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THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE ACTION – APRIL 21, 2023

Apr 21, 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, Twitter, and Instagram.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK:

“I think we’re here for Earth Day, but (also for) social justice. And we need to stop making Earth Day something separate from democracy, because it is democracy and public participation (and) public struggle that will help us and if we don’t … we might be doomed.”

Maria Lopez-Nunez, nationally recognized environmental-justice advocate speaking at an Earth Day panel at the University of Michigan on the importance of defending democracy when talking about social justice.

“Let me kill over 100,000 manufacturing jobs – mostly in red states – or I’ll force America to default on bills we racked up and trigger a recession,’ is the opposite of a compelling message.”

Andrew Bates, White House deputy press secretary in a memo about the dire impacts of Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s debt limit plan 

“I am a country girl from Lowndes County, Alabama, where I learned important lessons about democracy and voting. For years wastewater infrastructure for many families there has been failing or non-existent, not unlike rural communities nationwide. Now with the help of this White House, we’re fixing that.”

Catherine Coleman Flowers, founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice in her remarks introducing President Biden at the White House ceremony about the administration’s new executive order, Revitalizing Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All. 

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HIGHLIGHTS OF EARTH WEEK:

THE WHITE HOUSE EARTH WEEK EXTRAVAGANZA: This week, the Biden-Harris administration honored Earth Day with a truly impressive myriad of actions that will protect people and our planet, both now and for generations to come. Today, the president invited environmental justice leaders to the Rose Garden to talk about building healthy communities and announce a set of new environmental justice actions. Below are a few key highlights from today’s announcements, as well as the other important Earth Week announcements:

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE EO: The administration announced a sweeping executive order that is a major step forward in deepening a whole-of-government commitment to environmental justice. This is a sign that the administration is listening to historically excluded communities who far too often are left out of the policy discussions that most impact them. This executive order will better protect overburdened communities, address the cumulative impacts of pollution, help overcome barriers to federal participation, increase federal accountability with tools like the new Environmental Justice Scorecard (see more below!), and embed environmental justice in all federal agencies. Read LCV’s full statement on this new executive order HERE.

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE SCORECARD: The administration rolled out a new environmental justice scorecard that compiles whole-of-government baseline data from 2021 and 2022 to assess progress on Justice40, environmental and civil rights, and environmental justice.

DOE SOLAR ENERGY INVESTMENTS: DOE announced a set of solar energy investments in communities across the country.  These investments will help lower people’s electricity bills, reduce pollution, and provide equitable and affordable access to solar energy.

DOE HEAT PUMP FUNDING: DOE announced that $250 million provided by the Inflation Reduction Act will go towards expanding electric heat pump production in the U.S. This investment will create good-paying jobs and help households across the country lower their energy bills.   

EPA GREENHOUSE GAS REDUCTION FUND: The EPA announced implementation framework for a program created by the Inflation Reduction Act, the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. This grant program will provide funding for thousands of clean energy projects, including rooftop solar in communities across the country. 

EPA PROPOSAL TO BAN METHYLENE CHLORIDE: The EPA released a proposal to ban most of the remaining commercial and consumer uses of  methylene chloride, a highly toxic chemical that is used in products like paint strippers. This proposal stands to protect workers, consumers, and bystanders from this known neurotoxicant that can affect liver function, cause cancer, and death.

USDA + DOI REFORESTATION EFFORTS: USDA and DOI announced new tools and reports that will improve the sustainability and resiliency of our national forests. Notably, USDA has proposed a rulemaking process that would permanently protect mature and old-growth forests from logging on federal lands.

GEORGIA CONSERVATION VOTERS UNVEILS NEW MURAL FOR EARTH DAY: Georgia Conservation Voters and GeorgiaWAND came together yesterday for an Earth Day celebration and mural unveiling. The mural seeks to bring awareness to environmental justice and the main issues facing local residents and all Georgians, deteriorating water infrastructure, high power bills, and poor air quality. 

CLIMATE ACTION EARTH DAY EVENTS: LCV’s Climate Action teams are gearing up for a variety of Earth Day events this coming weekend in Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. With over 20 events planned, we’ll be celebrating this weekend with everything from concerts to movie screenings to trail cleanups to marches  to conversations with members of Congress.

