Tag Archives: environmental justice

FACTS: A Year Advancing Environmental Justice by the Biden Administration

White House Marks Year of Progress Since President Biden Activated All of Government to Advance Environmental Justice

Neighborhood of Breezy Point, on Long Island’s south shore, after Superstorm Sandy. President biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is the largest investment in the resilience of physical and natural infrastructure in American history. The law invests over $50 billion to make communities safer and infrastructure more resilient to the impacts of climate change – droughts, heat waves, wildfires and floods – which disproportionately impact communities of color. These investments have already begun flowing to resilience projects in underserved and overburdened communities. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

You wouldn’t believe it from the obsessive focus of media – especially right wing media – on griping over inflation in prices over supply chain and increased demand (instead of higher wages and record jobs creation) and the inability to surmount the Republican obstruction over Build Back Better and Voting Rights legislation, but the Biden Administration has chalked up quite a record of progress in major issues, chief among them climate action and environmental justice. Here is a fact sheet from the White House:

Nearly one year ago on January 27, 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, laying the foundation for the most ambitious environmental justice agenda ever undertaken by an Administration and putting environmental justice and climate action at the center of the federal government’s work.

The executive order formalized the President and the Vice President’s commitment to ensuring that all federal agencies develop programs, policies, and activities to address the disproportionately high and adverse health, environmental, economic, climate, and other cumulative impacts on communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution.

Over the past year, senior administration leaders have worked tirelessly to secure historic and long overdue investments in environmental justice, advance science-based regulations that reduce environmental pollution, strengthen enforcement of the nation’s environmental and civil rights laws, and elevate the voices of environmental justice communities in the White House and throughout the Administration.

Mobilizing a Whole-of-Government Approach to Environmental Justice

  • Delivering on Justice40. As part of the President’s historic commitment to environmental justice, he created the Justice40 Initiative to ensure that federal agencies deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of climate, clean energy, affordable and sustainable housing, clean water, and other investments to underserved communities. In total, hundreds of federal programs, representing billions of dollars in annual investment — including programs that were funded or created in the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law — are being reimagined and transformed to maximize benefits to disadvantaged communities through the Justice40 Initiative. An initial cohort of Justice40 pilot programs are already working to maximize the delivery of benefits to disadvantaged communities, and some agencies are creating new programs to maximize the benefits of climate and clean energy programs directed to disadvantaged communities, such as the Communities LEAP (Local Energy Action Program) Pilot, the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize, and the Energy Storage for Social Equity Initiative. An annual Federal environmental justice scorecard, the first of which will be published this year, will report on agencies’ progress in the implementation of the Justice40 Initiative and other key environmental justice priorities and commitments.
     
  • Building a Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool. This screening tool, which will be continuously updated and refined based on public feedback and research, will improve the consistency across the federal government of how agencies implement programs and initiatives that are intended to benefit underserved communities. A beta version of the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool will be released for public review and comment early this year.
     
  • Establishing the First-Ever White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. This advisory body – which brings together national environmental justice leaders from across the country – ensures that the voices of overburdened and underserved communities are heard in the White House and reflected in the policies and investments of federal agencies. This body has provided extensive  recommendations that are informing the implementation of the Justice40 Initiative, the development of the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool, and other policies and programs across the Administration.
     
  • Renewing Focus on Environmental Equity and Justice across the Federal Government.  Agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of the Interior (DOI), the Department of Labor, the General Services Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have launched new or strengthened equity and justice offices, task forces, strategies and policies. USDA, for example, is standing up an independent Equity Commission to examine USDA programs to identify and make recommendations for how USDA can reduce barriers to access and advance equity. The Commission will also ensure accountability within and empower stakeholders in underserved communities outside of USDA to take fuller advantage of the department’s programs and services. To coordinate, lead, and elevate environmental justice policy and implementation across the government, the Administration has also established the White House Environmental Interagency Council led by Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory.

 
Protecting Communities from Toxic Pollution

  • Advancing an Ambitious Regulatory Agenda. Over the last year, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken more than 200 actions to repair the damage caused by the prior Administration’s rollbacks and implemented an ambitious regulatory agenda to address environmental justice. From revoking usage of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that has negative health impacts on farmworkers and children, to taking action on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a dangerous “forever chemical” linked to certain cancers, weakened immunity, thyroid disease, and other health effects – this Administration has prioritized rulemakings that protect the health and well-being of vulnerable communities. The President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children is also leading and coordinating cross-agency work to reduce pollution burdens and exposures, including lead exposure and asthma disparities in children of color.
     
  • Strengthening Enforcement of Environmental Laws. The Biden-Harris Administration has taken steps to enhance civil and criminal enforcement of environmental violations in communities overburdened by pollution. The EPA, for example, has taken steps to initiate early and expedited cleanup actions, deliver case outcomes that bring tangible benefits to overburdened communities, provide more robust monitoring and transparency tools, and bolster community engagement. The President’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget request for the Department of Justice includes $5.0 million in increased funding for the Environment and Natural Resources Division to expand its use of existing authorities in affirmative cases to advance environmental justice and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the impacts of climate change and to continue defensive and other work related to climate change.
     
  • Journey to Justice Tour. In November 2021, EPA Administrator Michael Regan embarked on a “Journey to Justice” tour, traveling to Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas to spotlight longstanding environmental justice concerns in historically overburdened communities and to hear firsthand from residents dealing with the impacts of pollution. Today, EPA is announcing a series of concrete actions to respond to the communities’ concerns, including more community air pollution monitoring, fenceline monitoring, inspections, and funding commitments.
     
  • Addressing Legacy Pollution. The President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law delivers the largest investment in tackling legacy pollution in American history. The law will invest $21 billion to clean up Superfund and brownfield sites, reclaim abandoned mine lands, and cap orphaned oil and gas wells that are sources of blight and pollution. These investments are happening now. EPA recently announced a historic $1 billion investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to initiate cleanup at 49 previously unfunded Superfund sites and accelerate cleanup at dozens of other sites across the country. Approximately 60 percent of the sites to receive funding for new cleanup projects are in historically underserved communities.

Recognizing that millions of Americans live within a mile of one of the tens of thousands of abandoned mines and oil and gas wells across the country, DOI is working to speed the deployment of initial grants from the law’s $16 billion in funding for mine and well clean-ups. DOI recently released initial guidance for states interested in applying for Federal grants that will fund the proper cleanup of orphaned oil and gas wells and well sites, with 26 states responding to express their intent to apply for formula grant funding.

