“Today, Wisconsin voters had to choose between making their voice heard and keeping themselves and their family safe. No American should ever have to make that choice.”
— Former First Lady Michelle Obama via Twitter on the elections Wisconsin held during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Historically racist structures in the United States have set up black Americans to bear the brunt of many crises, from climate change to the novel coronavirus.”
— Anagha Srikanth in The Hill on the disproportionate rates of the Black community being affected by COVID-19.
“The most vulnerable people to climate change also suffer the most from global pandemics: front-line communities that already suffer higher rates of respiratory problems from pollution, low-income and minority communities, children, the elderly and low-wage workers with poor access to health care.”
— Elvina Nawaguna in Roll Call on climate and COVID-19 parallels.
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
Energy Central (NY): Broad coalition applauds New York renewable siting and transmission reform
The New York Times (WI): Wisconsin Primary Recap: Voters Forced to Choose Between Their Health and Their Civic Duty
Arizona Central (AZ): SRP elections: Solar advocates hold on to 2 seats; other incumbents win
LCV VICTORY FUND TO SHINE LIGHT ON TRUMP’S RECORD: In news first reported by NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald, LCV Victory Fund today announced the most ambitious electoral program in the organization’s history to impact the presidential election, starting with a $14 million paid media program to expose the truth about Donald Trump’s environmental record to voters in key battleground states.This initial $14 million campaign will target swing voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin with research-driven messages on climate and the environment through high-frequency digital advertising and high repetition direct mail. LCV Victory Fund is partnering with Priorities USA Action for the digital programs in Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin
OUR TAKE: LCV Victory Fund Senior Vice President of Campaigns Pete Maysmith had this to say: “At a time when we are more concerned than ever about what dangerous toxins can get into our bodies, people across the country deserve the truth about President Trump’s science denial and dangerous rollbacks of environmental protections that are putting the health of our children and families at even greater risk. Donald Trump won’t listen to the scientists but follows the advice of corporate oil and coal lobbyists who he appointed to his administration and it’s putting our communities in danger.”
THE INTERSECTION OF COVID-19, RACE, AND CLIMATE: It is not news that America has a structural racism problem and continues to implement systems that fail people of color. During times of crises, this structural racism is heightened, as we see with the ongoing climate crisis and now with COVID-19. People of color, specifically Black people, are contracting the COVID-19 disease and dying from it at disproportionately high rates — and Black people already face higher rates of health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and asthma. Many of these diseases — including COVID-19 — are exacerbated or caused by air pollution, dirty water and other environmental factors, which, much like the pandemic, disproportionately impact the Black community. This is what environmental and structural racism look like, so this week, we are featuring articles that highlight the ways COVID-19, race, and climate are interlinked:
MISSING DATA: Dr. Aletha Maybank, chief health equity officer at the American Medical Association, contributed a piece to the New York Times on the missing race and ethnicity data from this pandemic. While fewer than a dozen states have published racial and ethnic data related to the pandemic, a clear picture is emerging from Michigan, Milwaukee, and Chicago, where the rate at which Black people are dying is astronomical when compared to the proportion of the population they represent. Dr. Maybank suggests that in order to combat this disease we cannot continue to ignore the structural inequities that people in this country face. The same can be said for the climate crisis.
RACISM IS A PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE: Racism in this country continues to keep communities of color on the frontlines of crises like climate change, and public health outbreaks — including COVID-19. Anagha Srikanth expresses this in her piece in The Hill, and she goes on to discuss the ways that these disparities impact COVID-19 diagnosis and will continue to negatively affect the Black community. Measures need to be taken to release nationwide data on race to help find the best ways to protect the public and frontline communities.
POLLUTION IS A CULPRIT: Public health officials have suspected that air pollution is linked to higher COVID-19 death rates, but as Lisa Friedman of the New York Times reported, a new Harvard study shows the first statistical association between the two. As Friedman writes, the study found that “just a slight increase in long-term pollution exposure could have serious coronavirus-related consequences, even when accounting for other factors like smoking rates and population density.” And like we’ve noted before, lower income communities of color face greater exposure to pollution than their white counterparts — thus, compounding the risk they face and making Trump’s continued environmental rollbacks during the pandemic all the more unconscionable.
ADVOCATING FOR JUSTICE: Sixteen year old Mikayla Johnson shared her story with NowThis — she is working to create a more equitable environmental movement and advocating for environmental justice within her Diné Tribe in Black Mesa, Arizona. Her community sits one mile from one of the world’s largest coal plants, which has sucked up much of the community’s groundwater, leaving residents like Mikayla and her family with no running, clean water. Mikayla and her mother continue to advocate for 100% renewable energy on their Navajo land.
JUSTIN WALKER TO DC CIRCUIT: Last week, amid a global pandemic, President Trump nominated healthcare access opponent Justin Walker to a seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Walker, 37, was just confirmed last year to the Western District of Kentucky, a job the American Bar Association has rated him “not qualified” for because of his lack of legal experience, including never having argued a case in a courtroom. If confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, he would play a major role in decisions about the Clean Air Act and other bedrock environmental laws, and in blocking future administrations from taking action to protect our climate. In a time where our health is crucial and the need for government to take science seriously has never been more apparent, Trump has nominated a unqualified and partisan candidate whose tenure would have a harmful, lasting legacy on public health in our nation.
