Category Archives: Environmental Protection

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Klobuchar Proposes to ‘Act with Urgency’ on Climate Change: Transform Energy, Rebuild Green America, Mobilize the Heartland and ‘Leave No One Behind’

US Senator Amy Klobuchar has released her plan to “act with urgency” on Climate Change: transform the energy sector, rebuild a Green America, mobilize the Heartland and “leave no one behind” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. With this summer posting heat records and yet another Category 5 hurricane wreaking havoc in the Caribbean and Atlantic islands and barreling down on the East Coast, US Senator Amy Klobuchar has released her plan to tackle the Climate Crisis, which is distinguished for a focus on agriculture and the Heartland, in addition to the more common focus on manufacturing, transportation and clean, renewable energy. This is from the Klobuchar campaign:

MINNEAPOLIS, MN — The climate crisis isn’t happening in 100 years — it’s happening now. 2018 was the fourth-hottest year on record globally and it was another near-record year for U.S. weather and climate disasters. The dire warnings in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Climate Assessment make clear that immediate action is needed. The National Climate Assessment lays out how increasing global temperatures are harming our country’s food systems and public health by increasing the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, while displacement and destruction caused by climate-related natural disasters threaten our economy and national security.

Senator Klobuchar is a strong voice from the Midwest when it comes to climate change. In the Senate, she leads the fight to combat climate change by serving on the Senate Climate Action Taskforce, has fought for legislation to reduce greenhouse gases, and has led a Senate resolution recognizing that global climate change is occurring and will continue to pose ongoing risks unless we take action. She authored legislation setting a national renewable electricity standard and she successfully extended renewable energy production tax credits. The first bill Senator Klobuchar ever introduced was a carbon counter bill to establish the first national greenhouse gas registry to track emissions by major industries.

Read Senator Klobuchar’s full plan here.


Confronting the Climate Crisis with Urgency 

We can’t wait. That’s why Senator Klobuchar is committed to taking immediate action — without Congress — to transform our energy sector, unlock scientific breakthroughs, hold the fossil fuel industry accountable, and support workers and communities that are on the front lines of the climate crisis. She will:

Use the full power of the presidency to tackle the climate crisis. Starting on day one of her administration, Senator Klobuchar will take aggressive executive action to confront the climate crisis. She will introduce sweeping climate legislation in the first 100 days of her presidency, but she also won’t wait for Congress when it comes to the full range of legal actions a President can take to address climate change. Specifically, in the first 100 days of her administration Senator Klobuchar will:

Get the United States back in the Paris International Climate Agreement on day one. On day one of Senator Klobuchar’s presidency she will get us back into the Paris International Climate Change Agreement, and she will immediately begin working with global leaders to strengthen the agreement so that the United States maintains global leadership to address the climate crisis.

Restore the Clean Power Plan. Senator Klobuchar will bring back the Clean Power Plan, which set emissions standards for states with respect to reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. She will negotiate even stronger emissions standards that account for the progress states have already made. 

Bring back the fuel-economy standards. Senator Klobuchar will restore and strengthen our fuel economy standards, which are key to making an immediate impact on the emissions of cars and light trucks. The Trump Administration has weakened the fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks and has challenged the right of California and other states to follow more stringent standards.

Introduce sweeping legislation that will put our country on the path to 100% net zero emissions by 2050. In her first 100 days as President, Senator Klobuchar will introduce and work with Congress to pass sweeping legislation that will put our country on a path to achieving 100% net-zero emissions no later than 2050. 

End the Trump Administration’s censoring of climate science. Senator Klobuchar will end Trump Administration efforts to censor climate science through actions like deleting climate-focused websites, removing the phrase “climate change” from reports, and preventing government scientists from attending conferences on climate change.

Set ambitious goals to reduce the carbon footprint of the federal government. During the first 100 days of her administration, Senator Klobuchar will aggressively work to reduce the federal government’s significant carbon footprint. As President, she will set ambitious goals to increase the efficiency of federal buildings, data centers, and vehicles, reduce water consumption, and increase the use of renewable energy. 

Reinstate the National Climate Assessment Advisory Committee to immediately start addressing the climate crisis. The National Climate Assessment Advisory Committee was charged with translating the findings of the National Climate Assessment into concrete goals. During the first 100 days of her administration, Senator Klobuchar will reinstate this committee that President Trump let expire.

Hold the fossil fuel industry accountable. Senator Klobuchar is committed to standing up to the oil companies and holding the fossil fuel industry accountable. She will:

End federal fossil fuel subsidies. For too long, taxpayers have subsidized the massive profits of fossil fuel companies. Senator Klobuchar will end federal tax subsidies for fossil fuel exploration and production. 

Make politicians accountable to voters, not special interests. Again and again, bold action on climate has been blocked by the power of special interests. As President, Senator Klobuchar will put people first by working to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and get dark money out of our politics, as well as establish a campaign finance system that increases the power of small donors through a matching system for small donations. She will investigate potential wrongdoings and hold energy companies accountable. 

Expanding Renewable Energy and Transforming the Energy Sector 

There is a scientific consensus that in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change we will need to achieve 100% net-zero emissions no later than 2050, which cannot be done without a wholesale transformation of the energy sector. To expand renewable energy and transform the energy sector to produce clean power, Senator Klobuchar will:  

Invest in infrastructure and provide incentives for state and local governments, nonprofits, and private companies to expand clean energy production. Senator Klobuchar will support a landmark carbon pricing system that does not have a regressive impact on Americans and will help make clean energy production more cost competitive. She will also do more to accelerate the adoption of clean energy, including by subsidizing production and investment by state and local governments, nonprofits and private companies, as well as by upgrading our grid infrastructure and storage capabilities. 

Provide production and investment tax credits. Senator Klobuchar will create a technology neutral tax credit to support production of or investment into clean sources of energy. She will also create a clean energy bond program so that tax-exempt entities can benefit. The credits will be phased out as overall emissions are reduced. 

Upgrade energy grids and storage capacity. Our country’s electric grid needs an upgrade to account for the irregular nature of certain clean energy sources, accommodate distributed energy production, and facilitate smart metering and other innovative technologies. As President, Senator Klobuchar will create a competitive grant program and a new investment tax credit to promote investments in grid improvements and storage. She will also provide rural electric cooperatives access to technical resources and expertise to overcome the barriers to renewable energy storage and grid improvements based on a bipartisan bill she leads in the Senate.

Streamline renewable energy production on federal land. Many federal lands have significant renewable energy potential. As President, Senator Klobuchar will work to streamline the permitting process for renewable projects on federal lands while protecting sensitive ecosystems and ensuring a fair distribution of payments. 

Empower municipal utilities and electric cooperatives to lead on clean energy. Senator Klobuchar knows that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to clean energy policy. She will make sure smaller producers, including municipal utilities and electric cooperatives, have a seat at the table when decisions are made about federal energy policy. In the Senate, she authored bipartisan legislation that was signed into law that enables rural electric power cooperatives and their members to continue to use energy-efficient water heaters as part of conservation programs. This law allows cooperatives to optimize both their own energy management and the environmental benefits of water heaters. 

Reduce climate pollution. A carbon price will create an economic incentive to reduce carbon pollution and there is more we can do to limit climate pollution from existing fossil fuel production. 

Restore and expand the Clean Power Plan. In her first 100 days as President, Senator Klobuchar will bring back the Clean Power Plan, which set emissions standards for states with respect to reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. She will negotiate even stronger emissions standards that account for the progress states have made. 

Strengthen enforcement of the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws. Under the Trump Administration, EPA enforcement efforts have fallen dramatically. As President, Senator Klobuchar will direct the EPA to vigorously enforce the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws and make sure the enforcers have the resources they need.

Reduce methane leakage from oil and gas production. Methane has as much as 84 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide. The Trump Administration has rolled back EPA and BLM rules to prevent methane leakage even though the Senate defeated an attempt to repeal the BLM methane rule on a bipartisan vote and many companies already comply with stricter state rules. As President, Senator Klobuchar will restore and strengthen the EPA and BLM methane rules. 

Support research to improve negative emissions technologies. To supplement other mitigation efforts as we transition to clean energy, Senator Klobuchar will support research to improve negative emissions technologies that could be used to reduce the amount of carbon currently in the atmosphere.

Ban new fossil fuel permitting on federal lands and review and restore environmental protections repealed by the Trump Administration. To help accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels, Senator Klobuchar will ban new fossil fuel permits on federal lands. Senator Klobuchar will also undertake a comprehensive review and restore environmental protections repealed by the Trump Administration. The Trump Administration has revoked dozens of guidance documents and rules that protect people’s safety, health and the environment when it comes to our power plants, oil refineries, national parks and wildlife refuges, offshore drilling, pipelines, and oil and gas development. Senator Klobuchar will undertake a thorough review of all the repealed guidance and rules, and work to restore our environmental and safety protections.

Increasing Efficiency and Rebuilding a Green America

Confronting the climate crisis also means improving energy efficiency and rebuilding infrastructure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stand up to the effects of climate change. As President, Senator Klobuchar will:

Increase efficiency and move toward an electrified transportation sector. Today, transportation accounts for about 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Senator Klobuchar will work to reduce emissions in the transportation sector through increasing fuel economy, supporting electrification, and promoting efficient transportation options. 

Bring back the fuel-economy standards. In her first 100 days as President, Senator Klobuchar will restore and strengthen our fuel economy standards, which are key to making an immediate impact on the emissions of cars and light trucks. The Trump Administration has weakened the fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks and has challenged the right of California and other states to follow more stringent standards.

Invest in electric vehicle infrastructure and promote electric vehicle sales. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make a significant investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and bring back the tax credit for electric vehicle purchases. 

Strengthen transit and commuter rail networks and support low- and no-carbon alternatives. As President, Senator Klobuchar will refocus federal transportation grants to prioritize transit projects, first and last mile connections, and bicycle and pedestrian improvements. She will also develop new incentives for transit systems and school districts to replace their existing bus fleets with low- and no-carbon alternatives. 

Revitalize freight and passenger rail. Railroads are an energy- and cost-effective way for producers to bring their goods to market and get people where they need to go. As President, Senator Klobuchar will encourage investment in short-line and freight rail networks. She will also address safety concerns including by mandating two-man crews, improving braking systems, and ensuring communities are prepared to respond to derailments involving hazardous cargo. In addition, she will build on her work pushing for greater competition in freight markets by providing fair treatment for captive shippers, appointing well qualified members to the Surface Transportation Board, and reviewing and addressing consolidation in the freight rail industry. She is also committed to expanding high-speed rail and Amtrak service in rural America.

Innovate in international shipping and aviation. International shipping and aviation account for a growing share of carbon emissions. As President, Senator Klobuchar will support research and strengthen international agreements to reduce emissions from sources like aviation and shipping. 

Support green manufacturing and provide consumers with green options. Manufacturing processes and consumer goods can have a significant climate impact. New technologies can significantly reduce carbon pollution, but we need to make sure manufacturers have the tools to adopt these technologies. 

Assist businesses transitioning to green manufacturing processes. Senator Klobuchar is committed to ensuring businesses have the resources they need to transition to green manufacturing processes. She will increase technical support through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and regional development strategies and encourage partnerships with community colleges and research universities. She will also expand manufacturing tax credits to specifically support upgrades and investments to reduce greenhouse gas pollution for manufacturers of all sizes.

Build a market for new and existing climate-friendly products. As President, Senator Klobuchar will support a market for climate-friendly products by promoting federal procurement policies that account for low-carbon energy sources and climate conscious processes.

Create a “Buy Clean” product labeling system. Many consumers are concerned about how their purchasing decisions affect the climate. As President, Senator Klobuchar will create a “Buy Clean” product labeling system to give consumers clear information about products that are produced to minimize their climate impact. 

Institute an import fee on carbon-intensive goods. We cannot allow foreign competitors to undercut U.S. manufacturers that are producing goods with climate conscious processes. That’s why as President, Senator Klobuchar will work to institute a fee on imports of carbon-intensive goods from foreign countries. 

Invest in green jobs and infrastructure. Senator Klobuchar has proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure package that will modernize our aging energy infrastructure so that it is secure and efficient. This massive infrastructure investment will create good-paying union jobs and give workers the skills they need to succeed in the green economy. 

Retrofit buildings to reduce their emissions. Residential and commercial buildings account for a significant share of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Senator Klobuchar will launch a major initiative to retrofit existing buildings to reduce their emissions through grants and tax credits that support insulation, weatherization improvements, upgrades to heating and cooling systems, and other energy saving upgrades.

Make new buildings climate friendly. As President, Senator Klobuchar will support the development of the next generation of low-emission buildings through model building energy codes and benchmarking and transparency programs that cut carbon pollution and energy bills for American families and businesses.

Promote effective zoning rules to minimize climate impacts. Some cities are beginning to update their zoning policies through initiatives like Minneapolis 2040. Senator Klobuchar will prioritize areas that have updated their zoning rules when awarding federal housing and infrastructure grants.

Expand the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Senator Klobuchar has been a strong supporter of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which preserves natural resources while supporting outdoor recreation through investments on our public lands. As President, Senator Klobuchar will push to permanently fund the LWCF.

Coordinate with broadband and other infrastructure priorities. In the Senate, Senator Klobuchar has been a leading proponent of “dig once” policies and other ways to reduce costs by coordinating infrastructure deployment. As President, she will direct federal agencies to maximize opportunities for coordinating climate, broadband, and other types of infrastructure deployment. 

Build climate resiliency into all federal infrastructure investments. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make federal infrastructure investments resilient to both current and future climate risks and partner with states and communities to develop regionally coordinated, resilient infrastructure strategies.