  • Investing in Clean Drinking Water. The President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will expand access to clean drinking water to all American families, eliminate the nation’s lead service lines, and help to clean up dangerous PFAS chemicals. Specifically, the law will invest $55 billion to expand access to clean drinking water and wastewater infrastructure for households, businesses, schools, and child care centers all across the country, including in Tribal Nations and rural disadvantaged communities that need it most. These investments will be guided by the Biden-Harris Administration’s Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan, a historic and ambitious effort to deploy catalytic resources from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law while leveraging every tool across Federal, state, and local government to deliver clean drinking water, replace lead pipes, and remediate lead paint. The plan includes over 15 new actions from more than 10 Federal agencies to ensure the Federal government is marshalling every resource and making rapid progress towards replacing all lead pipes in the next decade. The White House also has developed a whole-of government research plan on contaminants of emerging concern in drinking water that will support safe drinking water advisories, standards, and mitigation efforts that protect public health.
     
  • Improving Air Quality. The Biden-Harris Administration has taken decisive action to improve air quality – especially in disadvantaged communities. EPA has initiated rulemakings to reduce harmful air pollutants from heavy-duty trucks that heavily impact low-income communities and communities of color. EPA has also targeted leaded fuel used in small planes, which contributes to air pollution and accounts for 70 percent of lead borne emissions. In December 2021, EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation launched a $20 million grant competition that calls for proposals to conduct air pollution monitoring in communities experiencing disparities in health outcomes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, on behalf of DOT, is proposing revised fuel economy standards for passenger cars and light trucks for model years 2024-2026; DOT estimates that this would increase the average fleet’s fuel efficiency by 12 miles per gallon by model year 2026.  In addition, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $17 billion in modernizing ports and waterways, including funds that will support electrification of port infrastructure and provides the investment needed to deliver thousands of clean school buses to help reduce harmful environmental impacts on communities on the fence line of industry and transportation corridors. The law also provides a $5 billion investment in electric vehicles that will support the deployment of an equitable nationwide network of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers.

Strengthening Resilience to Extreme Weather and Climate Change

  • Investing in Community Resilience. The President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is the largest investment in the resilience of physical and natural infrastructure in American history. The law invests over $50 billion to make communities safer and infrastructure more resilient to the impacts of climate change – droughts, heat waves, wildfires and floods – which disproportionately impact communities of color. These investments have already begun flowing to resilience projects in underserved and overburdened communities, including a $163 million investment to restore the Cano Martin Pena urban tidal channel and surrounding areas of the San Juan Bay National Estuary – an urban waterway project that will significantly improve the health and welfare of the surrounding communities in San Juan. In the coming year, the Army Corps will also engage with environmental justice communities in the development of a strategy to allocate $130 million for two pilot programs that target the needs of economically-disadvantaged communities.
     
  • Building a Coordinated Federal Response to Climate Impacts. To address the multi-faceted nature of climate change and its impact on frontline communities, the Biden-Harris Administration launched five cabinet secretary level Resilience Interagency Working Groups under the National Climate Task Force focused on coastal resilience, drought, extreme heat, flood, and wildfire. These Working Groups are tasked with recommending and coordinating actions, programs, and resources to mitigate climate impacts and subsequent recovery challenges that are often felt most heavily by underserved and overburdened communities. For example, the Extreme Heat Working Group was responsible for launching a coordinated, interagency effort to address extreme heat – including the first-ever employer mandates on heat risk –  to respond to extreme heat that threatens the lives and livelihoods of Americans, especially frontline and essential workers, pregnant workers, children, seniors, economically disadvantaged groups and those with underlying health conditions.
     
  • Advancing Equitable Outcomes for Disaster Survivors. Pursuant to Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) evaluated the equity of its programs and processes to reduce barriers to access experienced by underserved populations through programs that provide individual assistance to disaster survivors. Based on this review, FEMA has begun to amend its policies to provide greater flexibility and increase access to assistance for disaster survivors. The policy changes that FEMA is implementing include: expanding the types of documentation that homeowners and renters can use to prove ownership or occupancy; expanding financial assistance for home cleaning and sanitizing as well as for disaster-caused disability; and changing how the threshold for property losses are calculated to qualify for direct housing assistance, which helps ensure that damage evaluations are done in an equitable manner regardless of the size of the damaged home. As of mid-January 2021, these changes have resulted in the delivery of more than $120 million in financial assistance for mold remediation; $22 million for the cleaning and sanitization of homes; and more than 100,000 survivors receiving home repair and rental assistance as a result of expanded ownership and occupancy documentation requirements.  
     
  • Bolstering Tribal Community Resilience. The President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes historic investments in Indigenous communities’ efforts to tackle the climate crisis and boost the resilience of physical and natural systems. Enabled by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Administration recently committed $40 million to the Espanola Valley, Rio Grande and Tributaries, New Mexico to restore and protect 958 acres of aquatic and riparian habitats that are an integral part of constructing social identity and transmission and retention of traditional knowledge for both the Pueblo of Santa Clara and Ohkay Owingeh. As part of this broader commitment to Tribal community resilience, DOI also recently awarded nearly $14 million to dozens of American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Nations and organizations to support their climate adaptation planning, ocean and coastal management planning, capacity building, and relocation, managed retreat, and protect-in-place planning for climate risks. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has invited Tribal leaders to consult on the agency’s implementation of its Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding, including $400 million to enhance fish passage (of which up to 15 percent will go directly to Tribes), $492 million to improve and restore natural infrastructure through the National Coastal Resilience Fund, and $172 million to support recovery of Pacific coastal salmon. Further, the President’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget includes an increase of more than $450 million to facilitate climate mitigation, resilience, adaptation, and environmental justice projects in Indian Country. This includes investments to begin the process of transitioning Tribal colleges to renewable energy through DOE, and a new Indian Land Consolidation Program through DOI that will enhance the ability of Tribal Nations to plan for and adapt to climate change and promote economic development on lands restored to Tribal ownership.
     
  • Empowering Communities with Actionable Climate Data. The Biden-Harris Administration launched a whole-of-government initiative to deliver accessible and actionable information to individuals and communities that are being hit by flooding, drought, wildfires, extreme heat, coastal erosion, and other intensifying climate impacts. This effort is designed to put authoritative and useful information into the hands of more Americans—from broadcast meteorologists sharing climate information with communities, to farmers checking drought outlooks, to businesses planning for extreme weather, to families making decisions about their homes and neighborhoods. By continuing to strengthen partnerships with community stakeholders, state, local, Tribal, and territorial governments, and businesses, the Biden-Harris Administration will ensure that Federal information services respond to evolving needs, particularly those of disadvantaged communities.

