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Sept. 2, 2021 by James Goodwin, Robert Verchick

The Hill Op-Ed: A Legal Pillar of Environmental Justice Is Now Under Attack

This op-ed was originally published in The Hill.

A few weeks ago, the Army Corps of Engineers made a startling announcement: It would give Sharon Lavigne and her neighbors in St. James Parish, La., a chance to tell their stories. The fact one of the world’s largest chemical companies has fought for years to keep Lavigne quiet tells you how commanding her stories are. Those stories may stop this particular company from building a multi-billion dollar chemical plant surrounding her neighborhood.

For this, we can thank a simple law, signed by President Nixon in 1970, called the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Unlike other environmental laws, NEPA doesn’t tell agencies what choices they must make — like where to erect a levee or whether to permit a plastics plant. But it does insist their choices be informed. So, before the Army Corps can approve a company’s wetlands development permit it has to study whatever effects that chemical plant might have on the health of people in that community and on the properties they own.

One critical way that agencies like the Army Corp learn about such effects is by giving people — particularly local residents a chance to share …

Aug. 13, 2021 by Karen Sokol
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On Aug. 9, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the first installment of its latest report assessing the state of scientific knowledge about the climate crisis. As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres put it in a press release, the report is nothing less than “a code red for humanity.”

“The alarm bells are deafening,” Guterres said, “and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”

The good news is that the science indicates that there is still time to respond by taking drastic and rapid action to shift from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy and to keep people safe in the face of the dangerous changes in the climate system that have already taken place. That is, we must …

Aug. 12, 2021 by Maggie Dewane
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It came as no surprise to environmentalists this week that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) most recent climate report paints a stark picture: Climate change is happening faster than previously predicted, and the precipice we’re standing on is quickly disintegrating. But there are still plenty of things we can do to battle the climate crisis and adapt to current and future impacts.

Building off the IPCC’s last report in 2013, this assessment brought more than 200 scientists together from around the world to consider all climate research available. The result is the most comprehensive analysis on climate change to date.

Since the last assessment, climate models have become increasingly accurate, making the links between human activity and climate change irrefutable and drawing direct correlations between specific weather events and climate change. 

Other key findings:

  • The last decade was the hottest in 125 …

July 15, 2021 by Alina Gonzalez, Minor Sinclair
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President Joe Biden is breaking the status quo: He has pledged to write a new chapter in America's leadership on climate change. Unlike any other president, he has outlined specific and aggressive targets to reduce carbon emissions and has backed them up with a $2 trillion plan to fight climate change.

In the meantime, our climate continues to change rapidly and dramatically, raising the ever more urgent question: Will the politics of climate change shift in time to curb its worst effects?

We think it will.

First, low-income people of color are leading a growing movement for environmental justice.

Communities along Georgia's coast, including Tybee Island, Brunswick and Savannah, are feeling the ravages of climate change — from wildfires to high energy prices to coastal erosion — and residents are agitating for change. Fortunately, Georgia enjoys significant wind potential off its coast, according to a new study by Environment …

July 2, 2021 by Maggie Dewane
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When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for all people to dissolve the reliance on finite energy sources, and to assume a sustainable future, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the demands of humankind requires that they should declare an end to fossil fuel dependence. 

Six in ten Americans support dramatic reduction of the country’s fossil fuel use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. While this isn’t a unanimous declaration, it represents a truth that policymakers and big corporations have been resisting: The majority of Americans believe there is urgency in addressing climate change and that transitioning away from fossil fuels is a necessary component of climate action.

To establish our independence from fossil fuels, there is no silver bullet, but a multitiered …

June 8, 2021 by Clarissa Libertelli
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Today is World Oceans Day, a time to consider how ocean policy connects to human and environmental health. This year’s theme of “Life and Livelihoods” comes as our federal government is finally making energy jobs and climate justice a priority. It is also an opportunity to reflect on one of the most devastating events to impact Gulf Coast waters and those who depend on them — the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010. Eleven years on, workers continue to raise the alarm over the spill’s long-term health impacts, fighting against a backdrop of weak safety regulations.

Eleven workers were killed and 17 injured in the oil rig explosion that caused the largest marine oil spill in history, flooding over 200 million gallons of oil into the Louisiana coast for more than 87 days. The disaster and subsequent media frenzy rallied politicians and the public against …

June 7, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Some events last week sent a strong signal that the tide is turning against fossil fuels. Each of the events standing alone would have been noteworthy. The clustering of these events dramatizes an important shift.

To paraphrase Churchill, this may not be beginning of the end for fossil fuels, but at least it is the end of the beginning of the campaign against them.

Two of the events involved striking decisions in lawsuits in other countries involving fossil fuels. A federal court in Australia ruled that the government had a "duty of care" toward its young people to protect them from climate change. Accordingly, it could be found guilty of negligence if it failed to take their interests into account when considering a request to expand a coal mine. The court said that "it is difficult …

June 3, 2021 by Maggie Dewane
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Season 5 of the Center for Progressive Reform's Connect the Dots podcast continues with Episode 4: That's an Order. Keep reading for a summary and to listen to the episode.

President Biden put climate policy front and center on his campaigning platform and wasted no time in pushing his agenda when he took office. The president has proposed $14 billion in spending on initiatives to fight the crisis in the nation’s 2022 budget, and he has appointed cabinet officials with informed backgrounds to offer guidance. He’s also altered tax incentives to favor clean energy over fossil fuels and promised to spur a job revolution that will protect workers in this sector.  But the U.S. is operated by three branches of government and federal powers are limited. It’s often the case that the "real work" is done on state and local levels. So, how …

April 28, 2021 by Minor Sinclair
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It’s heartening to see that not all of the noise generated by the 2020 presidential campaign has dissipated in these post-election times.

President Biden pledged last week to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 — making good on a big campaign promise and possibly nudging some of us out of the still-skeptical category.

When I think about climate, I think about equity. Low-income people spend more of their paychecks on energy and transportation costs. Those sweet rebates on electric vehicles? They don’t go to people who can’t afford a new car, much less an electric one. As CPR Member Scholar Maxine Burkett notes, environmental degradation creates “sacrifice zones” — and communities of color pay the price. We simply cannot address climate change without addressing racism, and environmental racism in particular.

When I think about climate, I also think about jobs. Jobs that don …

April 14, 2021 by Alina Gonzalez, Allison Stevens
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Scholars and advocates of color last week hailed the Biden administration’s efforts to ensure that disadvantaged communities reap the benefits of federal climate investments — but added that the administration must be held accountable for following through on it.

“This is our moment,” said Shalanda Baker, deputy director for energy justice at the U.S. Department of Justice and a Member Scholar with the Center for Progressive Reform who is on leave while serving in the administration. 

Others said the administration’s efforts don’t go far enough and instead called for an overhaul of governance, philanthropy, and an economy that exploits people of color and the planet.

The comments came during a day of dialogue among public officials and climate justice scholars, organizers, and funders representing the Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) community. Participants emphasized the importance of climate justice and culturally responsive climate …

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