Promoting Research and Unlocking New Scientific Breakthroughs for Green Technologies 

At the same time as we move forward aggressively with the tools we have today, we need to invest in research that will create new opportunities to tackle the climate crisis. To unlock new scientific breakthroughs and promote research, Senator Klobuchar will:

Invest in federally sponsored research. Basic and applied research can uncover new technologies, make existing products more efficient, and reduce the costs of the tools we need to take on climate change. Senator Klobuchar will increase investment in federally sponsored research.

Expand direct federal research. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make bold investments in direct climate research at the Department of Energy, National Labs, ARPA-E and the Department of Defense.

Partner with universities and non-profits. As President, Senator Klobuchar will support a major expansion of federal grants for climate research to universities and non-profits. 

Unleash the creativity of the private sector. American workers and businesses are a vital source of innovation. Senator Klobuchar believes we must include the private sector in climate research and innovation. 

Strengthen tax incentives for climate research. Senator Klobuchar will strengthen existing tax credits for businesses investing in research to develop new processes, technologies and products that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help tackle the climate crisis. 

Encourage collaboration between researchers and the private sector. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make it easier for federal research grant recipients to partner with the private sector and provide set-aside grants for projects with strong commercialization potential. 

Help American companies become global green leaders. As President, Senator Klobuchar will increase support for businesses looking to export green products and technologies through a new initiative across U.S. export promotion agencies. 

Respect science and empower scientists. As President, Senator Klobuchar will stop the constant attacks on scientists and science. She will also direct all federal agencies to reimplement scientific integrity policies, reverse rules limiting what types of science agencies can use, and restart data collection canceled by the Trump Administration. 

Mobilizing the Heartland

Senator Klobuchar is a strong voice from the Midwest when it comes to climate change. She will give rural areas the tools they need to be leaders in clean energy production, support agricultural practices that take on climate change and make sure the heartland benefits from rebuilding a green America. 

Support rural clean energy production. Clean energy, including wind and solar, is a major driver of job growth in rural areas. In fact, 99 percent of operating wind capacity is located in rural areas. As part of Senator Klobuchar’s plan to tackle climate change, she will prioritize rural energy development, including expanding storage capacity and strengthening our energy grid. And as we continue to develop advanced biofuel technologies, she will strengthen the renewable fuel standard.

Invest in wind and solar and support rural energy development. As President, Senator Klobuchar will invest in interregional transmission lines and grid improvements to support the development of renewable energy. She will launch a grant program to help rural cooperatives develop energy storage and microgrid projects for renewable energy generation, transmission and storage. She will also support increased investment in small, distributed wind, solar and biogas projects.  

Provide technical resources for small, rural energy producers and distributors. As President, Senator Klobuchar will push for new economic and environmental opportunities in rural America by investing in rural renewable energy development and by passing and signing into law her bipartisan Expanding Access to Sustainable Energy (EASE) Act to provide rural electric cooperatives access to technical resources and expertise to overcome the barriers to renewable energy storage and grid improvements.

Investing in and providing incentives for homegrown energy. Senator Klobuchar believes that homegrown biofuels are an important part of our rural economies, our nation’s energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the Senate, she has been a leader when it comes to standing up to the Administration’s misuse of small refinery renewable fuel standard (RFS) waivers. She has also worked successfully in the Senate to provide financing and grant support to biobased manufacturers. As President, Senator Klobuchar will strengthen the RFS, end the overuse of secret RFS small refinery waivers, promote the use of blender pumps, pass a statute to ensure year-round E15 sales, and invest in advanced and cellulosic biofuels. 

Help farmers be leaders in responding to the climate crisis. We can position American farmers to be leaders in responding to the climate crisis by increasing land conservation and expanding on new techniques that help store more carbon in topsoil on productive farmland. 

Invest in conservation innovation. Senator Klobuchar will target research into soil carbon sequestration, which could improve soil health as well as reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere. She will also expand Conservation Innovation Grants to test emerging conservation approaches, including practices that increase carbon sequestration levels. And building on provisions she included in the 2018 farm bill, Senator Klobuchar will further improve agriculture data research of conservation practices to help farmers reduce risk and increase profitability. 

Protect native sod and improve soil health. Senator Klobuchar pushed for a provision in the 2018 Farm Bill that closed a loophole allowing some non-insured crops to be planted four consecutive years without a reduction in crop insurance assistance for succeeding insured crops. As President, she will expand nationwide the sodsaver’s prohibition to substitute crop insurance yields on native sod that is converted to cropland. She will also expand the Soil Health and Income Protection Pilot Program to help provide farmers an alternative to cropping less productive cropland. 

Expand conservation practices. Senator Klobuchar has been a champion of supporting farmer conservation efforts and promoting farming practices that reduce soil erosion and improve air and water quality, including by helping pass the 2018 Farm Bill, which included several of her priorities. As President, she will support significant new investments in conservation of working and retired lands. Senator Klobuchar will support the continued expansion of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and increase resources for the Conservation Stewardship Program to help provide farmers the tools they need to protect and enhance natural resources on working agricultural lands. And after successfully increasing the acreage cap of the Conservation Reserve Program, Senator Klobuchar will work to attract more enrollees and ensure payment rates are fair. 

Use green infrastructure investment to strengthen rural communities. There is a significant infrastructure backlog in rural America. From roads and bridges to levees and stormwater systems many rural areas face infrastructure challenges that will be difficult to address without federal investment. Upgrading rural infrastructure to meet our climate goals will also provide an opportunity to address the backlog and overcome infrastructure challenges that are holding back rural America. 

Strengthen rural transportation infrastructure. Rural transportation infrastructure is at risk from the effects of climate change. As President, Senator Klobuchar will invest in the repair and improvement of rural bridges that are not part of the federal-aid highway network and invest in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to improve inland waterways and ports, including funding for the Navigation and Ecosystem Restoration Program to modernize and expand outdated locks and restore ecosystems along the Mississippi. 

Expand energy efficiency programs. Energy costs can be a significant burden on farms, small businesses and households in rural communities. Senator Klobuchar has long worked to see that the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) has the resources needed to provide grants to farms and rural businesses to install energy efficient technologies, and she will continue to push for additional resources. In the Senate, she authored bipartisan legislation that was signed into law that empowers the nonprofit community to make energy-efficiency improvements to their buildings and offices. 

Upgrade levees to account for more frequent and severe floods. The floods we saw throughout the Midwest this year show why we cannot wait to upgrade our levees so they can protect communities from more frequent and severe floods. Senator Klobuchar will make upgrading levees a major focus of her infrastructure investment in the heartland.

Update the rural housing stock. Much of the existing rural housing stock is outdated and in poor condition, which contributes to the rural housing crisis. Investments in weatherizing and updating homes and their heating and cooling systems will build value and help renew the rural housing stock. 

Bring high-speed broadband to every household and business in America. Broadband access can reduce commuting and make business and farms more efficient. In an effort to close the rural-urban divide, Senator Klobuchar has previously announced a commitment to connect every household in America to high-speed internet by 2022. She will focus on creating accurate broadband maps to identify areas that lack adequate access, bringing high-speed internet infrastructure to areas most in need, including by expanding Rural Utility Service grants, and providing greater incentives for existing providers to upgrade their networks to cover unserved and underserved areas. She will also work to quickly implement the recommendations of the Precision Ag Connectivity Task Force to help farmers fully realize the potential of broadband in their operations.

Leaving No One Behind 

Vulnerable communities are currently experiencing a disproportionate share of the effects of climate change. Senator Klobuchar is committed to leaving no one behind through investments in climate adaptation and support for frontline communities. She will also focus on fulfilling our responsibility to our communities and workers who have helped power this country.  

Support communities that are most directly experiencing the effects of climate change. Traditionally marginalized communities including African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and disabled Americans are experiencing some of the most severe effects of climate change. Senator Klobuchar will prioritize assisting these communities as they adapt to the effects of climate change. 

Make sure vulnerable communities are a key part of all decision making. We cannot continue to make decisions about climate change without directly and meaningfully involving the communities that are most affected. Senator Klobuchar will make sure traditionally marginalized communities are a key part of all decision-making processes. 

Direct resources to the communities with the greatest needs. As President, Senator Klobuchar will create tax incentives and increase federal funding to communities that are most directly experiencing the effects of climate change. She will also prioritize these communities for infrastructure investments and in other federal climate change programs. 

Strengthen environmental justice programs at the EPA. The Trump Administration has worked to dismantle environmental justice programs. Senator Klobuchar will invest in the EPA’s Environmental Justice Grants, Funding and Technical Assistance and Office of Civil Rights.

Invest in affordable housing that promotes climate resilience and mitigation. As President, Senator Klobuchar will ensure that all federal housing programs put strong standards in place to reduce carbon emissions and she will invest in retrofitting so that existing housing is more energy efficient. 

Strengthen LIHEAP and SNAP to protect the most vulnerable Americans. To be sure that the most vulnerable Americans do not bear the costs of climate change mitigation and adaptation, Senator Klobuchar will strengthen two important programs for low-income Americans — LIHEAP, which helps with home energy costs, and SNAP, which provides nutrition assistance.

Use disaster funding to build more resilient communities. As President, Senator Klobuchar will work to end the Stafford Act prohibition that prevents disaster funding from being used for significant infrastructure improvements. She will also increase funding for FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. 

Fulfill our responsibility to our communities and workers who have helped power this country. As the granddaughter of miner who worked 1,500 feet underground, Senator Klobuchar understands the hard work and sacrifice of those who built and powered our country. She is committed to supporting and creating new opportunities for workers and communities that have depended on the fossil fuel industry. 

Promote community assistance and support workers. Senator Klobuchar will work with the public and private sector to attract new employers and maintain public services, while investing in infrastructure and educational opportunities in areas that experience job loss. As part of any carbon pricing system, she will create a significant manufacturing tax incentive to encourage investment in rural communities or communities that have faced or are about to face job losses. To make it easier for workers to find new jobs, Senator Klobuchar will create a new tax credit for companies that hire workers who had previously depended on the fossil fuel industry for employment. Workers will also be able to take advantage of Senator Klobuchar’s previously announced plan to provide tuition-free one- and two-year community college degrees and technical certifications and expand student loan forgiveness programs to workers in in-demand occupations. 

Reestablish U.S. International Leadership on Climate. When it comes to global leadership on climate change, the United States has abdicated its leadership role under the Trump Administration. As President, Senator Klobuchar will reassert U.S. global leadership to confront the climate crisis. 

Get the United States back in the Paris International Climate Agreement on day one. On day one of Senator Klobuchar’s presidency she will get the United States back into the Paris International Climate Change Agreement, and she will immediately begin working with global leaders to strengthen the agreement so that the United States maintains global leadership to address the climate crisis. 

Build on the Paris International Climate Agreement to achieve global emissions reductions we need. Senator Klobuchar will work with international leaders to build consensus around stronger goals to limit global warming to no more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. She will also recommit to controls on other greenhouse gasses through agreements like the Kigali Amendment. And she will increase U.S. support for the Green Climate Fund. 

Establish meaningful enforcement of international climate goals. The United States is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, but still only accounts for about 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Preventing catastrophic global warming will require meaningful enforcement mechanisms to ensure other countries also meet their emission reduction goals, which means making accountability for climate commitments a central part of our international agenda, taking on China’s efforts to promote dirty energy sources in other countries, and considering climate goals in all types of international assistance. 

Protect our national security. As President Senator Klobuchar will elevate the voices of our military and security experts who have repeatedly warned that climate change will increase the risks of international conflict and humanitarian crises. She will work with our allies to support countries most affected by climate change, including addressing global food and water shortages, supporting climate resilient development, helping countries adapt to the effects of climate change, and preparing for the increased risk of natural disasters. 

To pay for these critical investments, Senator Klobuchar will: 

Work with Congress to put a price on carbon that does not have a regressive impact on Americans. We know that carbon pollution has significant costs, but for too long the public has been forced to bear those costs while those responsible for the pollution have paid nothing. Most economists agree that the most efficient way to promote a transition away from fossil fuels is by putting a price on carbon. As President, Senator Klobuchar will work with Congress to put a carbon pricing system in place that does not have a regressive impact on Americans.

Develop Clean Energy Bonds. As President, Senator Klobuchar will create Clean Energy Bonds that will support investment in clean energy projects. Investors would earn back their full investment as well as interest from energy savings to the government and loan repayments for clean energy projects. Estimates suggest that these clean energy bonds could raise up to $50 billion and leverage $150 billion for clean energy innovation and the creation of over 1 million jobs.

End federal fossil fuel subsidies. For too long, taxpayers have subsidized the massive profits of fossil fuel companies. Senator Klobuchar will end federal tax subsidies for fossil fuel exploration and production. 

Make a series of corporate tax reforms. To pay for a green infrastructure investment worth hundreds of billions of dollars, Senator Klobuchar will make a series of corporate tax reforms including adjusting the corporate tax rate to 25%, closing loopholes that encourage U.S. companies to move jobs and operations overseas, establishing a financial risk fee on our largest banks, and increasing efforts for tax enforcement. 

Increase the capital gains rate. To support and create new opportunities for workers and communities that have depended on the fossil fuel industry, Senator Klobuchar will raise the capital gains rate for Americans who make over $200,000. 

Close the trust fund loophole. To support updating our buildings and providing consumers support through programs like LIHEAP and rebates, Senator Klobuchar will close the trust fund loophole.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Warren’s Plan to Transform America’s Approach to Trade

Senator Elizabeth Warren, running to be the 2020 Democratic candidate for president, released her plan to break decades of Washington consensus and transform every aspect of America’s current approach to trade.  © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren details a plan to transform America’s approach to trade: “Trade can be a powerful tool to help working families but our failed pro-corporate agenda has used trade to harm American workers and the environment. My plan represents a new approach to trade — one that uses America’s leverage to boost American workers and raise the standard of living across the globe. The President has a lot of authority to remake trade policy herself. When I’m elected, I intend to use it.” Here are the details, as provided by the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is running to be the 2020 Democratic candidate for president, released her plan to break decades of Washington consensus and transform every aspect of America’s current approach to trade. 