 
Delivering Clean, Affordable Energy

  • Lowering Energy Burdens. The Biden-Harris Administration has provided $8.2 billion in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds to States, Territories, Tribes, and Tribal Organizations, including $4.5 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP). Combined, these funds more than doubled the typical annual appropriations—the largest increase in the program’s history—to assist low-income households with meeting their home energy needs. HHS followed this with guidance providing flexible options for states, territories, Tribes, and Tribal organizations to adjust their LIHEAP programs to address extreme heat. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law doubles down on the Administration’s commitment to lowering energy burdens by investing: an additional $500 million in LIHEAP, which will prioritize eligible households with young children, the elderly, and people with disabilities; and a historic $3.5 billion in the Weatherization Assistance Program, reducing energy costs for more than 700,000 low-income households by increasing the energy efficiency of their homes, while ensuring health and safety and creating jobs.
     
  • Increasing Access to Clean Energy. The Biden-Harris Administration has prioritized the deployment of distributed and community scale energy resources in the underserved and overburdened communities that need them most. The Department of Agriculture launched the Rural Energy Pilot Program with $10 million in available grants for rural communities that are particularly underserved to deploy community-scale clean energy technologies, innovations, and solutions. DOE launched the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP+) tool, an online platform that enables jurisdictions to rapidly approve residential solar installation permits. EPA launched new residential sector partnerships to accelerate efficiency and electrification retrofits with a focus on underserved residential households through its ENERGY STAR Home Upgrade Program. To coordinate these interagency actions, the Biden-Harris Administration launched a Distributed Energy Resources Working Group under the National Climate Task Force focused specifically on accelerating deployment of distributed energy resources in disadvantaged communities.
     
  • Modernizing the Grid. FEMA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are working collaboratively with the government of Puerto Rico to administer over $12 billion of Federal recovery funds earmarked for rebuilding and improving Puerto Rico’s grid. These funds are being used to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and support initiatives in Puerto Rico that focus on mitigation, adaptation, and resilience. DOE and FEMA have also launched a comprehensive study to evaluate pathways to meeting Puerto Rico’s 100 percent renewable energy targets in a way that achieves both short-term recovery goals and long-term energy resilience. The study, titled PR100, will be grounded in a commitment to environmental and energy justice and informed by extensive engagement with Puerto Rico stakeholders to reflect the island’s diverse priorities.

 
Enabling Equitable and Sustainable Communities

  • Increasing Affordable Transportation Options. The President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law expands access to public transit and makes the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak – a major investment in transit equity. The law will invest $66 billion to provide healthy, sustainable transportation options for millions of Americans by modernizing and expanding rail networks across the country. The law also provides $1.2 billion annually through the Safe Streets and Roads for All program to fund Vision Zero plans and construct projects that will prevent transportation-related fatalities and serious injuries, which disproportionately impact rural communities and communities of color.  To ensure these funds facilitate equitable outcomes, DOT has solicited input from stakeholders on the data and assessment tools available to assess transportation equity.  The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also includes investments for a new program that will reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic transportation investments and ensure new projects increase opportunity, advance racial equity and environmental justice, and promote affordable access. DOT also requested $110 million in its Fiscal Year 22 budget to create a new Thriving Communities program that would establish a new office to support communities with eliminating persistent transportation barriers and increasing access to jobs, school, and businesses.
     
  • Tackling Segregation, Discrimination, and Exclusion. The Biden-Harris Administration has restored the implementation of the “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” requirement, which requires HUD and its funding recipients, such as local communities, to take affirmative steps to remedy fair housing issues such as racially segregated neighborhoods, lack of housing choice, and unequal access to housing-related opportunities. HUD anticipates issuing a proposed rule that would help recipients of HUD funding identify needs and take meaningful actions to overcome patterns of residential segregation. To increase access to affordable housing, DOT’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the availability of approximately $10 million in competitive grant funds for FTA’s Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development Planning. The funds will support comprehensive planning efforts that help connect communities, and improve access to public transportation and affordable housing.
     
  • Investing in Healthy Housing and Buildings. The American Rescue Plan provided State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds that dozens of states and cities have used to develop and preserve affordable housing, as well as support for Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions that provide housing finance. Last week, the President launched the National Building Performance Standards Coalition to work with stakeholders, especially frontline communities, to address health, energy affordability, and emissions reductions goals across the buildings sector. Coalition members have agreed to ground their climate work in equity and justice through community-driven processes providing a voice for communities that were previously not invited to the table. These efforts will be bolstered by the more than $1.8 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support building sector policies, including $500 million for DOE’s State Energy Program, which provides funding and technical assistance to state, local, and Tribal governments to advance state-led energy initiatives; $550 million for DOE’s Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant program to assist eligible governments to develop, promote, implement, and manage energy efficiency and conservation policy and projects in their jurisdiction; $250 million for grants to capitalize state-level revolving loan funds for energy efficiency; and $500 million for competitive grants to fund efficiency and renewable improvements in public school facilities.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Elizabeth Warren Details Plan to Confront Crisis of Environmental Injustice

Senator Elizabeth Warren details her plan to confront the crisis of environmental injustice. “Justice cannot be a secondary concern – it must be at the center of our response to climate change.” © 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 her plan to confront the crisis of environmental injustice. “Justice cannot be a secondary concern – it must be at the center of our response to climate change.” This is from the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren has released her plan to fight for justice as we take on the climate crisis. Warren will implement an equity screen for her proposed climate investments, directing at least $1 trillion into the most vulnerable communities over the next decade and investing not only in cleaning up pollution but in building wealth and lifting up the communities in most need. 

The climate crisis demands all of us to act, but it is also an opportunity to create millions of new good, middle class, union jobs and to directly confront the racial and economic inequality embedded in our fossil fuel economy. Elizabeth will honor our commitment to fossil fuel workers by fighting for guaranteed wage and benefit parity for workers transitioning into new industries, and to protect the pensions and benefits that fossil fuel workers have earned. She’ll partner with unions every step of the way. 

She will hold corporate polluters accountable, working with Congress to create a private right of action for environmental harm, and imposing steep fines on violators that will be reinvested in impacted communities.

Elizabeth knows we need to elevate environmental justice at the highest levels. She’ll transform the Council on Environmental Quality into a Council on Climate Action with a broader mandate, including empowering frontline community leaders to speak directly to the White House. 

In 1987, the United Church of Christ’s Commission on Racial Justice commissioned one of the first studies on hazardous waste in communities of color. A few years later —  28 years ago this month —  delegates to the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit adopted 17 principles of environmental justice. But in the years since, the federal government has largely failed to live up to the vision these trailblazing leaders outlined, and to its responsibilities to the communities they represent. 

