THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE (IN)ACTION – DECEMBER 20, 2019

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 our schools lead dust is only one hazard … This has been happening too long … It is a basic human right to not be poisoned in your school and it’s time the state did its part.”

— Anonymous Philadelphia teacher via Twitter 

 

“I beg people to ratchet up their action on climate. This is it, folks. This is the time.”

— Jane Fonda on the urgency of climate action 

 

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LCV IN THE NEWS:

Mother Jones: Here’s what’s missing from Mayor Pete’s plan for climate justice in Latinx communities
The Hill: Green groups urge lawmakers to oppose USMCA
E & E News: 7 Senate races to watch on energy and environment
Cheddar: Wind Wins, Solar Blindsided in Big Tax Package
Bloomberg Environment: ‘Unusual’ White House Interest Level in EPA Science Rule Review
Politico: Morning Energy for December 19

 

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:

Idaho Press: McLean Hires Bieter’s Chief of Staff and Conservation Voters of Idaho Director to Top Jobs
Concord Monitor: My Turn: State policies need to support market demand for clean energy
The Washington Post: Northam proposes new taxes on tobacco and gasoline, leaves income-tax rates untouched
San Francisco Chronicle: Here are the only-in-California questions to ask at Democrats’ debate

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GOVERNMENT FUNDING FUMBLE: Congress funded the government, and despite increased levels for the EPA and Interior Department, several important climate change, clean energy, public lands, and drinking water initiatives were glaringly absent. In particular, the tax and spending package failed to extend and expand clean energy and electric vehicle tax incentives, protect the drinking water of communities poisoned by toxic PFAS chemicals, or provide permanent funding for our country’s best parks program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). It’s especially disheartening to see over $1 billion allocated for a xenophobic, racist and environmentally destructive border wall, while initiatives that would protect our communities were excluded.

OUR TAKE: LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld said, “The tax and spending package is a major disappointment when it comes to advancing clean energy, combating the climate crisis, and protecting public health. While there are some important increases in funding for EPA, public lands, and clean energy in the FY2020 appropriations package, the deal does not make badly needed progress on critical environmental priorities. These missed opportunities leave behind the low income communities and communities of color that are already disproportionately burdened by toxic pollution and the impacts of the climate crisis.”

JUST TO REITERATE: This was Congress’ best opportunity to make real climate progress by including clean energy tax extenders in this must-pass end of year package. To say the least, this was a missed opportunity, and we’re not the only ones who think so — a trio of climate mayors from Texas wrote an op-ed in the Statesman detailing the ways that these tax credits have supported renewable energy production and use in their cities.  In the end, the mayors say, “It is disappointing that Congress is choosing to end incentives at this critical point in the fight for our nation’s, and our state’s, healthy environment.”  We agree.   

TRADE WIN(D)S? MORE LIKE DOLDRUMS: On Thursday, the House passed the revised United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), also known as NAFTA 2.0.  Despite repeated calls for fundamental fixes on environmental provisions, the final legislation utterly failed to address the critical link between trade and climate — there is not a single mention of the climate crisis in the text. Though we can expect this (though not forgive it) from the White House, we’re disappointed that Congress failed to use this opportunity to make progress on addressing the climate crisis. 

OUR TAKE: Last week, LCV and nine other environmental organizations sent a letter to the House declaring our opposition to the agreement and warning that LCV will consider scoring the vote in our 2019 National Environmental Scorecard. 

SIXTH TIME’S THE CHARM?: This Thursday was the sixth Democratic debate held in Los Angeles, California. The candidates did a great job of bringing up climate and weaving in justice and equity. Many mentioned their plans for combating the climate crisis and getting to a 100% clean economy. We were happy to see climate brought up in the first hour, with about 13 minutes of discussion — a huge improvement over the previous debates. We are glad PBS and Politico gave climate the attention it deserves.

OUR TAKE: LCV SVP of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld said, “Finally! It’s so refreshing that the climate crisis was front and center in the first hour of tonight’s presidential debate. From the economic opportunities in solar, wind and clean transportation to international climate leadership to communities affected by fires and floods to the necessity of  prioritizing equity and justice, it was incredibly important to hear candidates discuss their vision and plans for transitioning to a 100 percent clean economy beginning on day one as president. Kudos to Politico and PBS NewsHour for giving climate change the attention it needs and deserves. We urge future debate hosts to follow their lead.”

CVM TAKE: California League of Conservation Voters Chief Executive Officer Mary Creasman said, “When California voters are facing rolling blackouts, smog and the ever-present threat of more droughts there’s no other option than to have bold climate action as the top priority. Early voting is two months away, tonight’s debate should be used to highlight bold visionary solutions to act on climate. The Presidential Candidates will be standing between Malibu, which experienced firsthand the deadly effects of wildfires and the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach, whose neighboring communities are negatively affected daily by some of the worst pollution in the country. Climate change is a public health, economic and foreign policy issue – candidates shouldn’t wait to be asked to weave in their policy positions for our future, period.”