EARTH DAY BLOG WITH CO SECRETARY OF STATE: Check out our Earth Day blog where Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and LCV Director of Civic Engagement Hilda Nucete highlight how our democracy and environment are linked.  

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HIGHLIGHTS OF INFLATION REDUCTION ACT IMPLEMENTATION:

GEORGIA CELEBRATES INVESTMENTS IN CLEAN WATER: Today, Georgia Conservation Voters joined U.S. Representative Lucy McBath, Georgia state Senator Nabilah Islam, the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and other environmental organizations to celebrate Inflation Reduction Act investments that will lower energy costs, provide cleaner drinking water, and protect Georgians from the ever-worsening impacts of the climate crisis.     

ILLINOIS STATE CLEAN ENERGY LAW AND IRA IMPLEMENTATION ARE LINKED: A year and a half ago, Illinois passed groundbreaking legislation, the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA), which put them on the path to 100% clean energy and did so in an equitable way with community input from every corner of the state. As Illinois implements CEJA and begins to feel the law’s real benefits – an increase in renewable energy projects, a boost to the workforce, and more – investments from the Inflation Reduction Act will elevate the progress already underway.   

ILLINOIS ENVIRONMENTAL COUNCIL TAKE: At LCV’s state affiliate, the Illinois Environmental Council, Energy Policy Director Samira Hanessian told the Daily Herald, “We continue to work with our industry partners and advocates around ensuring that state agencies maintain their timeline and continue to stand up programs as expected. But the new shiny object that’s a big deal to everyone is the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and how that’s really launched and helped elevate a lot of the work around CEJA.”  

NEW YORK BENEFITS FROM IRA IMPLEMENTATION: In the Buffalo News, Representative Brian Higgins (NY-26) and New York League of Conservation Voters President Julie Tighe detailed the benefits that New Yorkers will experience thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act. As they point out, “Hundreds of thousands of households in Western New York will benefit from incentives in the IRA…The IRA will help fund our transition away from fossil fuels toward a clean energy economy while lowering energy costs and cleaning our air. Thanks to these historic investments, Western New York will breathe a whole lot easier.”   

WISCONSIN ESTABLISHES GREEN BANK: In Wisconsin, Governor Tony Evers signed an executive order that will create a Green Innovation Fund. The fund will invest in clean energy business solutions, lower energy costs, and expand access to clean energy. Not only will this fund spur innovation in Wisconsin, it also creates the infrastructure that will help the state implement and gain funding from the Inflation Reduction Act.

VIRGINIA CELEBRATES IRA INFRASTRUCTURE: This evening, Representative Abigail Spanberger will join Virginia LCV for an Earth Week event celebrating a pedestrian bridge built with funds from the Inflation Reduction Act.   

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FEDERAL HIGHLIGHTS:

MCCARTHY’S RECKLESS DEFAULT CRISIS PROPOSAL THREATENS CLEAN ENERGY MANUFACTURING BOOM: Speaker Kevin McCarthy released House Republicans’ default crisis proposal, which would slash clean energy tax credits, jam through the Polluters Over People Act, and gut environmental protections. What’s more, the proposed funding cuts would have devastating impacts on services people rely on in their everyday lives – these cuts could result in, among many things, many fewer toxicologists who ensure chemicals in consumer products are safe, losing more than 1,700 firefighting professionals who manage our country’s ever-increasing wildfires, and thousands of low-income households missing out on weatherization services that would help cut their energy costs. Simply put, House Republicans want to eliminate services for people in favor of supporting their polluter allies.    

OUR TAKE:  LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld said, “Speaker McCarthy’s proposal is reckless and dangerous. House Republicans’ idea of an “opening bid” is to slash the popular and affordable clean energy plan (the Inflation Reduction Act), jam through the Polluters Over People Act, and gut critical environmental protections in exchange for not causing an economic catastrophe, all to appease their Big Oil donors. Right now, our country is at the start of a clean energy boom that is lowering costs and putting people to work. McCarthy’s list of demands would halt that progress when we need it most. As if that weren’t bad enough, draconian cuts to agencies like EPA would severely curtail support for small drinking water systems and monitoring communities for exposure to pollution in the air, land and water.