From predominantly black neighborhoods in Detroit to Navajo communities in the southwest to Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, industrial pollution has been concentrated in low-income communities for decades — communities that the federal government has tacitly written off as so-called “sacrifice zones.” But it’s not just about poverty, it’s also about race. A seminal study found that black families are more likely to live in neighborhoods with higher concentrations of air pollution than white families — even when they have the same or more income. A more recent study found that while whites largely cause air pollution, Blacks and Latinxs are more likely to breathe it in. Unsurprisingly, these groups also experience higher rates of childhood asthma. And many more low-income and minority communities are exposed to toxins in their water — including lead and chemicals from industrial and agricultural run-off.

And these studies don’t tell the whole story. As I’ve traveled this country, I’ve heard the human stories as well. In Detroit, I met with community members diagnosed with cancer linked to exposure to toxins after years of living in the shadow of a massive oil refinery. In New Hampshire, I talked with mothers fighting for clean drinking water free of harmful PFAS chemicals for their children. In South Carolina, I’ve heard the stories of the most vulnerable coastal communities who face the greatest threats, from not just sea-level rise, but a century of encroaching industrial polluters. In West Virginia, I saw the consequences of the coal industry’s abandonment of the communities that made their shareholders and their executives wealthy — stolen pensions, poisoned miners, and ruined land and water.

We didn’t get here by accident. Our crisis of environmental injustice is the result of decades of discrimination and environmental racism compounding in communities that have been overlooked for too long. It is the result of multiple choices that put corporate profits before people, while our government looked the other way. It is unacceptable, and it must change. 

Justice cannot be a secondary concern — it must be at the center of our response to climate change. The Green New Deal commits us to a “just transition” for all communities and all workers. But we won’t create true justice by cleaning up polluted neighborhoods and tweaking a few regulations at the EPA. We also need to prioritize communities that have experienced historic disinvestment, across their range of needs: affordable housing, better infrastructure, good schools, access to health care, and good jobs. We need strong, resilient communities who are prepared and properly resourced to withstand the impacts of climate change. We need big, bottom-up change — focused on, and led by, members of these communities. 

No Community Left Behind

The same communities that have borne the brunt of industrial pollution are now on the front lines of climate change, often getting hit first and worst. In response, local community leaders are leading the fight to hold polluters responsible and combat the effects of the climate crisis.  In Detroit’s 48217 zip code, for example, community members living in the midst of industrial pollution told me how they have banded together to identify refinery leakages and inform their neighbors. In Alabama and Mississippi, I met with residents of formerly redlined neighborhoods who spoke to me about their fight against drinking water pollution caused by inadequate municipal sewage systems. Tribal Nations, which have been disproportionately impacted by environmental racism and the effects of climate change, are leading the way in climate resilience and adaptation strategies, and in supporting healthy ecosystems. The federal government must do more to support and uplift the efforts of these and other communities. Here’s how we can do that:

Improve environmental equity mapping. The EPA currently maps communities based on basic environmental and demographic indicators, but more can be done across the federal government to identify at-risk communities. We need a rigorous interagency effort to identify cumulative environmental health disparities and climate vulnerabilities and cross-reference that data with other indicators of socioeconomic health. We’ll use these data to adjust permitting rules under Clean Air and Clean Water Act authorities to better consider the impact of cumulative and overlapping pollution, and we’ll make them publicly available online to help communities measure their own health.

Implement an equity screen for climate investments. Identifying at-risk communities is only the first step. The Green New Deal will involve deploying trillions of dollars to transform the way we source and use energy. In doing so, the government must prioritize resources to support vulnerable communities and remediate historic injustices. My friend Governor Jay Inslee rightly challenged us to fund the most vulnerable communities first, and both New York and California have passed laws to direct funding specifically to frontline and fenceline communities. The federal government should do the same. I’ll direct one-third of my proposed climate investment into the most vulnerable communities — a commitment that would funnel at least $1 trillion into these areas over the next decade. 

Strengthen tools to mitigate environmental harms. Signed into law in 1970, the National Environmental Policy Act provides the original authority for many of our existing environmental protections. But even as climate change has made it clear that we must eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels, the Trump Administration has tried to weaken NEPA with the goal of expediting even more fossil fuel infrastructure projects. At the same time, the Trump Administration has moved to devalue the consideration of climate impacts in all federal decisions. This is entirely unacceptable in the face of the climate emergency our world is facing. As president, I would mandate that all federal agencies consider climate impacts in their permitting and rulemaking processes. Climate action needs to be mainstreamed in everything the federal government does. But we also need a standard that requires the government to do more than merely “assess” the environmental impact of proposed projects — we need to mitigate negative environmental impacts entirely. 

Beyond that, a Warren Administration will do more to give the people who live in a community a greater say in what is sited there — too often today, local desires are discounted or disregarded. And when Tribal Nations are involved, projects should not proceed unless developers have obtained the free, prior and informed consent of the tribal governments concerned. I’ll use the full extent of my executive authority under NEPA to protect these communities and give them a voice in the process. And I’ll fight to improve the law to reflect the realities of today’s climate crisis. 

Build wealth in frontline communities. People of color are more likely to live in neighborhoods that are vulnerable to climate change risks or where they’re subject to environmental hazards like pollution. That’s not a coincidence — decades of racist housing policy and officially sanctioned segregation that denied people of color the opportunity to build wealth also denied them the opportunity to choose the best neighborhood for their families. Then, these same communities were targeted with the worst of the worst mortgages before the financial crisis, while the government looked the other way. My housing plan includes a first-of-its-kind down-payment assistance program that provides grants to long-term residents of formerly redlined communities so that they can buy homes in the neighborhood of their choice and start to build wealth, beginning to reverse that damage. It provides assistance to homeowners in these communities who still owe more than their homes were worth, which can be used to preserve their homes and revitalize their communities. These communities should have the opportunity to lead us in the climate fight, and have access to the economic opportunities created by the clean energy sector. With the right investments and with community-led planning, we can lift up communities that have experienced historic repression and racism, putting them on a path to a more resilient future.

Expand health care. People in frontline communities disproportionately suffer from certain cancers and other illnesses associated with environmental pollution. To make matters worse, they are less likely to have access to quality health care. Under Medicare for All, everyone will have high quality health care at a lower cost, allowing disadvantaged communities to get lifesaving services. And beyond providing high quality coverage for all, the simplified Medicare for All system will make it easier for the federal government to quickly tailor health care responses to specific environmental disasters in affected communities when they occur.

Research equity. For years we’ve invested in broad-based strategies that are intended to lift all boats, but too often leave communities of color behind. True justice calls for more than ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions — instead we need targeted strategies that take into account the unique challenges individual frontline communities face. I’ve proposed a historic $400 billion investment in clean energy research and development. We’ll use that funding to research place-based interventions specifically targeting the communities that need more assistance.

