“Just as racial injustices have driven disparities in COVID-19, racism fuels disparities in access to safe water.”
— Senator Kamala Harris and labor activist Dolores Huerta in their op-ed on access to safe water.
“Welcome to summer in Phoenix, where a cocktail of climate change and rapid development has pushed temperatures into the danger zone. The threats are greatest in black, Latino and low-income communities, which are significantly hotter than wealthier, leafier parts of the city.”
— Sarah Kaplan’s Washington Post article on climate change and the deadly rising temperatures in Phoenix, Arizona.
“The environment is one of those issues we can talk about in an intersectional way. The environment affects immigration…it’s going to affect our jobs, it’s going to affect our migrant workers, it’s going to affect our education. Climate ties everything together.”
— Chispa Nevada Program Director Rudy Zamora in a Bitterroot article by Jake Bullinger on Chispa building a Latinx-led climate movement.
Washington Post: Biden, in new climate plan, embraces more aggressive steps
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:
The Cap Times (WI): Assembly Democratic leaders endorse Gruszynski opponent in Green Bay
NEPA GUTTING: This week, the Trump administration finalized a rule gutting the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the law that requires the federal government to consider the environmental impacts of its decisions and the input of the public and affected communities. Trump has, once again, prioritized polluters over the health and wellbeing of people by weakening NEPA. This will allow for easier permits for pipelines, power plants, and other harmful projects that will have lasting effects on the environment and communities — particularly communities of color.
OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski said, “President Trump continues to show that he values polluter profits far more than the health and safety of our families. Today’s changes to the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act perpetuate environmental racism. This move undermines communities’ ability to have a voice in major construction projects in their own backyards — especially low-income and communities of color that are often targeted by the fossil fuel industry and other heavy industry. Both the climate crisis and the pandemic remind us why we need critical transparency, community review, and protections envisioned in the National Environmental Policy Act now more than ever. The pro-environment led House has a plan to rebuild our country and keep communities safe – why won’t Trump support the Moving Forward Act instead? Rolling back the National Environmental Policy Act is an unnecessary, dangerous step in the wrong direction.”
OZONE POLLUTIONS: Ozone is one of the main contributors to smog. Smog tied to oil and gas industry pollution results in more than 750,000 summertime asthma attacks in children. Therefore, you would think we would want to have LESS ozone in our air. Alas, this week, the Trump administration announced it will opt out of tightening ozone standards, a standard that the fossil fuel industry fought the Obama administration on tooth and nail, but is now praising the Trump administration for maintaining. Immediately, a coalition of 15 health and medical organizations came out against the EPA decision and called for the Trump administration to follow the science and set stronger standards to protect public health. Air pollution caused by smog disproportionately impacts communities of color and is especially dangerous to populations with existing lung ailments. We need to strengthen ozone standards to ensure that all people living in the United States can fall asleep at night knowing they are breathing clean air.
OUR TAKE: LCV Legislative Director Matthew Davis said, “In the midst of the worsening respiratory public health crisis with tens of thousands of people being sickened daily by the coronavirus, the Trump administration is yet again doing nothing to make it easier to breathe. By not strengthening the ozone standards, the Trump administration is perpetuating environmental racism for communities of color and putting children’s developing lungs at risk. The science is clear that smog damages lungs and makes it harder to breathe — Trump’s EPA should be making it a priority to eliminate the racial disparities in exposure to air pollution through this and other regulations.”
A TIME FOR HEROES: A Time For HEROES is a series of stories detailing personal experiences with voting from across the country, led by LCV’s Voting Rights Program Director Justin Kwasa. These stories will lead up to a webinar commemorating the 55th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. LCV will feature a story that describes a change needed in our voting system and highlight a policy that would address the issue. This week’s blog features fellow LCV staff members Kent Anderson, Julie Jimenez, Elizabeth Jacob, and Megan Jacobs and their journeys in voting during COVID-19 and DC curfews.
BUILDING A CLEAN, EQUITABLE FUTURE: This week, former Vice President Joe Biden announced plans including a $2 trillion investment in fighting the climate crisis and finding equitable and just solutions to do so. The new infrastructure and clean energy plan is a second installment of Biden’s already existing economic recovery plan, which will help revitalize and stimulate the economy through manufacturing. Overall, Biden’s comprehensive climate and environmental justice plans outline goals for creating new green jobs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and a commitment to centering racial justice. It is the type of aggressive, proactive action needed in order to combat the climate crisis.
OUR TAKES: LCV Board Chair Carol Browner said, “For the last four years the United States has suffered under a failure of leadership in addressing the climate crisis, transitioning to the clean energy economy and cutting the pollution that threatens our health and environment. The last four years have undone decades of progress and it will take decades to recover. The plans Joe Biden released today demonstrate his commitment to environmental justice and equity and his vision for the clean energy future we need to put people back to work, to power our economy and our businesses, and to drive innovation that will foster growth, create jobs and protect our health. With Joe Biden science will matter and our health and economy will come first.”
