This week, a heat wave is engulfing much of the United States, and especially the Northwest, with triple-digit temperatures that are shattering record after record. Yet, instead of heeding another stark reminder of what is at stake with our climate, Senators announced a bipartisan deal on infrastructure that leaves out President Biden’s ambitious plans to cut planet-warming pollution. This prompted our senior advisor Heather McTeer Toney to criticize the deal in this missive while our director Dominique Browning asked, “But is it hot enough for Congress? Or for President Biden?” in her rebuke of the political impasse. “This is how the Climate Apocalypse begins,” Dominique writes: “It is hot enough to be disastrous for human health. People are collapsing. Our brains and lungs cannot handle such heat. Pregnancies are compromised.” It’s why we are doing all we can to spur urgent action on climate-warming methane (which scored a major victory last Friday!), support cleaner technologies such as electric school buses—as we did last week in rural Montana (see below)—and so much more, to put us on a path to climate safety.
MOMS HELP REINSTATE METHANE PROTECTIONS!
In a bipartisan vote, Congress restored limits on methane pollution from oil and gas in a decisive reversal of Trump’s rollback, setting the stage for tackling methane pollution. Moms Clean Air Force played a major role in building support for this vote, meeting with members of Congress more than 40 times in the past three months to discuss the need for methane standards to protect our climate and our families. In New Mexico, the state paper quoted our Albuquerque-based field organizer, Celerah Hewes about this victory: “New Mexicans—and the parents of more than 32,000 children attending schools within a half mile of oil and gas operations in our state—are heartened to see congressional action to address our methane problem. We look forward to working with the EPA and New Mexico’s congressional leaders to enact policies that protect the health and future of our kids.”
GREEN THE WHEELS
Joining a nationwide call to electrify school buses, the Moms Clean Air Force chapter in Montana brought together stakeholders in Livingston to ride—and drive—an electric school outside the local high school. Participants who turned out to experience a cleaner ride for themselves ranged from health advocates and local leaders to school administrators and students.
There to capture the enthusiastic response were numerous media outlets including Montana’s largest statewide TV network, the Montana Television Network, which reported that: “School may be out for the summer, but a new school bus has rolled into town. Lion Electric presented a demonstration of a model school bus, powered by electricity. Michelle Uberuaga, from Moms Clean Air Force, organized the event and invited all to climb aboard. In tow, were representatives from Lion Electric, and of course their electric school bus. Dozens of children flooded the charging port to get a peek of the ‘magic’.”
The NBC affiliate in Butte shared news of the electric school bus tour on their evening newscast with a segment that underscored how electric school buses “significantly reduce energy costs and maintenance costs.” As for financing, the segment also clarified that the city of Livingston is expecting federal money from the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act to help its congressional district offset the cost of electrifying its fleet.
The Livingston Enterprise asked if local residents might wonder why the school bus trundling through town didn’t leave behind the “tell-tale scent of diesel fumes.” The Enterprise touted the event as one meant to “bring awareness to the range of options available as alternatives to diesel school buses, which can expose children to harmful exhaust while they ride or while the bus idles outside a school.” As Michelle Uberuaga (pictured above) told the crowd: “We are excited about having the bus and see this as an opportunity to start the conversation around school bus electrification.” One student athlete interviewed told the paper: “[A]s a student who’s involved in a lot of clubs…we take really long trips all across the state of Montana…It’s scary learning how much diesel we’re exposed to.”
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle also covered the event for its readers and summarized the benefits of electric school buses well: “While it might have a similar look to a traditional diesel bus, the electric bus boasts no exhaust, less greenhouse gas emissions and a quieter ride, according to proponents of the electric buses.”
FOX NEWS INTERVIEW ON REGULATIONS
NewsNOW from FOX interviewed our senior advisor Heather McTeer Toney to discuss the long-term effects of the recent Chemtool Fire in Rockton, Illinois. Heather discussed the role of accountability in preventing future disasters and the importance of working together to create resilient communities: “Members of Moms Clean Air Force across the country have been stressing the importance of federal regulations to monitor these types of activities.” Heather also noted that the lack of chemical plant regulations, which were relaxed significantly under the previous administration, is creating an outsize impact on communities across the country, especially low-income people and communities of color. At the same time, Heather calls on communities “to hold corporations accountable for not only what they’re putting in communities but also the [past] exposure.”