No Worker Left Behind

The climate crisis will leave no one untouched. But it also represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity: to create millions of good-paying American jobs in clean and renewable energy, infrastructure, and manufacturing; to unleash the best of American innovation and creativity; to rebuild our unions and create real progress and justice for workers; and to directly confront the racial and economic inequality embedded in our fossil fuel economy. 

The task before us is huge and demands all of us to act. It will require massive retrofits to our nation’s infrastructure and our manufacturing base. It will also require readjusting our economic approach to ensure that communities of color and others who have been systematically harmed from our fossil fuel economy are not left further behind during the transition to clean energy.

But it is also an opportunity. We’ll need millions of workers: people who know how to build things and manufacture them; skilled and experienced contractors to plan and execute large construction and engineering projects; and training and joint labor management apprenticeships to ensure a continuous supply of skilled, available workers. This can be a great moment of national unity, of common purpose, of lives transformed for the better. But we cannot succeed in fighting climate change unless the people who have the skills to get the job done are in the room as full partners. 

We also cannot fight climate change with a low-wage economy. Workers should not be forced to make an impossible choice between fossil fuel industry jobs with superior wages and benefits and green economy jobs that pay far less. For too long, there has been a tension between transitioning to a green economy and creating good, middle class, union jobs. In a Warren Administration we will do both: creating good new jobs through investments in a clean economy coupled with the strongest possible protections for workers. For instance, my Green Manufacturing plan makes a $1.5 trillion procurement commitment to domestic manufacturing contingent on companies providing fair wages, paid family and medical leave, fair scheduling practices, and collective bargaining rights. Similarly, my 100% Clean Energy Plan will require retrofitting our nation’s buildings, reengineering our electrical grid, and adapting our manufacturing base — creating good, union jobs, with prevailing wages determined through collective bargaining, for millions of skilled and experienced workers. 

Our commitment to a Green New Deal is a commitment to a better future for the working people of our country.  And it starts with a real commitment to workers from the person sitting in the White House: I will fight for your job, your family, and your community like I would my own. But there’s so much more we can do to take care of America’s workers before, during, and after this transition. Here are a few ways we can start: 

Honor our commitment to fossil fuel workers. Coal miners, oil rig workers, pipeline builders and millions of other workers have given their life’s blood to build the infrastructure that powered the American economy throughout the 20th century. In return, they deserve more than platitudes — and if we expect them to use their skills to help reengineer America, we owe them a fair day’s pay for the work we need them to do. I’m committed to providing job training and guaranteed wage and benefit parity for workers transitioning into new industries. And for those Americans who choose not to find new employment and wish to retire with dignity, we’ll ensure full financial security, including promised pensions and early retirement benefits. 

Defend worker pensions, benefits, and secure retirement. Together, we will ensure that employers and our government honor the promises they made to workers in fossil fuel industries. I’ve fought for years to protect pensions and health benefits for retired coal workers, and I’ll continue fighting to maintain the solvency of multi-employer pension plans. As president, I’ll protect those benefits that fossil fuel workers have earned. My plan to empower American workers commits to defending pensions, recognizing the value of defined-benefit pensions, and pushing to pass the Butch-Lewis Act to create a loan program for the most financially distressed pension plans in the country. And my Social Security plan would increase benefits by $200 a month for every beneficiary, lifting nearly 5 million seniors out of poverty and expanding benefits for workers with disabilities and their families. 

Create joint safety-health committees. In 2016, more than 50,000 workers died from occupational-related diseases. And since the beginning of his administration, Trump has rolled back rules and regulations that limit exposure to certain chemicals and requirements around facility safety inspections, further jeopardizing workers and the community around them. When workers have the power to keep themselves safe, they make their communities safer too. A Warren Administration will reinstate the work safety rules and regulations Trump eliminated, and will work to require large companies to create joint safety-health committees with representation from workers and impacted communities. 

Force fossil fuel companies to honor their obligations. As a matter of justice, we should tighten bankruptcy laws to prevent coal and other fossil fuel companies from evading their responsibility to their workers and to the communities that they have helped to pollute. In the Senate, I have fought to improve the standing of coal worker pensions and benefits in bankruptcy — as president, I will work with Congress to pass legislation to make these changes a reality.  

And as part of our commitment, we must take care of all workers, including those who were left behind decades ago by the fossil fuel economy. Although Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal is the inspiration for this full scale mobilization of the federal government to defeat the climate crisis, it was not perfect. The truth is that too often, many New Deal agencies and policies were tainted by structural racism. And as deindustrialization led to prolonged disinvestment, communities of color were too often both the first to lose their job base, and the first place policymakers thought of to dump the refuse of the vanished industries. Now there is a real risk that poor communities dependent on carbon fuels will be asked to bear the costs of fighting climate change on their own. We must take care not to replicate the failings and limitations of the original New Deal as we implement a Green New Deal and transition our economy to 100% clean energy. Instead we need to build an economy that works for every American — and leaves no one behind.

Prioritizing Environmental Justice at the Highest Levels

As we work to enact a Green New Deal, our commitment to environmental justice cannot be an afterthought — it must be central to our efforts to fight back against climate change. That means structuring our government agencies to ensure that we’re centering frontline and fenceline communities in implementing a just transition. It means ensuring that the most vulnerable have a voice in decision-making that impacts their communities, and direct access to the White House itself. Here’s how we’ll do that:

Elevate environmental justice at the White House. I’ll transform the Council on Environmental Quality into a Council on Climate Action with a broader mandate, including making environmental justice a priority. I’ll update the 1994 executive order that directed federal agencies to make achieving environmental justice part of their missions, and revitalize the cabinet-level interagency council on environmental justice. We will raise the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council to report directly to the White House, bringing in the voices of frontline community leaders at the highest levels. And I will bring these leaders to the White House for an environmental justice summit within my first 100 days in office, to honor the contributions of frontline activists over decades in this fight and to listen to ideas for how we can make progress.  

Empower the EPA to support frontline communities. The Trump Administration has proposed dramatic cuts to the EPA, including to its Civil Rights office, and threatened to eliminate EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice entirely. I’ll restore and grow both offices, including by expanding the Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) and Environmental Justice Small Grant programs. We’ll condition these competitive grant funds on the development of state- and local-level environmental justice plans, and ensure that regional EPA offices stay open to provide support and capacity. But it’s not just a matter of size. Historically, EPA’s Office of Civil Rights has rejected nine out of ten cases brought to it for review. In a Warren Administration, we will aggressively pursue cases of environmental discrimination wherever they occur. 

