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“Young people react to a world that is literally on fire with fire in their bellies, to push leaders to finally take action on climate change.”
— Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in her response to the president’s State of the Union speech.
“While we need to address our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, these improvements cannot be made at the expense of public input and the voices of disenfranchised communities.”
— LCV Legislative Representative Laura Forero, testifying before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies
“The single-minded cruelty that Trump has displayed towards Puerto Rico is just disgusting.”
— MSNBC’s Chris Hayes via Twitter, responding to Trump’s threat to veto the Puerto Rico earthquake aid package
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:
Michigan Advance (MI): Enviro protections bolstered in gov’s 2021 budget proposal
Brooklyn Daily Eagle (NY): Mayor delivers State of the City focused on small businesses, children and the environment
Oregon Public Broadcasting (OR): Youth From Across Oregon Declare A Climate Emergency
AT LEAST ONE CLEAR WINNER IN IOWA–CLIMATE ACTION: There has been no shortage of discussion about the mess that was the Iowa caucuses this week, but we can go ahead and crown climate a winner. Entrance polls from AP, CNN and CBS all found climate to be a top two priority issue for Iowa Democratic caucusgoers.
OUR TAKE: Prior to the Iowa caucuses, LCV released a memo outlining how all the top Democratic candidates are prioritizing climate in their campaigns. The document includes their comprehensive climate plans, paid media, interactions, and events where they made climate a priority. Keep an eye out for a New Hampshire memo coming Monday.
LET’S TALK CLIMATE: On Wednesday, LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld helped moderate the New Hampshire Youth Climate and Clean Energy Town Hall with presidential candidates hosted by The Hubbard Brook Research Foundation, the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, and Stonyfield Organic. Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Former Governor Deval Patrick, Tom Steyer, Former Governor Bill Weld, Andrew Yang, and surrogates representing Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren participated. Students from across New Hampshire asked candidates about the ways they would make combatting the climate crisis a priority. ICYMI the entire program is archived here.
GREEN 2.0: Green 2.0, an organization that measures diversity and inclusion in the environmental movement, published their 2019 data, and LCV President Gene Karpinski joined the telepresser to discuss the importance of transforming the environmental movement — whose leadership has been overwhelmingly white for decades — into a more inclusive movement with racially diverse leadership. The data shows that LCV as an organization has made strides towards becoming more diverse and inclusive with staff hires — but we still have more work to do.
OUR TAKE: On the telepresser, LCV President Gene Karpinski said, “The Green 2.0 Report Card is a crucial tool for making the environmental movement more representative of all the people and communities we aim to protect, and to making our own organizations more just, equitable and inclusive. This data has been extremely useful in LCV’s journey to strengthen our own strategies, tools and commitment to racial justice and equity in our external and internal work over the last several years.”
THE STATE OF THE UNION IS 🔥🔥🔥: President Trump started off his State of the Union address by refusing to shake Speaker Pelosi’s hand, and the rest of the night did not go much better. While Trump had the nation’s attention, he offered no concrete solutions to the climate crisis, once again underscoring that climate and a healthy future is not his priority. However, we aren’t left to wallow in full-on despair, as many state and local leaders continue to make climate a top priority. Over the past two months, governors in various states have used their State of the State addresses to offer solutions to climate change, which we’ve highlighted in this memo. Below you can also see some of what Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Representative Veronica Escobar had to say about climate in their responses to the SOTU.
GOVERNOR WHITMER’S TAKE: “Democracy takes action, and that’s why I’m so inspired by young people. They respond to mass shootings, demanding policies that make schools safer. They react to a world that’s literally on fire, with fire in their bellies, to push leaders to finally take action on climate change. All across the country, Democratic leaders are rebuilding bridges, fixing roads, expanding broadband and cleaning up drinking water. Everyone in this country benefits when we invest in infrastructure. Congressional democrats have presented proposals to keep us moving forward, but President Trump and the Republicans in the Senate are blocking the path.”
