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.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK:
“In New Jersey, Virginia and Washington our state partners invested more than they ever have in key races, and voters elected leaders who are going to act on climate, beat back Big Polluters, and move us toward a clean energy future regardless of the Trump administration’s continued attacks on practically every environmental protection on the books.”
— LCV President Gene Karpinski, in a Medium post on the victories in elections across the country this week
“Families across the country deserve better than William Wehrum for our nation’s top air official. Mr. Wehrum has spent his career, both in private practice and during his previous tenure at the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, fighting to weaken safeguards that protect our air, putting polluters’ interests ahead of the health of communities.”
— Tiernan Sittenfeld, LCV Vice President of Government Affairs in a statement on William Wehrum’s confirmation
LCV IN THE NEWS:
Washington Post Energy 202: How Democratic victories today could advance the green agenda
BNA: Governor Races in Virginia, N.J. Through Energy Policy Lens
Seattle Pi: Connelly: Washington gets green spotlight in 2017 off-year election
NowThis: LCV Chispa’s Clean Buses Campaign
E&E News: Greens, Dems see policy opportunities after big wins
E&E News: Greens and Dems smell a wave coming in 2018
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:
CNN (VA): Democrats see a digital breakthrough in Virginia wins
The Columbian (WA): Orange ‘shocked’ by big lead in Port of Vancouver race
Seattle Post-Intelligencer (WA): Democrat Dhingra way ahead in Senate race to control Legislature
Seattle Post-Intelligencer (WA): A big defeat for Big Oil on proposed Columbia River terminal
ThinkProgress (WA): Big Oil loses big in Washington
NJ Spotlight (NJ): Daily Number – $400,000
Inside Climate News (VA): Election Winners Promise Climate Action in Coast-to-Coast Pushback on Trump
ThinkProgress (VA): Virginia’s election results are good news for the planet
Wisconsin Gazette (WI): Wisconsin Senate approves Industrial Acid Mining bill over environmental objections
VOTERS STAND UP: Voters in Virginia, New Jersey, and Washington showed up and voted to rebuke Donald Trump’s dangerous environmental policies by electing strong pro-climate action and pro-environment leaders. The result bore out what we’ve been saying all along – candidates who want to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and the lands we love have a winning message. We expect the environment and climate change to play a bigger role than ever before in the elections next year as Trump and a Republican-led Congress continue to roll back critical environmental and health protections.
In Virginia, Ralph Northam made Ed Gillespie’s opposition to the Paris Climate Agreement a part of his campaign, and it carried him, Justin Fairfax, and Mark Herring to historic victories.
In New Jersey, Phil Murphy pledged to get the state to 100 percent clean energy by 2050, only the second state in the country with that stated commitment.
And in Washington State, the Senate special election and the Vancouver Port Commission seat both went to candidates who will stand up for their communities – despite record spending by Big Oil.
As Gene Karpinski wrote in his reflection on this election, our eyes will now turn to 2018 where “we’ll be in streets, on the phones, online and on the air putting clean air, clean water and clean energy on the ballot all over the country.”
SIREN: MURKOWSKI INTRODUCES POLAR PAYOUT FOR BIG OIL: Late Wednesday, Senator Lisa Murkowski introduced a much anticipated bill to destroy the pristine and iconic Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by opening it up to oil and gas drilling through the tax and budget reconciliation process. Opening the Arctic Refuge for drilling is fiscally irresponsible and would cause irreversible damage to the environment. This shameful payout to oil and gas companies comes at the expense of a very fragile ecosystem, and the tribes and wildlife that depend on it—and is intended mainly to secure Senator Murkowski’s vote for the GOP tax bill.
STAY TUNED: The bill is scheduled for a markup hearing next Wednesday, and LCV will be holding senators accountable for sacrificing one of our nation’s most majestic wild places to pay for a miniscule fraction of lavish tax cuts for millionaires, billionaires, and corporate polluters
AN IMMOVABLE FEAST: PARIS PASSES ON TRUMP: The French government announced that President Trump will not be invited to next month’s climate conference in Paris. This is yet another sign of the reputational harm the Trump administration’s disregard for science is costing the United States.
TRUMP OUT, GOVERNORS IN FOR COP23: Pro-environment governors and senators – including Governor Jerry Brown and Governor Jay Inslee – are in Europe this week participating in COP23 to reaffirm our nation’s interest in fighting climate change.