Bolster the CDC to play a larger role in environmental justice. The links between industrial pollution and negative public health outcomes are clear. A Warren Administration will fully fund the Center for Disease Control’s environmental health programs, such as childhood lead poisoning prevention, and community health investigations. We will also provide additional grant funding for independent research into environmental health effects.

Diminish the influence of Big Oil. Powerful corporations rig the system to work for themselves, exploiting and influencing the regulatory process and placing industry representatives in positions of decision-making authority within agencies. My plan to end Washington corruption would slam shut the revolving door between industry and government, reducing industry’s ability to influence the regulatory process and ensuring that the rules promulgated by our environmental agencies reflect the needs of communities, not the fossil fuel industry. 

Right to Affordable Energy and Clean Water

Nearly one-third of American households struggle to pay their energy bills, and Native American, Black, and Latinx households are more likely to be energy insecure. Renters are also often disadvantaged by landlords unwilling to invest in safer buildings, weatherization, or cheaper energy. And clean energy adoption is unequal along racial lines, even after accounting for differences in wealth. I have a plan to move the United States to 100% clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy in electricity generation by 2035 — but energy justice must be an integral part of our transition to clean energy. Here’s what that means:

Address high energy cost burdens. Low-income families, particularly in rural areas, are spending too much of their income on energy, often the result of older or mobile homes that are not weatherized or that lack energy efficient upgrades. I’ve committed to meet Governor Inslee’s goal of retrofitting 4% of U.S. buildings annually to increase energy efficiency — and we’ll start that national initiative by prioritizing frontline and fenceline communities. In addition, my housing plan includes over $10 billion in competitive grant programs for communities that invest in well-located affordable housing — funding that can be used for modernization and weatherization of homes, infrastructure, and schools. It also targets additional funding to tribal governments, rural communities, and jurisdictions — often majority minority — where homeowners are still struggling with the aftermath of the 2008 housing crash. Energy retrofits can be a large source of green jobs, and I’m committed to ensuring that these are good jobs, with full federal labor protections and the right to organize. 

Support community power. Consumer-owned energy cooperatives, many of which were established to electrify rural areas during the New Deal, serve an estimated  42 million people across our country. While some co-ops are beginning to transition their assets to renewable energy resources, too many are locked into long-term contracts that make them dependent on coal and other dirty fuels for their power. To speed the transition to clean energy, my administration will offer assistance to write down debt and restructure loans to help cooperatives get out of long-term coal contracts, and provide additional low- or no-cost financing for zero-carbon electricity generation and transmission projects for cooperatives via the Rural Utilities Service. I’ll work with Congress to extend and expand clean energy bonds to allow community groups and nonprofits without tax revenue to access  clean energy incentives. I’ll also provide dedicated support for the four Power Marketing Administrations, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Appalachian Regional Commission to help them build publicly-owned clean energy assets and deploy clean power to help communities transition off fossil fuels. Accelerating the transition to clean energy will both reduce carbon emissions, clean up our air,  and help bring down rural consumers’ utility bills.

Protect local equities. Communities that host large energy projects are entitled to receive a share of the benefits. But too often, large energy companies are offered millions in tax subsidies to locate in a particular area — without any commitment that they will make a corresponding commitment in that community. Community Benefit Agreements can help address power imbalances between project developers and low-income communities by setting labor, environmental, and transparency standards before work begins. I’ll make additional federal subsidies or tax benefits for large utility projects contingent on strong Community Benefits Agreements, which should include requirements for prevailing wages and collective bargaining rights. And I’ll insist on a clawback provision if a company doesn’t hold up its end of the deal. If developers work with communities to ensure that everyone benefits from clean energy development, we will be able to reduce our emissions faster. 

It’s simple: access to clean water is a basic human right. Water quality is an issue in both urban and rural communities. In rural areas, for example, runoff into rivers and streams by Big Agriculture has poisoned local drinking water. In urban areas, lack of infrastructure investment has resulted in lead and other poisons seeping into aging community water systems. We need to take action to protect our drinking water. Here’s how we can do that: 

Invest in our nation’s public water systems. America’s water is a public asset and should be owned by and for the public. A Warren Administration will end decades of disinvestment and privatization of our nation’s water system — our government at every level should invest in safe, affordable drinking water for all of us.

Increase and enforce water quality standards. Our government should enforce strict regulations to ensure clean water is available to all Americans. I’ll restore the Obama-era water rule that protected our lakes, rivers, and streams, and the drinking water they provide. We also need a strong and nationwide safe drinking water standard that covers PFAS and other chemicals. A Warren Administration will fully enforce Safe Drinking Water Act standards for all public water systems. I’ll aggressively regulate chemicals that make their way into our water supply, including by designating PFAS as a hazardous substance.

Fund access to clean water. Our clean drinking water challenge goes beyond lead, and beyond Flint and Newark. To respond, a Warren Administration will commit to fully capitalize the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to refurbish old water infrastructure and support ongoing water treatment operations and maintenance, prioritizing the communities most heavily impacted by inadequate water infrastructure. In rural areas, I’ll increase funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program to $15 billion annually, empowering family farmers to help limit the agricultural runoff that harms local wells and water systems. To address lead specifically, we will establish a lead abatement grant program with a focus on schools and daycare centers, and commit to remediating lead in all federal buildings. We’ll provide a Lead Safety Tax Credit for homeowners to invest in remediation. And a Warren Administration will also fully fund IDEA and other support programs that help children with developmental challenges as a result of lead exposure.

Protecting the Most Vulnerable During Climate-Related Disasters

In 2018, the U.S. was home to the world’s three costliest environmental catastrophes. And while any community can be hit by a hurricane, flood, extreme weather, or fire, the impact of these kinds of disasters are particularly devastating for low-income communitiespeople with disabilities, and people of color. Take Puerto Rico for example. When Hurricane Maria hit the island, decades of racism and neglect were multiplied by the government’s failure to prepare and Trump’s racist post-disaster response — resulting in the deaths of at least 3,000 Puerto Ricans and long-term harm to many more. Even as we fight climate change, we must also prepare for its impacts — building resiliency not just in some communities, but everywhere. Here’s how we can start to do that:

Invest in pre-disaster mitigation. For every dollar invested in mitigation, the government and communities save $6 overall. But true to form, the Trump Administration has proposed to steep cuts to  FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, abandoning communities just as the risk of climate-related disasters is on the rise. As president, I’ll invest in programs that help vulnerable communities build resiliency by quintupling this program’s funding. 