America enters trade negotiations with enormous leverage because it is the world’s most attractive market. A Warren Administration won’t hand that leverage to big corporations to use for their own narrow purposes. Elizabeth will use it to create and defend good American jobs, raise wages and farm income, combat climate change, lower drug prices, and raise living standards worldwide. Under Elizabeth’s plan, America will engage in international trade — but on our terms and only when it benefits American families. 

The plan is the third pillar of Elizabeth’s 
economic patriotism agenda. Read more about her plan here and below:
 

Last month, I released my economic patriotism agenda — my commitment to fundamentally changing the government’s approach to the economy so that we put the interests of American workers and families ahead of the interests of multinational corporations. I’ve already released my ideas for applying economic patriotism to manufacturing and to Wall Street. This is my plan for using economic patriotism to overhaul our approach to trade.

For decades, big multinational corporations have bought and lobbied their way into dictating America’s trade policy. Those big corporations have gotten rich but everyone else has paid the price. We’ve lost millions of jobs to outsourcing, depressed wages for American workers, accelerated climate change, and squeezed America’s family farmers. We’ve let China get away with the suppression of pay and labor rights, poor environmental protections, and years of currency manipulation. All to add some zeroes to the bottom lines of big corporations with no loyalty or allegiance to America.

We need to completely transform our approach to trade. America enters into trade negotiations with enormous leverage because America is the world’s most attractive market. As President, I won’t hand America’s leverage to big corporations to use for their own narrow purposes — I’ll use it to create and defend good American jobs, raise wages and farm income, combat climate change, lower drug prices, and raise living standards worldwide. We will engage in international trade — but on our terms and only when it benefits American families.

A New Approach to Trade

My plan is a new approach to trade — one that is different from both the Washington insider consensus that brought us decades of bad trade deals and from Donald Trump’s haphazard and ultimately corporate-friendly approach.

Unlike the insiders, I don’t think “free trade” deals that benefit big multinational corporations and international capital at the expense of American workers are good simply because they open up markets. Trade is good when it helps American workers and families — when it doesn’t, we need to change our approach. And unlike Trump, while I think tariffs are an important tool, they are not by themselves a long-term solution to our failed trade agenda and must be part of a broader strategy that this Administration clearly lacks.

To ensure that American families benefit from international trade in the decades to come, I want to invest in American workers and to use our leverage to force other countries to raise the bar on everything from labor and environmental standards to anti-corruption rules to access to medicine to tax enforcement. If we raise the world’s standards to our level and American workers have the chance to compete fairly, they will thrive — and millions of people around the world will be better off too.

Achieving this vision isn’t about tough talk or tweets. We must do the hard work of transforming every aspect of our current approach to trade: from our negotiating process to the negotiating objectives we pursue to the way we enforce agreements. That’s what I intend to do.

A Trade Negotiation Process that Reflects America’s Interests

Our current approach to negotiating trade agreements works great for the wealthy and the well-connected. The negotiating text is kept confidential from all but a small set of advisory groups comprised mostly of corporate executives and industry trade group representatives. Once those corporate interests are finished whispering in the ears of our negotiators, the completed text is released. Then, under the expedited “Fast Track” procedure Congress typically uses to approve trade agreements, our elected representatives must vote up or down on the agreement with no ability to propose and secure any changes to it. Meanwhile, the negotiators who constructed it often breeze through the revolving door to take jobs with the corporations whose interests underlie the deal.

This is undemocratic and obviously corrupt. In a Warren Administration, we will negotiate and approve trade agreements through a transparent process that offers the public a genuine chance to shape it:

Trade negotiators will publicly disclose negotiating drafts and provide the public with an opportunity to comment. When federal agencies write new rules, they typically must publish a proposed version of the rule and permit the public to submit comments on it. I will adopt a similar approach for our trade deals. Prior to negotiations, our negotiators will publish a draft of their proposals in the Federal Register, let the public offer comments on the draft, and take those comments into consideration during negotiations. And then as talks proceed, they will publish drafts of the negotiating texts so the public can monitor the negotiations.
 

Trade advisory committees will prioritize the views of workers and consumers. I will ensure that there are more representatives from labor, environmental, and consumer groups than from corporations and trade groups on every existing advisory committee. And I’ll expand the current list of advisory committees to create one for consumers, one for rural areas, and one for each region of the country, so that critical voices are at the table during negotiations.  

The US International Trade Commission will provide a regional analysis of the economic effects of a trade agreement. Trade agreements can hollow out communities and transform regional economies. Yet the report the ITC provides before Congress considers a trade agreement only includes a nationwide analysis of a trade deal’s economic impact. I will push for the agency to provide a region-by-region analysis so the public and Members of Congress can understand how an agreement is likely to affect the places they live and represent.  

The congressional approval process will offer more opportunities for the public and elected representatives to shape trade agreements. I will seek expedited congressional approval of trade agreements only when every regional advisory committee and the labor, consumer, and rural advisory committees unanimously certify that the agreement serves their interests. I will also expand the list of congressional committees that must review any agreement before it is eligible for expedited consideration.

Together, these changes will ensure that our negotiations reflect the views of American families, not corporate interests.

Using Our Leverage to Demand More for American Families and to Raise the Global Standard of Living

While a better process will produce better agreements, we also must fundamentally shift the goals of our trade agenda so they are aligned with the interests of America’s families.

With certain important exceptions, we live in a low-tariff world. Modern trade agreements are less about the mutual reduction of tariffs and more about establishing regulatory standards for everything from worker rights to pollution to patent protections.

My approach to trade reflects that reality. For too long, we have entered into trade deals with countries with abysmal records on laborenvironmental, and human rights issues. In exchange for concrete access to the American market, we get vague commitments to do better, which we then hardly enforce. The result is that millions of people in our trading-partner countries don’t gain the benefits of higher standards — and companies can easily pad their profits by shifting American jobs to countries where they can pay workers next to nothing and pollute the air and water freely.

That will end under my Administration. I am establishing a set of standards countries must meet as a precondition for any trade agreement with America. And I will renegotiate any agreements we have to ensure that our existing trade partners meet those standards as well.

My preconditions are that a country must:

Recognize and enforce the core labor rights of the International Labour Organization, like collective bargaining and the elimination of child labor.  

Uphold internationally recognized human rights, as reported in the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights, including the rights of indigenous people, migrant workers, and other vulnerable groups.  

Recognize and enforce religious freedom as reported in the State Department’s Country Reports.  

Comply with minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  

Be a party to the Paris Climate agreement and have a national plan that has been independently verified to put the country on track to reduce its emissions consistent with the long-term emissions goals in that agreement.  

Eliminate all domestic fossil fuel subsidies.  

Ratify the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.  

Comply with any tax treaty they have with the United States and participate in the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting project to combat tax evasion and avoidance.  

Not appear on the Department of Treasury monitoring list of countries that merit attention for their currency practices.

A country should only be considered an acceptable partner if it meets these basic standards. Shamefully, America itself does not meet many of these labor and environmental standards today. I am committed to fixing that as President. And to help bring other countries up to these standards, I’ll revitalize our commitment to providing technical assistance to help countries improve.

I will also go beyond these minimum standards in key areas to promote the interests of American workers and families.

LaborI will ensure trade agreements protect Buy American and other programs designed to develop local industry, contain strong rule-of-origin standards to promote domestic manufacturing, protect worker pensions, promote equal pay for equal work for women, and prohibit violence against workers. Unlike previous trade deals agreements that have put labor standards in side agreements that are difficult to enforce, I will make labor standards central to any agreement.

Climate Change and the Environment. Climate change is real, it’s man-made, and we’re running out of time to address it. America should be leading this fight, but we have turned our backs on our responsibilities — with communities of color in the U.S. and developing countries bearing a disproportionate amount of the harm.

Trump is moving us in the wrong direction — withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, renegotiating NAFTA without even a mention of climate change, and handing special carve outs to oil and gas companies.

Beyond requiring implementation of the Paris Climate accord and the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies as preconditions for any trade agreement, I have already proposed a Green Marshall Plan to dedicate $100 billion to helping other countries purchase and deploy American-made clean energy technology.

But we must do more. I will push to secure a multilateral agreement to protect domestic green policies like subsidies for green products and preferential treatment for environmentally sustainable energy production from WTO challenges. And because big corporations will move their production to the countries with the weakest greenhouse gas emissions standards — undermining global efforts to address climate change and penalizing countries that are doing their part — I will impose a border carbon adjustment so imported goods that these firms make using carbon-intensive processes are charged a fee to equalize the costs borne by companies playing by the rules.

Prescription Drugs. Last year, Americans spent more than $500 billion on prescription drugs. That’s a 50% increase since 2010. Nearly 3 in 10Americans report not taking their medicine as directed because of costs. And yet, one of the core elements of America’s current trade agenda is guaranteeing pharmaceutical firms monopoly protections so they can avoid competition from generic drugs — driving up costs and reducing access to necessary medicine abroad, and undermining our efforts to reduce drug prices here at home. That’s exactly what the Trump Administration has done as part of their failed effort to renegotiate NAFTA.

While medical innovation is important, there is no link between extremely long exclusivity periods and pharmaceutical innovation. These are giveaways to drug companies, plain and simple, which allow them to maintain ludicrously high drug prices.

As President, I will fight to bring down the costs of prescription drugs here and around the world. I will never use America’s leverage to push another country to extend exclusivity periods for prescription drugs. I will support efforts to impose price controls on pharmaceuticals. And I will actively seek out opportunities to reduce exclusivity periods in our existing trade deals in exchange for securing other changes that will help America’s working families.

Agriculture. For decades, trade deals have squeezed family farmers, with Black farmers losing their land particularly quickly. Between the trade fights incited by Trump’s haphazard tariffs and a series of natural disasters, America’s farmers are now facing the worst crisis in almost 40 years. They are also facing unprecedented levels of uncertainty and instability. Trump’s tariffs have reduced crop prices, threatened farmers already operating on razor-thin margins, and opened up new non-American markets against which our farmers are now forced to compete. Like trade deals of the past, Trump’s NAFTA 2.0 is written to help giant multinational agribusinesses at the expense of family farms, and it will do nothing to solve the newly created market insecurity Trump’s tariffs have caused.

As President, I will fight for trade agreements that reward American farmers for their hard work by negotiating for fair prices for goods, breaking up the monopolies in grain trading and meat packing, and protecting domestic markets to create stability for America’s family farms. And I will impose Country-of-Origin Labeling rules to protect American producers and provide transparency to consumers.

Consumer protection. We must ensure that the food we eat is high-quality and safe. But our trade agreements have limited safety standards and the inspection of imported foods, while simultaneously enabling a new flood of food imports that overwhelm food safety inspectors. In my Administration, our trade pacts will require imported food to meet domestic food safety standards, including enhanced border inspection requirements.

As with imported food, our current trade deals require us to allow imports of other products and services that do not meet domestic safety and environmental standards. My trade agreements will ensure that imported products and services must meet the same standards as domestic products and services.

Antitrust. We are in an era of massive consolidation across many sectors of the economy. One of the reasons why is that we have a narrow, permissive approach to mergers that looks only at economic efficiency and consumer welfare instead of assessing the impact that a merger will have on competition itself.

In recent years, we have added this problematic standard into trade agreements and proposed it as the defining objective for competition policy in new and renegotiated agreements. Under my administration, we will not propose this standard in any new agreement, and we will work to renegotiate agreements to remove it.

Delivering for American Families with Stronger Enforcement

Our approach to enforcing trade agreements drives down standards worldwide and undermines American families. We offer big corporations fast and powerful methods to enforce the provisions that benefit them but make it nearly impossible for Americans to enforce labor and environmental protections. Foreign governments only fear a challenge to strong rules that might hurt corporate bottom lines, not to weak rules that might not adequately protect workers, the environment, or public health.

I will entirely reorient our approach to enforcement so we drive standards up, not down. I’ll start by ending “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS, the favorable enforcement approach we offer corporations. Under ISDS, a company that believes that a new law violates some aspect of a trade agreement can skip the courts and challenge the law before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company wins, the panel can order that country’s taxpayers to pay out billions in damages — with no review by an actual court. What’s worse, the arbitration panels handing out these binding rulings are often made up of corporate lawyers whose day jobs are representing the very same companies that seek judgments before them.

Companies have used ISDS to undermine laws intended to benefit the public interest. A French company challenged Egypt when it increased the minimum wage. A Swedish company challenged Germany when it decided to cut back on nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster. These cases have real effects across the globe: an ISDS panel’s decision to hear a challenge that Philip Morris brought against Uruguay’s anti-smoking campaign prompted several other countries to abandon similar public health efforts.

As President, I will not include ISDS in any new agreement and will renegotiate existing agreements to remove ISDS from them.

And I’ll strengthen our approach to enforcing labor and environmental standards. Unlike a corporation under ISDS, a labor union seeking to enforce labor standards can’t bring a claim on its own — it must convince the federal government to bring a claim on its behalf. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, our government can refuse to act for diplomatic or other unrelated reasons.

As a result, the federal government has only pursued one such claim in the last 25 years. In that one case, the American government, AFL-CIO, and Guatemalan unions spent nine years trying to challenge the Guatemalan government for violating the labor chapter of one of our trade deals because Guatemalan workers were being murdered for trying to join a union. In the end, we lost because the trade agreement required a showing that the violations had affected trade.

I will replace this broken process by creating independent commissions — made up of experts in the area — to monitor potential violations, respond to complaints, and investigate claims. The commissions must review and investigate claims promptly so that claims don’t languish for years. If one of these commissions recommends that the United States bring a claim against another country, the United States will be required to do so, without exception.

