with Representative Raúl Grijalva and community members, discussing the critical need to #SaveLWCF. Meanwhile, Chispa Nevada hosted a community fiesta with more than 50 Nevadans to celebrate the ways the LWCF has helped the state’s Latinx community enjoys the outdoors.
Chispa Nevada, Chispa Arizona, Chispa Maryland, and Juntos: Our Air, Our Water also teamed up with the Hispanic Access Foundation to host screenings of “Land, Water y Comunidad,” a documentary highlighting the Latinx community’s connection to LWCF in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Washington, D.C., and Albuquerque.
Holding Senators Accountable to People, Not Polluters
In response to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s announcement that former Arizona U.S. Senator Jon Kyl will replace late Arizona Senator John McCain, our friends at Chispa Arizona said it best: “Governor Ducey has let down every Arizonan who wishes to breathe clean air and drink clean water.” During Kyl’s previous time in the Senate, he repeatedly put polluters over people, voting time and time again against regulations to reduce pollution and siding with his friends in the gas and oil industry. He even voted to continue subsidies for the oil industry! As he assumes his post, Chispa Arizona and its partners across the state will hold Kyl accountable to the clean air and clean water Arizonans demand.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Chispa spoke out against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the highest court on the land. Confirming Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court would put communities of color at risk on numerous fronts — immigrants’ rights, environmental justice, access to health care services, just to mention a few. Chispa Arizona Senior Organizer Teo Argueta spoke passionately about the need to reject any nominee that doesn’t serve our communities.
Chispa Joins GreenLatinos for Advocacy on the Hill
Chispa also participated in GreenLatinos Advocacy Day and Forum in Washington, D.C., meeting with several members of Congress and sharing why communities of color care about public lands, clean energy, and clean air and water for our children.
Protesting the Rollback of Clean Car Standards
Chispa Nevada mom Emily Zamora published an op-ed in Univision explaining how the Trump administration’s rollback of clean car standards will hurt children like her son William, who suffers from asthma. Chispa supporters throughout the country joined rallies and press conferences criticizing the Trump administration’s decision, which will result in increased air pollution and cause corresponding lung and heart diseases.
In Solidarity With the People’s Climate Movement
Communities across the country joined the Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice events this past September, and Chispa participated by rallying, planting community gardens, hosting art and healing exhibitions, and marching for environmental and worker justice. Chispa Connecticut remind us that during this time, we can’t forget the people of Puerto Rico, who continue to suffer the aftereffects of Hurricane Maria.