Better prepare for flood events. When I visited Pacific Junction, Iowa, I saw scenes of devastation: crops ruined for the season, cars permanently stalled, a water line 7 or 8 feet high in residents’ living rooms. And many residents in Pacific Junction fear that this could happen all over again next year. Local governments rely on FEMA’s flood maps, but some of these maps haven’t been updated in decades. In my first term as president, I will direct FEMA to fully update flood maps with forward-looking data, prioritizing and including frontline communities in this process. We’ll raise standards for new construction, including by reinstating the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard. And we’ll make it easier for vulnerable residents to move out of flood-prone properties — including by buying back those properties for low-income homeowners at a value that will allow them to relocate, and then tearing down the flood-prone properties, so we can protect everyone.

Mitigate wildfire risk. We must also invest in improved fire mapping and prevention programs. In a Warren Administration, we will dramatically improve fire mapping and prevention by investing in advanced modeling with a focus on helping the most vulnerable — incorporating not only fire vulnerability but community demographics. We will prioritize these data to invest in land management, particularly near the most vulnerable communities, supporting forest restoration, lowering fire risk, and creating jobs all at once. We will also invest in microgrid technology, so that we can de-energize high-risk areas when required without impacting the larger community’s energy supply. And as president, I will collaborate with Tribal governments on land management practices to reduce wildfires, including by incorporating traditional ecological practices and exploring co-management and the return of public resources to indigenous protection wherever possible. 

Prioritize at-risk populations in disaster planning and response. When the most deadly fire in California’s history struck the town of Paradise last November, a majority of the victims were disabled or elderly. People with disabilities face increased difficulties in evacuation assistance and accessing critical medical care. For people who are homeless, disasters exacerbate existing challenges around housing and health. And fear of deportation can deter undocumented people from contacting emergency services for help evacuating or from going to an emergency shelter. As president, I will strengthen rules to require disaster response plans to uphold the rights of vulnerable populations. In my immigration plan, I committed to putting in place strict guidelines to protect sensitive locations, including emergency shelters. We’ll also develop best practices at the federal level to help state and local governments develop plans for at-risk communities — including for extreme heat or cold — and require that evacuation services and shelters are fully accessible to people with disabilities. During emergencies, we will work to ensure that critical information is shared in ways that reflect the diverse needs of people with disabilities and other at-risk communities, including through ASL and Braille and languages spoken in the community. We will establish a National Commission on Disability Rights and Disasters, ensure that federal disaster spending is ADA compliant, and support people with disabilities in disaster planning. We will make certain that individuals have ongoing access to health care services if they have to leave their community or if there is a disruption in care.  And we will ensure that a sufficient number of disability specialists are present in state emergency management teams and FEMA’s disaster response corps. 

Ensure a just and equitable recovery. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, disaster scammers and profiteers swarmed, capitalizing on others’ suffering to make a quick buck. And after George W. Bush suspended the Davis-Bacon Act, the doors were opened for contractors to under-pay and subject workers to dangerous working conditions, particularly low-income and immigrant workers. As president, I’ll put strong protections in place to ensure that federal tax dollars go toward community recovery, not to line the pockets of contractors. And we must maintain high standards for workers even when disaster strikes. 

Studies show that the white and wealthy receive more federal disaster aid, even though they are most able to financially withstand a disaster. This is particularly true when it comes to housing — FEMA’s programs are designed to protect homeowners, even as homeownership has slipped out of reach for an increasing number of Americans. As president, I will reform post-disaster housing assistance to better protect renters, including a commitment to a minimum of one-to-one replacement for any damaged federally-subsidized affordable housing, to better protect low-income families. I will work with Congress to amend the Stafford Act to make grant funding more flexible to allow families and communities to rebuild in more resilient ways. And we will establish a competitive grant program, based on the post-Sandy Rebuild by Design pilot, to offer states and local governments the opportunity to compete for additional funding for creative resilience projects.

Under a Warren Administration, we will monitor post-disaster recovery to help states and local governments better understand the long-term consequences and effectiveness of differing recovery strategies, including how to address climate gentrification, to ensure equitable recovery for all communities. We’ll center a right to return for individuals who have been displaced during a disaster and prioritize the voices of frontline communities in the planning of their return or relocation. And while relocation should be a last resort, when it occurs, we must improve living standards and keep communities together whenever possible.

Holding Polluters Accountable

In Manchester, Texas, Hurricane Harvey’s damage wasn’t apparent until after the storm had passed — when a thick, chemical smell started wafting through the majority Latinx community, which is surrounded by nearly 30 refineries and chemical plants. A tanker failure had released 1,188 pounds of benzene into the air, one of at least one hundred area leaks that happened in Harvey’s aftermath. But because regulators had turned off air quality and toxic monitoring in anticipation of the storm, the leaks went unnoticed and the community uninformed. 

This should have never been allowed to happen. But Manchester is also subject to 484,000 pounds of toxic chemical leaks on an average year. That’s not just a tragedy — it’s an outrage. We must hold polluters accountable for their role in ongoing, systemic damage in frontline communities. As president, I will use all my authorities to hold companies accountable for their role in the climate crisis. Here’s how we can do that: 

Exercise all the oversight tools of the federal government. A Warren Administration will encourage the EPA and Department of Justice to aggressively go after corporate polluters, particularly in cases of environmental discrimination. We need real consequences for corporate polluters that break our environmental law. That means steep fines, which we will reinvest in impacted communities. And under my Corporate Executive Accountability Act, we’ll press for criminal penalties for executives when their companies hurt people through criminal negligence.

Use the power of the courts. Thanks to a Supreme Court decision, companies are often let completely off the hook, even when their operations inflict harm on thousands of victims each year. I’ll work with Congress to create a private right of action for environmental harm at the federal level, allowing individuals and communities impacted by environmental discrimination to sue for damages and hold corporate polluters accountable.

Reinstitute the Superfund Waste Tax. There are over 1300 remaining Superfund sites across the country, many located in or adjacent to frontline communities. So-called “orphan” toxic waste clean-ups were originally funded by a series of excise taxes on the petroleum and chemical industries. But thanks to Big Oil and other industry lobbyists, when that tax authority expired in 1995 it was not renewed. Polluters must pay for the consequences of their actions — not leave them for the communities to clean up. I’ll work with Congress to reinstate and then triple the Superfund tax, generating needed revenue to clean up the mess.

Hold the finance industry accountable for its role in the climate crisis. Financial institutions and the insurance industry underwrite and fund fossil fuel investments around the world, and can play a key role in stopping the climate crisis. Earlier this year, Chubb became the first U.S. insurer to commit to stop insuring coal projects, a welcome development. Unfortunately, many banks and insurers seem to be moving in the opposite direction. In fact, since the Paris Agreement was signed, U.S. banks including JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Bank of America have actually increased their fossil fuel investments. And there is evidence that big banks are replicating a tactic they first employed prior to the 2008 crash — shielding themselves from climate losses by selling the mortgages most at risk from climate impacts to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to shift the burden off their books and onto taxpayers at a discount. 