I will also fix the problem that arose in the Guatemala case by pushing to remove language from our deals that require us to show that a violation of rights was “sustained or recurring” and “affecting trade or investment.” A violation is a violation, and I won’t let another case like Guatemala happen ever again.

I will strengthen our enforcement approach in other ways as well:

Under WTO rules, a country designated as a “non-market economy” can face more serious trade penalties. I will push for a new “non-sustainable economy” designation that would allow us to impose tougher penalties on countries with systematically poor labor and environmental practices. We cannot allow countries that treat their workers and the environment poorly to undercut American producers that do things the right way.  

I already have a plan to move the lead American trade negotiator — the Office of the United States Trade Representative — within my new Department of Economic Development. That will ensure that America’s trade policy supports our broader economic agenda of defending and creating good American jobs. I will also create a new labor and environment enforcement division at the USTR to more effectively enforce obligations, and embed a labor attache at U.S. embassies to monitor compliance with our labor standards.  

Unlike the current approach that lets our government ignore unfair trade practices, my administration will create automatic triggers to initiate investigations into unfair trade practices. If those investigations produce compelling evidence of a violation, the Department will impose trade remedies immediately until the offenders show they are no longer engaging in an unfair trade practice. These automatic triggers will also apply to violations of labor and environmental standards.  

Finally, when we impose duties to support particular domestic industries, I want to ensure that the money we collect actually goes to American workers, instead of being sucked up by executives and shareholders. I will fight to change our trade laws so that we review duties every six months and lift the duties if companies can’t demonstrate the benefits of the duties are going to their workers.

Sanders, Blumenauer and Ocasio-Cortez Introduce Climate Emergency Resolution to Marshall WWII-Scale Mobilization

Climate catastrophes like Superstorm Sandy pose an existential threat to civilization and the natural world. On Tuesday, July 9, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) introduced a resolution in both chambers of Congress declaring that the climate emergency facing the planet demands a “national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization of the resources and labor of the United States” in order to “restore the climate for future generations.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On Tuesday, July 9, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) announced the introduction of a resolution in both chambers of Congress declaring the climate emergency facing the planet demands a “national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization of the resources and labor of the United States” in order to “restore the climate for future generations.”

The resolution, cosponsored in the Senate by Sens. Merkley (D-Ore.), Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Booker (D-NJ), Gillibrand (D-NY), Warren (D-Mass.), and Harris (D-Calif.), and 19 members of the House, comes in the wake of President Trump’s environmental speech yesterday, in which he avoided any mention of climate change. 

The lawmakers note in the resolution that the “United States has a proud history of collaborative, constructive, massive-scale federal mobilizations of resources and labor in order to solve great challenges, such as the Interstate Highway System, the Apollo 11 Moon landing, Reconstruction, the New Deal, and World War II,” and that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that the global community has little more than a decade to stop the worst impacts of climate change.  

The lawmakers’ bicameral recognition of the climate emergency stands in sharp contrast to President Trump’s recent misuse of emergency declarations, manufactured in order to seize funds that Congress refused to appropriate to build a wall on the border with Mexico and to sell Saudi Arabia weapons that Congress had blocked. Climate change, an actual emergency, has been described by Trump as a “hoax.”

“Today, as we face the global crisis of climate change, it is imperative that the United States lead the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.  What we need now is Congressional leadership to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and tell them that their short term profits are not more important than the future of the planet.  Climate change is a national emergency, and I am proud to be introducing this resolution with my House and Senate colleagues,” Sanders said.

“To address the climate crisis, we must tell the truth about the nature of this threat,” said Blumenauer. “Congressional Republicans have teetered on the brink of ignorance for far too long and now urgent, massive action is needed. This is an emergency. We must act now.” 

“Today we stand in solidarity with tens of millions of people from around the world in calling for a mass mobilization of our social and economic resources. It is time we began a swift transition away from fossil fuels and towards a sustainable renewable energy economy. Climate change represents not only our greatest threat but one of our greatest opportunities. Working to solve the climate crisis will create tens of millions of union jobs, empower communities, and improve the quality of life for people across the globe,” said Ocasio-Cortez.  

“The United States is facing a climate crisis. We must speak that truth, and then we must take bold action to confront the existential crisis before us,” said Senator Harris. “In California and across the country, Americans are already seeing the impact of the climate crisis as unprecedented floods, wildfires, hurricanes, and extreme weather events devastate their communities. I’m proud to join my colleagues in this resolution that affirms that the policy of the United States Congress will be based on science fact, not science fiction.”

The resolution is endorsed by 15 independent organizations.

“It’s abundantly clear that climate change has arrived and that we are living in a climate crisis. It’s past time that the federal government recognize this fact and declare a climate emergency. We need bold, comprehensive legislation to move us off fossil fuels and onto a clean energy revolution. This resolution lays out the scope of what we need to do. It’s time to act for the future of our planet,” said Mitch Jones, Climate & Energy Program Director of Food & Water Watch.

“It’s heartening to see members of Congress taking up their authority and calling out the climate crisis as it happens. We are experiencing the effects of a global emergency, right now, in every part of our nation and it demands that we take immediate action that is equitable and to scale. Communities most impacted by this crisis have known for decades that our climate is changing and that it is affecting our health, safety, and the prospects of the next generation. We applaud Sen. Sanders and Reps. Blumenauer and Ocasio-Cortez for this step, and call on their colleagues in the House and Senate to support this resolution and show their commitment to just climate action today to give us a chance at tomorrow,” said Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, North America Director of 350 Action.

“The climate crisis poses a threat unlike any other in history. If we fail to mobilize national resources very soon, with the utmost speed and unprecedented scale, we will face catastrophic harm in the coming decades and possibly existential threats to the nation and human civilization by the end of this century. There is nothing more deserving of the ‘emergency’ designation. Senator Sanders and Reps. Blumenauer and Ocasio-Cortez should be commended for their leadership in calling the climate crisis exactly what it is: a genuine national emergency,” said David Arkush, Managing Director of Public Citizen’s Climate Program. 
 
“We’re in a climate emergency fueled by a democracy emergency — an out-of-control fossil fuel industry is hijacking our government, and it’s time we acted like it and fought back. We the people demand that our government say ‘no’ to Big Oil and ‘yes’ to our futures. This resolution is a critical step toward a system that works for people, not polluters, and we thank Sen. Sanders and Reps. Blumenauer and Ocasio-Cortez for their bold leadership,” said Stephen Kretzmann, Founder & Executive Director of Oil Change U.S.

“Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) applauds Senator Sanders, Representative Blumenauer and Representative Ocasio-Cortez who continue to demonstrate leadership in addressing the climate crisis with this resolution. Logic dictates that we must clearly name the crisis if we are serious about addressing it. The road to a truly just and regenerative economy begins with recognizing and naming the challenge that confronts us. This resolution is a necessary step on the path to doing just that,” said Angela Adrar, Executive Director of Climate Justice Alliance.

Climate and ecological breakdown threatens to destroy human civilization and kill billions of innocent people through mass starvation, wars over declining resources, and in the worst case scenario, a runaway greenhouse effect. This historic national declaration of climate emergency formally acknowledges this unprecedented threat and demands the only sane response: A massive, federal government-led mobilization of all available resources to rapidly halt and reverse global warming through a managed phase out of coal, oil, and gas, a large-scale carbon sequestration effort, and other life-saving measures,” said Ezra Silk, Co-Founder and Director of Strategy & Policy of The Climate Mobilization.

 “We are absolutely in a climate emergency, and it’s time all of our elected officials started acting like it. Acknowledging that climate change represents a monumental threat, as this resolution does, is a critical first step. What the American people need to survive this crisis is swift action from our government to end drilling, fracking, and mining for fossil fuels and to invest in a more just, inclusive economy built on renewable energy,” said Janet Redman, Climate Campaign Director, Greenpeace USA.

“For decades our politics has been dominated by fear — fear of fossil fuel corporations, fear of a just transition, and fear of each other. As our leaders have been crippled by fear, we’re now left with only 11 years to rapidly transition off fossil fuels and toward green energy. It’s time to declare a national emergency to stop the crisis and create millions of good-paying jobs in our communities,” said Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats. 

To read a summary of the resolution, click here.

To read the resolution, click here.

What I Learned From Traveling Around the World in 23 Days

Inle Lake, Myanmar. A trip around the world affords an opportunity to meet people on their own turf. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Bill Chalmers, the “ringmaster” and Chief Experience Officer of the Global Scavenger Hunt, launches us on this around-the-world-in-23-days mystery tour with what he calls a “chimpanzee test” – a test where a chimpanzee is likely to get more answers right than a human being who has news and information available to them. The test basically demonstrates that unlike the gloom-and-doom of headlines, the trendlines are positive and these are actually the best of times for human society.

Throughout this Global Scavenger Hunt, “A Blind Date With the World” – where we don’t know where we are going next until we are told when to go to the airport or get ourselves there, and along the way, complete scavenges and challenges –  we are encouraged, even forced, to “trust in the kindness of strangers.” To interact with local people even when we can’t understand each other’s language. To learn and understand for ourselves.

For me, it is an incomparable opportunity to see in close proximity and context what is happening in countries literally around the globe – to examine this notion of American Exceptionalism, America First; to see the scope of such hot-button issues as trade, technology, migration and how they have played out over the longer course of human civilization. (I have a theory that 98% of Trump’s so-called hard-core base have never traveled beyond their own provincial border.)

As Chalmers notes, it is conceit to think we can parachute into places and understand the nuances of complex issues, but still, travel is about seeing for yourself, but also gaining an understanding of one another, disabusing stereotypes or caricatures, and most significantly, not seeing others as “other”, which works both ways. In very real ways (and especially now), travelers are ambassadors, no less than diplomats. Isolating people is not how change happens – that only hardens points of view, and makes people susceptible to fear-mongering and all the bad things that have happened throughout human history as a result. “See for yourself,” Chalmers tells us.

This is particularly poignant when we arrive in Myanmar:  One of the first things I see upon arriving in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly known as Rangoon in its colonial days) is the National Human Rights Commission which at this juncture, strikes as ironic. But despite the awful headlines, we all find the people of Myanmar to be kind, gentle, considerate. And a complete lack of politics or angst.

And just after returning home, the two prizewinning Reuters journalists imprisoned for their reporting of the deadly crackdown on the Rohingya, were released.

War Remnants Museum, Ho C hi Minh City, Vietnam. Press photos from international journalists from the time of the Vietnam War document the atrocities committed and go unpunished © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vietnam is a testament to the resiliency of human society to rebound after wars and other crises (as we see everywhere, in fact – in Spain, in Portugal, in Greece, places that suffered during World War II, and you reflect on the success of the alliances that set the stage for 70 years of progress, now being weakened). In Vietnam, visiting the Chu Chi Tunnels and the War Remnants Museum, you cannot help but feel ashamed at the war crimes that remain unpunished because of the wealth and power of the United States.

In Gibraltar, still a colony of Great Britain, I come upon a May Day labor rally that could have been New York City: Privatization. Nonconsultation and lack of transparency. Unfair distribution. Wage increases that don’t keep up with the cost of living.

May Day Rally in Gibraltar © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Abu Dhabi is like a fantasy of a society built on oil wealth, conspicuous ostentation, a gallery of skyscrapers that defy physics; Amman, Jordan, on the other hand, is the real world. But my side trip to Petra – a fantastic city carved out of the rock faces, showed how greatness is made possible by innovations in engineering a water supply. Petra was able to dominate (and protect) the caravan routes, and the result was fabulous art and culture.

This theme picked up again in Athens, visiting the National Archaeological Museum, where I am struck by the artistry from 2500 years ago (themes and imagery that I will see again repeated throughout history on our final stop in New York City, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and realize that the human species is not smarter or better than thousands of years ago, we just have better tools and technology.

But this panel about 6th Century Greece stood out that notes the nexus between trade, migration, innovation, democracy and culture and rise of empire:

“The nature of the economy underwent a radical change as a result of the growth of trade. A new class of citizens emerged who were conscious of liberty and its potential and now demanded the right to play an active role in the running of public affairs….The liberty that was characteristic of the Greek way of life and which governed their thinking finds eloquent expression in their artistic creations. …Works of art and artists moved freely along the trade routes. The wealth and power of the city-states were expressed in the erection of monumental, lavishly adorned temples and impressive public welfare works.

“Greeks turned their attention to the natural world and to phenomena that gave rise to philosophical speculation, formulative ideas such as those of matter, the atom, force, space and time, and laying the foundations of science…”

But then came the rise of the Persian Empire and the Persian Wars.

Banquet Relief of Malku with Two Attendants, ca early 3rd C, artifact from Palmyra. The ancient site has been destroyed by ISIS and the artifacts looted © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

These themes are repeated in New York City  where our “Global Scavenger Hunt” ends. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art where the challenge I take is to find objects from five of the countries we visited, and this leads me to a fascinating exhibit, “The World Between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East.” The museum rarely (if ever) becomes political, but in this exhibit, archaeologists comment on the destruction of Palmyra and other ancient sites by ISIS.

“It may seem frivolous to focus on monuments, museums when people are enslaved and killed. But to wipe out, destroy culture is a way of destroying people. We must protect heritage as well.”

Palmyra only exists now “on paper” and in photos after the destruction by ISIS © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is a humbling experience, to be sure, to go to the origins of the great civilizations, fast forward to today. How did they become great? How did they fall? Greatness is not inevitable or forever.  Empires rise and fall. Rulers use religion, art and monuments to establish their credibility and credentials to rule; successors blot out the culture and re-write history. Traveling around the world, you appreciate just what a small world it is, how interdependent we are, how vulnerable our societies are, and that individuals do have impact. Also, that people everywhere are more similar than different.

I come back to a monstrously disturbing New York Times headline: “Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace:”

“Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.”

