Your weekly resource to learn what the environmental movement is saying about the news of the day and the political fight of our generation. Be sure to follow LCV on Facebook and Twitter.
“We’ve seen all too terribly the consequences of those who denied warnings of a pandemic. We can’t afford any more consequences of climate denial. All of us, especially young people, have to demand better of our government at every level and vote this fall.”
— Former President Barack Obama via Twitter after the Trump administration rolled back important clean car standards this week.
“Right now, we’re suffering a global CRISIS all the experts SAW COMING. #Climatechange is one of those, too. Yet today, in the middle of a preventable #COVID #pandemic, @realDonaldTrump just rolled back fuel emissions standards. Just ASTOUNDING.”
— Epidemiologist and political activist Abdul El-Sayed via Twitter after the Trump administration rolled back important clean car standards this week.
“Under the cover of the pandemic crisis, Mr. Trump is rolling back rules that are essential to the fight against global warming and reducing the toll of air pollution on public”
— Daniel F. Becker and James Gerstenzang in New York Times op-ed on Trump’s clean cars standards rollback.
Roll Call: Final rule on fuel economy rollback opens door for lawsuits
Huffington Post: Trump Goes Full ‘Shock Doctrine’ As Pandemic Rages
USA Today: EPA suspends some public health monitoring and enforcement because of coronavirus crisis
Teen Vogue: Dating with Climate Anxiety During the Apocalypse
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:
Virginia Mercury (VA): Investment in local open space, greenways and trails is critical
E&E News (NM): N.M. OKs abandonment of coal plant after meeting ‘sabotage’
Politico (NY): Department of State to oversee renewable siting office
Anchorage Daily News (AK): We can’t go back to ‘normal’
CENSUS 2020: Wednesday was Census Day, so LCV Youth Digital Campaigns Manager Tiffany Hsieh, Chispa National Director Johana Vicente, and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights’ Sonum Nerurkar went live on @lcvoters Instagram to answer questions about the importance of being counted in the 2020 Census. 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.
FUN DEETS: In this time of social distancing, we’re forced to think outside the box, especially when it comes to grassroots organizing, which, so often, is done face-to-face. Our Instagram live was a creative adaptation to the times — LCV’s Tiffany Hsieh and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights’ Sonum Nerurkar are roommates quarantined together in DC. They brought our organizations together to make the most of Census Day during social distancing.
DIRTIER AIR AWAITS US: During an ongoing and escalating global health crisis, the Trump administration officially rolled back our country’s popular clean car standards, which will result in a greater number of pollution-related premature deaths, job losses, and cost drivers billions of dollars. This is particularly disconcerting in a moment when our country is facing the coronavirus, a serious respiratory illness that people who breathe polluted air are more vulnerable to developing. And, as our country also faces an economic crisis, this rollback will cost people their jobs in the auto industry — yet another example of the Trump administration prioritizing polluting oil companies over people.
OUR TAKE: Former EPA Administrator and League of Conservation Voters Board Chair Carol M. Browner had this to say, “In the midst of an out of control global pandemic, it is appalling for the Trump administration to prioritize this environmental rollback that will put our families’ health at further risk. Trump’s rollback of popular clean car standards is dangerous for our health, our struggling economy, and the future of this planet — it will stick drivers with a $40 billion dollar bill and increase carbon pollution by over 900 million metric tons.”
READ WATCH: Check out this week’s Weekend Watch! This NowThis video talks to Wahleah Jones, the cofounder of Native Renewables. Native Renewables helps install renewable energy on tribal reservations, which is where 75% of the people in the U.S. who do not have power live. Jones and her team install solar panels on Navajo and Hopi reservations and teach the families how to properly care for the panels while also offering job opportunities. For Jones, it is not about the money, but about helping her people and also educating the world on the minimalist and sustainable lifestyles that most indigenous communities live. Jones and other leaders think the rest of the world can learn a thing or two from their culturally rich history and present, especially on the issue of the climate crisis.
