THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE (IN)ACTION – January 4, 2019

QUOTES OF THE WEEK:

 

“When we lose weeks like this we have to catch up and there’s just huge delays in projects, and taking them into the next year or after.”

-Furloughed EPA scientist Loreen Targos explaining to ABC News how the government shutdown is impacting environmental cleanup in communities nationwide

 

“And we will be good stewards of our environment. A methane mitigation rule will not only protect our health, it will deliver more money for the state and create meaningful jobs. A dramatic increase in our clean energy production insulates us from future oil busts and makes good on our promise to leave our great outdoors greater than we found them. That means we will produce 50% of our energy from renewable sources by 2030 and set the course for 80% ten years after that. We can achieve this, and I will not relent until it is done.”

-Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham explains her vision for New Mexico’s clean energy future in her inaugural address

 

“We must also face the existential threat of our time: the climate crisis – a crisis manifested in natural disasters of epic proportions. The American people understand the urgency. The people are ahead of the Congress. The Congress must join them. That is why we have created the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. The entire Congress must work to put an end to the inaction and denial of science that threaten the planet and the future.”

-Newly re-elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi highlights the need to tackle the climate crisis in her triumphant return address

 

“Tonight I say, enough. Enough with studies, talk, and debate. It is time to act! Our new Administration will embrace clean energy; change our modes of transportation; weatherize homes and businesses, and reach a goal of 50 percent of our electricity coming from Maine renewable resources. These actions will create good-paying jobs, preserve our environment, and welcome young people to build a green future here in Maine. And, by the way, when you drive by the Blaine House in the next few weeks, look for the new solar panels that we are going to install! We need a healthy environment. And we need healthy people.”

-Governor Janet Mills commits to putting solar panels on the Maine Governor’s residence in her inaugural address

 

LCV IN THE NEWS:

 

Vox: “Innovation”: the latest GOP smokescreen on climate change policy

The Atlantic: Why the New Democratic Majority Could Work Better Than the Last

USA Today: Latest casualty in U.S. budget battles: a popular fund to protect parks and wildlife refuges

Politico: ‘The existential threat of our time’: Pelosi elevates climate change on Day One

NBC News: ‘A Green Wave’: Signs Point to Voters Demanding Action on Climate Change

ThinkProgress: Former oil industry lobbyist is now officially running the Interior Department

E&E News: Battles on public lands, monuments, ANWR sure to resurface

Scientific American: 5 New Governors to Watch on Climate

 

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:

 

AP (MT): Zinke denies report that he lied to Interior investigators

Detroit Free Press (MI): Whitmer takes first step to block Enbridge Line 5 tunnel

WEMU (MI): 1st Friday Focus On The Environment: Challenges And Opportunities In 2019

WUWM (WI): How Did Wisconsin’s Waters Fare In 2018?

Chesapeake Bay Journal (MD): Fisheries on both VA, MD legislative agendas for 2019

 

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NEW CONGRESS, NEW OPPORTUNITY: House Democrats put the environment and action on climate change front and center as the new Congress was sworn in this week. Speaker of the House Pelosi created the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, which will focus on addressing climate change and its devastating impact on our planet and will be led by Representative Kathy Castor (D-FL). Other members of Congress, such as Representative Raúl Grijalva, who will chair the House Natural Resources Committee, said that they will spend much of the next two years examining the Trump administration’s attacks on the environment. And Representative Frank Pallone, chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, announced yesterday that the committee’s first hearing will focus on “Assessing the Environmental and Economic Impact of Climate Change.”

 

MAKING MOVES: In case you missed it, LCV’s VP for government affairs Sara Chieffo wrote a blog this week laying out four ways we’ll  work with leaders in the House to lay the groundwork for action over the next two years. That includes  ensuring climate and clean energy are put front and center in legislative priorities, collaborating with the entire House majority — both longtime members and new environmental champions — on policy solutions that tackle the climate crisis, conducting badly needed oversight of the Trump administration’s attacks on the environment, and investing in climate-smart green infrastructure.