LCV Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld said, “Vice President Joe Biden’s ambitious new commitments to a clean energy economy, environmental justice, and equitable climate solutions are more important than ever as our nation grapples with the realities of systemic racism, a global pandemic, and the ever growing climate crisis. Biden’s strong climate leadership stands in stark contrast with the Trump administration, which is continuing this week its full scale assault on environmental and public health protections. We applaud Vice President Biden for again making clear with these plans that combatting the climate crisis, fighting for environmental justice and creating millions of good-paying, high-quality jobs in a clean energy economy will be a very top priority on day one as president and every single day.”
BUILDING A LATINX-LED CLIMATE MOVEMENT: A Bitterroot article by Jake Bullinger highlights the great work of Chispa, a Latinx-led and driven environmental movement part of LCV, and Program Director of Chispa Nevada, Rudy Zamora. Born in Mexico and coming to the United States in the early 90’s under DACA, Zamora has dedicated his life to fighting for human rights, first with immigration, education and now as an environmental justice leader. This article captures what a POC movement looks like in a world of white facing and white led organizations. The lack of engagement and care towards communities of color — who are affected most by climate change — is the driving force behind Chispa and Zamora’s fight for a more just and equitable climate future.
SUPPORT THE GAOA: LCV sent a letter to members of the U.S. House, urging them to support the Great American Outdoors Act ahead of the expected vote on Wednesday, July 22. The letter informs members that LCV will strongly consider including votes on this bill in the 2020 Scorecard. The GAOA would boost the hard-hit outdoor recreation, tourism, and construction sectors and protect and enhance green spaces nationwide. Creating and maintaining parks is so important, but recent events have highlighted the need for Black communities and other communities of color to be safe and welcome in outdoor spaces without fear.
PEBBLE MINE: On July 24, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to release its final environmental impact statement (EIS) on the proposed Pebble Mine, a giant copper mine located near Bristol Bay in Alaska. This project would have lasting, detrimental impacts on one of the last great wild salmon fisheries in the world. The Bay is also incredibly important to local Alaskan Natives, who rely on the salmon for sustenance and employment as well an integral part of their traditional culture Given the Trump administration’s history of prioritizing profits of big corporations above the needs of communities, especially Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other communities of color, there is little doubt that the final EIS will greatly understate the risk this mine will pose to Bristol Bay. Though the EIS paves the way for a final permit for the mine, the fight is far from over– the strong and broad coalition opposed to the mine will pull out all the stops to prevent this irresponsible project from destroying the miraculous Bristol Bay.
“WHY CAN’T I REMEMBER?”: This week, LCV posted a blog from Liyu Wodemichael, a summer fellow with our Membership and Online Engagement team. In her blog, Liyu bravely tells the story of her first encounters with white supremacy. From a young age Black girls are often exposed to both overt and subtle hate that too often undermines their confidence and shapes their relationship with the world around them. Liyu discusses her role in the environmental movement as a Black woman and what many organizations — including LCV — need to change to be more equitable and inclusive. The environmental movement continues to be overwhelmingly white despite the fact that climate change affects communities of color the most. We cannot have environmental justice without racial justice, and that means explicitly advocating for Black lives in the environmental movement. Liyu makes this point and many others in a piece filled with self-reflection, bravery, and accountability towards the environmental movement for perpetuating white supremacy. Read her full blog here!
STATE PRIMARIES (AL, TX, ME): Earlier this week, Maine held the primary elections for the U.S. Senate seat. LCV Action Fund endorsed state House Speaker Sara Gideon in this race and she won, which is great news for climate action!
#StopDieselDeath: We are saying a big THANK YOU to DC and the 15 states that set a goal to transform new truck sales to 100% electric vehicles by 2050. The coalition of states will work together to adopt policies such as rebates or tax breaks to encourage the sale of electric commercial vehicles with an interim target of 30 percent by 2030. This initiative will decrease air pollution that disproportionately affects low-income and communities of color, which are often located near the highways where diesel trucks are concentrated. These communities — also known as diesel death zones — are at high risk for adverse health effects from breathing this polluted air. We are excited to see the policies these states devise to make diesel death zones a thing of the past and move us into a clean energy future.
KEEP THE LIGHTS ON (GA): Starting Wednesday, Georgia Power is turning out the lights on homes that have fallen behind on their energy bills. Disconnects such as these have been temporarily suspended by the Georgia Public Service Commission to provide relief during the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and advocates are telling the Commission that nothing has changed. Low-income and Black communities are very much still stuck under the weight of the pandemic, and this blatant disregard for reality of the situation is a direct result of the whiteness of the Commission. The Public Service Commission is not elected by district members but, instead, through a statewide vote, which has resulted in only one Black member on the Commission in the 141 year history of the group. Advocacy groups have leveled a lawsuit challenging the structure of the Commission elections as a violation of the Voting Rights Act. This election may seem obscure, but the Public Service Commission members “make decisions that affect the lives of every Georgian each time a telephone is picked up, a light is turned on, a gas burner is used.”
CVM TAKE: Georgia Conservation Voters director Brionté McCorkle said, “What we’re asking for is fair representation on the commission. The current wave of the seats are elected as a statewide election. We believe that this is not allowing Black voters to pick candidates that truly represent them or pick candidates that are interested and committed to making sure our needs and voices are heard when decisions are being made.”
July 18-26: Latinx Conservation Week
July 20: First Anniversary of the Equitable & Just National Climate Platform
November 3: Election Day