THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE ACTION – MARCH 5, 2021
QUOTES OF THE WEEK:
“People often forget the legacies of slavery, of Jim Crow segregation and out of that chain, laws that were deeply entrenched within the social structure of the Southern environment that worsened our quality of life. That legacy resulted in communities that had been inundated with toxic facilities, impacting our health, the value of the homes where people live, causing them to have higher cancer rates, and to eventually be relocated from within the midst of these facilities.”
— Beverly Wright, founder and executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, who has also advised President Joe Biden on environmental justice policies, in a Vox article, “There’s a clear fix to helping Black communities fight pollution”
“There are three parties in the United States: Republicans, Democrats, and mayors. Mayors don’t really have time for a lot of partisanship. We just have to provide results for people that live in our cities and towns. Everyone should have a shared interest in leaving the earth a better place than we found it.”
— Republican Mayor of Carmel, Indiana Jim Brainard in a CBS News article, “70 bipartisan mayors commit to conserving 30% of American lands by 2030”
“The typical response by a losing party in a functioning democracy is that they alter their platform to make it more appealing. Here the response is to try to keep people from voting. It’s dangerously antidemocratic.”
— Kenneth Mayer in a New York Times article, “In Statehouses, Stolen-Election Myth Fuels a G.O.P. Drive to Rewrite Rules”
LCV IN THE NEWS:
CBS News: 70 bipartisan mayors commit to conserving 30% of American lands by 2030
E&E Daily: House Dems will focus on protecting 32 incumbents
E&E Daily: All eyes on Murkowski as committee votes on Haaland
Atmos-The Frontline: 5 Ways Biden Could Improve Diversity Outdoors
AP News: Biden faces steep challenges to reach renewable energy goals
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
LCV’s affiliates are hard at work protecting the environment and fighting climate change in the states. Here’s what people are reading across the country:
Colorado Newsline (CO): Conservation Groups Cheer US House Passage of Colorado Public Lands Package
WJCT (FL): House Speaker Unveils Plan To Deal With Florida’s Rising Seas, Flooding
Bonner County Daily Bee (ID): Initiative bill passes Senate 26-9
INDY Week (NC): Mayors Mary-Ann Baldwin, Steve Schewel Commit to Protecting 30 Percent of Land and Ocean Before 2030
PRIORITIZING THE PEOPLE: For the second Congress in a row, House leadership has given democracy and voting rights protections the honored H.R. 1 billing, and this week, the House passed the For the People Act. H.R. 1, which is headed to the Senate where its companion S. 1 will be introduced, seeks to address issues at the core of a well-functioning country — that every eligible voter can participate equitably in our democracy, and that people’s voice, rather than outsized corporate influence, guides our elected officials. For too long, polluter interests have flooded our elections with money, gerrymandering has divided our communities, and partisan politics have suppressed access to the ballot box. All of these barriers drown out the voices of those directly experiencing the health effects of pollution and dangers of extreme weather, making swift passage in the Senate a priority.
OUR TAKE: LCV Voting Rights Program Director Justin Kwasa said, “This is, quite literally, what democracy looks like. For far too long restrictive voting laws and partisan gerrymandering have silenced voices in our communities, disproportionately suppressing people of color, young people, and people with disabilities. Today, thanks especially to the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative John Sarbanes, we are one step closer to being a country where every eligible voter can participate equitably in our democracy, and where the people’s voice carries more weight than polluter CEOs. It’s clear that a healthy democracy and a healthy environment are inextricably linked, and reforming our democracy means returning power to the overwhelming majority of people in this country who want to see meaningful action on climate change. Now the Senate must follow suit and swiftly pass the For The People Act.”
MAYORS SUPPORT 30X30: On Wednesday, LCV shared a letter from 70 bipartisan mayors representing 29 states and Washington, D.C. who joined together to show their support for confronting America’s nature and climate crisis by making a commitment to conserve at least 30% of the lands, waters, and ocean in our country by 2030. The bipartisan letter emphasizes the importance of locally-led conservation efforts following President Joe Biden and state and local leaders’ commitments to 30 by 30. Read the full letter here. And watch a video featuring Boise Mayor Lauren McLean here.
BOISE MAYOR TAKE: Boise Mayor Lauren McLean stated, “The 30 by 30 conservation goal is ambitious, but, if we join forces, we can slow the loss of nature, fight climate change, and ensure that everyone has access to the outdoors. We’ve seen this year how important these places are when we need to get outside to rest, reset, connect with loved ones.”
