THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE (IN)ACTION – MAY 22, 2020

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:

 

“I myself was muted after my initial comment, and they would not unmute me” 

— Nuiqsut resident Martha Itta wrote in a letter to the Bureau of Land Management following the virtual public hearing on oil and gas development on Alaska’s North Slope.

The pandemic has shown that we need more close-to-home outdoor spaces for people to safely enjoy. And I don’t just mean “safely” in terms of social distancing. In the wake of the horrific murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old African American man who was shot multiple times while out for a jog, it’s clear that we as a country have work to do to make this a place where people of color can simply go outside without fearing for their lives—like I, as a white person, am privileged to do.

— LCV Conservation Program Director Alex Taurel in an op-ed on the importance of safe green spaces for all and calling for Congress to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“The system has allowed, basically, low-income people and people of color to have to breathe the pollution.” 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, an epidemiologist and Detroit’s former health director in a New York Times article by Hiroko Tabuchi on the deadly risk air pollution plays in lower-income communities during COVID-19.

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LCV IN THE NEWS:

 

Huffington Post: Trump Is The Most Anti-Conservation President In History, Analysis Finds

E&E: Environmental group launches ads against Trump

Fox News: Environmental group labels Trump as ‘Dirtiest of All Time’

The Washington Post: A new anti-Trump ad links the president’s wild coronavirus rhetoric to his record on climate change.

Politico: Morning Score

The Washington Post: The Energy 202: Oil services firm under federal investigation receives $6.8 million in coronavirus stimulus funds

Ballotpedia: Trump campaign launches anti-Biden website called ‘Truth over Facts’

 

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:

 

C-VILLE Weekly (VA): Green spaces are trending: It’s time to protect more of them

The Register Guard (OR): Guest View: Climate Plan a Huge Step Forward

NJ Spotlight (NJ): Denial of Permits Signals End for Gas Pipeline Under Raritan Bay

Appalachian Voices (NC): Groups urge expansion of NC utility shutoff moratorium during Covid-19

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DIRTIEST OF ALL TIME: This week, LCV Victory Fund released the first round of high-impact digital ads and unique direct mail in its $14 million paid media program to expose the truth about Donald Trump’s environmental record, and its similarities to his coronavirus response, to voters in the battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. LCV Victory Fund is partnering with Priorities USA Action for the digital programs in Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

OUR TAKE: LCV Victory Fund SVP of Campaigns Pete Maysmith said, “In the fifty-year history of the Dirty Dozen, no elected official has ever posed a bigger risk to our environment and our health than Donald Trump and he clearly deserves the title ‘Dirtiest of All Time. Voters need to know that Trump denies the threat of climate change just like he denied the threat of the coronavirus and it’s the public who pays the price. His refusal to listen to the experts, and his prioritizing of corporations over people hurts our communities, especially communities of color and low-income communities.” 

WATCH: 

“Hoax”

“Safety”

“Deny”

“Consequences”

“Believe” 

WE NEED MORE ACTION: Following the House vote last week on the new HEROES Act, LCV is continuing to advocate that Congress protect workers, families, and communities while making transformative investments in building a more just, equitable and sustainable society. As we reimagine our post-coronavirus world and rebuild our economy, Congress has an opportunity to support the hard-hit clean energy sector, which provides high-quality jobs and cleaner, healthier air for our communities. Last week LCV led a coalition letter of environmental organizations to the House supporting the democracy provisions of the HEROES Act, and here is a list of all COVID-related letters we have signed and led on since mid-March. 

BIDEN’S REPEAL: This week Joe Biden announced that, if elected president, he would rescind Trump’s permit allowing the Keystone XL oil pipeline to cross the border into U.S. territory. As Vice President, Biden stood alongside President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry in 2015 when they rejected the pipeline in 2015 but last year, Trump signed a construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring 830,000 barrels of dirty crude oil across the border from Canada. 

REDLINING = RACISM = RESIGNATION: This week in an Axios interview, Trump Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette conflated big banks’ refusal to finance the wealthy oil industry’s risky drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with the historically racist practice of redlining. Redlining systematically denied Black communities fair access to housing loans, a racist policy that has left a legacy of inequity, which is visible in the impacts of the climate crisis and the coronavirus pandemic. To even compare banks restricting the finance of destructive oil drilling to years of unjust racism is a new low.  

 OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski said, “Out of touch doesn’t even begin to cover it. Trump Energy Secretary Brouillete should step down immediately for his offensive comments that completely dismiss the experience black communities had and have with discriminatory lending practices. The racist practice of redlining contributed to inequities, including environmental racism, that continue to plague the health and well being of communities of color today. Our Department of Energy should be focused on ensuring all people can live in clean, safe, and healthy communities right now, not using ignorant language to bail out Big Oil.”

