Climate Justice is the work we do to confront the climate crisis. While Washington State is a small proportion of the world population and economy, there are actions we can take to show leadership in solving the climate crisis. Some of the major issues we confront are listed in the menu item “Our Work.” Recent changes in the state’s action on climate can be seen in the news items posted below. Climate change affects all of us, but its consequences are not distributed equally. Climate impacts exacerbate existing inequities in society, whether they are related to poverty, gender, race or ethnicity, ability, or other factors. The slow-onset impacts of climate change are displacing communities and having severe impacts on human rights — the right to health, food security, water and sanitation, life, religious expression, and culture, among others.
Often, grassroots, frontline communities have the best and most appropriate solutions to these challenges. At the same time, these communities receive the smallest share of funding and are sidelined by state and international decision makers.
Washington, D.C. — A federal court today granted a request by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to strike down federal permits for the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. The Court found the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it affirmed federal permits for the pipeline originally issued in 2016. Specifically, the Court found significant unresolved concerns about the potential impacts of oil spills and the likelihood that one could take place. Read more here.
Climate advocacy groups responded with swift condemnation Thursday after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he will recommend that President Donald Trump ask Congress for as much as $20 billion to purchase oil in what Barron's reported "would essentially equate to a bailout of the U.S. oil industry, because several U.S. producers would likely go out of business if demand and prices stay low." . . . "It is often said that moments of crisis bring out the true colors of those in power," said Food & Water Action Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. "This could not be better exemplified than by Trump's new plan to spend tens of billions of dollars bailing out the fossil fuel industry instead of diverting every available resource to the overwhelming needs of our overburdened public health system trying desperately to tackle the virus outbreak." Read more here.
“It’s both a risk and an opportunity for indigenous peoples,” said Preston Hardison, policy analyst at the Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Treaty Rights Office in Washington state. According to Hardison, many elders feel that they’d like to help the world heal, but they want their knowledge to be employed in the right way (without any sort of exploitation). For instance, sharing their knowledge about their land and how they use it could be employed to indigenous people’s detriment by limiting their access to it. Even when the government taps indigenous groups for input, many of the resulting collaborations don’t show respect for the tribal people or the accumulated knowledge they possess. Take, for instance, in 2011, when the Saint Regis Mohawk received an EPA grant to create a climate adaptation plan for its natural resources — their animals, their crops, their medicinal plants. Initially, the EPA called for a plethora of scientific vulnerability and risk assessments to parse what resources were important for the Akwesasne way of life. But tribal members felt the testing was an unnecessary step to get to the heart of the issue. Read more here.
Across North America, other indigenous communities are stepping up to formulate and enact climate action plans to protect their way of life. In 2019, the Karuk tribe of northern California released its climate adaptation plan with a recommendation to return to prescribed burning, an old idea that might help to ease California’s wildfire problems. The Tulalip tribes of Washington state are relocating nuisance beavers from urban areas back to traditional watersheds to help lower river temperatures and aid salmon populations; they are also redirecting agricultural runoff for electricity generation. The Jamestown S’Klallam tribe in Washington is removing invasive butterfly bushes from the banks of the Dungeness River to help protect its salmon. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Montana are gathering and planting seedlings of the whitebark pine that are more resistant to warming-related diseases such as blister rust. Alaskan tribes are using microscopy to identify harmful algae blooms spurred by warming waters. The list goes on. Read more here.
Every year, WWF activists head to Capitol Hill to meet with their representatives about pertinent conservation issues as part of Lobby Day. The future of nature is at stake. As constituents and citizens, it's up to us to share our concerns and hopes for conservation and to hold our elected leaders accountable. We spoke with three participants from around the country to learn why they’re attending Lobby Day and what issues are most important to them.