SOLAR JOBS AT RISK: Even with all the great work Jones and her team are doing the COVID crisis continues to cause supply chain disruptions for solar and wind power parts and installers are facing project cancellations and delays from social distancing efforts – nearly half of the 250,000 jobs in the solar industry are at risk of being lost unless companies get a lifeline.
PUBLIC LANDS: As Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt continues to take a piecemeal approach to the operating status of our national parks, seven park service employees have been infected by COVID-19, and in many cases, closures are occurring too slowly, as many believe was the case with the Grand Canyon, which closed on Wednesday. Members of Congress and communities surrounding the Grand Canyon — including the Navajo Nation, the City of Tusayan, and Coconino County officials — had been urging temporarily closing the park to visitors during the pandemic, as recent reports of crowds raised concerns about the health of visitors, staff, and surrounding communities.
SOVEREIGN LANDS: Following two court rulings in February, the Trump administration is now stripping the Mashpee Wampanoag’s reservation in Massachusetts of its federal trust status, meaning the reservation would no longer be considered sovereign land. Because of this change in status, the tribe will have to shut down its police force and other social services, all amid a devastating pandemic, which the Tribe’s chairman, Cedric Cromwell, called “cruel” and “unnecessary.”
EPA FAIL: The EPA Office of Inspector General released a report showing that the agency is failing to inform residents about the possible dangerous health risks they face living in close proximity to chemical plants that emit ethylene oxide. Out of 25 plants that emit these cancer causing fumes, 16 of them failed to inform the communities of the dangers, and the inspector general is recommending immediate action to warn residents of the risks they face. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has formally requested that the IG rescind the report, which, under any other administration, would be highly unusual, but as we’ve seen with Trump’s coronavirus response, downplaying and ignoring risks to public health is all too common in this administration.
BECAUSE BIG OIL ISN’T RICH ENOUGH?: While 6.6 million people applied for unemployment last week, Trump prioritized meeting with seven oil company executives today to discuss relief for the industry — it’s worth noting that these seven executives earned a combined $100 million in 2018. Whether Trump will use taxpayer dollars to bail out these polluting giants remains to be seen, but on Wednesday he did, once again, profess his love for the industry, “Look, we have a great oil industry…We don’t want to lose our great oil companies.”
UNDER THE RADAR: While our nation is focused on the coronavirus pandemic and healthcare workers face a shortage of lifesaving equipment, the Trump administration continues to roll back environmental protections that cater to corporate polluters — and many of these roll backs are happening under the radar. Read more about this administration’s continued lease sales on federal lands, consideration of 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 here.
CLIMATE TO SWING THE ELECTION: A new study from political scientists at Tufts University shows that climate change could be the issue that persuades Trump voters who’ve lost confidence in the president to go ahead and vote for the Democratic candidate this November. As Vox’s Matthew Yglesias puts it, climate “is one of the biggest drivers of doubts about the president among people who supported him in the past.” And he adds that reminding those wavering voters “of the large climate stakes in the election could be a key way to turn those doubts into votes.”
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. It’s become a trend — in moments of crisis, states are filling the federal leadership void. Even with states stepping up, they are still facing their own challenges amid this crisis. About 22 states have announced the delay of their legislative sessions, needing to focus on the current pandemic. This may delay some clean energy actions that states had planned to pursue, but state leaders continue to move forward on bold clean energy plans to protect local communities and support clean energy job creation..
WE CAN’T GO BACK TO ‘NORMAL’ (AK): The U.S. economy, which is based on extraction and consolidation of wealth, has failed Black, Brown and Indigenous communities for centuries. The current pandemic has prompted everyone from communities to Congress to act with compassion and provide relief in a time of crisis. Having noticed this, five leaders representing local and native organizations in Alaska, including the Alaska Center’s Polly Carr, ask, in an op-ed featured in the Anchorage Daily News, “Why aren’t policies in place to protect working people all the time, not only in crisis?”. Their response: we can’t go back to the extractive status quo — and Alaskans have long been shaping change that centers on caring and justice, allowing “all Alaskans to thrive, not just survive.”
