QUOTES OF THE WEEK:
“This is no game, this is no joke. Climate change is real, serious, and happening now.”
— Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer took to the Senate Floor to challenge Majority Leader McConnell to take action on climate change
“There must be changes in how we use and produce energy in this country and there is no doubt that a transition away from fossil fuels to zero emission energy sources is essential if we are to leave a recognizable world for our children and great grandchildren.”
— California Representative Alan Lowenthal at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on Tuesday.
“Last week, we heard another president stand up at the State of the Union and offer a vision of an America fundamentally at odds with California values. He described a country where inequality doesn’t seem to be a problem, where climate change doesn’t exist, and where the greatest threat we face comes from families seeking asylum.”
— California Governor Gavin Newsom in his State of the State address Tuesday night.
LCV IN THE NEWS:
The Nation: Reactionaries Call the Green New Deal ‘Radical,’ Like That’s a Bad Thing
E&E News: After lands package, lawmakers prepare for ‘next big lift’
Alaska Public Media: Drilling foes in House launch bill to close ANWR
Big Island Now: Hirono, Senate Democrats Introduce National Monument Protection Legislation
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
LCV’s state affiliates are hard at work protecting the environment and fighting climate change in the states. Here’s what people are reading across the country:
Santa Fe New Mexican (NM): The energy transition we’ve been waiting for
The Denver Post (CO): Colorado energy director Will Toor to drive push toward renewables, electric vehicles
VTDigger (VT): Protecting kids from toxic chemicals
Bham Now (AL): Did you know that Alabama has the smallest percentage of public land in the South? Why it matters.
NEW 2020 POLL:. New polling released yesterday shows that addressing the climate crisis is a top priority for Democratic primary voters. In a still wide-open contest for the early states, only universal healthcare coverage rivaled climate solutions at the top of voters’ priorities.On a press call Thursday, pollsters Jill Normington of Normington Petts and Geoff Garin of Hart Research, detailed the findings of a poll conducted of Democratic primary voters in California, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. The poll was conducted for League of Conservation Voters, CAP Action Fund and EDF Action. The poll also shows that the primary is wide open, with 77 percent of voters yet to narrow their candidate choice, but that having a plan to address the climate crisis is seen as essential and is driving vote choice. Additionally, both the Green New Deal and moving to 100 percent clean energy by 2050 are extremely popular ideas among these voters in early states. The results of the poll can be found here.
VICTORY!: This week, the Senate passed the public lands package which would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund and protect millions of acres of lands and waters. It passed with a 92-8 vote, and brought together leaders from across the aisle to support conservation in every state. The bill would create new monuments, limit drilling and mining operations, and establish 1.3 million acres of wilderness protections — the nation’s strongest safeguards for lands and waters.
OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski said: “This bill is a major step forward in restoring the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a hugely popular conservation program that has helped create local parks, enhance national parks, and boost access to public lands in every region of the country.”
MORE ON THE GREEN NEW DEAL: New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted more details and clarifications about the Green New Deal on Sunday, highlighting that we need a more holistic and collaborative approach to climate solutions through the bill.
SENATE WATCH: Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate will vote on the Green New Deal, even though it has little chance of passing the Republican led chamber. He says he wants to “give everybody an opportunity to go on record and see how they feel about the Green New Deal,” despite having previously said that he wouldn’t bring proposals to the floor that have no chance of passing or being signed by the president.
SCHUMER FIGHTS BACK: On Thursday, Leader Chuck Schumer spoke from the Senate floor challenging McConnell to say that “our climate change crisis is real, that it is caused by humans, and that Congress needs to act.” Since 2015, when Republicans took control of the Senate, they have not brought one single bill to a floor vote that would meaningfully reduce carbon emissions. The Green New Deal is the first bill that will come to a vote, and yet Mitch McConnell wants it to fail without proposing anything that’s a constructive alternative.
HEARINGS IN THE HOUSE: Our new pro-environment majority in the House of Representatives continued to keep climate change front-and-center this week. The House Natural Resources Committee held three different hearings this week about climate change and its impact on public lands, tribal communities, and on preparing for the clean energy transition. Additionally, Representative Donald McEachin led a forum for the committee, which featured panelists who discussed the important role the black community plays in protecting our cultural and environmental heritage. And, the House Science Committee held its first hearing on climate change: The State of Climate Science and Why it Matters.
AVERTING ANOTHER SHUTDOWN: Congress has reached a deal on the spending bill, which will hopefully avert another government shutdown over Trump’s xenophobic border wall. While we are glad Congress rejected some of Trump’s extreme anti-immigrant proposals along with drastic cuts to environmental agencies and new anti-environmental riders in the compromise spending bill, we are troubled both by the increases in immigration enforcement that can rip apart families, as well as funding for border barriers that can harm wildlife. The EPA, the National Park Service, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund have been badly under-resourced for years and deserve the increases—and more—that they receive in this package, but they should not come at the price of hateful and inhumane anti-immigration policy.