The Barbary Macaques delight visitors to Gibraltar but the loss of 1 million species due to human activity and development is more threatening to society and civilization than the impact on tourism revenue © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In this case, headlines are trendlines. And it isn’t just about aesthetics or seeing animals like the Barbary Macaques that delight tourists in Gibraltar, but whole economies and sustenance. It is a matter of national security, peace and progress. It is about food and water supply, disease, habitable spaces. Sea level rise alone is expected to trigger 300 million climate refugees, competing for dwindling resources. There have been periods of mass extinction in the past – in fact, homo sapiens (us) were touch and go there for awhile.

Chalmers started off our “Blind Date With the World” with the Nicholas Kristof model, that these are actually the best of times for human society despite the gloom and doom headlines. But I disagree: the trendlines are not that hopeful. We may well be living in a golden age of human capacity, but we must recognize that we now have the power of the Gods to shape, to destroy or to create. And we seem too short-sighted to see that.

“Governments must start putting people and the planet ahead of corporate interests and greed and act with the urgency this report illustrates,” writes Annie Leonard, Executive Director, Greenpeace USA. “Leaders must adopt strong targets and implementation plans to protect biodiversity with the active participation and Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Instead of plundering the forests and seas for short-term profit we need to shift our system into one that respects planetary boundaries.”

The Greek Gods may well have the last laugh at the extraordinary ability humans have to destroy themselves.

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Sanders Spotlights His Humble Roots, Early Activism in 2020 Campaign Rally in Brooklyn

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Bernie Sanders at 2020 campaign rally at Brooklyn College: “Make no mistake, the struggle is not just about defeating Trump but taking an incredibly powerful institutions that control economy and political life of the nation.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Bernie Sanders held his first major rally of his 2020 campaign for president on the campus of Brooklyn College, just a few miles from where he grew up in a 3 ½-room rent-controlled apartment, and where he attended his first year of college. As many as 7,000 people crammed in to see him on Saturday, March 2 – like the 2016 campaign, mostly young people. Judging by the enthusiasm, The Burn is back.

Bernie Sanders is hoping the rock star status he achieved in the 2016 campaign carries through to 2020 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

While the agenda now has become pretty standard fare for all the Democrats running for President – universal health care, lower drug prices, gun safety, immigration reform, climate action – and while others have emphasized the need to restore civility to political discourse (in contrast to the crass vitriol that constantly spews from Trump), what was decidedly different about Bernie is his willingness to name names, to take on the corporatists and the billionaires: Amazon and Jeff Bezos, Netflix, Disney, General Motors.

In some ways, Bernie, while taking credit for the leftward shift of the Democrats’ platform, needs to stand out – and this is his way. He also seems intent to correct any missteps from the 2016 campaign. This time around he is emphasizing his humble origins whose father migrated from Poland on his own at age 17 with “not 5 cents in his pocket, not speaking English” to escape crushing poverty and anti-Semitism and make a better life. He described a hard-scrabble life, appreciating full well the stress and anxiety of 800,000 government workers furloughed by the record-long Trump shutdown, who live paycheck to paycheck, at the mercy of employers.

Nina Turner, Jane Sanders, Shaun King at Sanders rally at Brooklyn College © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The campaign emphasized his early years as an activist, protesting against housing discrimination and horrible public schools for Chicago’s black children – but he was too modest during the 2016 to focus much attention on his early activism on behalf of civil rights. This time around, Nina Turner, who heads Our Revolution, put Bernie on the same pedestal as Martin Luther King, Jr., and journalist/activist Shaun King connected him with Black Lives Matter.

This time, Sanders also made certain to include issues that concern women on a long “to do” list: child care and women’s reproductive rights.

Jane Sanders: “Today is only the beginning. not a moment, but a movement.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Taking to the podium to introduce her husband, Jane Sanders declared, “I’m honored to be his wife – that might not be politically correct to say, but it’s one of my greatest honors of my life.”

She added, “Today is only the beginning. not a moment, but a movement.”

But as Bernie is forced to differentiate himself from the rest of the dozens of Democrats who are running, most of whom are championing the same agenda, he has to go even further than he did, and that may well turn off centrists, moderates and independents, and fall right into the hands of Trump and his minions who are made to turn against the notion of affordable, accessible health care and pharmaceuticals as some kind of Communist takeover. Imagine, as Trump told CPAC, “taking away private insurance from 180 million people,” banning beef, airplanes, indeed, individual liberty.

“Medicare for All” among the signs carried by the thousands of supporters who turned out for Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign rally at Brooklyn College © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

And don’t Democrats want as their #1 priority to have a candidate who can beat Trump? Which means not just the hard-left and youth who still only vote at a dismal 39% rate and are easily made too peeved to bother, but centrists, moderates, independents, who might be put off by being branded a Socialist and not the European-style Democratic Socialist (which have universal health care, parental leave, child care) but the Venezuelan kind, especially with such radical talk of a federally guaranteed job and a Green New Deal?

“Every card carrying American who loves their Social Security, public schools, roads, police, and fire services will love their Medicare for All. Labels don’t define us, we come together around issues – Medicare for All; free college,” a campaign worker noted.

“Bernie believes another world is possible, that in a modern developed world, people don’t die for lack of access to medical care. The issues are not blue or red, they are human rights.”

In actuality, the Republicans have portrayed every liberal as a Socialist with images of work camps and everyone collecting the same wage – including Obama, Hillary Clinton, Edward Kennedy.

Why choose Sanders? “He’s been consistent for 30 years. He’s been there for 30 years and knows where the next steps are.”

“Sanders’ success has been to inspire a revolution at the grassroots,” says a young supporter. “Look at what has happened in localities and at the state level. He alone among the Democrats who now all champion the same ideals of social, political, economic and environmental justice, has inspired such local activism.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

I remark to a young fellow as we are crammed into a subway car after Bernie’s rally at Brooklyn College, how it is that with 30 years in Congress, Sanders has very little to show in the way of accomplishing the lofty goals he set out in 2016 and again for his 2020 campaign, and question how he would he be more successful as a president, given the obstructions Obama faced from a Republican minority willing to use ruthless tactics. His reply? Sanders’ success has been to inspire a revolution at the grassroots – look at what has happened in localities and at the state level. He alone among the Democrats who now all champion the same ideals of social, political, economic and environmental justice, has inspired such local activism.

Here are highlights from Sanders’ speech:

“Thank you for being part of the revolution, part of the campaign that will not just win the Democratic nomination and defeat Trump, the most dangerous president in modern American history, but with your help, will transform the country and finally create an economy and a government which works for all.

“The underlying principle of government will not be greed, hatred, racism, sexism, homophobia, religious bigotry, tax breaks for billionaires and efforts to take millions off health care. This campaign will end all that.

Bernie Sanders at 2020 campaign rally at Brooklyn College: “I came from a family that struggled. That influenced my life, my values. I know where I came from and will never forget. Unlike Trump who shut down government, left 800,000 employees without money to pay their bills, I know what it is like to live in a family that lives paycheck to paycheck.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“The principles of our government are based on justice: economic, social, racial, environmental justice.  Tell the insurance companies we will have Medicare for All, say to Pharmaceutical companies you will no longer charge the highest prices in world for medicines people desperately need. Your greed will end.

“We will raise the minimum wage to at least $15, rebuild infrastructure, and when we do, we will create up to 13 million decent paying jobs.

“We will have quality affordable child care…. we will make public colleges and universities tuition free.

“We say to seniors, you can’t survive on $14,000 Social Security; Republicans want to cut Social Security Benefits: we will raise it.

“We say to Trump and the fossil fuel industry: climate change is not a hoax, but an existential threat to the entire planet. We will transform away from fossil fuel into energy efficiency and sustainable energy, and when we do that, we will create millions of good paying jobs.

“All of us have moral responsibility to make sure the planet we leave our kids, our grandkids, is healthy and habitable.

”We say to the prison-industrial complex (boo), we are going to achieve real criminal justice reform. We will end the international embarrassment of having more people in jail than any other – take the $80 billion a year and invest in jobs and education instead. No more private prisons, no more profiteering form locking people up.

“No more war on drugs or keeping people in jail because too poor to afford cash bail.

“We will have real criminal justice reform –people have  records for possessing marijuana but not one Wall Street executive went to jail for destroying the economy in 2008. Instead, they got a $1 trillion bailout (boo).

“Instead of deporting undocumented immigrants, we will pass comprehensive immigration reform and provide a path to citizenship, legal status for 1.8 million DACA-eligible recipients. We will develop a humane border policy for those who seek asylum – no longer snatch babies from the arms of their mothers.

“We say to the 1% and the large profitable corporations in America, under a Sanders Administration, you’re not getting more tax breaks (big cheers). We will end their tax breaks, loopholes, and they will start paying their fair share; we will end the loopholes where Amazon, Netflix, General  Motors pay nothing in federal tax, where corporations and billionaires stash money in the Caymans and other tax havens.

“We will end the military industrial complex. We won’t spend $700 billion – more than the top 10 nations combined spend. Instead, we will  invest in affordable housing, public education, invest in our crumbling infrastructure. No more major investment in never-ending wars.

“Trump wants to divide us by skin color, where we were born, gender, religion, sexual orientation. What we are about is doing the opposite: bring people together – black, white, Latino, Asian, young, old, men, women, native, immigrant, we are together.

“As return to where I was born, as I launch my campaign for president, you deserve to know where I came from, the values I developed… I grew up a few miles from here on Kings Highway, in a 3 ½ room rent-controlled apartment. My father was a paint salesman who never made much money; my mother raised the two of us. I learned about immigration from my father who came from Poland at age 17 without 5 cents in his pocket and no English, to escape crushing poverty and widespread anti-Semitism. His entire family was wiped out by Hitler. Coming from a lower middle class family, I will never forget how the lack of money always causes stress in family. My mother’s dream was to move out of rent control apartment to a home of her own. She died young and never saw that dream.

“I came from a family that struggled. That influenced my life, my values. I know where I came from and will never forget.

“Unlike Trump who shut down government, left 800,000 employees without money to pay their bills, I know what it is like to live in a family that lives paycheck to paycheck.

“I didn’t have a father who gave me a $200,000 allowance when I was three years old – my allowance was 25 cents a week. But I had something more valuable – a role model of a father with courage to journey across an ocean with no money, to start a better life.

“I didn’t come from a family of privilege, who entertained people on TV by saying ‘You’re fired.’ I came from a family which understood the frightening power of employers. I didn’t attend an elite private school, I was educated in public schoo0ls in Brooklyn.

“I didn’t build a corporate empire based on housing discrimination. I protested against housing discrimination. One of my proudest moments was joining the March on Washington with Martin Luther King.

Bernie Sanders, campaigning for 2020, calls for Medicare for All, free tuition at public colleges, investment in infrastructure, not military, ending private prisons, voting rights, gun control, reproductive rights, federal jobs guarantee and affordable housing © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“The last two years and before, you, I and millions, fought for justice in every part of society. Had some success against billionaires who attack unions, slash wages. We succeeded in raising wages to $15 across country – forced Amazon, Disney to do the same.

“We stood with teachers across country who went out on strike to fight for better schools.

“The forces of militarism kept us engaged in war. We fought back and for first time in 45 years, used the War Powers Act to end the Saudi-fueled war in Yemen.

“We fought to end the war on drugs, to get states to decriminalize marijuana possession and we are beginning to see records being expunged.

Bernie Sanders at 2020 campaign rally at Brooklyn College: “We won some victories but clearly have a long way to go.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We won some victories but clearly have a long long way to go.

“Because of the work done, we are on the brink of not just winning election but transforming our country.

 “When we are in the White House, we will enact a federal jobs guarantee.

“We will attack the problem of urban gentrification and build affordable housing this country desperately needs.

“We will end the decline of rural America – so young people in rural America have decent jobs and can remain in their communities. We will reopen rural hospitals.

“We will end the epidemic of gun violence, pass commonsense gun safety legislation.

“We will address national, racial disparity of wealth, root out institutional racism wherever it exists.

“We will end the cowardly outrage of voter suppression, and make it easier to vote.

“We will protect a woman’s right to control her own body – that is a woman’s right, not federal, state, local government.

“Make no mistake, the struggle is not just about defeating Trump but taking an incredibly powerful institutions that control economy and political life of the nation: Wall Street, insurance companies, drug companies, the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex, the fossil fuel industry and corrupt campaign finance system that enables billionaires to buy elections.

“Brothers and sisters, we have enormous amount of work ahead. The path forward is not easy.

“Wealthy and powerful elites will do all they can to defend their financial interests, and have unlimited money. But we have the people.

“This is what I believe: if we don’t allow Trump to divide us, if we stand together – not blue states, red – but as working people believing in justice and human dignity, love and compassion, the future of this country is extraordinary and nothing we will not be able to accomplish.”

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Womens March on NYC Led by Womens March Alliance Draws Tens of Thousands

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019

Tens of thousands took to the streets of New York City on Saturday, January 19, 2019 for the third annual Women’s March organized by the Women’s March Alliance, calling for action on a Woman’s Agenda that encompasses everything from pay parity, paid parental leave and reproductive freedom, to immigration reform, gun violence prevention, climate action, criminal justice reform – in other words, the gamut of social, political, environmental and economic justice. (See also With Cry of ‘Your Voice Your Power,’ Alliance Mounts 3rd Annual Women’s March on NYC Jan. 19)

The marchers got particularly animated outside of Trump Tower Hotel on Central Park West, chanting “Shame, Shame, Shame,” extending a finger, and waving placards calling for “Indict, Impeach, Imprison.”

The protesters use their bodies as message boards. Here are highlights:

Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
New York City High School members of “NYC Great Girls” (Girls Reaching Every Apex Together), a leadership initiative of the NYC Department of Education, gather for the 2019 Women’s March NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Alexandria OcasioCortez at 2019 NYC Women’s March © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Alexandria OcasioCortez at 2019 NYC Women’s March © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney with Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer at 2019 NYC Women’s March © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Sierra Club Applauds Cuomo Commitment to Advancing Clean, Renewable Energy in State of State

Governor Andrew Cuomo reiterated his support for offshore windpower project off Long Island in his 2019 State of the State address © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Environmentalists are hailing energy and environmental legacy initiatives in New York State  proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in his his annual State of the State and budget address.

