“The last thing we should be doing right now is making it harder to breathe.”
— LCV Legislative Director Matthew Davis in CNN article on the EPA’s rejection of stricter air pollution standards.
“You add air pollution to these underlying vulnerabilities, and you have greater exposure. It’s no accident that we see greater COVID-19 deaths in African American communities.”
— University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine professor John Balmes in a Washington Post article on EPA’s rejection of stricter air pollution standards.
“There will be an overall benefit to the economy. But we also know from history that the old-school concept of trickle-down economics does not work equally for all people.”
— Alliance for Business Leadership President Jennifer Benson in Energy News on the booming offshore wind industry in Massachusetts but how we must make sure communities of color are not left behind.
Politico: Crude deal reached. Now what?
The New York Times: E.P.A., Tweaking Its Math, to Weaken Controls on Mercury
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:
CROOKED MEDIA: In an op-ed that ran in Crooked Media this week, LCV Victory Fund’s Pete Maysmith and Global Strategy Group’s Andrew Baumann made the case that Trump’s dismissal of expert advice in both his response to the pandemic and handling of the climate crisis is extraordinarily harmful for the health of our communities, and that we can beat Trump in November by educating voters about his dangerous record on the environment.
EARTH DAY LIVE! The youth climate coalition is mobilizing for a three day livestream program to mark the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, April 22 – April 24. Activists, thought leaders, and artists are coming together online to host workshops, panels, and performances centered around building a more sustainable and just future for all. Join LCV on Friday, April 24 for our program on the importance of a complete census count for our democracy and our climate. More here: www.earthdaylive2020.org
PROTECTING THE RIGHT TO VOTE: LCV was proud to join over 150 advocacy organizations in signing the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights’ letter to Congress calling for additional measures that would fully fund and direct states and counties to administer the 2020 elections in a safe, fair, and accessible manner, by implementing vote-by-mail and expanding early voting and in-person voting options. Specifically, Congress must provide states with at least $4 billion to prepare for the remaining 2020 primary elections and November general election. In order to protect our environment, we must protect the right to vote.
EPA SHUTS DOWN STRONGER AIR QUALITY STANDARDS: Trump’s EPA administrator, Andrew Wheeler, has decided to reject stricter rules on soot air quality standards. Communities of color and low-income communities are affected more by air pollution because of their proximity to factories, coal plants, and highways. While we are in the middle of a serious pandemic that is disproportionately causing fatalities in Black communities, and a Harvard study linked soot air pollution to increased risks of death from COVID-19, Trump and his administration continue to ignore science and agency scientists and experts and put millions at risk. There need to be more measures put in place to ensure the safety of all people.
OUR TAKE: LCV Legislative Director Matthew Davis said, “This proposal will allow unsafe levels of the soot pollution that some research already shows could increase the risk of dying from COVID-19 or suffering from asthma in areas across the country. To make matters tragically worse, these high pollution areas are far more likely to be in communities of color or low wealth communities. This refusal to make the air cleaner comes on the heels of announcements just last week that the Trump administration’s EPA rolled back standards for air pollution at the request of waste coal-fired power plants, and, the week before that, rolled back clean air standards for cars. The Trump administration’s disregard for science and scientists’ advice in the middle of a public health crisis is shameful — this favor for polluting industries is a great risk to public health.”
AND UNDERMINES MERCURY POLLUTION RULE: While the country is slowing down, Trump’s EPA is speeding up its dangerous rollbacks of environmental protections. In addition to rejecting stricter air quality standards in the middle of a respiratory health crisis, EPA Administrator Wheeler also released the final rule undermining the lifesaving Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) this week, which could also mean more soot pollution in communities around the country.
OUR BOARD CHAIR’S TAKE: Former EPA administrator Carol M. Browner, who led the EPA when the agency began the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards regulatory process, said, “The EPA’s actions to undermine the mercury pollution standard is a double threat to our health. First it will increase mercury and other neurotoxins and carcinogens in our air and exacerbate air pollution at a time when we are fighting a global pandemic that preys on people with respiratory health challenges. And second, the decision is a sinister trojan horse policy change that will undermine how the EPA considers science and evaluates economic benefits of regulations in the future. It’s a disgraceful decision coming on the heels of other poor decisions on air quality at a time we can least afford it.”
