THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE (IN)ACTION – March 22, 2019

QUOTES OF THE WEEK:

 

“New Mexico has long had the potential to be a national leader in clean energy – now we’re making it a reality, reducing emissions, expanding renewable energy sources, creating jobs and boosting the economy.”

–New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham via Twitter, ahead of signing the Energy Transition Act.

 

“Our public lands legislation – recently signed into law – permanently reauthorizes the Land & Water Conservation Fund. For more than 50 years, LWCF has been one of the most powerful tools we have to preserve & ensure access to America’s most iconic landscapes.”

— Washington Senator Maria Cantwell via Twitter on Monday.

 

“Today’s decision could upend almost a decade of cooperative, bipartisan conservation efforts and eventually lead to a sage grouse Endangered Species Act listing…This latest favor to the oil and gas industry exposes this treasured symbol of the West to disruptive, harmful extractive operations that may imperil its long-term viability.”

— Delaware Senator Tom Carper wrote in a statement regarding the Interior Department’s decision to cut protections for the sage grouse.

 

LCV IN THE NEWS:

 

National Journal: Green Groups See 2020 as Climate Change’s Time in the Sun

E&E News: How Trump’s new rule-slashing judge could sway green issues

Fresno Bee: Nunes, Costa, Cox collide on climate change, yet they represent the same Fresno County region

Time: How the Green New Deal Is Forcing Politicians to Finally Address Climate Change

 

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:

 

The Washington Post (VA): Why ratepayers get the bill for Dominion Energy’s coal ash cleanup

New York Daily News (NY): Brooklyn’s poorest residents get stuck with the MTA’s oldest buses

The Philadelphia Inquirer (PA): Pa.’s nuclear industry does not deserve another bailout | Opinion

Alabama Political Reporter (AL): Conservation Alabama celebrates 20 years

 

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CLIMATE ON THE TRAIL: 2020 contenders continued to prioritize climate change in their campaign stops this week. Check out this week’s roundup of what candidates are saying and doing to put climate action front and center.

 

FEDERAL COURT RULES AGAINST TRUMP, IN FAVOR OF CLIMATE: D.C. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled this week that the Trump administration went against the law “by failing to take into account the climate impact of its oil and gas leasing in the West,” according to The Washington Post. The ruling will temporarily block drilling on roughly 300,000 acres of land in Wyoming. The ruling has the potential to derail much of the administration’s plan to boost the fossil fuel industry at the expense of our lands and wildlife.

 

DANGEROUS NAME CHANGE: The Trump administration made it official last Friday that it plans to remove protections for the Sage Grouse in order to aid oil and gas companies. The sage grouse is an at-risk bird species whose habitat lays on oil-rich lands in the Western United States. The plan will put the bird species in great danger while expanding drilling, adding to Trump’s long list of similar moves to harm natural lands and habitats in order to help the oil industry.

 

BIAS ON THE CLIMATE COMMITTEE: Several Republican members of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis have direct ties and investments in the big oil and gas industry, including North Dakota Representative Kelly Armstrong, Alabama Representative Gary Palmer, and West Virginia Representative Carol Miller.

 

EPA FAILS TO PROTECT EVERYONE FROM LETHAL CHEMICAL: Despite a growing number of associated deaths, the EPA has decided against fully banning methylene chloride, a lethal chemical found in paint strippers. The agency banned consumer use but will continue to allow commercial use, jeopardizing the health and lives of workers.

 

CALLING FOR INTERIOR INVESTIGATION: New Mexico Senator Tom Udall and Minnesota Representative Betty McCollum have called for an investigation into potential ethics violations by Interior Department officials, writing a letter to acting Interior Inspector General Mary Kendall urging her to conduct an internal review. The potential investigation would look into multiple Interior staffers, and the letter specifically cited acting Secretary David Bernhardt, who is slated to go through the hearing process for his pending nomination in the coming weeks.

 

TRUMP’S BUDGET GREETED BY  BIPARTISAN OPPOSITION: An article in Bloomberg Environment this week highlighted that Democrats and Republicans are united against some of Trump’s proposed budget cuts — especially his proposed cuts to the EPA and Department of Energy. A handful of Senate and House Republicans have joined environmental champions in speaking out about Trump’s proposed cuts, advocating instead for greater investments in clean energy and environmental protection.

 

SCIENCE BUDGET SLASHED: Information released Monday shows that cuts to the National Science Foundation would lead to 1,000 fewer grants being awarded next year, and overall funding for research would be drastically decreased, especially for the NSF’s polar programs, which would be cut by almost 20 percent.