CARMEL MAYOR TAKE: Carmel, Indiana Republican Mayor Jim Brainard said, “Mayors are on the front lines of climate change and we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect the lands and waters in our communities. I’m proud that the parks and trails we’ve created in Carmel have contributed to our city’s high quality of life. Carmel and cities across the U.S. have a tremendous opportunity to build cities in a sustainable way, focusing on designing cities for people not cars. Reducing sprawl and encouraging walking through better city design is critical to reducing carbon emissions and mayors have a responsibility to do a better job of city design. I’m excited by the nationwide movement to protect 30×30 because reaching this goal can strengthen our communities and help us solve climate change.”
CHICAGO MAYOR TAKE: Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot stated, “Nature-based climate solutions are a necessary part of the comprehensive approach we must take at all levels of government to tackle the climate crisis. That’s why the City of Chicago will be a proud partner in the 30×30 campaign to increase the preservation of critical, natural areas over the next decade.”
OUR TAKE: LCV Conservation Program Director Alex Taurel said, “We applaud these mayors, many of whom have been committed to big climate and conservation goals for years, on their leadership. 30×30 creates the opportunity to expand access to nature and make it more equitable, fight climate change, and impede wildlife extinctions. LCV is all-in to help these leaders and President Biden reach and exceed this goal.”
CLEAN FUTURE, CLEAN BUSES: On Tuesday, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone, Energy Subcommittee Chair Bobby Rush, and Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Chair Paul Tonko introduced the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act of 2021. This comprehensive climate bill contains a bold and forward-looking provision — a revised Clean Commute for Kids Act — led by Representatives Jahana Hayes and Tony Cárdenas. The provision would authorize a $25 billion investment in rapidly transitioning almost half of the school bus fleet to clean, electric buses and prioritizes grants to school districts serving communities with unhealthy air pollution and lower incomes. In advance of the bill’s release, LCV’s Chispa and the Electric School Bus (ESB) Coalition sent a letter encouraging the Biden-Harris administration to make the same big investment in the transition of our nation’s school bus fleet, especially in communities of color, for those facing worse air quality, and for those with lower incomes.
CHISPA TAKE: Chispa National Director Johana Vicente said, “We applaud Representatives Hayes and Cárdenas for this bold investment to accelerate the transition of the nation’s fleet from dirty, diesel-fueled school buses to zero-emission, electric school buses. Investing $25 billion to help 25 million children riding school buses breathe cleaner air in the formative years when their lungs are developing will make a big difference in their lives. Directing significant portions of this funding to low-income communities of color, who face the worst effects of environmental pollution, will ensure that we are addressing the needs of impacted communities first. After years of parents, students, and advocates organizing for a clean ride for kids, we are excited to work with Congress to pass funding to bring more electric school buses to communities throughout the country.”
OUR TAKE: LCV Vice President of Government Affairs Sara Chieffo stated, “We commend Chairmen Pallone, Tonko and Rush for putting forth the first comprehensive climate bill in a decade. We appreciate the increased ambition in the CLEAN Future Act, especially the focus on reaching 100% clean electricity by 2035 and the investment of $25 billion over the next decade in clean electric school buses with a focus on targeting investments in Black, Indigenous and communities of color and low income communities most harmed by toxic pollution. We look forward to digging into this comprehensive legislation and working with the Energy & Commerce Committee as they refine and advance this legislation. We must tackle the climate crisis at the scale and pace required in a manner that addresses racial and social inequality, centers environmental justice and creates good, family-sustaining, union jobs.”
HAALAND COMMITTEE VOTE: On Thursday, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources voted 11-9 to move Representative Deb Haaland’s nomination for secretary of the Interior to the Senate floor. While a number of fossil fuel industry allies, who’ve taken over $1 million each from the oil and gas industry, questioned Haaland’s pro-environment record, the committee’s approval was bipartisan. Haaland has a stellar record of fighting for people, science, climate action, and the protection of our iconic landscapes and cultural sites — with a 100% on LCV’s newly released 2020 National Environmental Scorecard.
OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski sent a letter to senators, urging them to vote yes on Haaland’s nomination. In the letter, Karpinski notes, “Haaland is an inspired choice to implement the Biden-Harris administration’s bold nature conservation agenda, ensuring we use all of our tools to fight climate change and share nature’s benefits equitably with all communities.”
RAIMONDO @COMMERCE: On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Gina Raimondo as the secretary of Commerce. Raimondo’s leadership as an advocate for clean energy and a proven job creator as Rhode Island’s governor led to Rhode Island committing to transitioning to 100% clean energy by 2030 and the development of the first offshore wind farm in the country. Raimondo’s confirmation as secretary of Commerce is a step in the right direction towards strengthening NOAA’s mission and depoliticizing the Census.