AIR POLLUTION LINKED WITH COVID-19 (AZ): In Liliana Soto’s ABC15 Arizona segment this week, she interviewed Chispa Arizona Promotora Beatriz Beltran about the ways South Phoenix’s polluted air has left her daughters, who suffer from asthma, more vulnerable to complications from COVID-19. LCV and Chispa are not slowing our fight for the health and well being of low income communities and communities of color who are suffering the most from the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and toxic pollution.
CVM TAKE: Chispa Arizona Promotora Beatriz Beltran told ABC15 Arizona, “Sometimes I’ve had to rush to the hospital about three times a day, scared because my daughter couldn’t breathe. We have a lot of air pollution in this area.” Beatriz says a zipcode or income shouldn’t define their health or air quality.
CVM DOUBLE TAKE: Chispa Arizona Executive Director Laura Dent had this to say, “Latinos do suffer from greater complications of asthma and respiratory issues. Areas like South Phoenix and West Phoenix have really high concentrations of contamination and air pollution…A disease that’s been compared to COVID-19 is SARS. Folks that have pulmonary and respiratory history of illness were twice as likely to die from complications.”
CLEAN WATER WILL ALWAYS BE A RIGHT (MI): In Michigan, a state that is battling a water shut off crisis, Governor Whitmer is pledging to make sure the people in the Detroit area and throughout the whole state have access to clean, running water amid this pandemic. First, Governor Whitmer has ordered water utilities to reconnect water as soon as possible, and she also launched a new program that will allow for local governments to speed up the process of fixing homes with infrastructure problems. This is great work from the state of Michigan in making sure that, during this difficult time, these communities have access to clean, drinkable water — a basic human right.
RIP REP. ROBINSON: Sadly, Representative Isaac Robinson from Michigan lost his life to COVID-19 this week. Robinson was a strong friend and ally of Michigan LCV and will dearly be missed by his family, friends, and community.
ELIMINATING COAL (NM): This week, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission ruled in favor of abandoning the two remaining units of a coal fired power plant in San Juan county. The Public Regulations Commissions also included funding to put towards clean energy transition and supporting workers of the coal plant including, training and economic relief. This is a major win for New Mexico, putting the health of citizens first!
CVM TAKE: Conservation Voters of New Mexico shared a tweet applauding the great work of the Public Regulation Commission regarding this decision: “We applaud the Public Regulation Commission for approving the abandonment plan for the San Juan Coal Plant, which includes funding to support workforce training and economic relief for workers. #EnergyTransitionAct #NMpol”
ENERGY SITE REFORM WIN (NY): A victory for New York! This week Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed reforming the process of how major solar and wind projects get approved, revamping a long, drawn out process that the state and green groups have been trying to change for years. Under this new rule, New York’s transition to clean energy will become more seamless, opening up thousands of green jobs all while keeping New Yorkers healthy.
CVM TAKE: New York LCV shared a tweet from a quote of Julie Tighe, the league’s president: “Reforming the renewable energy siting process is our top priority & will be included in the State budget! “As the economy starts moving…this is an area where we can get people to work at green jobs and tackle climate change” -our President @julietighe17
CVM DOUBLE TAKE: New York LCV President Julie Tighe said, “We know that as the economy starts moving and we try to get people out in jobs, this is an area where we can help communities, where we can get people to work at green jobs and we can start tackling climate change. We know that Article 10 has been broken and it needs to work better if we’re going to meet our goals.”
CLEAN BUSES = HEALTHY KIDS (VA): Virginia is showing no signs of slowing down when it comes to getting electric buses in the state. Although attempts to expand a clean bus pilot program didn’t make it across the finish line this legislative session, it will be back in 2021 in full force. The proposal comes in three phases, starting small and gradually growing until there are over 1,000 electric buses in the state by 2025. Even though Virginia schools will remain closed for the remainder of the year, school districts are figuring out how their allotment of electric buses from the pilot program will work into their fleet for this fall.
April 20: Deepwater Horizon oil spill 10-year commemoration
April 22: Earth Day!