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.
“When we say, ‘I Can’t Breathe’ we literally can’t breathe.”
— Vice President of Environmental Justice at the National Wildlife Federation Mustafa Santiago Ali said in his testimony during the House Energy and Commerce committee hearing — also mentioned in a Mother Jones article by Rebecca Leber on Trump’s environmental rollbacks.
“The longer racism is not addressed, the harder it will be to save the planet, in part because Black activists’ time and energy are being drained.”
— Vogue article by Leah Thomas on Why Every Environmentalist Should Be Anti-Racist.
“…do white people in America still want the police to protect their interests over the rights and dignity and lives of Black and, in too many cases, Brown, Indigenous and Asian populations in this country?”
— Professor of history, race, and public policy Khalil Gibran Muhammad on NPR’s Throughline podcast exploring policing in America.
E&E News: ‘Overwhelmingly white’ green groups forced to confront past
Bloomberg Government: Water Pollutants in Michigan May Sway Swing Voters in Top Races
E&E News: Judges consider Trump order to expand Arctic drilling
New York Times: Senate Moves Toward Preserving Public Lands, and Political Careers
E&E News: LCV spending $1.5M in ad against McSally
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:
E&E News (NC): This governor pushed carbon targets. Now he’s a Trump target
Blue Virginia (VA): Virginia Conservation Community Statements on the Deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and Nationwide Protests
Holland Sentinel (MI): Secretary of State wants more time to count mail ballots on Election Day
Idaho Press (ID): Simpson co-sponsors bill to permanently fund Land and Water Conservation Fund
KPVI (MI): Pending refunds: Millions of cans and bottles to be returned when allowed beginning June 15
**SPECIAL EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT**
TUESDAY, JUNE 16 AT 6:00 PM ET – VP BIDEN @ LCV VICTORY FUND EVENT
Please RSVP with firstname.lastname@example.org by EOD Monday to join the virtual ClimateVote2020 launch event with Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, Congresswoman Sharice Davids, Former EPA Administrator and LCV Board Chair Carol M. Browner, Former Congresswoman and LCV Board Member Donna Edwards, Hip Hop Caucus President and LCV Board Member Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., and other special guests.
CREATING ANTI-RACIST ENVIRONMENTALISTS: In her piece on the widespread apathy towards fighting racial injustice in the environmental movement, Leah Thomas states, “[environmentalists] will buy reusable cups, wear ethically made clothing and advocate for endangered species; however, many are hesitant to do the same for endangered Black lives.” It is time we recognize that the systems of oppression killing Black people and the structural inequalities perpetuating environmental injustice are one and the same. The protection of Black lives and our planet cannot be separated, and Thomas challenges all environmental activists and organizations to uphold intersectional environmentalism. To become anti-racist environmentalists, we must go beyond acknowledging the disproportionate impacts communities of color bear and take concrete actions that place racial justice at the center of our work.
NATIONAL BLACK ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE NETWORK: As organizations across the nation are committing to amplifying the Black voices of the environmental movement, The National Black Environmental Justice Network (NBEJN) on Wednesday pledged to relaunch and lead the way. Founded in 1999, NBEJN works to protect Black communities across the United States by addressing environmental racism and fighting “underlying conditions that are denying black people the right to breathe’ and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” While NBEJN has not formally convened since 2006, the group will come together in 2020 in response to the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on the Black community and the Trump administration’s attack on environmental protections. NBEJN has already released statements on COVID-19 and systemic racism in policing and pollution.