OUR TAKE: LCV Judiciary Program Director Ben Driscoll said, “The D.C. Circuit is central to considering the most important cases involving public protections, including for our clean air, water, action on climate, and access to healthcare. The nomination of Justin Walker substitutes basic judicial qualifications and competence for political connections and partisan loyalty, and puts our nation at risk. Walker is not a serious candidate, having been deemed ‘not qualified’ to perform his current role as a Kentucky district court judge, a role he was confirmed to just months ago. And at a time when our nation faces dire health concerns, it is unconscionable to nominate someone who has argued for stripping healthcare from millions of people, and undermining the fundamental protections of our lands and communities.”
UNDER THE RADAR: While our nation is focused on the coronavirus pandemic and healthcare workers face a shortage of lifesaving equipment, the Trump administration has been rolling back environmental protections that cater to corporate polluters and could make the pandemic worse — and many of these roll backs are happening under the radar. This week, the administration weakened requirements for power plants that burn waste coal — as Politico’s Morning Energy points out, this will allow polluters to emit more acid gas and other co-pollutants into our air, as requested by the coal industry. For more on rollbacks, check out our memo from last week about this administration’s continued lease sales on federal lands, consideration to giving fossil fuel companies a break on federal royalty payments, plans to lease oil giants space in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve so that they can sell it later at a higher price, and more.
STATES ARE STILL LEADING: While Trump’s failed leadership during the coronavirus pandemic has put many lives at risk and his administration is concurrently rolling back environmental safeguards, state elected officials are leading the coronavirus response and continuing to fight climate change. States are stepping up in holding utilities accountable to reduce carbon pollution. Last week, New Mexico and New York both had huge wins for climate progress. The New Mexico Public Resource Commision voted to shut down the state’s last remaining coal plant, and New York moved to reform the renewable energy siting process. COVID-19 may have delayed some legislative sessions, but state leaders continue to find ways to move forward on bold clean energy plans that will protect local communities and support clean energy job creation.
SOLAR REPRESENTATION (AZ): One of Arizona’s largest utility companies, Salt River Project, held elections for seats on their board of directors this week. Two solar advocates held onto their at-large seats, which is great news for Arizona and the Phoenix area where SRP is located. The people on the board set rates and policies that shape clean standards in the state.
CVM TAKE: Chispa Arizona, LCV’s Arizona affiliate, reported that it conducted 17,000 calls to get out the vote this year in the SRP elections.
NOT BACKING DOWN (IL): Governor J.B. Pritzker has enlisted former Rockford Mayor Doug Scott to help push the state to reach 100% renewable energy by 2050. The Clean Energy Jobs Act, legislation informed by over 100 community meetings and supported by a diverse coalition of advocates, including our Illinois affiliate, would be the ideal way to meet the governor’s goal. In fact, before the coronavirus shutdown, a group of students from Alton and East. St. Louis joined the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition for their lobby day, and freshman Donald Holliday Jr. said, “I believe that we, as young adults, should have our voices heard. Climate change is affecting our earth negatively, and it should not be ignored any longer…We need to pass CEJA and change our ways before it’s too late.”
DIRTY AIR (NJ): New Jersey League of Conservation Voters’ Executive Director Ed Potosnak wrote an op-ed that ran in the New Jersey Star Ledger titled, Our air is making us sick. The answer is to make polluters pay. Potosnak suggests that aggressive action must be taken in order to address air pollution from New Jersey’s transportation sector. The Transportation Climate Initiative, which New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has committed to, offers a cap and invest program that will allow the state to hold polluters accountable while investing in new transportation measures and infrastructure. This initiative gives New Jersey the chance to work with neighboring states to bring transportation into the 21st century and help make New Jersey’s air clean.
CVM TAKE: In the op-ed, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters Executive Director Ed Potosnak writes, “As we’re being reminded from the pandemic, denial and delay are harmful — whether the threat is from a rapidly spreading virus or the slower moving but still very dangerous impacts of pollution.”
CLEAN AIR FOR THE WIN (VA): Virginia has had some huge climate wins this year! The most notable being when the legislature passed the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which Governor Northam is expected to sign this week! Now, Dominion is telling regulators that it no longer has plans for additional natural gas plants. Virginia is the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to major climate progress. This is a huge announcement and a great step in the right direction for making our air clean and keeping our communities healthy.
CIVIC DUTY VS. HEALTH (WI): Amid the current pandemic, Wisconsin ended up holding its primary election Tuesday, despite Governor Evers’ efforts to expand absentee voting and delay the election, both of which the republican-led legislature successfully blocked in court. As a result, voters — most notably in Milwaukee, the epicenter of Wisconsin’s coronavirus pandemic, where only five of 180 polling sites were open — stood in lines for hours, during a pandemic, to fulfill their right to vote. Lots of residents also did not receive their absentee ballots, forcing them to choose between their health and civic duty. This New York Times article provides a recap of the primary and examines the ways race, voting, and COVID-19 were entangled in Milwaukee.
CVM TAKE: Wisconsin Conservation Voters Organizer Seth Hoffmeister described to the New York Times one voter’s experience in Green Bay, Wisconsin’s third largest city: “A gentleman that lives in Green Bay and has COPD wore a mask to vote at East High School at 7 a.m. and he got back from the polls around 10 a.m. And the lines were even longer when he left than he arrived.”
April 20: Deepwater Horizon oil spill 10-year commemoration
April 22: Earth Day!