“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a clean energy system that spreads its benefits — including healthier air, more affordable energy and increased wealth — among all the people it serves.”
— Congressman McEachin in a Blavity op-ed on building a more equitable America after COVID-19.
“Coronavirus is not just a health crisis — it’s an environmental justice crisis”
— Title of environmental justice writer Yvette Cabrera’s Grist article.
“The coronavirus has laid bare our domestic divisions, unequal economy, and glaring racial and socio-economic disparities as well as the fragility of our democracy. To recover from this crisis, it will not suffice to contain the carnage, reopen our economy and ‘get back to normal.’ ‘Normal’ is too costly and deadly for all Americans.”
— Susan E. Rice in New York Times op-ed on rebuilding a better America after COVID-19.
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:
Energy News (NE): Clean energy a common concern for Nebraska utility board candidates
The Washington Post (VA): Climate change, like the coronavirus, requires hard choices and leadership
Augusta Free Press (VA): Poll: Virginia voters want stimulus dollars to go to clean energy, not fossil fuels
BIG MONEY 💲💲💲: NRDC Action Votes, LCV Victory Fund, and EDF Action Votes launched a new $1 million television ad in support of Michigan Senator Gary Peters’ re-election, highlighting his work protecting residents from toxic “forever” chemicals. The ad, “Diagnosed,” will run on broadcast and cable across Michigan, and it tells the story of Cathy, a cancer survivor whose illness may be linked to toxic PFAS contamination in the water near Wurtsmith Air Force Base. Senator Peters wrote provisions to address Michigan’s PFAS crisis into the 2020 national defense spending bill that was then signed into law in December of last year. PFAS contamination is particularly widespread in Michigan and is linked to cancer, developmental issues, and other harmful health effects.
OUR TAKE: LCV Victory Fund National Campaigns Director Megan Jacobs said, “Senator Gary Peters has a perfect 100% LCV score because he fights for the health and well-being of Michigan families day in and day out – we desperately need his voice in Washington for six more years. Michigan deserves a leader who will continue to stand up to corporate polluters and protect clean, safe drinking water for every community.”
EARTH DAY LIVE RECAP: Last week, the youth climate coalition mobilized a three day livestream program to mark the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. Activists, thought leaders, and artists came together online to host workshops, panels, and performances centered around building a more sustainable and just future for all, including a Black Millennials for Flint Twitter roundtable discussion. Justin Kwasa and Nicole Morales held an Earth Day Live talk to discuss the importance of a complete census count for our democracy and our climate!
WEEKEND READ: Check out this week’s weekend read — a Blavity op-ed written by Congressman Donald McEachin (VA-4), “Coronavirus, Climate Change And How We Can Build A More Equitable America.” Black people across the country are dying, at a disproportionate rate, from COVID-19, which McEachin points out is not a coincidence but, much like the impacts of climate change, has everything to do with the unjust and inequitable treatment of Black people in this country. Black families are more likely to live in polluted areas, which can contribute to contracting and worsen the impacts of COVID-19. And, making matters worse, Black people experience major treatment disparities in the healthcare system. Congressman McEachin notes that this crisis is bringing a lot of inequalities in the environmental movement to light and now is the time to really focus on change.
OPPOSE JUSTIN WALKER AND CORY WILSON’S JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS: LCV sent letters to Congress, urging lawmakers to oppose the judicial nomination of Justin Walker to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Cory Wilson to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Walker lacks the basic experience and temperament required to serve as a judge, and because of his willingness to side with partisan political interests — and loyalty to Senator McConnell and President Trump — rather than the rule of law, he would be impossible to trust as an impartial jurist. Wilson has openly mocked and opposed renewable energy and accused the EPA of being “unchecked” and “unaccountable.” Not only does Wilson not support science, he has repeatedly advocated for voter suppression tactics.
NEXT STEPS: Walker’s nomination hearing is scheduled for Wednesday May 6, the first Congressional hearing in the age of COVID-19. In the midst of this public health crisis, it’s all too telling that Mitch McConnell and the Trump Administration are prioritizing the confirmation of judges that ignore scientific experts, oppose access to public health protections, and will serve as a rubber stamp for the President. .
LISTEN TO SCIENCE: The Yale Climate Program on Communications released a new poll this week finding that Americans want their politicians to listen to science when it comes to handling COVID-19. Eighty percent of voters — regardless of party affiliation — say the public needs to listen to public health professionals and scientists. Additionally, most voters are in favor of relief for small businesses and reject support of big oil bailouts. The numbers in this poll are huge, especially when president Trump disregards science and continues to bail out oil.