 

CLIMATE CHAMPIONS TAKE THE HILL: Today LCV took over the Washington Post homepage with digital ads to welcome the new pro-climate House Majority and launched online ads in seven states to highlight new members who are committed to taking action to combat the climate crisis. We were also on the Hill yesterday meeting with newly elected environmental leaders like Deb Haaland, Susie Lee, Colin Allred, Kyrsten Sinema, Xochitl Torres Small, and Elaine Luria. We also welcomed back returning environmental champions including Kathy Castor, Frank Pallone, Elizabeth Warren, Ben Ray Lujan, and Maria Cantwell.

 

H.R. 1: After voting to reopen the government, the new House quickly introduced a strong legislative package to help restore our democracy. H.R. 1, the For the People Act, combats voter suppression and proposes ways to fix our broken campaign finance system. We’re proud to join a broad coalition of organizations supporting the bill.

 

OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski told The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein that the House is now geared up for climate action more than ever before: “There are far more members who campaigned on clean energy and climate issues, and who see it as both good policy and good politics. And the issue has much stronger support among the voters who brought them here.”

 

SHUTDOWN SHOWDOWN: While Trump continues to dig in his heels over an ecologically disastrous and xenophobic border wall, our communities and environment are feeling the effects of his government shutdown.

 

PARK PROBLEMS: The forced furlough of thousands of federal employees means there are no rangers and other staff that maintain parks to keep them running, forcing the closure of several areas of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Residents near Yosemite National Park and other parks report overflowing garbage and other sanitary issues that could permanently damage the natural resources and historic sites that the federal government should be be protecting. For the parks that have remained opened, public safety is a major concern.

 

EPA FURLOUGHS: With the shutdown going into its third week, the EPA has depleted reserved funds and halted programs that protect public health — including stopping air quality monitoring and cleanup work at many Superfund cleanup sites. The vast majority of the agency’s employees have been sent home without pay. In East Chicago, the shutdown has delayed plans to move forward with a cleanup project the community has pushed for. As the shutdown drags on, the EPA also risks missing court-ordered deadlines.

 

STATE OF PLAY: Across the nation, pro-environment state and local elected officials were sworn in this week. These officials will shape legislation that will address our most pressing environmental issues in states across the country.

 

GOVERNOR GRETCHEN WHITMER: Michigan LCV-endorsed Governor Gretchen Whitmer already took strong steps to protect the environment and address damage done by her predecessor. On Wednesday, Governor Whitmer requested that Michigan’s new attorney general, Dana Nessel, review a deal to run a pipeline under an important section of the Great Lakes, which former Governor Rick Snyder and the Republican-led legislature rushed to approve. Michigan LCV Executive Director Lisa Wozniak praised the move to block “a backroom deal brokered by former Gov. Snyder and Enbridge Energy to keep oil flowing through our Great Lakes despite the well-documented risks and widespread opposition from Michigan residents, businesses and experts.”

 

GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: In her inaugural address, newly elected Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham highlighted the importance of environmental protections for New Mexico. Lujan Grisham campaigned on expanding renewable energy, and had a 91 percent lifetime score from LCV during her time in Congress.

 

GOVERNOR JANET MILLS: Governor Janet Mills used her inaugural address to affirm her commitment to protecting the environment and addressing climate change in Maine. The first female governor of Maine also announced that she will install solar panels at Blaine House, the governor’s mansion, while working to bring a green future to the Pine Tree State.

 

ZINKE OR SWIM: This week, Ryan Zinke officially resigned as secretary of the Interior, weeks after Trump announced Zinke’s departure over Twitter. Trump is expected to nominate Zinke’s permanent replacement early this year, and, in the interim,  former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt is acting secretary of the Interior.

 

In Zinke’s almost two years as Secretary of the Interior, his legacy will amount to  one of great damage to our nation’s lands, as well as extreme ethical issues:

 

  • Just yesterday, we learned that the Justice Department launched an investigation into whether Zinke lied to his own department’s Inspector General while the IG conducted two inquiries tied to his real estate dealings, one in his home state of Montana and the other involving the review of a proposed casino project by Native American tribes in Connecticut.

