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“Environmental justice encompasses housing, it encompasses our energy burden, it encompasses our availability to have clean water in our home, it encompasses being able to send our children to school without worrying about diesel trucks.”
— Óscar Sanchez, organizer at the Southeast Environmental Taskforce, commenting on how he is optimistic about the newly elected mayor of Chicago, Brandon Johnson. Sanchez says organizers must work to keep Johnson accountable for his campaign promises to focus on pollution reduction and sustainability goals for the city.
“As for the Sackett v. EPA, the area that this affects environmental justice communities most I would say are tribes…The more pollutants get into these waters through these intermittent or subsurface connections, the more vulnerable they’re going to be. Especially if you’re relying upon a sort of subsistence fishing, and you get most of your diet from the fish that you’re actually fishing for.”
— Steph Tai, a Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and current co-counsel representing aquatic science societies in Sackett v. EPA, discussing the Supreme Court case’s environmental implications. The Court will release a decision on the case this spring. [The EPA’s proposed rule to further reduce mercury pollution from power plants could also have implications for healthier subsistence fishing (see below).
“Instead of putting American consumers first, the majority is focused on lining the pockets of big oil and gas companies. The solution to our nation’s energy problems is building new, low-cost renewables, so we are reliant on expensive carbon polluting forms of energy.”
— Representative Ann McLane Kuster standing up on the House floor in opposing Republicans’ H.R. 1 energy package, or the “Polluters Over People Act.” This act would raise energy costs and undermine clean energy goals. This bill passed the House and is headed to the Senate.
BIDEN-HARRIS ADMINISTRATION INVESTS IN NEW CLEAN ENERGY PROJECTS NATIONWIDE: Tuesday, the White House announced new clean energy projects to revitalize energy communities, support coal workers, and reduce reliance on competitors. These latest projects are possible thanks to the billions of dollars in funding tax credits made available by the Inflation Reduction Act. After kicking off the announcements at an Energy Communities Summit hosted by the White House, members of the administration embarked on an “Investing in America” tour, traveling to various states across the country to highlight how the administration’s economic agenda is unleashing a manufacturing and clean energy boom. Visits included:
OUR TAKE: Vice President of Government Affairs Sara Chieffo said, “Today’s announcements play a key role in making sure no one is left behind in the transition to an affordable, clean energy future. Workers and frontline communities deserve cleaner air and water and more family-sustaining, good job opportunities and these efforts are a key part of making that a reality.”
INFLATION REDUCTION ACT DELIVERS FOR WISCONSIN: Wisconsin Conservation Voters’ Jennifer Giegerich published an op-ed in the Cap Times highlighting the impact the IRA has had and will have on Wisconsin. This legislation is expected to create as many as 85,000 good-paying union jobs in the next 5 years. Further, support for electric co-ops means about 270,000 homes and businesses are eligible for direct-pay clean tax credits. Read the full op-ed here.
EPA PROPOSES TO TIGHTEN RULE FOR MERCURY EMISSIONS FROM POWER PLANTS: On Wednesday, the EPA proposed tightening rules that limit emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants from coal-fired power plants. These harmful emissions can damage brain development in children and are linked to other health problems in adults.
OUR TAKE: Senior Director of Government Affairs Matthew Davis said, “Families want to protect their kids from pollution that harms their developing brains. The Biden-Harris administration’s EPA proposal to tighten standards on mercury and other toxic air emissions from power plants could get them a step closer to achieving that reasonable, universal goal. EPA has both the responsibility and opportunity to tighten the limits further to deliver environmental justice to communities of color and communities of low wealth where families are more likely to live near and be directly exposed to the health-harming pollution from coal fired power plants. We appreciate the proposed requirement of continuous emissions monitoring which could allow tighter enforcement and urge the Biden-Harris administration to finalize a stronger level of protection, especially for those families most in harm’s way.”