OUR LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR’S TAKE: Former EPA health scientist Matthew Davis, who reviewed how mercury impacts babies’ brain development as part of the MATS regulatory process at the EPA, said, “This is a horrific signal from the Trump administration that our children, especially children of color, are not worth protecting. This move could once again expose communities, particularly communities of color and those just scraping by, to dangerous levels of mercury pollution — causing permanent damage to the brains of babies and developing fetuses, leading to developmental delays, learning disabilities, and birth defects.”
BERNIE AND JOE TALK CLIMATE AND COVID-19: In a livestream announcement on Twitter, Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Former Vice President Joe Biden. Throughout the livestream, both discussed solutions for climate change — announcing a joint task force on the issue — and the intersection of COVID-19 and race. Biden stated, “It’s going to take not just a criminal justice reform, but it’s also going to require the inequities that have led to this God awful situation in which African Americans, Latinos suffer at the hands of the coronavirus to a much greater extent than others.” Great to see leadership discussing the very real problems our country is facing and paying attention to not just science, but to the real people whose lives are affected everyday by the climate crisis and now upended by COVID-19.
LATINX CENSUS WEEK: It’s Latinx Census Week folks! A complete census count isn’t just important to our democracy and politics, but it’s also critical for protecting the environment. We are encouraging everyone to be counted, especially people who, in the past, have been misrepresented or left out, specifically communities of color. The census determines funding for many air, water, and land protections, and census data is used to inform research about environmental injustices in communities of color.
CLEAN WATER: LCV and close to 100 environmental advocacy organizations sent a letter to House and Senate leadership this week calling for immediate action that will ensure every individual and family has access to the clean water they need. They also called for real, significant, longer-term investment in our water programs and systems across the country to finally eliminate water inequities, spur economic recovery and growth, and build strong, resilient communities.
A DECADE AFTER DEEPWATER HORIZON: Next Monday marks a decade since Deepwater Horizon, the most devastating oil spill in our nation’s history, which killed 11 people and left hundreds of millions of gallons of toxic oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico over a span of 87 days — the gulf coast is still suffering the consequences. We sent out a note to press on how the Trump administration, over the years, has put the health and safety of workers at risk. During this difficult time of COVID-19, it is important that we stand in solidarity with workers and protect them.
OUR TAKE: LCV Legislative Representative Laura Forero said, “Despite the progress that was made during the years immediately following the devastating spill, President Trump has continuously made alarming decisions in the best interest of corporate polluters. The administration should be focused on building resiliency, advancing equity, supporting clean energy, and protecting frontline communities – especially black, brown, indigenous and other disenfranchised communities in the Gulf. Instead, they have ignored science, lined the pockets of big oil, and left our coastal communities just as vulnerable as they were during the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.
COVID-19 IMPACT ON SOLAR AND WIND JOBS: According to Department of Labor data, more than 106,000 workers in the clean energy industry lost their jobs in March during the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis. The clean energy economy has been one of our country’s fastest-growing sectors, making up an important part of our country’s workforce, and this loss of jobs is an indication of how hard this crisis might hit the industry that is helping us achieve pollution-free communities. In a post-coronavirus world, the clean energy industry has the potential to be a significant part of our country’s economic rebuilding, but clean energy will need to be prioritized over polluting industries, which the Trump administration has failed to do over and over again.
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. Last week, Governor Northam signed the Clean Economy Act into law, which is the strongest climate bill in the state’s history. 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.
EXTEND PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD (MI): Members of Michigan’s Environmental Justice Task Force and Tribal leaders, including two Michigan League of Conservation Voters board members, signed onto a letter urging Governor Whitmer to extend the public comment period on an oil tunnel permit that the state is responsible for approving. With COVID-19, many tribal government offices are shut down and stakeholders face massive barriers — health risks — to commenting. As the signers say in the letter, without extending the comment period, the polluting industry “gets a windfall from this epidemic at the expense of the public.” It is critical that the comment period be extended so that all people are able to assert their voices and concerns.
