What a triumphant week it has been—with one celebration following another. First, a small group of our members and staff greeted newly confirmed EPA Administrator Michael Regan in the nation’s capital with heartfelt messages from more than 1,300 members. During this socially distanced meet-up, Regan declared that “Science is back!” and acknowledged the undeniable power of parent advocates like you. Read more and view our photos here. Second, the Senate voted to confirm Deb Haaland as our Secretary of Interior, making her the country’s first Indigenous cabinet secretary. We celebrated Haaland’s path-breaking triumph in our press statement here. Third, the EPA re-launched its climate change webpage which had previously been removed from the site by the Trump administration. Science is indeed back! We are overjoyed to have leaders putting science and environmental justice at the forefront of every decision.
HAALAND’S HISTORIC WIN—AND THE POWER OF INDIGENOUS REPRESENTATION
Our member Stephanie BadSoldier Snow (Meskwaki and Ho-Chunk) in Iowa and our Colorado organizer Shaina Oliver, Navajo Nation (tribal member of the Navajo Nation Dine’), teamed up to pen a joint op-ed on why our government must phase out sources of pollution that disproportionately harm Indigenous communities and other communities of color. Writing in the Indian Country Times, Stephanie and Shaina argue that because Indigenous communities are on the frontlines of the climate crisis, environmental justice and pausing oil and gas leasing on public lands must be top priorities across all relevant government agencies. The co-authors also take stock of the record-shattering number (six) of Indigenous leaders elected to Congress, including Deb Haaland, who as Secretary of Interior will be in charge of public and tribal lands. They share what these wins mean to them: “As Indigenous mothers, we know this says to our nation that it is time to listen to our communities when it comes to our environment and climate change…these picks [Haaland and Regan] say to Indigenous communities and all Americans that his administration is serious about bringing on people who will indeed emphasize environmental justice in policy-making.”
The iconic magazine Ms. published a photo from our collection of then-Representative Deb Haaland—taken at our sixth annual Play-In for Climate Action in 2019 at the US Capitol—for a feature on women who are breaking political, educational, and social barriers.
In other news, the Denver Post interviewed Shaina Oliver about the quality of water that flows through her hometown of Denver in light of reports showing dangerous levels of runoff water pollution. On the subject of how to uncover the root causes of the problem, Shaina didn’t mince her words: “‘We don’t know how to navigate these water quality issues,’ said Shaina Oliver, a member of the grassroots groups EcoMadres and Moms Clean Air Force, which represent low-income people often hit hardest by pollution. Oliver pointed out that children play in runoff water puddles and creeks. ‘For me as an indigenous person, water is sacred,’ she said. ‘It is unfathomable, our disregard for water.’”
ENERGY GRID MYTH VS. FACT
To push back on the narrative that the Texas blackout was caused by renewable energy, Sarah Mostafa, an Ohio-based member, presents facts in an op-ed for the Cincinnati Inquirer. As a first-time mom, Sarah is clear about what personally motivates her activism and why we must disaster-proof our energy infrastructure: “[M]y son and his generation will likely inherit a world of extreme temperatures, heat waves, rising sea levels, and droughts thanks to the unfortunate consequences of our slow response to climate change.” At the same time, Sarah explains why “Texas is a cautionary tale of what happens when we don’t plan ahead to ensure our energy infrastructure is as disaster-proof as possible.” And in order for Ohio not to fall into the same fossil-fuel grid disaster as Texas, Sarah calls on Ohio lawmakers to remember that “diversification and decentralization of our energy grid isn’t a partisan issue. It’s a safety and security issue.”
ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IN ACTION
In a radio interview with La Vision, our Nevada field organizer Cinthia Zermeño Moore discusses why Latinos disproportionately bear the burden of pollution and the climate crisis—and what can be done. Cinthia shares her personal story, reminding listeners that: “68% of Latinos in the US live in areas with poor air quality. The federal government talks about air quality standards, but the majority of Latinos in this country live in areas that don’t meet those standards. Our kids have 60% more chances of suffering asthma attacks in comparison with Caucasian kids of the same age.”
In an interview with the trade publication Inside EPA, Heather McTeer Toney, our senior advisor, shares what she wants to see happen with environmental justice across the federal government. At the top of her list is a desire to see environmental justice mainstreamed into clean energy planning. Citing what happened in Texas with the blackout and record snowstorms last month, Heather underscores how “‘energy equity is real’ and that both extreme cold and extreme heat, as well as Covid-19, have disproportionate impacts on communities of color.”
POLITICO spoke to Heather McTeer Toney about the true cost of extreme heat—and how the coronavirus makes it even costlier: “Extreme weather, period, whatever it is, it impacts communities of color in a disparate way.” Heather cites the greenhouse gas emissions spike during extreme weather like heat waves or hurricanes as power plants increase output: “When we are in a pandemic like Covid, it basically means your frontline people …[are] at risk whether they leave the house or not. You’ve got coronavirus, you’ve got pollution, and you’ve got extreme heat or extreme weather. It’s just a recipe for disaster.”
- A Union of Concerned Scientists blog post quotes testimony that Heather McTeer Toney, our senior advisor, gave before the Senate in a bid to ensure that our Securities and Exchange Commission moves forward with more stringent climate change disclosure rules for companies. Calling her testimony “powerful,” the author also calls it “required reading on how oversight on issues like disclosure has a direct impact on Black, Indigenous, and Communities of Color.”
- WE Magazine interviewed Heather McTeer Toney about what animates her activism and what it means to be part of the environmental justice movement: “I get to connect the dots between environmental policy, people, and implementation. Community engagement is the practice of learning from past mistakes by implementing actions that the community wants, needs, and understands. It’s helping people see the future.”
- NPR’s State Impact gives props to Moms Clean Air Force for convening a conversation with Pennsylvania officials on transitioning to cleaner cars at the federal level: “The group, led by Moms Clean Air Force, says the moves [to strong clean car standards, investments in electric vehicles, etc.] will help create jobs while cutting pollution that contributes to climate change and threatens public health.”