SUSAN COLL-INS, LCV VICTORY FUND OUT: Senator Susan Collins of Maine has announced that she will be running for reelection. While LCV Action Fund has endorsed Collins in the past, she earned a poor 21 percent LCV score in 2018, supported anti-environment policies like Trump’s tax plan that opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, and backed extreme nominees like Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Collins follows Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s lead at virtually every turn — and LCV Victory Fund is not here for it.   

LCV VICTORY FUND TAKE:  LCV Victory Fund SVP for Campaigns, Pete Maysmith said, “We have supported Senator Collins in the past, but it’s time for change. Voters who care about Maine’s clean air, clean water, and climate future have a better choice in Sara Gideon. Last year we watched Senator Collins’ score on LCV’s National Environmental Scorecard plummet to just 21 percent. Instead of continuing to be an independent voice for Maine, Collins has chosen to side with special interests and partisan leaders in Washington and walked away from Maine’s long tradition of conservation.”

LCV ACTION FUND APPROVED: LCV Action Fund announced its endorsements this week for both Christy Smith and Jaime Harrison. Smith is running for election to Congress for California’s 25th Congressional District and is also endorsed by the California League of Conservation Voters. Harrison is running for U.S. Senate in South Carolina.

WHITE SANDS NATIONAL MONUMENT PARK!: President Trump is expected to sign the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a provision that will turn White Sands National Monument into a national park with greater protections. The hope is that it will foster new economic growth in New Mexico with chances for tourism and also create new opportunities for the surrounding rural communities. Important context: The 2007 Michael Bay masterpiece, Transformers, was filmed in White Sands National Monument. 

LANDS PROTECTIONS ARE DEEPLY ROOTED: Deputy Director of the Nevada Conservation League Barbara Hartzell is a native of the Chemehuevi Paiute from the Chemehuevi Tribe of Lake Havasu, California and Las Vegas Indian colony. Barb shares her heartfelt story of coming from a long line of strong women and discovering part of her ancestry through public lands. She credits this to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and advocates for full, permanent  funding so the program can protect the sacred lands where Barb, and many others, have deep roots. Check out Barb’s full story here

URANI-UMM…NO: This week Senator Kyrsten Sinema introduced the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act. This bill will ban uranium mining on close to one million acres of the Grand Canyon and mirrors a bill that has already passed the House with bi-partisan support and support from local groups, including  tribal nations, businesses and local governments.Uranium mining has extreme environmental ramifications and also disrupts the land that is sacred to Indigenous and native peoples, so these protections are incredibly important to the culture and well being of the surrounding communities. 

OUR TAKE: LCV Legislative Representative Laura Forero said, We applaud Senator Sinema for her leadership to protect the Grand Canyon, one of our country’s greatest national treasures and the ancestral home to indigenous communities who have cherished and protected these sacred lands for generations and continue to rely on them for sustenance and safe drinking water. This bill is necessary to protect the communities, lands, waters, and ecosystems that have been impacted by harmful extractive pollution. We urge Senator McSally to protect tribal nations and their sacred places, and stop the further desecration of our public lands by supporting this bill.”

DOUBLE TAKE: Chispa Arizona Executive Director Laura Dent said, “Thank you to Senator Sinema for the introduction of legislation to protect one of the country’s greatest treasures, the Grand Canyon. This legislation ensures that our nation will protect and respect the sacred lands and watersheds surrounding the Canyon, the preservation of our state’s rich cultural heritage, and the well being of our communities. We thank the indigenous leaders that have protected and fought for the preservation of this region for generations, and we look forward to the Senate bill moving forward so that the protection of the Grand Canyon can become law.”

THE SECRET IS THEY DON’T LIKE SCIENCE: The EPA has plans to change how scientific findings inform the regulatory process. A 2018 proposal dubbed “secret science,”  disallows the use of scientific research that cannot be made public — including health studies that rely on private medical information.  It is particularly troubling that the Trump Administration EPA is considering severely limiting the scientific research that could be used to devise public health standards for things like drinking water, air quality, and toxic chemicals. This proposal could hugely undermine the health and safety of our communities, especially those who are already experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change and environmental contamination.

OUR EXPERIENCE: The administration’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is reviewing the proposal and meeting with stakeholders, but instead of their usual listening, OIRA officials were unusually involved in asking questions, making some believe they want to unearth criticisms so they are ready for rebuttals. LCV Legislative Director Matthew Davis told Bloomberg Environment that  “he was asked half a dozen questions in his Nov. 26 OIRA meeting, including why he’s objecting to specific parts of the rule when the proposal hasn’t yet been issued, whether scientific journals don’t already require the publication of personally identifying data, and whether scientific best practices call for studies to be reproducible.”