WHEELER’S TESTIMONY: EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler testified in front of the Environmental and Public Works Committee about the agency’s role in the coronavirus pandemic and the agency’s overall priorities. He highlighted the EPA’s rollback of 60 critical environmental safeguards under President Trump’s administration. Ranking Member Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) was quick to point out that these rollbacks will lead to increased pollution and premature deaths. Carper outlines the danger of the EPA rollbacks and highlights air pollution’s contribution to adverse COVID-19 outcomes in his report entitled, “A Pandemic of Pollution”. We know low-wealth communities and communities of color face more water and air pollution and are suffering the most from COVID-19, yet Wheeler has accelerated the EPA taking deregulatory actions that further jeopardize the health of frontline communities.

PUBLIC’S TESTIMONY TO WHEELER — PROTECT OUR HEALTH: This week, the EPA held virtual public hearings on the proposal to not strengthen particulate matter standards. A member of LCV and a Youth Promotora for LCV’s community organizing program, Chispa, Crystal Vega, told her story about the ways air pollution negatively impacts her family and community in Phoenix. Additionally, LCV Legislative Director Matthew Davis, a former EPA health scientist who worked on the 2012 Particulate Matter National Ambient Air Quality Standards (PM NAAQS), also spoke. Next week, Dr. Sacoby Wilson, a prominent environmental health scientist who often collaborates with Chispa Maryland, will be speaking Wednesday, May 27 from 12:30-1:00pm to discuss the environmental and health impacts caused by particulate matter in the air. 

OUR TAKE: Here is an excerpt of the testimony from LCV Legislative Director Matthew Davis at the EPA public hearing on particulate matter: The Trump administration’s disregard for science and scientists’ advice in the middle of a public health crisis is shameful — and especially so given these are favors for polluting industries at great risk to public health. The EPA’s proposed rule fails to meet its core requirement under the Clean Air Act: to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety. Now is the time, especially amid an unprecedented respiratory pandemic, to strengthen these PM standards and safeguard families’ health. 

CHISPA’S TAKE: Here is an excerpt of the testimony from youth Promotora Crystal Vega’s testimony at the EPA public hearing on particulate matter: I’m from Phoenix, AZ where there are millions of people living in low-income communities that are impacted by unhealthy levels of pollution, just like mine. In my neighborhood alone, there are more concrete pathways than there are parks. I’m surrounded by industrial machines and big factories. Yet, I’m a young person, and I want to hike, play sports and enjoy the outdoors, but when I do spend time outside, I can clearly see the pollution around me. As an asthmatic, I’m already at a greater risk because of my age, because of where I live, and where I go to school. In Phoenix alone there are almost 100,000 children living with asthma — this makes me sad, I think of the little ones who are going through what I had to go through, late nights of respiratory therapies, early mornings of medication and inhaling exercises, but I hope that someday we can all breathe healthier and cleaner air.

TRUMP EXPLOITS THE PANDEMIC … AGAIN: Where we see a catastrophic health and economic crisis, President Trump sees an opportunity to quietly relax even more environmental protections. This week the president issued an executive order and directed federal agencies, including the EPA, to “go to town” during the pandemic and roll back more safeguards that protect our health. The executive order also enables agencies to make their temporary roll backs — like EPA’s suspension of enforcement — permanent. Shameful.

OUR TAKE: Legislative Director Matthew Davis said, “Donald Trump’s exploitation of the coronavirus pandemic to help his corporate polluter friends at the expense of our communities’ health is sick …We should be focused on ensuring all people live in clean, safe and healthy communities. Trump’s actions are failing our children and families.”   

FEDS CUT OIL AND GAS ROYALTIES: The Trump administration’s Bureau of Land Management is in the process of lowering royalties for drilling and mining on public lands. These measures mean oil and gas companies will pay less to extract resources from our shared public lands, which in turn, means less revenue for state and local governments to perform essential services such as paying first responders and teachers. The BLM is not providing similar relief to solar and wind industries. On the contrary, the Trump administration has ordered companies with turbines and photovoltaics on public lands to pay more than a year’s worth of back rent.

FLOCKING TO PARKS: Thousands of people are throwing social distancing and masks out the window to flock to national parks that are starting their phases of reopening. This Monday, Yellowstone national park reopened for the first time since March, and it saw a rush of eager visitors. While access to the outdoors is important, we cannot forget that we are still in the midst of a pandemic and people’s lives are at risk. In Arizona, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez is urging the National Park Service to rethink their decision of opening the Grand Canyon. COVID-19 is still devastating the Navajo community just like so many other communities of color and the risk is too high.  

