THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE (IN)ACTION – DECEMBER 11, 2020
QUOTES OF THE WEEK:
“COVID-19 and the killing of George Floyd sparked a flame that’ll burn well into 2021. What’s terrifying though is the reality of how much worse things will likely get with the climate crisis. I just hope the people in power start making moves NOW to prevent further blazes.”
— Climate Reporter Yessenia Funes via Twitter
“Beginning with its crucial first 100 days, the Biden-Harris administration — and Democrats in Congress and elsewhere — should close ranks around one big theme with many facets: The need to fight climate change and build a forward-looking, climate-friendly economy that’s strong enough to weather the shocks we know are coming.”
— House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl Grijalva in a Politico opinion piece this week
“All new presidents inherit messes from their predecessors, but Biden is the first to have to think about literally decontaminating the White House.”
— Time Senior Correspondent Charlotte Alter describing the unique challenges ahead for Time’s Person of the Year, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris
LCV IN THE NEWS:
Rolling Stone: How Biden Health Nominee Xavier Becerra Could Prescribe a Better Climate
Reuters: Green groups that invested heavily in Biden turn up the heat
Houston Chronicle: Biden faces competing strategies on climate
ClimateWire: Becerra brings climate focus to health agency
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:
State House Report (SC): BIG STORY: PSC flexes new muscle by rejecting Dominion growth plan
BUILDING A CLIMATE ADMINISTRATION: During presidential transitions, people often say, personnel is policy. And if that is the case, the Biden transition team is building a strong climate team across the government. With California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Congresswoman Marcia Fudge as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Katherine Tai as U.S. Trade Representative, the next president has further signaled an aggressive, cross-agency response to the climate crisis and environmental injustice beginning on day one.
💉😷HHS: From taking on the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks to establishing the Bureau of Environmental Justice in California to prioritize protecting clean, safe and healthy environments for all communities, incoming HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra understands the connections between our health and the environment and is a proven champion for climate action and environmental justice.
🏡HUD: Incoming HUD Secretary Representative Fudge is a strong advocate for environmental justice. Her leadership of HUD will be crucial in building healthier, more climate-resilient communities and promoting safe, affordable, and energy-efficient housing.
📦USTR: Katherine Tai brings a wealth of experience, and we are confident she will help deliver robust and binding climate, environmental, and conservation protections and enforcement in future agreements.
DACA IS HERE TO STAY!: Late last Friday, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis ordered the Trump administration to restore DACA, meaning the program will be open to new applicants and renewals for the first time since 2017. Nearly 256,000 U.S. children have at least one parent who is a DACA recipient, and across the country, 2.5 million U.S. citizens live with a DACA recipient — this program has provided young immigrants and their families with peace of mind. While this is an important moment for people in every corner of our country, there is still much to do, and we stand with the immigrant leaders who have long led this fight — the deeply embedded racism and injustice that immigrant communities continue to face, including environmental racism, needs to be dismantled.
OUR TAKE: Earlier this year, Deputy Director of Chispa Estefany Carrasco told her story of becoming DACAmented in 2012: “I know the uncertainty, anxiety, and fear of living without status and not being sure what the future holds for you and your family. In 2012, I was one of over half a million young people across the country who became DACAmented. DACA gave me a chance, it gave me a work permit, additional educational opportunities, I was able to buy my first home, but mostly, it gave me a sense of hope.”
URGING TPS UPDATES TOO: LCV and Chispa joined 233 organizations to urge the Biden-Harris administration to, upon taking office, immediately grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, whose home countries were recently devastated by hurricanes Eta and Iota. The letter states, “The aftermath of these storms are emerging as a major humanitarian crisis in Central America…Besides the loss of life, thousands of families lost their homes and livelihoods in the midst of a deadly pandemic. It would be unconscionable to return Central Americans seeking relief from the hurricanes back to an emergency and humanitarian crisis in their countries.”
SOOTY AIR STANDARD: The Trump administration, in another last minute gift to polluters, has decided to ignore public health experts and reject new, stricter particulate matter national ambient air quality standards (PM NAAQS) — standards that protect us from soot. Soot is one of the most deadly air pollutants in our country, and is linked to tens of thousands of deaths from heart attacks, strokes, and respiratory illnesses like COVID-19, making this decision particularly dangerous for communities of color and low-income communities, who are experiencing the worst impacts of soot pollution and the pandemic.
OUR TAKE: LCV Legislative Director Matthew Davis had this to say,“After mishandling a deadly respiratory pandemic that is exacerbated by air pollution, the last thing the Trump administration should be doing is making it harder to breathe by maintaining inadequate protections from soot pollution against their own scientists’ recommendations. When ‘sufficient’ still puts the health and lives of children and communities of color at risk, it is not good enough…Trump’s rush to roll back more environmental protections on his way out further underscores the need for an all-of-government response to environmental injustice and the climate crisis from the Biden-Harris administration.”
ALL COST, NO BENEFIT: On their way out the door, Trump’s EPA is doing nothing short of cooking the books so that polluters always win and people always lose. The administration finalized a rule that changes the way the EPA calculates the costs and benefits of air pollution safeguards. The new requirements will make it harder to enact new public health rules, instructing the EPA to weigh all the economic costs of safeguards while disregarding co-benefits like the illness and deaths a safeguard would help prevent by reducing other, non-target pollutants.