TRUMP KEEPS EXACERBATING ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM: As Mother Jones’ Rebecca Leber wrote this week, Trump is using the pandemic to undo environmental rules. It’s hurting Black Americans. And as Earther’s Yessenia Funes wrote last week, “pollution is racial violence.” 100%. The racist political and economic forces that perpetuate police violence against Black communities and expose communities of color to higher levels of toxic air pollution are the same — and Trump is using those forces to push through environmentally racist policies and rollbacks while the country’s attention is elsewhere. We put together a roundup of some of the ways the Trump administration is prioritizing corporate polluters and putting the health and safety of our families at further risk right now. The changes to NEPA and opening Florida’s waters to offshore drilling are particularly harmful:
GUTTING NEPA: Last week, Trump signed an executive order instructing agencies to abandon environmental protections in order to speed up the process of establishing things like new mines and pipelines. Trump is using Covid-19 as a red herring to push, to circumvent laws like the National Environmental Policy Act, which require that impacted communities — who are disproportionately communities of color — have the opportunity to give input on projects. At the same time that protesters are reiterating George Floyd’s words, “I can’t breathe,” Trump is encouraging polluters to foul our air while silencing our voice in the process — and he’s doing it all under the cover of the COVID-19 crisis.
OPENING FL WATERS TO OIL DRILLING: Ben Lefebvre at Politico reported this week that President Trump will reverse his administration’s pledge to take drilling off Florida’s beaches “off the table,” which his Interior Department is not rebutting. The catch: Trump intends to wait till after the election before announcing this move, but the people of Florida know what’s at stake for their beaches and their economy with Donald Trump as president. The move to open Florida’s coast to offshore drilling would put the health and safety of already vulnerable coastal communities, especially communities of color, at even greater risk.
OUR TAKE: Legislative Representative Laura Forero said, “It is disgraceful for the president to play political games with the health and safety of our coastal communities. Gulf communities, especially communities of color, are already disproportionately impacted by the negative health impacts of dirty offshore oil and gas production, are on the front lines of the climate crisis, and are currently dealing with the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic. Opening up the Florida Gulf Coast to drilling 10 years after the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe is an additional slap in the face to communities that never fully recovered from the devastating oil spill.”
BLACK WOMEN LEADING: Women of color have always been leaders, rising to the occasion despite a society that discriminates against both their race and gender. In a Color Lines article, Jacqueline Patterson introduces us to 13 BIPOC women who are leading systemic change to fight COVID-19 and the climate crisis. On a similar front, The Hip Hop Caucus’ Think 100%: Coolest Show on Climate Change Podcast featured four Black women who are leading on issues in the climate crisis, environmental justice, and racial justice. Systemic racism is wide-reaching, impacting the way people of color experience everything from healthcare to education to the environment. As both the article and podcast point out, we need solutions that address the intersectional nature of the problem, and women of color are leading these solutions. BIPOC women continue to fight on the frontlines and be the leaders for anti-racist movements.
POLICING PRACTICES AND LAW ENFORCEMENT ACCOUNTABILITY: The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Wednesday to discuss policing practices and law enforcement accountability. The hearing featured over a dozen members, including Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8), Congressional Black Caucus Chair and lead on the police reform bill Karen Bass (CA-37), and founder of Mothers of the Movement Rep. Lucy McBath (GA-6).The Committee heard fourteen testimonies, including an emotionally vulnerable statement from George Floyd’s younger brother, Philonise Floyd. Floyd referred to the murder of his brother as a “modern-day lynching,” and he called on elected officials to honor protesters’ demands for law enforcement reform: “hold them accountable when they do something wrong. Teach them what it means to treat people with empathy and respect. Teach them what necessary force is. Teach them that deadly force should be used rarely and only when life is at risk.” These pleas for humanity in law enforcement are not the first — as Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a historian at Harvard’s Kenndy school, discussed on NPR’s Throughline podcast, this is a centuries-old problem that has roots in the slave patrol. For too long, police have protected White people’s interests while ignoring Black people’s dignity and rights.
PRIORITIZE FAMILIES AND CLEAN AIR: LCV Victory Fund will be launching a TV ad campaign opposing Arizona Senator Martha McSally’s re-election. The spot will run from June 23-July 15 in the Phoenix media market. McSally prioritizes pleasing Big Polluters over the health of Arizona families. While in office, McSally opposed the Affordable Care Act and supported Trump’s rollback of the Clean Power Plan — effectively removing any meaningful limits on carbon pollution. Arizona has some of the worst air pollution in the country, and communities of color face a significantly higher risk of breathing dirty air. LCV Victory Fund is committed to taking steps to combat this environmental injustice, starting with defeating McSally in November.
