QUOTES OF THE WEEK:
“Nevadans sent me to the Senate because they knew they could count on me to fight for our communities…I am proud of my record as an advocate for Nevada’s clean energy future and treasured public lands and will continue to champion our conservation legacy.”
— Nevada Senator Jacky Rosen said Wednesday at the release of the LCV National Environmental Scorecard.
“We must do everything we can to protect the environment for our future and for our children’s future. I’m going to keep fighting to make sure we get this right.”
— Washington Senator Patty Murray said via Twitter in response to the LCV Scorecard rollout on Wednesday.
“By protecting ecosystems, preserving our cultural heritage, and connecting the people to their lands, we demonstrate this Congress’s commitment to public lands that serve all Americans.”
— House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva speaking on the House floor in defense of the LWCF.
LCV IN THE NEWS:
Associated Press: Louisiana Rep. Graves to lead GOP on House climate panel
U.S. News & World Report: The Green New Deal and the Strength of Ambiguity
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
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:
Maine Public Radio (ME): Gov. Mills Outlines Ambitious State Plan To Address Climate Change
Aspen Times (CO): Polis lays out policy changes for oil and gas industry
Associated Press (MI): Michigan releases results of water tests for PFAS chemicals
Greenville Business Magazine (SC): Congress Votes To Reauthorize The Land And Water Conservation Fund
The State Press (AZ): ASU students and community leaders call on Congress to act on climate change
AND THE SCORES ARE IN: LCV released the 2018 National Environmental Scorecard on Wednesday during a media briefing with Senator Jacky Rosen as well as newly elected environmental champions Representatives Elaine Luria and Joe Neguse. The full Scorecard is available here. Here are the highlights:
WHAT WAS SCORED: The 2018 Scorecard consists of 35 House votes, including attacks on clean air and water, lands and wildlife protections, and investments in clean energy. The high volume of House votes also reinforced that this was the most anti-environmental House ever. On the Senate side, there were 14 votes scored, with a majority of those being confirmation votes on Trump’s anti-environmental nominees.
PARTY DIFFERENCES: Senate Democrats and the independents who caucus with them earned an average of 95 percent, and House Democrats scored an average of 90 percent. In both chambers, Republicans earned an average score of 8 percent.
CHAMBER DIFFERENCES: The Senate average score was 50 percent and the House average score was 45 percent.
THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT: LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld contrasted the 2018 Scorecard findings with the already ambitious pro-climate majority in the new Congress, saying: “After eight years of the most anti-environmental U.S. House ever and two years of relentless attacks on the environment from the Trump administration, the tectonic shift to a pro-environment majority in the people’s House comes not a moment too soon. We could not be more excited to work with the new pro-environment House majority to protect our air, water, lands, and wildlife, combat the climate crisis, and hold the Trump administration accountable.”
RACE TO THE TOP: The Washington Post, among others, noted that all the Senators running for President scored perfect 100’s this year, writing “…across-the-board perfect scores among the slate of presidential candidates is a sign they are shoring up their environmental bona fides as they face a Democratic electorate increasingly energized by President Trump’s rollback of environmental rules and his pullout from the Paris climate accord.”
COAL LOBBYIST CONFIRMED AS EPA ADMINISTRATOR: On Thursday, the Senate confirmed former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as the next EPA Administrator.
OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski said: “Andrew Wheeler simply has no business serving at the helm of the agency charged with protecting our health and our environment. Wheeler has dedicated his career to weakening environmental protections and has served as a lobbyist for the country’s largest coal company. As Acting Administrator, he has continued Scott Pruitt’s legacy of prioritizing polluter profits over our health and safety, undermining science, and failing to enforce our nation’s bedrock environmental laws. The need to combat the climate crisis could not be more obvious or more urgent, and it is utterly irresponsible that Andrew Wheeler has been confirmed to head the EPA.”
MAJOR PROGRESS ON PUBLIC LANDS: On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted 363-62 to approve the Natural Resources Management Act, which would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The bill also vastly expands national parklands and federal wilderness designations, among many other conservation measures, making it the most wide-ranging public lands package to be passed through Congress in years. The bill is headed to the White House for final approval.
OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski said: “Permanent LWCF reauthorization is a major accomplishment, and LCV urges Congress to seize this positive momentum to provide LWCF with full and dedicated funds to end the chronic underfunding of this critical program that boosts access to parks and public lands for all communities and supports our thriving outdoor recreation economy.”
SCHUMER PUSHES BACK ON TRUMP’S BOGUS CLIMATE PANEL: Donald Trump is planning on convening a group of “scientists” to counter current government conclusions on climate change, and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is having none of it. On Tuesday, Schumer said that if Trump moves forward with the group, he will introduce legislation to defund it: “It is long past time for President Trump and Republican leaders to admit that climate change is real, that human activity contributes to it, and Congress must take action.”
DEMS DIDN’T STOP THERE: All 47 Senate Democrats this week cosponsored a joint resolution, led by Senator Tom Carper, which urges Congress to immediately act on climate change. This puts the pressure on Majority Leader McConnell and the rest of the Republican caucus to reveal whether they can be serious about even the most basic facts about climate change, or whether they intend to remain willfully negligent in fulfilling their duty to protect our country from the devastating impacts of the climate crisis.