OUR TAKE: LCV Board Chair and former EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner said,“The EPA’s mission is to protect our health and environment using the latest and best science and data available in their policy making. As the Trump administration walks out the door, they are doing everything they can to bake in their anti-science approach of the last four years and make it as hard as possible for the new Administration to restore science-based decision making to the EPA mission and public health and environmental protection. Their decision today to exempt real world benefits from clean air protection is contrary to that mission and moving forward with this decision will only exacerbate efforts to cut dangerous pollution in the future and artificially exaggerate cost estimates for industry compliance. It’s a massive favor to industry in the final days of this administration and it will cost lives and impact health in vulnerable communities, especially communities of color that traditionally bear the brunt of pollution impacts.”
INTENTIONAL STIMULUS: Representative Don McEachin and more than 60 members of Congress have penned a letter urging congressional leadership to ensure that the next COVID-19 relief package addresses the racism and inequity that has exposed communities of color, Indigenous communities, and low-income communities to greater environmental risks, which are linked to higher rates of coronavirus mortalities. The letter outlines specific provisions to include in a stimulus package, and reminds leadership that, “environmental regulation and spending on environmental programs does not always translate to healthy environments for all communities,” urging them to be intentional by prioritizing environmental justice communities.
WHAT’S NEXT?: Senator Ben Cardin hosted LCV’s Tiernan Sittenfeld and Moms Clean Air Force’s Heather McTeer Toney for a conversation about expectations for environmental action in the Biden-Harris administration. All three participants agreed that environmental justice and climate justice should be core values of the Biden-Harris administration, intertwined in every single agency’s work in an all-of-government approach. And after running on climate and winning on climate, there are high expectations that the Biden-Harris administration will govern on climate, too.
OUR TAKE: LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld said, “As we take on this all-of-government approach to tackling the climate crisis, environmental justice has to be front and center across all agencies and departments, it needs to be centered in the White House, and on the hill we’re seeing a lot more progress and focus on this across committees. But it can’t be an afterthought. From the get go, environmental justice and the communities who have been disproportionately impacted need to be at the table helping craft the solutions.”
MOMS TAKE: Moms Clean Air Force Senior Director Heather McTeer said, “Climate justice is social justice. It is the social justice issue of our time. I’ve been really encouraged to hear President-elect Biden talk about having environmental justice run throughout every single agency, establishing it as a core value.”
ALL THE POLLS: Pollsters at Normington Petts, Hart Research, and Global Strategy Group released a new memo yesterday summarizing their many consistent findings throughout the 2020 cycle about the impact of climate change and clean energy on the election, and the mandate the incoming Biden-Harris administration now has to act. Climate and clean energy were winning issues for Joe Biden across the country and, critically, in the battleground state of Pennsylvania.
CLIMATE DIPLOMACY: LCV and the World Affairs Council of New Hampshire hosted a conversation about re-establishing the United States’ global climate diplomacy, featuring Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Brookings Institute Senior Fellow and President Obama’s Chief Climate Negotiator Todd Stern, and President of the American Security Project and retired Brigadier General Stephen Cheney. Senator Shaheen shared her confidence in the new administration, saying, “I think the best news is that we have a new president-elect, Joe Biden, who is going to elevate this issue. In the campaign, he talked about four threats to the United States, and climate change was one of those threats…he has sent a signal to the United States and to the world that we are ready to take action.”
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STATES:
NO STATUS QUO (SC): South Carolina’s Public Service Commission unanimously rejected Dominion Energy’s three-year Integrated Resource Plan, requiring the utility to significantly adjust its proposal to include more solar and renewable energy. Dominion’s plan, required by the unanimously passed 2019 Energy Freedom Act, failed to add renewable energy before 2026, largely proposing no changes to its renewable energy in the three-year timeframe, and must now be revised.
OUR STATE AFFILIATE TAKE: Conservation Voters of South Carolina Executive Director John Tynan said, “This shows that we have a Dominion that’s doing the same old status-quo way that they’ve been doing for the last decade, and we have a new Public Service Commission that’s not OK with the status quo.”
55 CLIMATE RECOMMENDATIONS (WI): The governor’s task force on climate change, which is led by Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes and Wisconsin Conservation Voters Executive Director Kerry Schumann is a member of, released its climate change report. The report includes a comprehensive list of policy recommendations — which can be achieved through executive action or through the legislation — related to energy, transportation, agriculture, education, forestry, food, jobs and environmental justice.
OUR STATE AFFILIATE TAKE: Wisconsin Conservation Voters Executive Director Kerry Schumann said, “As a task force member, it was heartening to get so much input from the public. We heard over and over at all of the public hearings that people want to see the state move as quickly as possible to 100 percent clean energy and significantly reduce carbon emissions. And they want to ensure the transition is done in a just, equitable way.”
December 18: Government funding expires
December 31: 2020 expires
January 3: Swearing in of the 117th Congress
January 5: Georgia runoff elections for federal Senate races
January 6: Arctic Refuge lease sale
January 20: Trump’s presidency expires