REP. ESCOBAR’S TAKE: “Honestly, the greatest threat to our security is a president and a Republican-controlled Senate that act only in their own interest.” She also emphasized the importance of finding solutions to the climate crisis — “Fires, floods, droughts and hurricanes like Maria show that the climate crisis is the biggest threat of our time, threatening the world our children will inherit. We cannot afford four more years of denial and inaction. Democrats are fighting to protect clean air, clean water, and combat this climate crisis.” Listen to the full Spanish language response here.
WEEKEND READ STUDY SESSION: Check out this week’s two weekend reads, first, a Guardian article, Climate breakdown ‘is increasing violence against women’, by Fiona Harvey. The article focuses on a new study from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which suggests that climate change is increasing violence towards women and also points out that gender-based violence is thus undermining our ability to tackle the climate crisis. The second article from CNN’s Giesela Crespo, Scientists find another threat to Greenland’s glaciers lurking beneath the ice, discusses a newly discovered threat to Greenland’s melting glaciers — warm ocean water that is melting “ice tongues” (👅) from underneath. Yep, want to know more about threats to Greenland’s ice tongues? Check out the study published in Nature Geoscience.
PERSONALIZING PUBLIC WITNESS DAY: LCV’s Legislative Representative Laura Forero testified this week in front of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. While providing recommendations for funding priorities, Laura emphasized the impacts that funding decisions can have on real people — She shared with the subcommittee Barb Hartzell’s story about her family’s connection to a site restored by the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and Jose Art Chapa’s story about toxic pollution in his community. In a room of lawmakers, Laura was able to bring to the discussion the lived experiences of two people of color who were affected by issues that the subcommittee has the power to impact. Read her testimony here.
BROWN GIRLS GUIDE: This week, the final episode of season two of The Brown Girls Guide to Politics featured LCV’s own National Campaigns Director, Emily Crerand, as well as other women of color who are leaders in top issues dominating the political conversation. The podcast features insight into what we can expect in the 2020 elections and how women of color are shaping politics. The podcast is now live! Check it out here!
🐻’s👂👂: Welp, the Trump administration finalized a plan to sell drilling, mining, and grazing permits in the formerly protected Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. As lands that house tens of thousands of cultural artifacts that are sacred to several Native American nations, this plan puts the history and culture of those who are all too often neglected at risk while the usual Trump administration suspects — polluting industries — profit.
OUR TAKE: LCV Conservation Program Director Alex Taurel said, “This is when we see Trump’s true motivations to favor polluters over people really play out. Selling the rights to drill and mine in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante is a slap in the face to tribes, local communities, and businesses who depend on these lands for their way of life and livelihoods. We stand with them in their efforts to continue fighting in court to overturn Trump’s reckless decision to cut back these monuments containing some of America’s most majestic landscapes and sacred cultural sites. We will continue fighting to ensure that America’s public lands remain open and accessible to all, not the oil and gas and mining industries.”
I’M NOT GOING TO DO THE THING THAT WAS NEVER HAPPENING ANYWAY: Trump himself announced that he would no longer pursue storage of dangerous nuclear waste at the Yucca Mountain facility in Nevada. While definitely the right way to go, we think Former Senator Harry Reid’s response captures our thinking: “Yucca Mountain is dead and will remain dead. This has been true for a long, long time. Donald Trump finally realizing this, changing his position and trying to take credit for its demise will not change that fact. I’m glad he has finally seen the light.”
PRO ACT: The House passed legislation protecting workers’ rights to unionize. The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act will make it easier to unionize and protect immigrant workers’ rights among other provisions. This bill will help address and hopefully close the gap of wage inequality while supporting workers’ individual rights. LCV has joined three letters in support of the bill, one of them being led by the BlueGreen Alliance.
OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski said, “Protecting and strengthening workers’ right to organize is a critical part of restoring power to working people, addressing wage stagnation and income inequality in our country. The PRO Act would help ensure that the jobs we create tackling the climate crisis and protecting communities in harm’s way are good, family-sustaining jobs. We are proud to stand in solidarity with our labor partners in support of this important legislation. Our democracy works best when elected officials are accountable to the people, not polluters – passing the PRO Act is a key step in ensuring our workers continue to be heard.”
EV FREEDOM ACT: At a press conference on Thursday, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Andy Levin released a new bill that would establish electric vehicle charging stations nationwide within five years. The Electric Vehicle Freedom Act would create jobs, improve infrastructure and, of course, cut down on carbon emissions. And, as Levin said at the press conference, “The truth is, we’re frying our planet. We need to act now.”