“Governor Cuomo made historic commitments today supporting the advancement of clean energy throughout the state,” stated Lisa Dix, Senior New York Campaign Manager for the Sierra Club. “With a mandate to source 70 percent of the state’s energy through renewables by 2030, doubling New York’s distributed solar target and quadrupling the current offshore wind targets, the Governor has proven that he is a national leader determined to make New York a 21st century, renewable energy, economic powerhouse. Through massive investments in offshore wind ports and clean energy job training centers, New York will be the regional hub for the offshore wind industry. Working with the administration, climate-affected communities and labor, we will create long-term, family-wage jobs, while supporting a robust supply chain and multiplying economic development opportunities for New Yorkers.”

The initiatives include commitments to:

New York’s “Green New Deal”: The Governor restated his December goal of making New York 100 percent carbon neutral by 2040. The Administration will map how New York will achieve carbon neutrality, while providing a just and fair transition for communities and workers. This initiative includes a $10 billion “Green Future Fund” that supports climate priorities and emissions reduction goals and $70 million to provide initial funding for communities affected by the clean energy transition.

Increased Clean Energy Standard Target: New York is now the second state after Hawaii with the most ambitious clean energy targets in the nation, with a new goal of sourcing 70 percent of New York’s electricity from renewable energy by 2030, including the most ambitious off-shore windpower program in the country. This doubles the current targets for energy storage, distributed solar, large scale solar and wind and quadruples the offshore wind targets.

Increased Green Infrastructure and Jobs: With the Governor committing to building nearly four times more offshore wind by 2035 than he initially stated, this is the most ambitious offshore wind generation commitment in the country. New York will nearly triple the offshore wind commitment any state has made before. Additionally, about $200 million of the budget will be invested in building offshore wind ports and clean energy job training centers.

Clean Transportation and Congestion Pricing: The Governor urged the legislature to pass congestion pricing legislation to make the Metro Transit Authority (MTA) more reliable for years to come. Through congestion pricing, the state would make $15 billion to invest back into the MTA. The Governor also committed to over $3 billion in funding for clean energy and clean transportation infrastructure for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure. The Governor, however, fell short in setting an enforceable commitment to reducing emissions from New York’s transportation sector, the economic sector responsible for the most climate/carbon pollution in New York State.

New Yorkers March for Science

About 1000 people joined the March for Science in New York City to demonstrate for the importance of fact-based, evidence-based policy, and continued funding for research and development © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

About 1,000 people gathered in Washington Square Park in downtown Manhattan for a rally, teach-in, and March for Science. Speakers, including Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, decried the politicization of science, the censorship, banning and defunding of scientists and research, and warned that the United States will lose its economic and political leadership in the world if it loses its place on the forefront of scientific innovation and development.

All I could think about as I marched the 1.8 miles from Washington Square Park down Broadway to Zuccotti Park (famous for the Occupy Wall Street movement), is how sad, how pathetic, what an embarrassment for the United States of America to have to hold demonstrations to “Save Science.” We have regressed back to the Salem Witch Trials.

Leading the March for Science down Broadway to advocate on behalf of evidence-based policy and maintaining America’s leadership in science and innovation © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The New York City March for Science was one of many organized around the country during this Earth Month (April 22 is Earth Day). Last year, the first year of such demonstrations, brought out 1.3 million in support of  robust science research, evidence-based policies, and science education. “Today, we continue the momentum gained from last year’s inaugural march to show policy makers that the March for Science is more than a single-day event. It’s a movement.”

“The 2018 March for Science New York City recognizes the importance of an informed democracy in order to maintain a free, healthy, happy, and accessible society. That is why we come together as a community of non-partisan scientists and friends to show the importance of protecting and promoting people’s rights, the public’s access to scientific information, the environment in which we exist, and scientific research. We hope to use this march to spark increased community involvement for the promotion of science for the common good through sustained action.”

US Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney at March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Science is beacon to a better future, health care, technology, transport,” declared Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). “Devotion to science is at the root of progress in every industry, lifting people from poverty; expanding opportunity, saving lives, feeding the hungry. We will never fund a better investment.

“But Congress wants to cut funds for research, cut fuel efficiency standards. [America] is losing leadership because of cutbacks,” she said. “We have to go forward….Science took us to moon.. America is the tech, innovation leader in the world because of science. Science brought us success.

“We must support science, truth, freedom and democracy,” said Maloney, a sponsor of the Science Integrity Act to shield science from ideology.

Paul Gallay of Riverkeeper at March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Paul Gallay of Riverkeeper, which has helped to clean up the Hudson River and drinking water throughout the state, contrasted the backward movement by the federal government to the progress in New York State. Largely based on the data collection by Riverkeeper and other advocates, New York has allocated $3 billion to improve water infrastructure based on scientific data, and a new law that requires testing and regulation of “emerging contaminants, “because we in New York value science.

“The EPA has been decimated. Hundreds of scientists who were there in January 2017, are gone. Ideology masquerades as policy. There is no quantitative analysis, just press releases.

“You keep doing research, driving innovation and groups like Riverkeeper will fight for policies to get clean water.  And if politicians don’t, we’ll keep suing.

“We need to get politics out of science – get more active. And not just once a year. Make policies about science, not in spite of science. Pound pavement, so they can hear it in DC. Tell your state senators, local politicians to fight for science, save science,” Gallay said.

Bill Ulfeder, executive director of The Nature Conservancy at March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Bill Ulfeder, executive director of The Nature Conservancy, declared, “Science is what makes America great. It is essential for health, prosperity, safety, security.

“This is Earth Month (April 22 is Earth Day). Scientists, including Rachel Carson, alerted the country to the dangers of pollution, pesticides. Science informed the Endangered Species Act.

“For 65 years, the Nature Conservancy has been guided by science. We believe in the power of science to solve the problems we face – climate change, food shortage, disease. Only through science can we create a world where nature and humans thrive together.

“Invest in science. Appreciate that science needs and deserves diverse voices – more perspectives – to inform, promote healthy debate to make the best choices.”

Lauren Kurtz of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund at March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Lauren Kurtz, Executive Director of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund (CSLDF), charged that “Scientific facts are downplayed, rejected. Policies are advocated that run counter to known science, including climate science.” And when that happens, CSLDF, which works to protect the scientific endeavor in general and climate scientists in particular by providing legal support and resources to scientists who are threatened, harassed, or attacked for doing their job, fights back.

“We keep track: 126 incidents when the government silenced scientists. Regulations have not kept pace with science and of the health risk of certain chemicals. We want stronger rules.”

“Science not Silence.” March for Science in New York City © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Removing ‘climate change’ [from EPA, Department of Agriculture and other government agency sites], staffing with ideologues… undermines out competitiveness and position on the  forefront of science, leader in scientific discovery.

“We have the power to fight back – shine spotlight – call attention to misrepresentation, to speak out when censorship. March, speak out, act where can have impact such as on the local level. Vote.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman at March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

State Senator Brad Hoylman, who represents the district that New York University is in, noted “People think NY is deep blue state, that everyone smart, watches Rachel Maddow, reads NY times, understands a fact is not opinion. But things are different in Albany when comes to science. We need more evidence-based policy making.

“We know vaccinations save lives,” he said, drawing a cheer. Vaccination is one of greatest turning points in health. But when I introduced a bill to make vaccinations mandatory for elementary school children, you would have thought I called for destruction of society. The Anti-Vacs movement, even though the link between vaccines and autism has been disproved over and over again…

March for Science NYC: “Vaccinations work.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Gay conversion therapy,” he continued, drawing boos.”There are mental health providers licensed by New York State who are trying to convert people from being gay. New York needs to yank their licenses.” People who are exposed to such conversion therapy, he said, “affects who they are as a person, sends a message to others, and  perpetuates myth.”

Another issue is climate change, “one of the most important issues of our time. When Trump was inaugurated, the White House page on climate change was removed. [In reaction], in Albany, we tried to pass a resolution about the danger of climate change but Republicans wouldn’t allow a vote, saying there was ‘disagreement on the validity. Science doesn’t back that up.

“We need to take this energy today and elevate public discourse, based on facts from people who know what talking about – scientists, researchers, academics, experts. Everything else is bluster…We will embrace our intellectual, academic, research to bring to bear the best policies for New York.”

“Where live shouldn’t Increase risk to pollution, toxins, pesticides,” stated

March for Science NYC: Health care is a human right. Pollution, infection, disease should not be tied to ethnicity, gender, zipcode © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Beverly Watkins, a community-based research scientist and health care provider who does “Big Picture Science” research into health disparities. “Health is a human right – growing up poor, your gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background should not have a higher rate of disease – diabetes, asthma, hypertension. Yet a difference in socioeconomic status perpetuates health disparities.”

Laurie Garrett, former senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York, currently developing the
Anthropocene Disruption Project, raised the issue of global competitiveness.

“In a race with three centers- China, France and Canada are welcoming scientists, with the appeal, ‘America may not be a home for you.’

March for Science in New York City © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“America needs science. And Science needs globalization.” Take for example what happens when you destroy globalization and internationalism – Brexit. Already, Britain is experiencing an 11.8% decrease in technology investment because of its impending dissociation with the European Union.

But besides a reduction in investment, “Collaborative science is failing. There is diminished freedom to emigrate from the EU to UK.

“Democracy depends on science. Congress can’t protect us from Russian trolls, from surveillance by greedy companies. We need science to advise, create appropriate policies. If we don’t have strong science, Research & Development, our economy can’t survive.

“The good news after all the panic about [the Trump Administration’s determination to slash the science budget, it got its biggest increase, 12.2%. National Institutes of Health budget is up 8.3%; energy up 15%; NASA saw its allocation increased to $1.2 billion; the US Geological Survey’s budget was increased to $1.1 billion; EPA was allocated $8.1 billion. The American people get it.”

March for Science in New York City © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But Science is not just global, international and collaborative, she continued, “We need to get out of our silos to solve the biggest challenges we face – climate change, microbiological resistance, cybersecurity, robotics, water and food scarcity, safety, acidification of the oceans. The world needs globalized, collectivized, interdisciplinary science.”

Why we march. Organizers of the March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Why we march? We march for evidence-based policy; for increased diversity, inclusion in the scientific community, for meaningful engagement between science and society, to build global community of advocates for science,” David Kantor, professor of environmental studies of NYU and the coordinator for New York’s March for Science.

Here are more images from the March for Science NYC:

Trump may think he is the sun king (“L’etat c’est moi”), but this marcher points to the difference between Trump and the Sun: “One’s an orange ball of gas. The other is the sun.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

March for Science NYC down Broadway © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Regress Data, Not Society.” March for Science NYC down Broadway © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Leading a March for Science NYC cheer: Who made those drugs? Science. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

March for Science NYC passes Freedom Tower © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Symbolic: Carbon pollution blots out freedom (tower). Scientists are needed to come up with solutions to climate change, pollution, toxic waste © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Mount Sinai Hospital contingent at March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Nassau County Executive Candidates Curran, Martins Address Environmental Issues in NYLCV Forum

Eric Alexander of Vision Long Island; Joshua F. Klainberg of NYLCV Education Fund; Adrienne Esposito of Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment; Nick Sifuentes of Tri-State Transportation Campaign; Marcia Bystryn, President of New York League of Conservation Voters; Kathleen Watchorn, coordinator of projects and programs for Adelphi University organized a Nassau County Executive Candidates Forum on Environment & Sustainability © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund hosted the 2017 Nassau County Executive Candidate Forum on Environment & Sustainability at Adelphi University in Garden City on October 15. The format was a panel of three posing questions to the candidates individually and separately, first to Laura Curran, the Democratic candidate, then, in a second session, posing the same questions to the Republican candidate, Jack Martins. With the Trump Administration and Republican Congress pulling back on environmental protection and climate action, the stand that localities take becomes more significant. What follows is a loosely edited transcription, putting the candidates’ replies together after each question—Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Opening Statements:

Laura Curran, Democratic candidate for Nassau County Executive at the New York League of Conservation Voters Nassau County Executive Candidates Forum on Environment & Sustainability © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Laura Curran: I never planned to get involved in politics. I wanted to help my schools, my community, succeed. That sparked my interest to step up and serve the community in a bigger way – I have been in the Nassau County Legislature for four years, I am proud to have worked across the aisle when it was the right thing to do for the people I represent –For example, I was able to restore 10 bus routes that were cut.

As a legislator, I have had a front row seat to the corruption, the mismanagement [of county government]. I know how hard people work, the high taxes we pay. I believe we deserve a government that lives up to us. When I hear about indictments, it’s clear that the machine is breaking down, is not accountable to the people.

Jack Martins: I believe strongly in the Kenyan proverb, we don’t inherit the land from our parents we borrow it from our children. That is motivating. It hasn’t always been the case – water quality, the way we have treated sole-source aquifer historically, the lack of comprehensive sewering, nitrogen outflow to bays and and Sound, have significant environmental issues that is our responsibility to take care of and not simply kick the can down the road. Options for us – priorities, investments in infrastructure – I have had a history of working across the aisle – with Schimel in Assembly – But if there is a critical issue for us here in Long Island it’s water. Environmental sensitivity, wind energy, opportunities for our economy, need to expand bus service.