OUR ECOMADRES SPEAK UP
¡Despierta Orlando! (or Wake Up Orlando!), Univision’s Spanish-language morning television show airing in Orlando, invited one of our Florida organizers, Yartiza Perez, to discuss her experience as a clean air advocate in the state. As a mother and military veteran, Yaritza shares what it’s like to advocate on behalf of the Latino community as part of EcoMadres. She also sheds light on how Latinos, especially Latino children, are at ground zero for climate impacts: “Latino children suffered from over 200,000 asthma attacks last year, and as a result, they missed over 5,000 days of school. As people move to Florida to retire or to raise their families here due to our low cost of living, we need to work together to improve the air quality here.” [Translated from original Spanish]
Noticias Ya (News Now in English) spoke to our Arizona field organizer, Columba Sainz, together with her spouse, Eduardo Sainz, about the couple’s shared passion for environmental justice and its roots in the immigrant experience. As the parents of three young kids, the couple opens up about raising a family in Phoenix, a city with failing grades for air pollution, and the importance of speaking up against injustices: “Before I would not stand in front to talk, but now I am aware that we need to communicate what injustices our families are going through—and how polluted air affects us more,” says Columba. “Now, I always make my views known, so we can talk about the environmental issues affecting Latino families.” Eduardo sums up his motivation this way: “[A]s migrants, we are forgotten within the political infrastructure of this country, but we have a lot of political power. Our community continues to grow.” [Translated from original Spanish]
To comment on HB21-1326, legislation dubbed the “Colorado Outdoor Equity Grant Program” that was signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis recently, our EcoMadres organizer in Colorado, Shaina Oliver, was quoted in the Real Vail outlet: “I look forward to witnessing the immense impact—particularly health-wise—that the outdoor education and experiences will have on our underserved youth, thanks to this bill.” The bill, supported by more than 60 outdoor and conservation groups, funds access to outdoor experiences for underserved youth and their families.
ENERGY SUPPLY DISRUPTIONS and ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
POLITICO caught up with Heather McTeer Toney to understand if energy supply disruptions pose a risk for the environmental justice movement. The recent ransomware-driven shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline and this winter’s power outages in Texas might, as the outlet asserted, be increasing Americans’ nervousness about their electricity and fuel supplies. In response, Heather debunks a lot of the myths surrounding these incidents: “That [pro-fossil-fuel] message, to resonate with people in a way that’s fearful, has been a part of that playbook for years,” said Heather McTeer Toney, climate justice liaison for the Environmental Defense Fund and senior adviser to Moms Clean Air Force. “It’s like, ‘Let’s scare people so they don’t buy into things that are environmentally safe and friendly.’ But it’s not the truth.”
WHAT JUNETEENTH MEANS IN A ‘CHEMICAL CORRIDOR’
During a recent visit to the New Orleans area, our senior advisor Heather McTeer Toney joined local advocates with RISE St. James, a faith-based environmental justice group in St. James Parish, in taking part in a Juneteenth commemoration near the gravesites of enslaved people. The group has requested an injunction against Formosa Plastics, which plans to construct a sprawling complex—16 plants over an area about the size of 80 football fields!—despite inadequate environmental impact considerations on top of past violations. At the service, Heather caught up with a NOLA reporter and shared: “Juneteenth is a celebration to acknowledge the emancipation, the freedom, the liberation, but that’s just when the work starts.” And speaking to the crowd, Heather said: “Everybody has a job to do. So find your place, insert yourself in this work, because it will take every single one of us to clean up and to make sure we are holding companies accountable.” Lemannville and the River Parishes region of Louisiana have been dubbed a “chemical corridor” after EPA data found that growing industry in this region poses “an acute risk for predominantly poor, Black residents.”
- In another round of good news, the Washington, DC, chapter of Moms Clean Air Force was part of a coalition that successfully pushed the area’s public transit system to phase out diesel-powered buses and to plan to transform its fleet to electric by 2045.
- In a recent Sierra Club blog post, our senior advisor Heather McTeer Toney is credited with helping environmentalists to consider preserving the sanctity of nature as well as the quality of human life: “Let’s put it this way: We can do both. We are not living isolated on this planet. We are living in an ecosystem. It is humans, animals and plants. And if at any point we dismiss one of the elements of that ecosystem, we do ourselves harm.”
- Our Ohio chapter was cited for its role in providing testimony in favor of SB 117, legislation repealing the subsidy for two coal-fired plants owned by the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (known locally as the Kyger Creek plant and an OVEC plant in Indiana).