To accelerate the transition to clean energy, my Climate Risk Disclosure Act would require banks and other companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and price their exposure to climate risk into their valuations, raising public awareness of just how dependent our economy is on fossil fuels. And let me be clear: in a Warren Administration, they will no longer be allowed to shift that burden to the rest of us.

Long Islanders Join Statewide Rallies for Climate Action, Tell Schumer to ‘Resist Trump’

Long Islanders join statewide rallies for climate action to tell Senator Schumer to act as a leader and ‘Resist Trump’ © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Long Islanders join statewide rallies for climate action to tell Senator Schumer to act as a leader and ‘Resist Trump’ © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

“Resist Trump” was the chant by some 300 environmental activists who rallied outside Senator Charles Schumer’s Long Island office in Melville during a statewide day of action, February 2. Similar rallies were being held at all eight of Schumer’s offices throughout New York State to demand that he show bold leadership to protect public health and the environment by telling Senators to use every tool at their disposal to challenge the corporate takeover of our democracy and reject Trump’s nominees and policies that would decimate the climate and the environment.

“Schumer’s announcement on January 30 that he will vote against several Trump nominees is a sign that he is hearing the message coming from the grassroots. Voting against oil and gas insiders is just the first step to resisting Trump’s anti-environmental agenda—bigger battles over drastic EPA budget cuts, clean air regulations, climate change, and fossil fuel drilling are on the horizon,” stated Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch, the leading organizer of the Long Island rally.

Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch: “As the nation’s most powerful Democrat, Schumer must lead the resistance.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch: “As the nation’s most powerful Democrat, Schumer must lead the resistance.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Donald Trump has wasted no time in setting out a clear agenda that threatens fundamental environmental protections. With clean air and water under attack, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer must lead his colleagues in standing strong against Trump’s science-denying Cabinet appointments and his climate-destroying plans,.

Weltman declared, “As the nation’s most powerful Democrat, Schumer must lead the resistance. He must vigorously oppose cabinet appointments, lead the charge against Trump’s plans to slash EPA budget, dismantle the EPA, resist plans for the Dakota and Keystone pipelines. He must motivate his fellow Democrats.

“Each day, we are sicker, more depressed, more fearful,” said Lisa Oldendorp, National Grassroots Organizer for Moveon.Org. “As difficult as these days have been, we are more worried about the days ahead. The small gains in climate action will be overturned, we will go back 70 years to the point of no return…

“Trump’s friends are not concerned about our future of the country or the planet. Their only god is profit. They are determined to frack more land, pollute more air. Make America Great Again? No, make a small group of millionaires even richer, plundering our lands.

Lisa Oldendorp, National Grassroots Organizer for Moveon.Org: “We’ve had a few weeks to mourn the election. Not it’s time to get off the pity pot and take action.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Lisa Oldendorp, National Grassroots Organizer for Moveon.Org: “We’ve had a few weeks to mourn the election. Not it’s time to get off the pity pot and take action.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“You may have said you are tired of fighting. That it’s hopeless. But you must continue to fight for environmental, economic, racial, social justice. Turn your anger into action for change…. A Small group of citizens can change the world. One person becomes a group, a group becomes a crowd. People power grows exponentially. Don’t tell me people’s protests don’t matter. They build consensus, a movement.

Long Island environmental activists tell Senator Schumer, “Resist Trump” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Long Island environmental activists tell Senator Schumer, “Resist Trump” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“The anti-Trump movement already eclipses the Tea Party at its height by 20 points. Democrats are finding our voice. Dissent and protest is happening on a greater scale. The New York Times in an editorial said Democrats simply cannot play by the old set of rules now that the Republicans are playing by new ones. [Neil] Gorsuch doesn’t deserve confirmation [for the Supreme Court] because the process leading to his nomination was illegitimate.”

Democrats have to mobilize for the local elections in 2017, try to flip the House and/or the Senate and take more state positions in 2018.

“We’ve had a few weeks to mourn the election. Not it’s time to get off the pity pot and take action.”

Ryan Madden, sustainability organizer for the LI Progressive Coalition, said the Trump election is a Trojan horse for corporate interests. “Pruitt, Sessions, Perry – every one a threat to the climate, the environment and our institutions… Attacks against environment, climate have the worst impacts on folks with the least ability to do something about it.” It’s a matter of economic and climate justice.

Jane Fasullo of the Sierra Club: “There is no alternate planet” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Jane Fasullo of the Sierra Club: “There is no alternate planet” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Jane Fasullo of the Sierra Club said simply, “There is no alternate planet. You can’t eat or drink money – maybe you can burn it for heat. Schumer, do your job.”

Dave Denenberg and Claudia Borecky of Clean Air Water Soil declared, “We want leadership from Schumer… We thought fracking was over in New York State. It might be coming back.” The Navy was the responsible agency for cleaning up the Grumman plume at Bethpage, Trump wants to walk away from paying for clean up, he said.

Dave Denenberg and Claudia Borecky lead a new environmental advocacy group, Clean Air Water Soil © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Dave Denenberg and Claudia Borecky lead a new environmental advocacy group, Clean Air Water Soil © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

People carried signs such as “Tax Carbon. Trump Too.” “Tell the Con Man in Chief: You Can’t Fool Mother Nature. Take Climate Action.” A young boy held a sign, “Please don’t break my planet.” Others urged Schumer to “Resist Trump” and “Be a Leader.”

Just two weeks into the Trump Administration, resistance to Trump already exceeds that of the Tea Party at its peak © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Just two weeks into the Trump Administration, resistance to Trump already measureably exceeds that of the Tea Party at its peak © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The group then marched through the parking lot to the front of Schumer’s Long Island office and a few of the leaders, who had appointments, hand-delivered petitions, reporting back  that they were well received. “We’ll be back,” he said.

The simultaneous actions took place at all eight of Schumer’s New York offices (Buffalo, Rochester,  Syracuse,  Binghamton,  Albany,  Peekskill,  Melville and Manhattan), as well as in Washington, DC.

A boy carries a sign, “Please don’t break my planet.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
A boy carries a sign, “Please don’t break my planet.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Sponsoring organizations include: Food & Water Watch, Long Island Progressive Coalition, Sierra Club, NYPIRG, MoveOn, Long Island Activists, Reach Out America, Slow Food North Shore, iEatGreen, 350.org, Long Island Clean Air Water & Soil, Public Citizen, Greenpeace

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© 2017 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