 

WHEELER’S WATER WOES: EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said Wednesday morning in an interview with CBS This Morning that drinking water is the biggest environmental challenge facing the world today. Yet,  the EPA is currently in the middle of a comment period on its proposal to drastically roll back protections for our drinking water. Climate change is water change and EPA’s Dirty Water Rule will make our waters more vulnerable to pollution.

 

DISMISSING CLIMATE CHANGE: In the same interview, Wheeler said that “most of the threats from climate change are 50-75 years out,” and that the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates’ focus on climate change is “unreasonable.” This shouldn’t be a surprise as Wheeler has done little to demonstrate his ability to combat environmental threats while leading the EPA, but voters are prioritizing 2020 candidates who will act on climate.

 

RACISM, DELUSIONS, AND MORE FROM INTERIOR: The top spokesperson at the Department of the Interior was found to have made a slew of racist comments targeting Muslims, per a HuffPost report published Wednesday. Faith Vander Voort, the Interior Department’s Press Secretary, made Islamaphobic remarks on a right-wing podcast in June of 2017, wrote an anti-Muslim blog post in 2015, and previously worked for Representative Steve King. She also made comments on the aforementioned podcast that question the reality of climate change, saying “The left is so upset because they genuinely believe that climate change ― quote unquote, ‘climate change’ ― is the biggest threat to our society…I just think it’s delusional.”

 

EPA HOLDS HEARING ON TOXICS ROLLBACK: The EPA held a hearing on Monday regarding the agency’s proposed rollback of Mercury and Air Toxic Standards, where multiple environmental advocates opposed the plan. The rollback would weaken standards for harmful emissions from power plants, putting people’s health at risk.

 

OUR TAKE: LCV Vice President of Government Affairs Sara Chieffo testified at the hearing, saying: The EPA’s proposed revision to the existing Mercury and Air Toxics Standards stands in direct conflict with LCV’s core values and, indeed, the mission of the EPA to protect our health and our environment.

 

FLOODING IN THE MIDWEST: Catastrophic flooding has ravaged many states in the Midwest, including Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Many were forced to evacuate and farmland has been destroyed in an area that is heavily dependent on agriculture. While many of these states went for Trump in 2016, an NBC News report shows that residents and voters want to see climate change addressed and taken seriously, especially in regard to the flooding.

 

DEMS DEMAND DETAILS: Senate Democrats sent a letter to Acting Interior Department chief David Bernhardt  this week calling on the department to release more details about their proposed five-year plan for oil and gas leasing. The letter comes a week before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is set to hold a hearing on Bernhardt’s nomination to Interior Secretary, and was signed by 17 Senators, including Bob Menendez, Dianne Feinstein, and Jeff Merkley.

 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STATES: While Trump continues to undermine and rollback important environmental protections, state and local leaders are moving forward with climate action and helping us transition to a clean energy economy.

 

COLORADO: The speaker of Colorado’s House, KC Becker, introduced a bill that would substantially reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and would give the Air Quality Control Commission power to regulate public utilities and the oil and gas sector.  As Becker points out, states are leading the way on clean energy: “States are really leading on their own because there is no national policy here…Colorado needs to lead in this area.”

 

MARYLAND: The Maryland State Senate passed the Clean Energy Jobs Act this week by a vote of 33-13. The measure sets the goal of having the state run on 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. The Maryland House has yet to vote on the bill, but a House Committee voted last week to move the bill forward. Also, the Maryland House of Delegates passed HB1255 this week, a bill that will create a grant program to help school districts move to a zero-emission bus fleet. The bill would require each new school bus to be a zero-emission vehicle starting in October 2022.

 

NEVADA: Members of the Nevada state legislature introduced a bill on Monday that would bring the state’s renewable portfolio standard to 50 percent by 2030, with the goal of 100 percent carbon-free emissions by 2050. Nevada adds its name to a growing list of states that are moving toward entirely renewable energy standards.

 

NEVADA PART II: LCV’s Chispa Nevada testified at a hearing on SB 299, advocating for funding of electric school buses. Chispa Program Director Rudy Zamora said in his testimony, “Electric buses are safe, smart, and the future…We know that ultimately, electric school buses are the safest option for our children. We support this investment in our children’s health and encourage you to approve funding for electric school buses through SB299.”

 

NEW MEXICO: Today, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Energy Transition Act, which will put the state on a path to 100 percent clean energy by 2045. New Mexico joins California, New Jersey, Hawaii, and more states that have promised to go entirely renewable in the near future.

 

COMING UP:

 

March 26 – Senate to vote on the Green New Deal

 

March 26 – House Natural Resources Committee hearing on a bill that would protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas development.  

 

March 28 – Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Hearing on David Bernhardt’s nomination for Interior Secretary.

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