ICYMI – CLIMATE REALITY CHECK: The New York Times published an interactive graphic this week visualizing the realities that we face in reducing greenhouse gases. While a good start, the Paris Climate Agreement doesn’t even do enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change, and that says nothing of the United States’ current approach. It’s clear that without swift action, climate change will do immense damage to our country and the world.
AIR QUALITY NOW AT RISK WITH SENATE CONFIRMATION: Despite having such an egregiously dangerous record that his nomination was once rescinded, the Senate this week confirmed William Wehrum to run the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation (the department charged with protecting air quality). His strong ties to industry — which includes serving as a lawyer for utilities and polluting energy companies – is likely to greatly influence his tenure at the EPA, where he almost certainly will continue his decades-long career of attempting to roll back safeguards that protect the air we breathe, actions that pose significant risks to our health.
FOR MORE: LCV sent a letter to every senator opposing his confirmation.
MEANWHILE….SCIENCE DENIERS ALSO CONSIDERED FOR TOP POSITIONS: On Wednesday, Andrew Wheeler (nominated to be deputy administrator of the EPA) and Kathleen Hartnett White (nominated to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality) shared a hearing for their respective nominations. Mr. Wheeler refused to promise to recuse himself from any work that would impact Murray Energy, a major coal company for whom he used to lobby. Ms. Hartnett White has denied that too much CO2 can hurt public health, describing it as “a plant nutrient.” Hartnett White refused to acknowledge that human activity contributes to climate change.
AND THEN THERE WAS ONE: On Tuesday, Syrian officials announced their intention to sign onto the Paris Climate Agreement, leaving the United States as the only country in the world to refuse to join the agreement. It seems Donald Trump is a-okay with ceding U.S. leadership on climate and clean energy to China and other world leaders. The Trump administration’s continued deference to industry puts us all in danger.
PRUITT’S WILLFUL NEGLIGENCE: Last week, the Trump administration released a report that found that human activity is the “dominant cause” of climate change. However, when asked about the report this week, Scott Pruitt said that the report will not dissuade him from attempting to repeal the Clean Power Plan.
ANOTHER EPA INVESTIGATION: This week, the GAO decided to review whether or not the EPA violated laws that prohibit using agency resources for lobbying and propaganda. Scott Pruitt appeared in a video for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, in which members were encouraged to file comments with the agency supporting a rule change. Pruitt is now explicitly siding with industry groups, rather than attempting to maintain the guise of impartiality.
THE AIR IS “TOO CLEAN”?: Two new appointees to the EPA science advisory board have claimed that the air is too clean, and that air pollution isn’t necessarily unhealthy, but can even be healthy. Michael Honeycutt, a toxicologist from Texas, has said that reducing ozone levels does not lead to health benefits, in opposition to the overwhelming scientific evidence that higher ozone levels exacerbate respiratory illness. Robert Phalen, an air pollution researcher at UCal Irvine, said in an interview in 2012 that modern air is “a little too clean for optimum health,” presenting only correlations and limited research as evidence. These sorts of pseudo-scientific theorists are taking the place of some of the most widely-respected scientists in the country, putting our families and communities at risk.
POSSIBLE CHALLENGES: In the wake of the announcement and new appointees, some Democrats and environmental groups have threatened lawsuits over the EPA’s new policy that bars grant recipients from serving on advisory boards.
EPA OZONE STONEWALLING: On Monday, the Scott Pruitt-led EPA certified 85 percent of U.S. counties as meeting EPA ozone standards. However, the EPA refuses to say whether or not the remaining 15 percent of counties meet the standard, saying they are “not yet prepared” to do so. The Clean Air Act required that these certifications be completed by October 1, but the Pruitt EPA appears to be stalling on announcing the certifications because doing so would require regulatory action or a plan to reduce ozone.
WANT JOBS? SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT: The Sacramento Bee outlined how environmentally-conscious and sustainable businesses – particularly electric car companies – are leaving the U.S. to move to friendlier countries like China, which has a renewed focus on solar and electric technologies and green manufacturing. President Trump’s climate policies are not only hurting our health and safety – they’re costing the U.S. jobs and products that could build our economy.
November 14 – #StillIn Day of Action: As international leaders meet in Bonn, Germany, at the U.N. climate negotiations, senators, members of Congress, and local officials will join LCV and others to speak out in support of climate action despite the lack of federal leadership. Join us at 11:30 in the Senate Swamp.
November 14 – The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold an oversight hearing on hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
November 14 – The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Environment will hold a hearing on environmental concerns stemming from the 2017 hurricane season.
November 14 – The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety will hold a hearing on emissions standards
November 15 – The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a markup on Senator Murkowski’s legislation to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.