WISCONSIN SUPREME COURT FLIPS TO PRO-ENVIRONMENT, PRO-DEMOCRACY MAJORITY: Wisconsin LCV-endorsed candidate Judge Janet Protasiewicz was elected to Wisconsin’s highest court on Tuesday. Her win flipped the state supreme court to a pro-democracy, pro-environment majority, a huge win for one of the most gerrymandered states in the country.
WISCONSIN CONSERVATION VOTERS’ TAKE: WCV’s Executive Director Kerry Schumann said, “This is a major victory for voters in Wisconsin. Justice-elect Protasiewicz will finally return balance and fairness to the state’s highest court – elements missing from the court for more than a decade. With a new court majority focused on the rule of law and the rejection of corporate influence over its decisions, Wisconsin can now begin to rebuild. The possibilities include a more robust democracy, protecting the environment from corporate polluters, and fixing the state’s district maps so that the country’s worst gerrymander is finally snapped.This victory is due to the hard work and dedication of conservation voters and the statewide network of coalitions, organizations, individuals, and voters who stood up, worked tirelessly, and voted in droves to pursue a brighter tomorrow for Wisconsin.”
NATION’S FIRST OFFSHORE WIND TURBINES TO BEGIN CONSTRUCTION: On Monday, the Department of the Interior announced that the South Fork Wind project was approved to begin turbine construction – the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm to reach this step. The 130-megawatt project will power over 70,000 homes in New York and is expected to be in operation by the end of this year.
THE PUSH FOR ELECTRIC SCHOOL BUSES IN MARYLAND: Ramón Palencia-Calvo, deputy director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and the Director of Chispa Maryland, wrote an op-ed about the campaign for electric school buses. Many Maryland school districts are already switching to buses powered by clean energy. Montgomery County Public Schools announced a goal of 100% electric buses in 10 years, and several other school districts have pilot programs, including Frederick County, Howard County, and Prince George’s County. In the piece, Palencia-Calvo outlines impacts of diesel-powered bus exhaust on air quality and public health and explains how Maryland can make statewide electric school buses a reality.
MCV TAKE: Deputy Director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and the Director of Chispa Maryland Ramón Palencia-Calvo said, “The pieces are starting to fall into place to make electric school buses a reality across the state, but three things are urgently needed. First, all of Maryland’s utilities must commit to participating in the new pilot program. Second, all of Maryland’s school districts must commit to transitioning their fleets to zero-emission, electric school buses, and take full advantage of all funding opportunities available to them. And third, at every turn, our General Assembly and state agencies must support school districts in their efforts. Maryland’s school kids deserve to breathe clean air, and so do the rest of us who live along the more than 128 million miles of school bus routes that crisscross our communities. Let’s all get on the electric school bus!”
YOUTH IN COLORADO LOBBY FOR ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE: This week, sixty-five high school and college students joined Protégete to advocate for environmental justice at the Colorado state capitol during Protect Our Future!: A Student Environmental Justice Advocacy Day – the organization’s largest ever student lobby day. Check out Protégete’s post with photos from the event here.
PROTÉGETE TAKE: Patricia Ferrero, Protégete’s Leadership Development Manager said, “Seeing the students feel comfortable with their power was a highlight of the day. One teacher told me that the students were really uneasy and shy when they first arrived, but seeing how they slowly became comfortable as they walked through the Capitol building was really amazing.”
CHISPA ARIZONA TRAINS COMMUNITY LEADERS: Chispa Arizona hosts a free, virtual Environmental Justice Escuelita (school) every month to bring together experts and community members to learn more about an environmental issue and how to take action. April’s meeting discussed the legislative process in Arizona. Watch a clip from the meeting here.
CHISPA NEVADA BRINGS COMMUNITY TOGETHER TO TALK LEGISLATIVE ACTION: This week, at their March community meeting, Chispa Nevada discussed the legislative session, the status of priority bills and how to get environmental justice legislation across the finish line. Get a glimpse of the meeting here!
APRIL 22: Earth Day