PUT A COMMENT IN THE EPA’S STOCKING: In July, New York Times Reporter Coral Davenport wrote about the EPA’s nascent plans to eliminate the public’s ability to appeal pollution permits, while still allowing permit-holders to appeal to increase their pollution — another blatant example of the administration valuing polluter profits over the health and wellbeing of people. Well, it turns out that these plans have materialized into a proposed rule, and staying true to the administration’s trend of shutting people out of the rulemaking process, the public comment period is scheduled to end just after the winter holidays on January 2nd.        

LIFE AS A CLIMATE ORGANIZER: LCV Deputy National Director of Member Mobilization Jennessa Agnew shared her story about what prompted her to join LCV as an organizer. She talks about her experience growing up visiting beaches along the New Hampshire and Maine coasts and the sadness she felt when she started to see the toll of climate change on these special places. She knew that she needed to take action to help prevent further devastation, so she started volunteering with LCV. Her volunteering turned into a full time career at LCV helping to elect more environmental advocates and pushing progress from officials. Read Jennessa’s full story here

TODAY WE STRIKE, TOMORROW WE VOTE: Jerome Foster II,  a youth climate striker who started his own initiative to help get young people  to vote, spoke at LCV’s annual New York dinner last week. Jerome, like many other young people, is using his platform to urge immediate climate action and demonstrated the power and determination of his generation. Get inspired by Jerome’s full remarks here.

FOR THE LOVE OF STORY: Over the past year, people across our movement have shared their deeply personal understandings of why our Earth is worth fighting for, and we at LCV are endlessly grateful for their leadership and willingness to share what makes this fight so personal for them. So, LCV’s storytelling team wrote notes of heartfelt thanks to each storyteller we worked with this year. When we lift up our voices, we can spark change.  When we share our stories, we can build an even stronger movement to protect our planet — Thanks LCV storytellers!

QUESTIONS FOR BLACKSTONE: Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sheldon Whitehouse along with Representatives Garcia, Grijalva, Haaland, Pocan and Tlaib wrote a letter to Blackstone Group, a financial services firm, about their role in the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. Blackstone holds multiple stakes in companies that are actively contributing to the destruction of the Amazon. Not only does the rainforest store a considerable amount of carbon dioxide that when released can cause significant damage to our planet, but it is also home to indigenous groups. The signees of the letter have asked that Blackstone respond to a list of questions they have asked in the letter no later than January 10, 2020.

GOLDMAN SACHS TAKES A STAND: Goldman Sachs has announced that they will not finance any more Arctic drilling or oil exploration. This is great news for both the environment and the people of those lands. Environmental groups and Natives in Alaska are now setting their sights on getting more big financial institutions — including JP Morgan Chase — to join Goldman Sachs’ ranks. Following COP25 in Madrid, Goldman Sachs also promised to invest $750 billion into sustainable finance throughout the next 10 years.  

WEEKEND READ: Check out this article, Finally saying the F-words at UN climate talks, by Catherine Abreu and Jamie Henn, about the COP25 conference — and the F-words they’re talking about: fossil fuels. They examine the event’s critical pivot from historically discussing carbon emissions to finally acknowledging the source of those emissions, and while this shift in perspective is an improvement, the talks are still  widely being called a failure due to nations’ failure to put forth concrete solutions. 

OH, DID SOMEONE SAY COP25? 👆: COP25 has come to an end after being extended nearly two days in order to reach a full compromise between the nations in attendance. The end result: each nation is required to come to the next meeting with a plan to overcome the gap between what science has determined will be necessary to avoid a dangerous catastrophe and their current plans. The overall ambition displayed at  COP25 was seen as a disappointment by many, with the final outcome not reflecting the urgency of the crisis. 

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STATES:

CONGRATS COURTNEY! (ID): Mayor-elect Lauren McLean of Boise, Idaho will be bringing on Conservation Voters for Idaho Executive Director Courtney Washburn as her Chief of Staff. The Conservation Voter Movement (CVM) will certainly miss Courtney, but we can’t wait to see all she achieves with McLean in Boise — best wishes Courtney, you’ll always be a part of our CVM family.

LET SC SOAK UP THE SUN (SC): Over 120 people attended Conservation Voters of South Carolina’s (CVSC) town halls in Columbia and Charleston this week about new rules passed by the Public Service Commission that would cut payments from utility companies to large scale solar producers by 33%. CVSC is calling the move a “solar doomsday” scenario. Attendees spoke with seven bipartisan legislators about what can be done to advance clean energy in the state, and both the audience and lawmakers were rightly upset about the commission’s decision.

CVM TAKE: CVSC Campaigns Director Natalie Olsen told ABC 4 News that, “The public service commission is responsible for regulating our service energy market and they recently made a decision that halts utility solar development in South Carolina. It just stops it which is pretty incredible especially considering the Energy Freedom Act was meant to encourage renewable energy in the marketplace.”   

 

COMING UP: 

🚨January 2🚨: Public comment deadline for EPA rule on right to appeal permits
January 7: U.S. House returns for second year of 116th Congress
January 14: Iowa Debate
February 3: Iowa Caucus 
February 7: New Hampshire Debate

 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE (IN)ACTION WILL RETURN IN 2020

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