CLEAN ECONOMY ACT (VA): Governor Northam has officially signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act! The bill set a target of 100% clean energy by the year 2050, becoming the first state in the south to do so. The Clean Economy Act will also provide new clean jobs and training for workers and targets half of the state’s energy efficiency funds to low income communities, helping to make the transition to clean energy just and equitable. With all of us adjusting to new normals with COVID-19, Virginia has managed to still enact critical policy.
CVM TAKE: Executive Director of Virginia LCV Michael Town said, “Air pollution from fossil fuels contributes to death from coronavirus and heart and lung disease. As Virginia battles through an unprecedented public health crisis, Governor Northam just secured cleaner air for all Virginians. By signing the Virginia Clean Economy Act into law, Northam has taken the biggest step forward in addressing the climate crisis of any Governor in Virginia’s history and made a huge investment in the health of our families for years to come.”
DOUBLE TAKE: Check out this NowThis video celebrating Virginia for becoming the first southern state to target 100% clean energy by 2050!
THE PUSH FOR OFFSHORE WIND AND INCLUSION (MA): As more clean energy projects are coming to fruition in Massachusetts, a coalition of advocates, including our state affiliate, the Environmental League of Massachusetts, are pushing to ensure low-income and communities of color benefit from the growing industry — especially in offshore wind. In the past, people of color in the state have been left out of industry waves such as biotechnology and cannabis. Environmental leaders and social justice advocates are determined to end this pattern of troubling inequity. Representation and racial equity matter, especially in the climate space where communities of color are on the frontlines everyday.
CVM TAKE: Environmental League of Massachusetts Executive Director Elizabeth Henry said, “There will be a lot of economic opportunity and jobs. Think about what even just a fraction of that could do for communities that have been persistently left behind — it’s really exciting.”
STOP UTILITY SHUTOFFS (FL): Florida Conservation Voters and their partners are urging Governor Ron DeSantis to halt all utility shutoffs during the coronavirus crisis. This pandemic has caused people to lose their jobs and sources of income and many cannot pay their bills or are just barely making it. It is unconscionable for utilities to shut off power to families, especially during these difficult times.
CVM TAKE: Florida Conservation Voters took to Twitter to say, “The COVID-19 pandemic is causing widespread loss of wages and jobs across the state and is already disproportionately affecting low-income families and communities of color. @GovRonDeSantis: Mandate a moratorium on all power disconnections.”
DOUBLE TAKE: Join the “Keep the Lights On” movement and send an email to Governor DeSantis urging him to stop utility shutoffs!
THE BRAVE WISCONSIN VOTERS (WI): Last week Wisconsin held elections during the coronavirus pandemic, which meant voters were forced to choose between their health and their civic duty. In Milwaukee, a city with a deep legacy of racial disparities, Black voters came out in force, standing in line for hours, despite facing disproportionate fatalities from COVID-19. The results are now in, and Wisconsin Republicans’ efforts to suppress the vote in order to protect a conservative justice on the state’s supreme court failed — Wisconsinites elected liberal Judge Jill Karofsky by a stunning near-11 point margin.
CVM PIVOTS: As COVID-19 emerged, Wisconsin Conservation Voters pivoted their electoral efforts to elect Judge Jill Karofsky, developing a virtual volunteer program where they trained members from home via Zoom, and then those members were able to safely call and text voters about the election. As it became more and more clear that in-person voting would be problematic during a pandemic, Wisconsin Conservation Voters also adjusted their digital ads, encouraging people to request a ballot for vote by mail. In the age of COVID-19, we are adjusting our electoral programs to ensure that we safely reach voters and inform them of all their voting options — and it’s working.
April 20: Deepwater Horizon oil spill 10-year commemoration
April 21: American Lung Association’s State of the Air report
April 22: Earth Day!