AND INVEST IN CLEAN ENERGY: Another poll, this time from Navigator and Global Strategy Group, highlighted that 76 percent of all people surveyed, across parties, support investing in the creation of energy efficient infrastructure and the jobs to transition to clean energy. Yet more evidence, even in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, that the public is ready for our leaders to help us shift to a clean energy future.
VOTING RIGHTS Q&A: LCV Voting Rights Program Director Justin Kwasa participated in a virtual Q&A session with Conservation Alabama’s Communication Director Stephanie Francisco about the need for voting rights adjustments in the state. In particular, they highlighted changing the state’s law requiring already registered voters to show identification to request an absentee ballot. Justin also emphasized the importance of participating in the census for full representation and increased funding for needed social programs. Check out the full video here!
ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE ROUNDTABLE: The House Committee on Natural Resources held an environmental justice roundtable discussion on the disparities communities of color face in both the climate crisis and coronavirus pandemic. Representatives Grijalva, McEachin, Haaland, and Lowenthal were joined by environmental justice leaders, and, together, they examined the ways the pandemic has been compounded by environmental and economic inequalities in our nation, and how Congress ought to respond.
BIDEN DELVES INTO CLIMATE: After LCV Action Fund endorsed Joe Biden for president last week, the Biden campaign held virtual climate change roundtables in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Virginia, and Wisconsin — featuring many state partners on behalf of LCVAF– to discuss how Biden would prioritize the climate crisis as president. The discussions focused on the local impacts of climate change, state progress, and the need for federal action to combat this global crisis.
PHONE 2 ACTION: Our friends at Phone 2 Action have found that during this current pandemic people are taking more online actions, supporting advocacy efforts across a wide range of issues, including the environment. This means that now, more than ever, people are ready to step up and fight against the inequalities heightened during COVID-19 and campaigns to protect people during this difficult time — including paycheck protection, COVID related illness leave, water protections and many more — are providing an opportunity to make a difference.
STATES ARE LEADING AND TALKING ABOUT IT ON A PANEL: While Trump’s failed leadership during the coronavirus pandemic has put many lives at risk and his administration is concurrently rolling back environmental safeguards, state elected officials are leading the coronavirus response and continuing to fight climate change. This week the Center for American Progress (CAP) and LCV teamed up to co-host a virtual panel about clean energy progress at the state level. Leaders from Colorado, Illinois and Virginia discussed what the federal government can learn from their states, which are leading the way towards a just and inclusive clean energy economy.
CVM TAKE: Illinois Environmental Council Executive Director Jennifer Walling was a distinguished panelist at the event. Walling said, “This crisis that’s happening in Chicago, and happening in our world is clearly indicating that support for dirty energy and dirty industry has to stop.”
DOUBLE TAKE: LCV and CAP released an issue brief outlining the success states have been making in climate leadership written by Sam Ricketts, Rita Cliffton, Lola Oduyeru, and LCV Senior Director for State Advocacy and Policy Bill Holland.
NEBRASKANS WANT CLEAN ENERGY (NE): The Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) board will be holding elections this November for four empty seats. In 2018, Nebraska Conservation Voters secured a pro-clean energy majority on the Omaha Public Power district board which last year committed to go carbon free by 2050. Several of this year’s NPPD board candidates support leaving coal behind and stepping into the world of clean energy. This could be a major turning point for clean energy in Nebraska, and would extend the pattern of more and more state run utilities moving away from coal.
CVM TAKE: Nebraska Conservation Voters deputy director Chelsea Johnson said that in the last couple of elections, “voters have been electing folks who have more open-mindedness towards clean energy. I would expect this to continue.”
OREGON YOUTH LEAD (OR): NowThis traveled to Oregon to speak with youth climate activists on what they want to see from their state officials and how they are continuing to lead in this movement even with COVID-19 at the forefront. Oregon was at the center of much controversy earlier this year when Republicans walked out on the legislative session, abandoning their duties to vote on critical climate legislation. Governor Kate Brown took matters into her own hands by issuing an executive order to confront the climate crisis and move Oregon in the right direction for a clean future.
May 1-30: Asthma Awareness Month
May 22: World Biodiversity Day
November 3: United States 2020 Presidential Election