Jack Martins, Republican candidate for Nassau County Executive at the New York League of Conservation Voters Nassau County Executive Candidates Forum on Environment & Sustainability © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Addressing Nitrogen Loading

 Adrienne Esposito, Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment: You know the first question: nitrogen. The Bay Park sewage treatment plant is responsible for 85% of the nitrogen loading into the western bays and the western bays are dying – depleted fish, closed shellfish beds, wetlands degrading. The solution is to combine Long Beach with Bay Park, take treated effluent, use the water viaduct currently in place, and discharge out the Cedar Creek ocean outfall pipe. Will you expedite the process of hooking up Long Beach to Bay Park to the existing pipe to the ocean outflow pipe – so bays can be restored and thrive? 

Curran: This is a very exciting project. The county was trying to get outflow pipe for bay…. It’s expensive. The county wasn’t able to get (funding?) from the state, federal government. [But] this is an example of how government works well: smart guys had a eureka moment: they realized there is a viaduct under Sunrise Highway,100 years old from an old waterworks, so big, a grown man could stand up in it .What if we bring water up to the viaduct, out to Cedar Creek, 6-7 miles, then there is 2 mile outflow pipe already in Cedar Creek? Altogether it would be half the cost. A viability study showed the plan is viable – they would put a  polymer sleeve inside.

The key is expediting [the plan]. We have to work closely with towns and villages because we’ve got to get the treated effluent from Bay Park up the viaduct and back down. We’ve got to work with communities on either side, so we have to make sure they understand and have buy in –we  don’t want to shove it down people’s throats. It will reduce the amount of nitrogen into the bays immediately, restore the shellfish. It doesn’t take long before nature will rebound. It would be good for economy, too. A win- win.

Jack Martins: There is a critical need on Long Island, how we discharge effluent into South Bay. Right now, both Long Beach and Bay Park go to Reynolds Channel and we know the effect. Someone came up with the ingenious proposal to connect via existing viaduct – the most complicated part is how to connect from Bay Park to the water viaduct…The viaduct is viable, we can move forward immediately…There are a couple of different options. The sooner we close Long Beach sewer treatment plant …Connect Cedar Creek – lateral to plant to outflow – and discharged 3 miles out. It’s important because of nitrogen loading [which] killed the shellfish industry, killed coastal wetlands. We realized after Sandy that those coastal wetlands protect against tidal surge during these 100-year storms. That’s my commitment, that’s what we will do.

Complete Streets 

Eric Alexander of Vision Long Island © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Eric Alexander, Vision Long Island: This issue is on human level: Nassau County has some of most dangerous roads in NYS for pedestrian, bikers, – restaurants, downtowns, growing 55-plus population, growing number of young people who don’t want to drive – what will you do to encourage walkability, ‘Complete Streets’. 

Curran – I often talk about how transit oriented development [TOD] will be what saves us as a region – it keeps young people, empty nesters, creates a tax base, jobs. But [existing] infrastructure doesn’t quite support TOD. There are places where we have to reengineer what already have.

I live in Baldwin in the town of Hempstead. We  won $5 million in funding for a Complete Streets project to redo our main road, Grand Ave, to make it more navigable for bikers, walkers, cars and buses. This is called a “road diet“:  taking two lanes in each direction and turning them into one lane in each for the part of the road that’s in the plan. There is [often] a lot of resistance because people are concerned about change, that it will take longer. But [delays are mitigated by] engineering traffic lights, making turn lanes that fan out so drivers can get to lights in time – that will make it more navigable. But when people can walk around, ride bikes, have alternatives to using a car, people tend to spend more money – they want to stop, shop – which is good for economic development. We’re built up in Nassau County, so we need to reengineer what we already have. That’s what we are doing in Baldwin. I am looking forward to working with zoning municipalities.

Martins: As we consider the next generation of downtown residents, transit oriented development, how we get around safely. I supported Safe Streets legislation in Albany – it made a requirement that when we reengineer streets, we do so in a way that is safe for cars but also pedestrians and cyclists. For us, it’s a question of who we are as a county. We have to have every option for transit – bicycles, pedestrians. We need to make sure we keep roads safe. I represented one of the most dangerous areas in New York State – Hempstead Turnpike – more fatalities – Complete Streets have to be integral to what we do. The county has hundreds of miles of county roads, some of the most heavily traveled in the country. As roads are redesigned, maintained, [we need to be] using Complete Streets [strategies]. That is my commitment. As we stress the need for transit-oriented development, Complete Streets are more important [including] connectivity to train stations.

Improving Public Transportation 

Nick Sifuentes of Tri-State Transportation Campaign © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Nick Sifuentes, Tri-State Transportation Campaign: Transit oriented development requires good transit – something that is slipping. Governor Cuomo announced an advisory council to address dual crises: congestion in/out of New York City, and lack of funding for MTA (including Long Island Railroad). As the future leader of Nassau County what are the policies and proposals you would like to see?

Curran: I would make sure we have strong advocate on the council – Suffolk has a strong guy, Nassau, we don’t even know who it is. I am happy that the third track is on track, because we need to ease getting on/off the island – how trains operate. I would also look to buses and encourage more people to ride the bus even if they don’t have to [instead of driving]. The more choice bus riders, the better we will be. There are interesting examples all over the country: ideas include creating smaller, more flexible routes, more app-based routes to make an appointment to catch a bus. I am excited to pursue these: for every $1 spent on bus transit generates many more dollars in economic activity. It’s not just poor people who need to use buses. It is obviously important for people to take buses to doctors appointments, university, jobs. That’s economic development… Also ride-sharing –I’m glad it’s [now] legal in Nassau County – young people aren’t driving as much.

Martins: Make mass transit more affordable. Use it to make LIRR more affordable, encourage people to leave their cars. As a parent, when I take my children into the city, I have to take out a loan to pay the roundtrip fare. We shouldn’t have that consideration instead of taking car. [Transit] has to be affordable . if they do something with congestion pricing, make it affordable for Nassau County.

Climate Change & Sustainable Development 

Adrienne Esposito of Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Adrienne Esposito: Climate change is real. There is no debate. And Long Island is at the forefront of impacts. New York State set a goal of 50% renewals by 2030 but we can’t get there unless offshore wind is part of the [energy] portfolio. Will you support offshore wind (with site-specific environmental assessment)? 

Curran:  Absolutely. We have to look for renewable energy. Wind is a gift and we should be harnessing it and anything we can do to harness wind. Also renewables are a growing industry, and I don’t want to be on the losing end. I fought against the LNG [Liquified Natural Gas] port off Long Beach.

Solar panels have a really hard time with permitting – people have to deal with towns, villages, all with different permits that expire differently. We have to work hard with partners –because that is right to do for the environment and the economy.

Climate change. I am concerned with the rhetoric of the president that [the US] will be getting out of the Paris Climate Accord– especially being a coastal community, we see the ravages [of superstorms, sealevel rise]. I am heartened that governors and mayors around the country say they will stick to the Paris Agreement, and I have vowed as county executive to do the same.

Trump has said it is no longer necessary to [require that tax money used for infrastructure must take climate change resiliency into account]. I would insure that every penny would be used [would take] climate change [into account, that is, sustainable development].

Martins:  Absolutely. Curious at [the goal of] 50% [renewable] by 2030. I visited Portugal a couple of years ago – toured their renewable portfolio. Portugal gets 60% of their energy from renewable – hydro, wind, solar, voltaics. We should too. I’m a big believer in offshore wind, a great resource for us – the corridor for offshore wind runs from Block Island to south Jersey. We’re in a great position to benefit from cheap energy from wind. I also understand great strides are being made in developing battery technology to store energy at Brookhaven National Labs. That would be an economic boost for us. Right now, the largest project in New York, the east end off Long Island is being staged from Rhode Island. That means jobs are in Rhode Island, economic development is in Rhode Island. It needs to be here on Long Island. If we make a commitment to offshore wind as energy, we should make a commitment to have those jobs here. We live on an island, we have a maritime history. Embrace it, make offshore wind industry here -manufacturing blades, turbines, opportunities for engineering next generation of offshore wind.

IDA Tax Incentives 

Eric Alexander: Sustainability and smart growth, but also economic development. To focus growth in downtowns, the Nassau County IDA over the last 7 years provided tax incentives to thousands of units of affordable housing, mixed-use development by train stations… In an election year, attacking IDA incentives is politically popular but they have been anchors of revitalization efforts such as in Farmingdale’s affordable housing component. Will you continue that policy?

Curran: Farmingdale is a perfect example of transit oriented development.. The biggest problem now is you can’t get parking on a Saturday night. IDAs play a serious role, but are subject to attack because if you have nine self-storage facilities getting tax breaks, they aren’t economic drivers that create jobs. But when done right, [IDA tax incentives] can be real motivator, bring the right kind of development into Nassau County. That involves land use planning, that when we do a deal with a developer or business, that real jobs are being created or real taxes being generated from an enterprise, so the investment of taxpayers is returned. We need more transparency in the IDA – open up meetings to the public, let the public give input. When I talk about getting community buy-in for projects, that’s the way. You can’t force things on communities.

IDA is a real asset but must be used properly and if a developer or business doesn’t do what was promised, that there be a muscular way of addressing that.

Martins: My experience as mayor of Mineola, master plan, transit oriented development, overlay district –I  see the effects when a community comes together – the commitment it has to expand housing stock, providing affordability for senior, next generation housing. The role for county government: it needs to work with local communities to identify areas where TOD makes sense – Hicksville, Farmingdale, Westbury, Glen Cove ….  We as a county could expedite and incentivize. What I would do differently would be to make sure developers who are seeking tax (rebates) make sure they tell communities. Communities feel let down. Developers come before zoning boards and say they need greater density, etc, and then will have the ability to build this, and the community makes a decision to support that request, gives a variance they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. [The community] expects a revenue stream and a tax base that comes back to community. But the first thing is [the developer] goes to the IDA and gets tax credits which undermines what the community expects. So there needs to be transparency, part of the discussion before the decision, not after, that causes so much friction we see.

Generating Revenue for NICE Bus 

Nick Sifuentes: How would you create additional revenue for the NICE bus?

Curran: I have suggested pots where money could come from:  there is money that was borrowed 8 and 10 years ago that hasn’t been spent (that is a one-shot); the fund balance has way more than needs to be (also a one-shot). You are talking about recurring revenue. I propose that a small piece of ride-sharing money, Uber or Lyft – say 25 cents or 50 cents a ride – to go to buses. It makes sense because all are part of transportation. We could use a small portion of MTA tax and put that toward buses. And red light cameras are $12 million over budget – use some of that for buses. That’s also within the theme of transportation.

Laura Curran, Democratic candidate for Nassau County Executive addresses issues of environment and sustainability © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Martins: One of the first things I did in in the senate in 2010 and 2011 – I was identified as one of 50 most influential people on Long Island – my efforts to secure funding for Long Island bus was underpinning – NICE bus has a $130 million budget, $66 million from New York State, $45-50 from the fare box, the county puts in $6 million and the rest from ancillary fees, etc. – unbelievable the County only provides $6 million for a system that is so critical to the economy, when years ago, the county paid $20 million. Our responsibility is to put money in place because most who take bus have no other option – we want them to leave the car home – going to work, school, doctors appointments, that they have access to vibrant bus service. I suggested that for ride hailing, we have a surcharge – Uber, Lyft – that surcharge go toward bus. 10-11 million rides a year, 50c surcharge, would put $5-6 million directly into buses. A 50c surcharge is not only appropriate, but would provide a dedicated, steady revenue for buses.

Protecting Drinking Water 

Audience Question: What is the most Important environmental issue facing the county and how would you address it?

Curran: The aquifer. We get our drinking water from one place: underground. I am concerned New York City is looking to open 70 wells in Queens. We don’t get another source of water but the city does [upstate reservoirs]. They are concerned about flooding basements so they want to bring down the watertable, but the consequences for us could be disastrous: saltwater intrusion, and could cause Grumman and Lake Success plumes [of contamination] to shift [direction. The Grumman plume is 4 miles by 2 miles and 800 feet deep, almost reaching Massapequa. I am glad to see Cngressmen King and Suozzi working together to [get the federal government] to clean it up. The fact this has gone on this long and the Navy and Grumman are not held accountable for decades….

Martins: The most critical issue facing us as a region, Nassau County, is water supply, making sure we protect our sole-source aquifer against all comers. We live on an island, and the aquifer is tied to Suffolk, Queens & Brooklyn. Our responsibility is to protect it. New York City has other options to get water from upstate reservoirs. Our only plan, A to Z is the sole-source aquifer. We haven’t treated it well over the years, with industrial and manufacturing years post World War II, a lot of damage done – Lake Success, Bethpage. We’ve seen the water supply under constant attack. We have great water providers – we do a good job in maintaining water supply –it is as clean as you get from bottled water- but we have a responsibility to do more – responsibility to surface water – protect our coastal waterways, make sure we enhance sewer systems, sewer treatment plants, make sure that years and decades of nitrogen charging, loading into bays are a thing of the past.

Preserving Open Space

Audience Question: How would you preserve open space in Nassau County from development?

Curran: A Great question because pretty much [all of Nassau] is developed. We have to keep what we have green – that is good to recharge the aquifer. We have to use space we have more wisely – in-fill. You sometimes see suburban sprawl – there is already concrete – you can in-fill with transit oriented development, with the buy-in of the community. There is a lot of new technology now. For example, the boat basin parking lot was redone with permeable pavement – that’s expensive, so you can only do it in small places but I hope it will become less expensive down the road. But in this way, it also keeps water coming into the aquifer.

Something I am excited about – with all the potential – is to look to a resiliency officer [for the county] to coordinate all these things, work with Public Works, the IDA, and other departments to coordinate efforts for environment.

Martins: The good news in Nassau County: we don’t have farms any more. We don’t have the kinds of open space issues that perhaps they have out east. We do have open space, it has to be preserved. Most of our development going forward – transit oriented – is reusing space already used, and taking and reassembling parcels. We have seen it in communities with TOD has been predicated on assembling parcels downtown – see it in Westbury, Farmingdale – we are mature communities. That development will take place not on existing open space but existing used space that is being recalibrated and brought into 21st century – to meet energy, parking, density requirements – so we have a more robust selection of housing than we have currently. Nassau County doesn’t have the housing stock, the variety, it needs – a lot will take place in downtowns around train stations to be most effective. Protect open space that exists, protect parks, invest in them, make sure are as good as ever have been.