 

  • Zinke had 18 public probes filed against him for various misconduct and ethical issues, including a possible violation of the Hatch Act for a press conference with former Florida Governor Rick Scott during his re-election fight, censorship in a climate change report, alleged retaliation against a whistleblower, and more.

 

  • Zinke proposed doubling entry fees to some of our most popular national parks to $70 in peak season, while an Interior advisory committee proposed cutting the royalties energy companies pay for resources extracted in federal waters. Zinke later withdrew the proposal after public outcry.

 

  • He recommended downsizing multiple national monuments, including Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou and Nevada’s Gold Butte, after minimal consultation with the Bureau of Land Management field office staff in affected areas. And Trump dramatically shrunk Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah, an action we believe to be outside the president’s authority, based on Zinke’s sham review and recommendations.

 

  • Zinke spearheaded a plan to greatly expand offshore drilling in federal waters, putting polluters’ profits ahead of the health of our waters and natural resources. The Trump administration is expected to release a new draft of its plan to expand offshore drilling in the coming weeks.

 

  • Zinke’s tenure has also been marked by racially offensive language and policies. In addition to gutting protections for Bears Ears, which is home to archaeological and cultural sites considered sacred by many Native American tribes, Zinke has mocked the heritage, perspectives, and experiences of people of color and reassigned a disproportionate number of Native American employees without reason or public input.

 

ZINKE 2.0: Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt is no better than Zinke. Bernhardt worked in the Bush Interior Department where he pushed for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He later became a lobbyist representing Big Polluters including Halliburton, the U.S. Oil and Gas Association, Rosemont Copper Company, and Statoil, filing suits against the Department of the Interior worth millions of dollars.

 

LANDS BLUES: The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) expired in September for the second time in three years under the Republican-led Congress and, despite broad bipartisan support, negotiations to revive the program before the end of the year failed in December. The new Congress must act to permanently reauthorize LWCF with full, dedicated funding so our best public lands program can keep creating and improving parks for communities across the country. As Alex Taurel, LCV’s conservation program director, said, “We’re counting on the 116th Congress to stop siding with Trump’s attacks on our public lands and fix this right away.”

 

POLLUTING PRUITT 2.0: Once again, acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler proved that, like his predecessor Scott Pruitt, he will push anti-environmental policies in favor of polluters and at the expense of everyday people. Last week, Wheeler’s EPA released a plan that would change how the federal government calculates the benefits and safety of restricting mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants. The proposal could even have far reaching effects beyond mercury emissions by making it more difficult for the government to justify environmental regulations. Wheeler, who was confirmed by the Senate last year as deputy EPA administrator, will be nominated by  Trump to the post permanently once the government shutdown ends.

 

OUR TAKE: LCV Vice President for Government Affairs Sara Chieffo said of the EPA’s mercury rollback: “It is clear Wheeler is only listening to coal barons, not the dire warnings from his own agency that this move could cause over 11,000 premature deaths. Or even the industry who has already invested in successfully complying. When it comes to sabotaging protections for our communities, Andrew Wheeler is quickly catching up to Scott Pruitt’s poisonous legacy.”

 

RAINING CATS AND DOGS: For the second year in a row, the American Meteorological Society found that the extreme weather events throughout 2017, such as the floods in South America, China and Bangladesh, and heatwaves in China and the Mediterranean, were all made more likely by man-made climate change.

 

FOGGY FOIAS: Last week the Department of the Interior filed a rule to change the way the agency must fulfill Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The rule change would relax the timeline for the agency, making requesters wait longer, and would increase the burden on requesters to be more specific in their requests. After years of scandal, led by former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, the Department of the Interior shouldn’t make it harder for people to file FOIAs and get the information we’re entitled to about Interior’s decision making and priorities.

 

COMING UP:

 

January 8 House and Senate reconvene for their first full legislative week of the 116th Congress

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