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THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE (IN)ACTION – March 2, 2018
QUOTES OF THE WEEK:
“As the 2017 National Environmental Scorecard details, rather than serving as a check on the Trump administration’s relentless attacks on the environment and public health, the Republican-controlled Congress has instead followed the administration’s anti-environmental lead.”
— A summary of Congress’ anti-environmental collaboration with the administration in 2017, according to our recently-released LCV National Environmental Scorecard
“The American people are entitled to know what government officials, including Mr. Pruitt, are doing with their time and taxpayer money. Yet, from the agency’s refusal to document major environmental policy decisions, to the fictitious ‘blanket waiver’ that it tried to use to justify Mr. Pruitt’s travel expenses, this EPA is evasive when it should be working to be transparent.”
— Senator Tom Carper hits the EPA on its secrecy under the rule of Trump, calling on the EPA to release requested documents on Pruitt’s travel expenses
“Every American has a right to drink clean water and breathe clean air – and that means we must do more to protect our environment now, and for future generations. Proud to be in this fight with @LCVoters.”
— A tweet from Senator Elizabeth Warren celebrating her perfect score on environmental votes in 2017
LCV IN THE NEWS:
Politico Morning Energy: LCV UNVEILS SCORECARD
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:
E&E Daily (VA): Va. Democrat talks faith, climate change and enviro justice
Bowdoin (ME): How to Be a Better Environmentalist
The Journal (CO): Colorado House Democrats to lead committee, hearings on climate change
Juneau Empire (AK): Alaska, the Last and Best Frontier
Public News Service (WI): Conservation Groups Oppose Foxconn Water Plan
CHECK THE SCORE: We’ve released our 2017 National Environmental Scorecard! We’ve carefully tracked environment-related votes by every voting member of the U.S. House and Senate to see who has been acting as an environmental champion in this crucial time and who has not. Be sure to check it out and see where your representative and senators stand.
TOPLINE TAKEAWAYS: Senate Republicans received the lowest grade ever, earning a 1 percent average score. House Democrats also broke records by tying their previous average high of 94 percent. Graphics outlining the trends can be found here.
OUR TAKE: LCV’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld had this to say: “In a year where devastating hurricanes and wildfires showed why the need to fight climate change is so urgent, Congress turned their backs on our families by confirming climate change deniers to top environmental posts, voting to reverse vitally important clean water protections, passing an abomination of a tax package that opens up the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, and so much more.”
ALL TALK, NOT ENOUGH ACTION: One of the most stark revelations from the 2017 National Environmental Scorecard was the disappointing performance of too many Republican members of the Climate Solutions Caucus. This bipartisan House caucus’ stated goal is to explore policy options to address climate change. But the Scorecard reveals that the caucus’ actions need to catch up with their words — the average score of the 34 Republicans in the caucus is a mere 16 percent. The bottom line: it’s time to turn words into actions, find real climate solutions, and act on them.
NOT GOOD, ELAINE: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao appeared before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this week to defend Trump’s infrastructure package. There are many reasons this plan is a disaster, but the one that sticks out most is that it prioritizes corporate interests while jeopardizing the health and safety of our communities. As Ranking Member Carper pointed out during the hearing, “the math doesn’t add up,” and the plan tries to dismantle environmental safeguards while also failing to plan for climate change.
EVEN WORSE: The C40 climate alliance recently announced that extreme weather — like the hurricanes, earthquake, and floods that wreaked havoc last fall — are hitting cities harder than scientists originally predicted. Putting forth an infrastructure plan that bypasses environmental safeguards and ignores climate change resiliency is simply irresponsible.
OUR TAKE: LCV’s Legislative Representative Madeleine Foote said: “By prioritizing corporations and longtime polluters over the safety of our families and communities, this administration has made no bones about how their toxic agenda only serves their industry cronies. Secretary Chao and Assistant Secretary James will have to face the music and answer for yet another attempt to sell off our public lands, jeopardize our clean air and water, and put the safety of our communities at risk.”
ON 1-YEAR ANNIVERSARY, ZINKE CAUGHT RED-HANDED: A New York Times story broke early this morning, revealing newly-surfaced emails from Zinke’s Department of Interior that detail their goals for shrinking Bears Ears National Monument in Utah — the end game was to increase oil and gas drilling. In December, Trump reduced the size of the protected land by 85 percent after a deliberation process that took place primarily behind closed doors and was heavily influenced by the oil and gas industries. It’s been clear since day one that Trump and Secretary Zinke have no qualms with selling out our national monuments to corporate interests.
By the numbers: And if you needed more proof of their cozy ties, the Washington Post reports that in just 8 months, “Interior officials had nearly 180 meetings with industry representatives.”
BUT, BUT, BUT….While it may feel like the Trump administration is relentlessly bulldozing our environment, Republicans across the country are breaking sharply with Trump and Zinke on their plan to allow oil and gas companies to drill off the coast of their states. Citing loss to local jobs and the economy, Republicans are standing up to Trump and Zinke’s decision to put Big Oil ahead of our communities.
PRUITT’S SAGA CONTINUES: Lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act are surging at the EPA — likely due to scrutiny over Scott Pruitt’s lavish spending on frequent travel. However, as Politico notes, the agency has not just shrouded Pruitt’s air travel in secrecy, but most environmental policy decisions are also made behind closed doors. Environmental and activist groups are seeking documents describing rollbacks of clean water and air rules as well as schedules of high-profile officials, which are typically public documents. The corruption, collusion and secrecy of Pruitt’s EPA has gone on long enough — it’s time for the administration to stop trying to pull the wool over the eyes of our communities and pretend they’re not working to dismantle the agency from the inside out.
UH, NOT QUITE: Pruitt dubiously compared Obama-era policies on energy and natural resources to the 1920’s policy prohibiting alcohol, claiming that clean air and water regulations amounted to an EPA “weaponized against certain sectors of our economy.” Sorry, Pruitt, but this is a stretch. Instead of a blanket ban on a single product, the Obama administration enacted smart policies geared toward keeping our air and water safe and clean. Meanwhile, Pruitt has continuously moved to gut important safeguards and do favors for their buddies in dirty energy industries.
NICE TRY, TRUMP: Two federal judges have now ruled that the Department of the Interior cannot delay rules that limit harmful methane emissions during oil and gas production on federal lands. Zinke had previously argued that these important safety regulations unfairly penalized the oil and gas industries, neglecting to reflect on the impact methane gas has on our air and our planet. The rulings come as a big win, rebuking the current administration’s latest attempt to benefit industry at the expense of our health.
NO (ENVIRONMENTAL) JUSTICE, NO PEACE: Trump’s EPA has stumbled across a sad but true fact: communities of color are much more likely to be adversely affected by pollution. This new report from the EPA suggests that because people of color are more likely to live near polluters, they are more likely to breathe dirty air and drink hazardous water, unfairly bearing the burden of environmental degradation. These pollutants have been linked to cancer, lung conditions, and other harmful health effects, putting these communities increasingly at risk. This research just affirms the need to uphold environmental justice as we push back on polluters.
TOMORROWLAND: The Guardian reported that “the number of cities getting at least 70 percent of their total electricity supply from renewable energy has more than doubled since 2015” and five cities are operating on 100 percent renewable energy — a monumental step toward a cleaner environment. At the city level, the trends continue to move in the right direction, as municipalities have picked up the mantle of fighting climate change in place of strong federal action. It’s encouraging that over 100 cities have committed so heavily to the movement so far and we hope that many more join in to create cleaner, safer communities.
March 9 – Close of the comment period on the Interior Department’s controversial offshore drilling plan
March 23 – Government funding deadline