“The ongoing climate crisis, as well as recent environmental disasters, like the train derailment in Ohio, underscore that we should be increasing, not cutting, funding for environmental protection and spurring the clean energy economy. House Republicans must abandon these stunts to appease Big Polluters and their MAGA base before their plans result in higher energy costs and the loss of the clean energy manufacturing boom that is already underway. It is dangerous and irresponsible to play politics with a default crisis looming.”

SUPREME COURT JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS MUST RESIGN: No one is above the law. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas accepted outrageous gifts from a billionaire mega donor, embroiling himself in one of the biggest ethics scandals in the Supreme Court’s history. And for the first time ever, LCV took the unprecedented step of calling on a Supreme Court Justice to resign at a press conference with Representatives Hank Johnson and Jesús “Chuy” García, the Center for Popular Democracy Action, Alliance for Justice, and other partner organizations. 

OUR TAKE: LCV Senior Director of Judiciary and Democracy Doug Lindner said, “We can’t have a healthy environment without a healthy democracy, which includes a judiciary we can trust to impartially administer the law and judges who do not accept massive, secret gifts from political mega donors. No one is above the law — Justice Thomas must be held accountable for his actions in one of the biggest ethics scandals in the history of the Supreme Court. Justice Thomas owes it to his country, his colleagues, and the Constitution to step down immediately.”

HOUSE FAILED VETO OVERRIDE OF THE CRA OF WOTUS RULE: This week, House Republicans attempted – and failed – to override President Biden’s veto of the Congressional Review Act joint resolution blocking of Clean Water Restoration Rule, also known as Waters of the United States. At every turn, House Republicans choose to support their polluter allies rather than protect people’s critical water sources, like small streams and rivers, from unregulated pollution and destruction.

OUR TAKE: Deputy Legislative Director Madeleine Foote said, “House Republicans simply can’t stop themselves from putting big polluter profits ahead of the health of our families and communities despite the unpopularity of their agenda. President Biden was right to veto this dangerous attempt to undermine the Clean Water Act’s critical safeguards which would have resulted in unregulated pollution and destruction of everything from small streams to rivers to wetlands. Now that their attempt to ignore science and what’s best for our health and environment has failed, we urge Congressional Republicans instead to work to ensure that everyone, no matter their race, zip code, or income, has access to clean, safe water.”

10 ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS OPPOSE SOLAR TARIFFS WAIVER CRA: This week, ten environmental organizations sent a letter opposing the Congressional Review Act resolutions of disapproval aimed at reversing President Biden’s temporary suspension of tariffs on certain solar cells and panels from manufactures in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. As the letter states, “passage of these resolutions could destabilize solar supply chains, harm ongoing deployment of large scale solar projects, threaten high-quality solar construction jobs, and impede our nation’s decarbonization goals.” Read the letter here

FERC APPROVES LNG PROJECTS THAT WILL PUT FRONTLINE COMMUNITIES IN BROWNSVILLE, TX AT RISK: On Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) voted 3-1 to approve permits for the Rio Grande LNG and Texas LNG projects in Brownsville. Despite significant opposition and concerns from the surrounding community, FERC prioritized the fossil fuel industry, a decision that puts FERC at odds with the Biden-Harris administration’s environmental justice commitments.   

CHISPA TX TAKE: Chispa Texas Program Director Elida Castillo said, “Despite numerous visits, calls, petitions, and online campaigns spearheaded by residents of the Rio Grande Valley and members of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas demanding that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission deny these LNG facilities, we learned that these actions once again fell on deaf ears. The Biden administration made a commitment to environmental justice, and these approvals of fracked gas export facilities are directly counter to those commitments. We are suffering a climate crisis that is being accelerated by methane emissions. LNG is not the answer and neither are the greenwashed “solutions” that are being funded by our tax dollars. Our communities and planet deserve better,” 

ICYMI LCV AND CHISPA SUPPORT BAAJ NWAAVJO I’TAH KUKVENI GRAND CANYON NATIONAL MONUMENT: In case you missed it, last week, LCV and Chispa Arizona supported the tribal-led proposal to permanently protect more than one million acres around Grand Canyon National Park, which will be designated the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument.