YOU’VE GOTTA BE KIDDING ME: As the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis kicks off its important work, House Republicans have named their committee members. All of the Republicans named to this committee have an average lifetime score of one percent.
OUR TAKE: LCV Vice President for Government Affairs Sara Chieffo told the AP: ““It is a dereliction of duty for Republicans to have named members to the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis who have questioned the validity of long established climate science and have accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from polluting fossil fuel interests.”
MEANWHILE BACK IN THE MAJORITY…: The majority side of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis has two great new staff members: Ana Unruh Cohen and Alison Cassady. Unruh Cohen previously served as NRDC’s managing director of government affairs, and Cassady was the Managing Director of Energy and Environment Policy at the Center for American Progress.
OUR TAKE: Tiernan Sittenfeld said, “We are thrilled by the announcement of these veteran climate change leaders, which follows the appointment of the many climate champions making up the majority on this important committee.”
HOUSE CLIMATE HEARINGS: The new pro-environmental leadership in the House is proving that climate change is one of its top priorities — they’ve held over a dozen hearings on the subject since the start of the new Congress. There have been multiple hearings this week, including a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing where lawmakers questioned the EPA’s head of compliance, Susan Bodine, about the historic, disastrous drop in enforcement efforts. Last year the EPA recorded the smallest amount of civil penalties since the establishment of the enforcement office in 1994.
GULF DRILLING EXEMPTIONS: The Interior Department has given out roughly 1,700 exemptions for oil drilling in the Gulf Coast so that companies can continue drilling despite regulations put in place by President Obama after the BP oil spill in 2010. The Trump administration is already undergoing a process of mass deregulation of Obama-era environmental protections, and their waiver handout is only furthering their terrible anti-enviro tactics.
DEMOCRATS RESPOND: House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva and Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Chairman Alan Lowenthal penned a letter to the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement requesting an explanation for the number of waivers provided, as well as access to unredacted waiver requests.
UNETHICAL EPA STRIKE ONE: Bill Wehrum, a current EPA official and former lobbyist for polluters, is coming under scrutiny from federal ethics rule makers and regulators for his recent interactions with former clients. Representative Frank Pallone, along with Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Tom Carper, asked the EPA Inspector General to investigate Wehrum’s potential ethics violations.
UNETHICAL EPA STRIKE TWO: The Sierra Club obtained documents this week that show how the EPA has kept a cozy relationship with members of the chemical industry, including an email exchange between a senior director at the American Chemistry Council and EPA Chemical Administrator Nancy Beck, where the former asked Beck to secure a “senior level” job at the EPA for her husband. While a spokesperson for the EPA said that no job or meeting came out of this request, this again illustrates just how much influence the chemical industry has over the agency that’s supposed to be regulating it.
UNETHICAL EPA STRIKE THREE: A new report from the Environmental Integrity Project released Tuesday outlines the mass decrease in inspections by the EPA over the past two years. The number of audits and investigations of environmental regulations has gone down by more than half of the annual average of the past two decades. The report says that the lack of enforcement also means less funding from violator payback.
GOLD STANDARD FOR CLIMATE CHANGE EVIDENCE: Despite the Trump administration’s attempts to discredit climate science, a group of scientists said this week that the evidence of man-made global warming has reached a “goal standard,” meaning that the proof is undeniable. Some of the scientists in this group said that they hoped this new standard of evidence will help sway skeptics or at least dispel rumours.
NYT CELEBRATES GREEN NEW DEAL: The New York Times Editorial Board wrote that the Green New Deal should be celebrated for its ability to shift the national debate toward serious solutions to climate change. The Editorial Board wrote: “whatever becomes of the plan, it will have moved climate change — a serious issue that has had serious trouble gaining traction — to a commanding position in the national conversation. That alone is reason to applaud it.”
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.
MAINE: Governor Janet Mills announced her plans to reach 100 percent clean energy by 2050, and 80 percent by 2030. She laid out a comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and advance renewable energy. As one part of this, she announced that Maine will join the U.S. Climate Alliance. She now joins three other Clean Energy for All governors — Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM), J.B. Pritzker (IL), and Tony Evers (WI) — who have put their state in the Climate Alliance as one of the first acts of their new administration. Additionally, Mills announced she would work with other New England governors and Canadian premiers to achieve regional climate goals, created the Maine Climate Council Maine Climate Council, and was named Natural Resource Chair of the NGA.
WISCONSIN: Yesterday, Governor Tony Evers submitted a budget proposal chock-full of environmental funding requests, signaling a bold vision and prioritization of Wisconsin’s environmental wellbeing, especially clean energy, clean water, and climate action. The budget proposes that all of Wisconsin’s energy production be carbon-free by 2050, would help tackle the state’s drinking water crisis, and includes a strong democracy agenda with funding for initiatives like automatic voter registration and fair redistricting.
STATE SCORECARDS: Some of LCV’s state affiliates, from California to Pennsylvania, have also released their Scorecards this week – scoring state senators and representatives on their environmental records.
CALIFORNIA: California will be considering a multitude of environmental bills this year, from banning all single-use plastics statewide to protecting the state from potential federal rollbacks of existing regulations. The former bill was introduced by Senator Ben Allen and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, both of whom received perfect scores on the California scorecard.
March 6- House Oversight and Reform Environment Subcommittee hearing: “Examining PFAS Chemicals and Their Risks”
TBD – Hearings begin for David Bernhardt for Interior Secretary