PUBLIC CITIZEN REPORT: Public Citizen released a report on the meetings that Department of Interior officials have held with external groups, revealing the Trump administration’s close contact with oil and gas companies. Top officials met with oil, gas, mining and coal companies a combined total of 308 times from January 2017 to May 2019. In comparison, these officials met with conservation groups and renewable energy groups 85 times within the same period. This blatant favoritism of the fossil fuel industry is also apparent in the Trump administration’s allocation of coronavirus crisis relief funds. The Trump administration included a massive tax benefit in the CARES Act that is estimated to result in $1.9 billion relief for 37 oil companies. Further, the Trump administration has been quick to lower federal royalty payments for drilling and mining on public lands — depriving the government of revenues for essential government services.

ATTEMPTED ERASURE OF VOICES: The Trump administration plans to hold a public Zoom meeting to move forward with their plans of oil and gas drilling on public lands. Many Native Americans and Tribal groups, who often lack access to consistent and reliable internet, are worried that their opinions will fail to be heard on matters that  impact lands that hold great cultural significance to their community. During previous virtual hearings, tribal groups have reported that speakers were disconnected because of poor connections and, even more outrageously, muted by moderators. This inequitable execution of public hearings is wholly unacceptable. 

ASTHMA AWARENESS MONTH: Did you know that May is #AsthmaAwarenessMonth? Check out this Telemundo segment that features Chispa’s work and Deputy Director of Chispa Arizona Gloria Montano Greene discussing air pollution and its link to asthma in the Latinx community. Chispa also created and shared three short animated videos that focus on the impacts of pollution, dirty air and our health. Watch these fun but informative videos below: 

Clean air is Essential for growth and learning

Dirty Air impacts children’s health

Toxic pollution increases asthma rates

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STATES: 

WILLIAMS PIPELINE BLOCKED (NJ, NY):

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection blocked key permits for the Williams Company’s proposed $1 billion Northeast Supply Enhancement pipeline. In rejecting the New York permit, Cuomo’s administration not only referenced the threat of construction on water quality, but also the incompatibility with New York’s new Climate Leadership Protection Act, which set goals to cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and reach 100% clean energy by 2040. New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection followed suit, denying a wetlands permit. The Williams Company announced it will no longer be pursuing the proposal.

CVM TAKE: Executive Director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters Ed Potosnak said, “This decision shows that the right things can happen when you work hard and stick to what you know is right.” 

CLEAN ENERGY EQUITY (NJ): Senator Troy Singleton announced New Jersey is seeking to create an Office of Clean Energy Equity that would devote 10% of the state’s clean energy funds to workforce development and clean energy access in low-income communities and communities of color. The legislation that was introduced last week includes installing 400 megawatts of energy storage in low-income communities by 2030. 

CVM TAKE: NJ LCV Executive Director Ed Potosnak said, “We are proud to support the NJ Shines Act to reduce the disproportionate health burdens that communities of color and low-income families have borne due to our dirty, fossil fueled economy. If COVID-19 has brought anything to light, it is that clean air matters, especially for those that don’t have access to it and are seeing more severe symptoms and deaths from this virus. We look forward to working with Vote Solar and our NJ Shines partners to ensure cleaner air, lower the energy burdens of our low-income families, and create even more good, local jobs in New Jersey in the clean energy economy.”

EXTEND THE MORATORIUM (NC): Dozens of North Carolina social justice organizations, including North Carolina LCV, sent a letter to Governor Roy Cooper, urging him to extend the state’s moratorium on utility disconnections and late fees. The moratorium that was put in place to help families facing economic hardship due to COVID-19 is set to expire at the end of this month. This moratorium has helped many families avoid electricity and water shutoffs and has also exposed the need for clean energy and energy efficiency measures that will help lower overall costs.

CONGRESSIONAL PRIMARIES (OR): This week Oregon held their congressional primaries where climate champions, Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio came out on top! LCV Action Fund endorsed Bonamici in District 1, Blumenauer in District 3 and DeFazio in District 4 this cycle because of their strong records and leadership.

CELEBRATING OREGON (OR): Executive Director of the Eugene/Springfield NAACP Eric Richardson and Executive Director of Oregon LCV Doug Moore wrote an op-ed in The Register-Guard, celebrating Oregon’s climate progress this year. Back in March, Governor Kate Brown announced a climate executive order — the Oregon Climate Action Plan — which makes ensuring engagement of communities disproportionately impacted by climate change a top priority and includes provisions around transit equity and advancing clean energy. 

TIME TO PROTECT GREEN SPACES (VA): LCV Conservation Program Director Alex Taurel wrote an op-ed on the importance of safe green spaces for all featured in C-VILLE Weekly, a Charlottesville, Virginia news outlet. Taurel focuses on the importance of protecting our outdoor spaces by passing the Great American Outdoors Act, which would fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and address the public lands’ maintenance backlog–part of our campaign to reach a science-based goal of protecting 30% of U.S. lands and ocean.

 

COMING UP:

 

May 1-30: Asthma Awareness Month

May 1-30: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May 22: World Biodiversity Day

June 8: World Oceans Day

November 3: United States 2020 Presidential Election

 

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