OUR TAKE: LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, Tiernan Sittenfeld stated, “Governor Raimondo is a proven job creator and her climate leadership will be a welcome and needed change at Commerce. She is a strong advocate for clean energy, committed Rhode Island to 100% clean energy by 2030, and oversaw the development of the first offshore wind farm in the U.S. Critically, Governor Raimondo has firsthand experience transitioning to a clean energy economy that creates good paying jobs at every skill level. She will be well positioned to strengthen NOAA’s mission, reestablish a culture of scientific integrity, and lead on ocean conservation. In addition, we are confident in her ability to depoliticize the Census and deliver a representative depiction of our country that will ensure a fair redistricting process and equitable enforcement of environmental protections for the next ten years.”
MALLORY + MCCABE HEARD: On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on the nominations of Brenda Mallory to serve as chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and Janet McCabe to be deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Both nominees, in their opening statements, emphasized the importance of prioritizing people and their health in environmental policies. Mallory said, “I believe in the dignity of every person…I have worked to advance policies that recognize our common humanity and are designed to ensure that all people are treated with respect and can have access to clean air, clean water, and toxic-free environments.” McCabe said, “Air pollution is connected with heart disease, cancer and birth defects. It shortens lives. These and other public health issues facing our fellow Americans have motivated my work.”
OUR MALLORY TAKE: In December, when Mallory was nominated to lead CEQ, LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld said, “Brenda Mallory brings decades of experience working on climate and natural resource issues to the helm of CEQ and will play a vital role in driving environmental policy across the federal government and delivering on the incoming Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to centering environmental justice. Mallory is extremely knowledgeable on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and will lead the Council’s efforts to strengthen and improve this law in ways that ensure people have a meaningful voice in projects that stand to harm their community. Mallory has seen how policies can be used to exclude people, so we’re very excited for her leadership and commitment to ensure everyone — especially communities of color and low income communities overburdened by pollution — can benefit from how we address climate change.”
OUR MCCABE TAKE: In January, when McCabe was nominated to be deputy administrator of the EPA, LCV Legislative Director and former EPA health scientist Matthew Davis said, “Janet McCabe is a fantastic choice to help lead the EPA. McCabe has deep experience with the climate and clean air standards that will be key to the Biden administration’s success on climate and environmental justice. And McCabe’s leadership will provide a needed morale boost at the EPA after four years of undermining science and health outcomes under the Trump administration.”
☝💁WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH: We thought it was worth pointing out, at the start of this Women’s History Month, that all four of the climate nominees considered by the Senate this week are women. And they, along with many others, are the expert leaders our country needs in order to build back better in a way that equitably tackles the climate crisis.
CLIMATE POLL: On Tuesday, Climate Power and LCV released a new poll across battleground states showing significant popularity for transformational clean energy investments as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s “Build Back Better” recovery plan. The poll also found that false and misleading attacks from the oil and gas industry and others had little impact on support for Biden’s plan to invest in infrastructure and clean energy. In addition, voters were not concerned about the cost of the ambitious plan to Build Back Better. Read the full memo on results here.
MAJORITY FAVOR THE PLAN: 60% of voters nationally have a favorable impression of the Build Back Better infrastructure investment plan when presented with a short description. Only 23% are unfavorable; another 17% are neutral. President Biden’s Build Back Better Recovery Plan would make historic investments in infrastructure, manufacturing, and clean energy such as solar and wind power. It would include funding for research and development to support innovation and new technologies.
VOTERS BACK CLEAN ENERGY JOBS: 66% of voters nationally and 64% in battleground states are favorable to the fact that the Biden plan “would create new, good-paying jobs by making major investments to expand the use of clean energy, including solar power and wind energy.”
CLEAN ENERGY INVESTMENTS DRIVE SUPPORT FOR THE PLAN: Seven-in-ten voters say the plan’s emphasis on clean energy investments makes them more likely to support it, including four-in-ten who are much more likely to support it because of its emphasis on clean energy.
VOTERS WANT CLIMATE ACTION: 60% of voters consider climate change to be either a crisis or a very serious problem.
FOSSIL FUEL ATTACKS FALL FLAT: Even after being presented with a series of attacks on the plan, support for President Biden’s proposal is durable—with 66% still saying that Congress should pass it, and 66% continuing to say that the emphasis on clean energy investments makes them more likely to support the plan.