Future of Renewables in Nassau County

Audience Question: What do see as the future of Nassau County when it comes to solar, wind, charging stations for electric vehicles? 

Curran: We should have charging stations for electric cars. We have a county employee who plugs in and was written a letter to ‘cease and desist’ from the county attorney for ‘stealing county property’. We should start by the county using electric vehicles.

Jack Martins, Republican candidate for Nassau County Executive addresses issues of environment and sustainability © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Martins: Charging stations, infrastructure wise, is easy. If we made a commitment to have more readily available – we can see best practices in other states, countries, where they have taken the initiative so we have more robust use because people trust infrastructure to be there to recharge. We haven’t done it. There is need need for a full array of renewable energy resources. We should look at the entire portfolio and see where it makes sense – voltaic cells as car canopies in parking lots – why aren’t we? Acres and acres of asphalt we can use to create energy and electricity now through EV. We have a corridor of offshore wind east of Long Island. I spoke to Deepwater Wind, no one better positioned than Long Island to build, maintain, develop that offshore wind corridor. Shame on us, New York State, if they aren’t going to prioritize those turbines, and those blades aren’t built here on Long Island. If we are going to spend billions of dollars for commitment to offshore wind, I want to make sure it is here in Nassau County economy.

Communities Impacted by Climate Change

Do you support legislation to provide for equitable distribution of resources to communities impacted by climate change specifically communities of color often left out?

Curran: We have to make sure all communities treated fairly. See the effects of climate change. The south shore still has zombie houses because of Sandy. They didn’t have an adequate advocate to help them rebuild. As legislator, I helped them connect to NY Rising, get small business funds, to get resources to rebuild.

Martins:  Tax money, investment. We have to look at how dealing with county that is predominantly viewed as affluent while understanding we have areas of significant poverty – in places you wouldn’t necessarily think of – people have a home but are struggling to pay mortgage, taxes, raise families because the high cost of living isn’t an accident. We have among highest costs, so we have people relatively wealthy given their home, but still living with challenges. How we take resources, distribute, whether having to do with infrastructure improvements, access to cheap renewable energy, water safety quality, we have that synergy. I have never seen in my experience certain areas cut out of resources that way, but we have to be sensitive to it.

Recycle Treated Effluent

Why not recycle sewage and turn into drinkable rather than dispose into the ocean?

Curran: That’s not so crazy – people who run sewage treatment plants are working on a project – try to explain in not-boring way –to  treat sewage so it looks like water – Sewage treatment plants use hundreds thousands gallons of water a day to do the work of cooling, etc. – Now, they draw that out of the aquifer. Wouldn’t it be better to take treated effluent, treat a little more and use that to do the work of sewage treatment plant, instead of drawing water out of aquifer? We are close to make this happen.

Martins: It’s an interesting point. I was happy to participate in Great Neck Water Pollution Control District – state of art facility – where they treat to a level where potable. I said, ‘You first.’

I had an opportunity to deal with different groups, where sewage can be treated and used for irrigation, plant maintenance and different things where not wasting potable water, can be reused for different purposes –  not quite ‘there’ for drinking water… But if we send [effluent out to ocean] 3 miles – dilution rate for effluent – it will have negligible effect on ocean – it is coastal wetlands that are impacted if released right there – like Reynolds Channel. I would like to see part reused – whether for irrigation. We have to focus on continuing the current process of getting it as far from shore as possible so not to impact coastal wetlands, coastal environment, coastal economy. 

Closing Statements 

Curran:  I want to make Long Island environmentally sound, safe, healthy. I moved to Nassau County 20 years ago before we had kids. I came for the Long Island dream:  single family house, great school down the block, parks, beaches. We knew we would pay high taxes, but that was part of the deal. As a taxpayer, resident, it is frustrating to see money spent on nepotism, bloated contracts when it could be used to develop technology. Your money is being wasted. I’m in this race because want to restore trust in government, make sure I hire people based on what they know, not who they know, that your money is not part of my reelection campaign. I am eager to get to work. Elect me to give Nassau County the fresh start it so richly deserves.

Martins: There are a lot of issues at play in this year’s election . I encourage you to do your homework, read up on candidates. Whether challenges are environment,t economy – up to county to pay for own budget. For 17 years, we have been under NIFA, not elected – make decisions, affects ability for us to make decisions for ourselves. We need to take control of own finances, pay bills, balance budget – get rid of NIFA so we can commit resources ourselves – whether environment, infrastructure, TOD, creating jobs we all want – so our children have the ability to come home, find jobs, rent apartment and stay here. The best years for the county are ahead, but contingent upon us making decisions about taking control of own county – an  idea we haven’t been able to do, so should be shameful to all of us, myself included. Write that check and make that commitment going forward.

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Climate Disasters Should Force Re-think of Trump (‘Cheater-in-Chief’) Tax Plan

How will the nation fund the recovery from the increasingly devastating climate disasters? The lates record-breaking climate catastrophes, Harvey and Irma, should cause re-thinking of the investment in climate action and Trump’s plan to cut taxes for the wealthiest © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Hurricane Harvey had just devastated Texas, the worst natural disaster up until two weeks later when the entire state of Florida was about to be destroyed by Hurricane Irma, as whole Caribbean island nations as well as the US territory of Puerto Rico had their infrastructure utterly decimated. And Hurricane Jose was on Irma’s tail. Meanwhile, Los Angeles and Oregon were being consumed by record wildfires. Congress had authorized $15 billion toward Hurricane Harvey relief and to replenish the nearly depleted funds of FEMA.

Indeed, in North Dakota on September 6, as Hurricane Irma was barreling toward Florida, Trump, the Tax-Cheat-in-Chief, gave an incoherent speech touting his tax plan that began with his incredulity in discovering that North Dakota was undergoing a massive drought.

“I just said to the governor, I didn’t know you had droughts this far north.  Guess what?  You have them.  But we’re working hard on it and it’ll disappear.  It will all go away,” Trump said.

Accuweather is projecting the cost of Harvey and Irma alone at $290 billion, or 1.5% of total GDP, which would erase the growth of the economy through year-end, according to Dr. Joel N. Myers, president and chairman.

That’s also more than one-fourth of the $1 trillion that Trump proposed for a 10-year infrastructure plan. Where will the money come from? And if all infrastructure spending has to be directed to Texas and Florida, where does that leave the rest of the country? Not to mention the $1 billion Trump is demanding as down payment on a $70 billion border wall.

Does this get you thinking that Trump and his administration, especially EPA Administrator and shill for the oil industry Scott Pruitt, should rethink their self-serving notion of climate change denial (self-serving because it is used to fuel their argument that they can overturn environmental regulations on the massively profitable fossil fuel industry)? Of course not.

But it should also cause them to rethink their totally corrupt plan for tax reform which is intended to starve the federal government of funds, balloon the budget deficit and national debt, all to shift more of wealth to the already fabulously wealthy. Especially when so many people have lost their businesses and jobs, which will certainly impact tax revenues.

Let’s just consider for a moment what taxes are supposed to be for. And yes, a considerable amount goes to pay for interest on bonds, but bonds are what are used to pay for infrastructure – they represent an investment in the future. And as we are considering how to replace the destroyed and decimated infrastructure, why not build back with sustainability in mind.

Just as in his speech declaring his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement (forged with US leadership and signed by 195 countries), Trump, who took a $900 million tax deduction on his failed Atlantic City casino and probably has never paid 40% tax in his life,lies to rationalize his tax plan, beginning with the lie that the US is the highest taxed nation in the world (not true) and that workers wages will increase if only shareholders and CEOs and the wealthiest 1% could keep an even greater percentage of their money (history shows the opposite).  (See New York Times, The False Promises in President Trump’s Tax Plan)

Remember: the wealthiest people used to be taxed at 90% – that was after World War II when the nation had to rebuild its treasury. We were able to afford the GI Bill which probably did more to create a middle class than anything since the New Deal. Now the wealthiest pay something between 35 to 40% – except that they don’t.

Trump (and Ryan) want to give a $170,000 annual windfall to the wealthiest Americans, while crumbs ($700) to the middle class who will lose the only tax deductions they can use.  $170,000 times four years worth mean in terms of free money (from tax-paying schnooks) is a lot of dough to invest in politicians and policy with a spectacular return: policies like enabling Big Pharma Sharks to hike up life-saving drugs by 5000%; Oil Barons to make sure incentives for wind and solar energy don’t help these industries develop into competitors; real estate developers who can delight in the tax advantages that let them take a $900 million deduction and build without interfering regulations on lands that are needed to soak up flood waters and health insurance companies to raise premiums to pad profits.

Now this nation is looking at more than $290 billion just to recover from the climate disasters which are becoming more and more frequent, hitting the high density developed urban centers.

If taxes for those who have the means to pay don’t cover the cost, who does? Ryan and the Republicans love to talk about “sacrifice” but the only ones they demand sacrifices from are not the wealthiest or the corporations, but Social Security and Medicare recipients, struggling middle class kids who need to take out loans to pay for college. Their concept is to take money out of the consumer economy, which starts a downward unvirtuous cycle of economic contraction. How do we know?” Because we have seen this movie before: the Bush tax cuts. Meanwhile, median income has risen to its highest levels in 1999 (under Bill Clinton) and 2016 (under Barack Obama) and their tax-and-spending plans.

The Trump/Ryan tax “plan” requires a federal budget that slashes spending for infrastructure, for research and development, for education, for environmental protection (and of course, eradicating any mention of climate change), even slashing spending for diplomacy and foreign aid. It depends on slashing Medicaid and subsidies to keep health insurance affordable (that’s why they are so desperate to repeal Obamacare).

It slashes the tax rate for corporations which already do not pay the nominal 35% rate. Many highly profitable corporations – including General Electric, Pepco Holdings, PG&E Corp., Priceline and Duke Energy – paid nothing into federal coffers from 2008-2015 yet benefit from all the services the government provides including roads, public safety, an educated workforce, mass transit, a military to defend their shipping.

To get to a tax cut without obscenely increasing the national debt, the Republicans say they will get rid of “loopholes” like the mortgage credit and property taxes – that would only complete the decimation of the Middle Class and destroy any semblance of an American Dream. What would make more sense, if they really cared to “reform” the tax code and stop the income distribution from middle class to the already fabulous rich, is to take away the mortgage tax credits on 2nd, 3rd homes and such, and take away the many special deductions that real estate developers like Trump has benefited from, as well as the loopholes that let hedge fund managers shield all but a fraction of their income from taxes that wage-earners pay.

Indeed, the policies that Trump are proposing – specifically, eliminating the tax deduction for state and local property taxes – would hurt blue-states that tend to have higher state and local taxes because they tend to have higher property taxes but provide more services and get less in federal payments than they send to the government, while red-states that have low state and local taxes (and crappy schools and health care) get more from the federal government (paid for by blue states) than they send.

And what about Puerto Rico. which already was in economic disaster – having defaulted on $70 billion in debt – and basically written off by the US government. It’s infrastructure is now totally destroyed. How will it be rebuilt? Here’s what I imagine:  Trump is so transactional, I can see a foreign country (China?) with big bucks and an interest in having a foothold in the Western Hemisphere buying Puerto Rico from the US. After all, what is $100 billion or $200 billion to put the island right?

Of course Trump’s tax “reform” plan – sketched out as if on the back of an envelope without any analysis – is really all about tax cuts to the wealthiest and to corporations. As Hillary Clinton said during a debate (which she won): “trickle down economics on steroids” from the guy who took a $900 million deduction for a failed real estate deal, which taxpayers – normal working stiffs – wind up paying for.

Those who have actually analyzed the plan have said that the wealthiest people – who have done astronomically well for decades, while middle class Americans have scarcely had a salary increase in 40 years, so that the gap between rich and poor has reached Grand Canyon proportions – would get a tax windfall of $170,000 a year, while middle class families would get something like $700. Where do the 1 percenters put that extra money which they scarcely need? Well, they invest in buying politicians and influencing policy, of course.

Tax “reform” figures into the Trump obsession with repealing Obamacare and leaving 32 million people without health insurance. It figures into the administration’s dismissal of the Gateway Tunnel project so important to the New York region’s infrastructure and economy.

But now, Trump’s Republican states are being whacked with climate catastrophes, and the money has to come from somewhere.

And let’s also be reminded that the growth in the economy – first, saving the nation from plunging into another Great Depression, and now rebounding to the highest median income, lowest unemployment rate ever and highest rate of health insurance coverage while reducing the poverty rate – happened because of Obama Administration policies and would have been even more effective in terms of raising wages and living standards if the Trump Administration did not steamroll back policies, like overtime pay, parental leave, and federal minimum wage and obstruct infrastructure development and the transition to clean, renewable energy.

People remark that the devastation in their neighborhoods from these massive climate disasters is like a bomb went off. Well, in wartime, taxes are raised – that’s how the rate on the wealthiest hit 90%, to pay off the World War II debt. This is wartime. This nation has to rebuild, and sustainably, responsibly. We need to invest in 21st and 22nd century technologies, to keep the United States a global leader. Otherwise, we will cede our leverage to China which has basically embraced the American model of spreading its political ideology (nominally, “Democracy”) through capitalism (nominally “free market” as opposed to centralized control) and is literally buying up influence over Africa and Asia.

Of course, Trump’s tax plan is Paul Ryan’s tax plan (Trump never actually had a plan), and the Republicans are content to let Trump destroy the nation and end the social safety net including Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, and possibly embroil us in World War III, until they can get jam through the tax plan they have coveted since Reagan.

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