LCV TAKE: LCV Conservation Program Director America Fitzpatrick said, “The Havasupai, Hualapai, Hopi, Kaibab Paiute, Las Vegas Band of Paiute, Moapa Band of Paiute, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, San Juan Southern Paiute, Yavapai Apache, Zuni, Colorado River Indian Tribes, and Navajo Nation people have been the original stewards of the Grand Canyon region since time immemorial. We are honored to support their vision for permanent protection, which will help preserve these sacred lands while protecting drinking water in the state and boosting the outdoor recreation economy. We proudly join the local coalition of Tribes and advocates in calling on President Biden to designate Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument.” 

CHISPA AZ TAKE: Chispa Arizona’s Federal Organizer DJ Portugal said, “The Grand Canyon is tied to the place of origin of the Navajo, Hopi, Paiute and Zuni peoples and holds sacred significance for 11 tribes. Like many public lands, the Grand Canyon is a beautiful place full of wonder, sacredness and inspiration but also a reminder of displacement, denial of heritage rights and political oppression for Indigenous peoples. Chispa Arizona holds this balance in mind as our Latinx community joins the local coalition of Tribes in calling on President Biden to designate a national monument and safeguard the landscape in protection of the Grand Canyon, water and Indigenous access to lands they’ve stewarded since time immemorial.”     

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STATES:

MICHIGAN SENATE INTRODUCES 100 PERCENT CLEAN ENERGY BILL: Lastweek, Michigan Senate Democrats released their Clean Energy Future Plan, which supports Governor Whitmer’s goal to transition the state  to 100% clean energy. The proposed bill package  would clean up Michigan’s electric grid by 2035, phase out coal-fired power plants by 2030, decarbonize homes and businesses, set a clean fuels standard, and codify a program for solar on farmland. 

MLCV TAKE: Michigan LCV executive director Lisa Wozniak said, “Taking action on climate change is a kitchen table issue, and this legislation will set Michigan on a path toward cleaner air, good-paying jobs, lower costs and a healthy, livable future. We are at a crossroads: continue with business as usual, or be bold and take advantage of the opportunity we have with historic federal funds and leadership that is committed to protecting our future. We stand with lawmakers introducing this critically important legislation and urge legislators in both chambers to make this a top priority.”

NEW JERSEY ADOPTS ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE RULES: After years of community organizing and leadership from environmental justice communities, New Jersey finalized and adopted rules first put forward in the state’s 2020 environmental justice law. The nation-leading regulations establish greater community engagement and require that environmental justice considerations are taken into account during the permitting process for polluting facilities. Under these rules, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection must deny permits for projects that will disproportionately harm overburdened communities.

OHIO SENATE PASSES BILL TO LIMIT VOTER POWER ON BALLOT MEASURES: This week, the Ohio state Senate passed a bill that would require citizen-led ballot initiatives to gain an unrealistically high 60% of the vote to pass – meaning a 40% minority could stop even a massively popular initiative. Citizen-led ballot initiatives are a critical tool to hold elected officials accountable – if lawmakers don’t honor the will of the people, ballot initiatives allow citizens to vote on and  to pass laws themselves. Next week, the Ohio House will vote on the bill, so there is still hope that this anti-democratic initiative can be stopped.  

CLEAN ECONOMY COALITION LAUNCHED IN WISCONSIN: Wisconsin governor Tony Evers joined state and local leaders and environmental organizations to launch the Clean Economy Coalition of Wisconsin. The coalition, which includes Wisconsin Conservation Voters, will work together to develop policy solutions focused on six key areas: a healthy economy, environmental justice and infrastructure, carbon-free power, home and building repair, thriving landscapes and next-gen transportation.

CHISPA ARIZONA HOSTS COMMUNITY CLOTHING SWAP TO REDUCE CLOTHING WASTE: Chispa Arizona hosted a free, sustainable community clothing swap with Chicana lifestyle blogger Perla Farias (@xicana_mama) this week. Watch Farias talk about the value of reducing waste and building community through actions such as the clothing swap on @chispaarizona’s Instagram here. All leftover clothing from the swap will be available at Chispa AZ’s Earth Day Festival on Saturday, April 22. Check out the details for the Earth Day event here.

COMING UP:

APRIL 22 – Earth Day