FALSE EMERGENCY: After failing to artfully deal with Congress, Trump is insisting on circumventing the legislative branch to build his xenophobic wall through an unprecedented and inappropriate emergency declaration. LCV Senior Vice President for Community and Civic Engagement Jennifer Allen Aroz had this to say: “Let’s be clear: this border wall is not about national security or sound governance; this is about a xenophobic, racist and environmentally destructive wall.”
PROTECT THE ARCTIC REFUGE: This week, a bipartisan bill was introduced by Representatives Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and would restore protections against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which was mandated in the 2017 Republican tax bill. Representative Lowenthal put it into perspective perfectly: “We can’t give the oil and gas industry the green light to permanently destroy one of our nation’s last truly wild places.”
LCV ON THE ARCTIC: LCV’s Arian Rubio spoke at a Bureau of Land Management public hearing on the Arctic Refuge: “We stand with the Gwich’in people and communities across the country in the fight to keep the Arctic Refuge protected. With incredible wildlife and the iconic landscape, some places are too special to drill, and this is absolutely one of them.”
SLACKING ON THE JOB: The revenue the EPA collected in penalties from polluters dropped 80 percent last year, falling from $20.6 billion in 2017 to $3.95 billion in 2018, and the number of inspections is also down to half of what it was a decade ago. Both drops demonstrate that the agency, under the Trump administration, has become lax in holding polluters accountable.
DELAYED ACTION: The EPA this week announced its plan to address toxic PFAS chemicals, which are being discovered in the drinking water of millions of people across the country. Urgent action is needed to clean up these chemicals, but the Trump administration’s plan fails to take even the most modest steps needed to get these chemicals out of the drinking water our families depend on.
EPA EMISSIONS REPORT: The EPA released a draft of its annual report on emissions this week, which is nearly 700 pages long and looks at data spanning 1990 to 2017. The Union of Concerned Scientists pointed out three main takeaways: that greenhouse gas emissions fell by 0.3 percent in 2017; that the electric power sector was the only sector where emissions didn’t increase — the transportation, industrial, residential, and commercial sectors all emitted more carbon; and that the decline in emissions was too small to truly combat global warming by a long shot.
BIG OIL BERNHARDT: Representative Raúl Grijalva, chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Representative TJ Cox, chair of the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, co-authored a letter to David Bernhardt, Trump’s nominee for Interior Secretary. In the letter, they ask him to provide further information about over 100 hours of details missing from his calendars, which are crucial in understanding how policy and decisions are made at the Department of the Interior, and will help the committee perform its oversight duties.
MORE PARK PROBLEMS: The Trump administration reversed its initial plan to pay for post-shutdown National Park maintenance and recovery with entrance fees, and now, instead, plans to pull funding from separately-appropriated sources. Lawmakers have questioned the legality of this decision and voiced frustration with this reversal.
A NEED FOR TRANSPARENCY: FiveThirtyEight reported this week that the government doesn’t keep track of how much it spends on the fight against climate change and that there is little transparency with the data that does exist. Furthermore, the agencies that did report spending on climate change were found to almost entirely spend that money on programs that only secondarily related to the environment.
FRIENDS IN LOW PLACES: Trump is very focused on saving one, very specific coal plant in Kentucky, which happens to be powered by coal from one of Trump’s biggest supporters, Robert Murray. This is a dirty move to keep dirty coal and dirty power, as opposed to moving towards a clean energy future.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STATES: While the Trump administration is barreling away at removing critical environmental protections, states are still making sure the environment is a priority.
CALIFORNIA: Governor Gavin Newsom plans to remove National Guard troopers from the border and utilize them for fire safety and prevention in a growing battle between the Golden State’s goals and the Trump administration’s policies. Newsom also gave his State of the State address on Tuesday night, speaking about California’s commitment to combating climate change.
WISCONSIN: Wisconsin is the latest state to join the U.S. Climate Alliance. Governor Tony Evers announced the decision on Tuesday, saying that, “It’s time for Wisconsin to lead the way in combating climate change and investing in renewable energy.” Wisconsin’s goal is to cut their emissions by a quarter over the next six years.
NEW YORK: New York blocked a series of pipeline projects carrying natural gas to New England by arguing that the pipeline violated environmental law. States have seen success using this tactic to block pipeline projects, and now “pipeline executives are urging President Donald Trump to assert federal authority over interstate pipelines and prevent states from blocking projects that run within their boundaries.”
ARIZONA: Phoenix has recently launched two initiatives to address dangerous, and sometimes deadly, rising temperatures in the city. In 2017, at least 172 people in Phoenix died from heat. One program, HeatReady, will treat heat readiness like hurricanes and heat waves like tsunamis by alerting residents by text about the temperature and offering emergency cooling centers. The other program, Nature’s Cooling Systems, will redesign low-income neighborhoods, which are often impacted the hardest by extreme weather.
TBD – Senate confirmation vote on Andrew Wheeler for EPA Administrator
TBD – Hearings begin for David Bernhardt for Interior Secretary
End of February – 2018 LCV National Environmental Scorecard Released