THE DISPROPORTIONATE IMPACTS: The Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change held a remote hearing on Tuesday to discuss the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on environmental justice communities. The CDC recently revealed that 23% of COVID-19 related deaths were Black people, despite representing only 17.7% of the population. In his testimony, Mustafa Santiago Ali, Vice President of the National Wildlife Federation, highlighted an underlying cause of this disparity in COVID-19 outcomes: communities of color are significantly more likely to live near fossil fuel facilities. Local air pollution levels directly correlate with the COVID-19 death rate and — instead of working to clean our air — the Trump administration is rolling back environmental safeguards. Mustafa Ali called for an equitable, community driven transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy in order to “ensure that communities of color no longer have to worry about taking their last breath due to inhumane policies and actions. In the words of my grandmother, ‘When You Know Better, Do Better.’”
EPA CLEAN WATER ROLLBACK: Last week the EPA issued a final rule to roll back Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, an incredibly important provision that has allowed states and tribes to protect the waters their communities depend on for drinking, recreation, and fueling healthy local economies. This rule will make it harder for tribal groups and other Indigenous communities to block pipelines and other projects that harm their waterways.
OUR TAKE: LCV Deputy Legislative Director Madeleine Foote said, “Instead of focusing on the enormous crises of racist police violence, record unemployment, and a global pandemic gripping our nation, Trump and his administration are instead turning their attention to rolling back our drinking water protections. Again. This action to gut the Clean Water Act, opposed by governors on both sides of the aisle, tribal nations, and many others, only serves to benefit Trump’s corporate polluter friends and jeopardizes the clean water our communities, especially communities of color and indigenous communities who often already lack access to clean water, depend on and deserve.”
CLIMATE WINS (GA, SC): This Tuesday, voters in Georgia and South Carolina cast their primary ballots. Daniel Blackman won the Democratic nomination for Georgia Public Service Commission’s District 4 seat. Georgia Conservation Voters PAC ran a $5,600 texting program to over 30,000 voters for Blackman in the District 4 Public Service Commission race. Blackman defeated his primary opponent by more than 70% of the vote and will advance to November’s General Election. Blackman previously served as an advisor on environmental justice at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Congressional Black Caucus. In South Carolina, Conservation Voters of South Carolina PAC supported 25 candidates with the backing of $30K. Of those 25 candidates, 17 won their primaries and 7 will advance to a run-off held on June 23rd. Conservation Voters of South Carolina PAC supported these candidates through direct contributions, paid mail, and digital programs encouraging voters to choose pro-environmental candidates.
PRIMARY VICTORIES (NM): Last week, New Mexico held their primary elections where three of LCV Action Fund’s endorsed candidates came out on top! Congratulations to Ben Ray Luján (NM-Senate), Deb Haaland (NM-01), and Xochitl Torres Small (NM-02) for their primary wins.
CVM TAKE: Last week, our New Mexico state affiliate’s hard work and investments in State House, Senate, Public Regulation Commission and County Commission primary races led to victories for 19 pro-environment candidates. Despite being outspent by Big Oil, Conservation Voters of New Mexico endorsed a slate of diverse, predominantly female candidates who are committed to addressing climate justice, and the longstanding systemic racism that causes communities of color to disproportionately suffer from exposure to toxic pollution, prevailed over corporate polluter interests. Read Conservation New Mexico’s full statement here.
REMOVING RACIST MONUMENTS (VA): Last week, Virginia governor Ralph Northam announced that the state’s largest confederate statue would be taken down. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and other murders of Black lives at the hands of the police, protesters are demanding that confederate statues and other racist statues be taken down. These racist statues are a reminder of a dark time in this country for Black people and create an unsafe environment for them to be in. Parks should truly be for everyone and everyone should feel safe when trying to enjoy them. This nation does not need racist memorabilia in public spaces — it is long overdue that these offensive statues come down.
June 19: Juneteenth – a celebration of the end of slavery in the United States that, as Vann R. Newkirk II wrote, “celebrates liberty in America as it actually is: delayed”
November 3: Election Day