OUR TAKE: LCV Legislative Representative Darien Davis said, “In the absence of leadership on clean energy from the Trump administration, Congressman Andy Levin and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s EV Freedom Act is the kind of climate solution we need to curb carbon pollution, create good paying clean energy jobs in the auto industry, and make electric vehicles more accessible to all. We applaud these representatives for taking on the leading source of carbon pollution, the transportation sector, and putting forth a proposal that will directly benefit the low-income communities and communities of color most impacted by the climate crisis and toxic pollution.”
GIVING YOU A REASON TO “WINE”: Studies show that some of the largest wine making regions could shrink by more than half in a matter of decades, meaning capacity to make (and therefore consume) wine will dwindle. Ultimately, a wine shortage is in our near future if temperatures keep rising. The authors of the study suggest we could adapt by using different types of grapes that could grow in the heat, but the true solution is a transition to 100% clean energy and cutting carbon emissions.
CAN’T GET ENOUGH (AZ): As we have mentioned in previous weeks, Arizona received its first electric school bus in the Phoenix Union School District. Check out this awesome video recapping the monumental event! Let’s continue to push for electric bus wins in 2020.
WINDY CITY STATE (IL): In Illinois, the governor and legislature have implied that the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which would move the state to 100% renewable energy, is on their to-do list this legislative session. Illinois Environmental Council Executive Director Jen Walling went on “Chicago Tonight” to discuss what this clean energy legislation and transition would look like. Watch the discussion here.
CVM TAKE: Illinois Environmental Council Executive Director Jen Walling said, “I think there is a push to act now, and act urgently on this issue, that the governor is hearing, that the Legislature is hearing. I think this is something that will be a top priority to get done during this legislative session.”
GET EDUCATED (MA): President of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, Elizabeth Turnbull Henry participated in a panel hosted by WBUR in Boston that focused on environmental news and educating the audience on why climate is important in the upcoming presidential election.
TRANSIT EQUITY UPDATE (MD): To celebrate Transit Equity Day, Chispa Maryland along with other local economic and social justice advocates held an event to recognize how public transit is key to combating climate change. This was one of more than 30 actions in 14 states to mobilize thousands of people throughout the country for transit equity. People also showed up to honor civil rights icon Rosa Parks for her birthday and role in shaping Black activism by refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger in 1955.
CLEAN ENERGY DUEL #2 (MN): Last week we highlighted dueling clean energy legislative initiatives in Virginia, and now the trend has reached Minnesota. Minnesota’s state Senate Republicans are pitching a bill that would make increasing new coal and gas power more difficult for utilities. At the same time, Governor Tim Walz has laid out a more comprehensive plan that would make the state carbon-free by 2050. The bottom line: Walz’s plan is better, but everyone’s talking about clean energy.
SACRED LANDS (NJ): The EPA will be using $3.4M to reduce toxic chemicals found in groundwater in Ringwood, NJ. Over 50 years ago, Ford Motor Company dumped industrial waste near the Wanaque Reservoir in this forested region. This land is sacred to the Ramapough Lenape tribe and is just another example of environmental racism.
JERSEY WANTS ALL THE LAWS (NJ): New Jersey League of Conservation Voters Executive Director Ed Potosnak wrote an op-ed that ran in the Star-Ledger and highlights the extensive progress that the state made on clean energy and the environment last year, but also lays out priorities for the next legislative session: Codify the governor’s commitment to 100% clean energy, end plastic bag pollution, secure clean water, and include environmental justice communities in this work.
CVM TAKE: In the op-ed, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters Executive Director Ed Potosnak sums it all up saying, “As we look ahead, our conservation agenda for the next legislative session is bold. But the accomplishments of the last legislative session demonstrate that New Jersey’s leaders are capable of taking the necessary steps to protect our state.”
February 1-29: Black History Month
February 7: New Hampshire Presidential Democratic Debate
February 7-9: National Governors Association Meeting in DC
February 10: President Trump releases Dirty Budget FY21
February 11: New Hampshire Primary
February 28: National Science Day