PLAN UNITES DEMOCRATS, DIVIDES REPUBLICANS: While very conservative Republicans oppose the plan by a wide margin, all other Republicans (those who describe themselves as somewhat conservative or moderate) are evenly divided over it. There is significant intensity in the support of Democrats, 72% of whom say Congress should definitely pass it. There is overwhelming support for the plan among both liberal Democrats and moderate Democrats—this is a plan that should unite the party.
SUPPORT FOR COVID RELIEF: In this moment, our country desperately needs bold action and leadership that will deliver on the promises of long-overdue relief to the people who need it most. The COVID-19 relief package that passed the House and is now being considered in the Senate is a critical first step that will help struggling families, and states, tribes and localities trying to keep people safe, and it will help build our health infrastructure to be stronger, more equitable, and more sustainable. LCV and a coalition of environmental organizations sent a letter to senators urging them to vote yes on this first step of the Build Back Better plan.
THE PLAN TO THRIVE: This week, the Sierra Club released a new report that provides a blueprint — based on the THRIVE agenda, which is backed by 100 members of Congress, unions, and racial justice and climate organizations, including LCV and Chispa — for recovering from the interconnected crises we face. In this moment, we need a bold economic recovery package that centers climate ambition, advances racial justice and creates high-quality union jobs. This blueprint’s economy-wide investments would fundamentally reshape our economy to foster cleaner air and water, higher wages, greater equity, healthier communities, and a more stable climate.
OIL AND GAS LEASING REFORM + LAND PROTECTIONS: This week, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto introduced the End Speculative Oil and Gas Leasing Act, which would prohibit the Bureau of Land Management from leasing lands for drilling where there is little to no oil and gas potential and prioritize other uses on public lands, like wildlife habitat or recreation, in areas where mineral resources are light. Cortez Masto also introduced the Ruby Mountains Protection Act, which would protect 450,000 acres of National Forest in Nevada from new oil and gas leasing.
OUR TAKE: LCV Conservation Program Director Alex Taurel said, “For decades, the oil industry has bought up public lands with little to no development potential, locking up lands and siphoning the public’s resources. It is time to end this practice and put our public lands to better use on behalf of conservation, recreation, and appropriately-sited clean energy. Thanks to Senator Cortez Masto for her leadership to better protect vital public lands in Nevada, including the Ruby Mountains, and across the country.”
NCL TAKE: Nevada Conservation League and Education Fund Executive Director Paul Selberg said, “Speculative oil and gas leasing has left millions of acres of Nevada’s lands that bear little or zero development potential to be auctioned off. In most recent years, Nevada’s precious Ruby Mountains, home to an abundance of wildlife and an economic driver for our rural communities, have faced threats of oil and gas drilling. It’s time to abolish this wasteful and destructive practice. Ending speculative oil and gas leasing prevents more pernicious land grabs by the fossil fuel industry that generate hardly any return to taxpayers and puts wildlife and surrounding communities at risk. Further, putting an end to this dirty energy practice complements ongoing efforts to prioritize our country’s transition to a clean energy future. We applaud Senator Cortez Masto for continuing to stand up for Nevada’s valued outdoor spaces and ensuring the efficient management of our public lands in a manner that benefits our communities.”
SUPPORT FOR ATVM: LCV joined 29 other groups to express support for sustaining and strengthening the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program. ATVM has ensured that as we embark on a rapid shift to cleaner and more fuel efficient vehicles, those advanced vehicles and related technology would be built here in the United States. It is a proven tool for saving and creating good-paying, family-sustaining jobs, rebuilding our competitiveness, and enabling major strides in combating climate change. Read the letter from the broad coalition of supporters here.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STATES:
CLIMATE + CLEAN ENERGY YOUTH FORUM (NH): Environmental concerns will take center stage on Monday, March 8th at the 2021 Climate and Clean Energy Youth Forum as students question national, regional, and New Hampshire state leaders on climate and energy policies and plans. The event will feature Shalanda Baker, Deputy Director for Energy Justice, U.S. Department of Energy, Hannah Bristol, Associate Director, White House Office of Youth Engagement, and members of the New Hampshire Congressional delegation.
COMMUNITY SOLAR (NM): In New Mexico, a community solar bill passed the state Senate last night and is now headed to the state’s House. The bill would allow communities to subscribe to local solar facilities, and 30% of the annual capacity would be reserved for low-income households and service organizations. This is an important step toward making solar energy accessible to all New Mexicans — with community solar, everyone can benefit from affordable, local, clean energy.
ALL OF MARCH — Women’s History Month
March 8 — International Women’s Day
March 8 — New Hampshire 2021 Climate and Clean Energy Youth Forum
March 9 — House Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing on oil and gas reform bills
March 11 — House Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing on coastal and other investments to Build Back Better