- Yoselin Herrera - Las Vegas, Nevada
- Amanda Lovan - Des Moines, Iowa
- Tiffany Jones - Dallas, Texas
According to strikewithus.org, the climate strikes planned for Earth Day, April 22, will be called off due to risks of spreading the corona virus, COVID-19. Strike With Us has been the organizing coalition for the strikes, including the Sierra Club, 350.org, Greenpeace, Green Faith, League of Conservation Voters, Our Children's Trust and Union of Concerned Scientists. According to the statement by Strike With Us, "We have a responsibility, as the climate justice movement, to do what we can to contain the spread and make the movement accessible for those who are most at risk, people who are immunocompromised, and those with disabilities. It is important that those who are immunocompromised and/or disabled are not left behind in this climate movement, as they are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis." "For this reason, the US Youth Climate Strike Coalition is asking organizers across the country to no longer physically mass mobilize for Earth Day, and instead think critically and creatively about how to engage their communities in disrupting business as usual through different and new tactics. The coalition will be providing resources and ideas to support this process in the coming days and weeks." More information is available at https://strikewithus.org/covid-response/
Washingtonians in the market for a new car could find more electric-powered vehicles in dealer showrooms in the next two years, following the passage of a bill that will require carmakers in the state to meet benchmarks for electric auto sales. Monday’s passage of Senate Bill 5811 marks a modest step forward for electric vehicle fans like Seattle lawyer Matthew Metz, who heads the nonprofit Coltura. The bill allows Washington to join 11 other states, including California, in pressing carmakers to increase the number of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) the companies sell here. ZEVs include electric cars, plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Read more here.
Four climate bills, HB 2311, HB 2248, HB 2518, and SB 5811 passed the 2020 legislature (see full descriptions by clicking on the bill number) and have been signed by the governor, or will be soon. Two of the bills, HB 2311 (emissions limits) and SB 5811 (zero emissions vehicles) have deadlines for Washington state to reduce emissions in general and in transportation particularly. A third, HB 2518, mandates reductions in methane leakage, an area which is highly significant for climate change mitigation because methane is up to 80 times as powerful as carbon dioxide in trapping heat. The federal government has shirked its responsibility for methane leakage by easing the regulations, so the state will compensate for federal irresponsibility. It would be good if the other 49 states do the same (and some have), but that is unlikely. HB 2248 eases some of the restrictions on the community solar program already in effect. One bill, HB 1110, failed because of political maneuvering that ultimately proved to be futile (see description by clicking on the bill number). It would require fuel suppliers to reduce the carbon content of fuels through mixing biofuels with gasoline, and would promote electrification of vehicles. It was the highest priority of a coalition of environmental groups and others, including Washington biofuel companies. They now produce a lot of fuel for California, Oregon and British Columbia, all of whom have succeeded in instituting low carbon fuel standards. We need to join the "thin green line" of the West Coast, and the bill is likely to introduced again next January.
Support for Resetting the Table, a Crosscut Focus series examining food insecurity in Washington, is provided by Northwest Harvest. Washington is an agricultural powerhouse, producing some of the highest yields of fruit, vegetables and grains in the country — yet despite this bounty, plenty of people can’t access it. Entire communities can’t get to the food they need, and while many are in urban centers, rural and suburban communities deal with the issue in entirely unique ways. While visiting diverse communities throughout western Washington — immigrants, farmworkers, grocery shoppers in rural and urban areas alike — we found examples of what fixing Washington’s food system might look like from the ground up. Read the whole series here.
HB 1110 is the Clean Fuels Bill that requires reductions in carbon emissions from transportation fuels. It directs the Department of Ecology to adopt a rule establishing a Clean Fuels Program to limit greenhouse gas emissions per unit of transportation fuel energy to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028 and 20 percent below 2017 levels by 2035. HB 1110 passed the house but it had strong opposition in the senate. To counter this opposition, an amendment introduced by Senate Environment Committee Chair Reuven Carlyle made passage contingent on funding transportation projects including an I-5 bridge over the Columbia River. The bill passed the Environment Committee but it has been stalled in the Senate Transportation Committee and there was pressure to get it released. A number of legislators signed a letter to Transportation Committee Chair Senator Hobbs, saying that future funding for transportation projects may be dependent on passage of HB 1110. Nevertheless, Chair Hobbs did not schedule a vote of the committee and the bill died for the 2020 session.
HB 2518 requires the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to increase oversight of measures undertaken by natural gas companies to reduce hazardous leaks and nonhazardous fugitive emissions from gas pipelines. It requires, beginning July 1, 2020, and on an annual basis thereafter, each gas pipeline company to submit to the UTC a report on the environmental and economic performance of its gas pipeline system. It also requires the UTC to publish a report that aggregates data by gas company concerning gas leaks by August 1, 2020, and on an annual basis thereafter. The House passed the bill on February 18 and the Senate passed it on March 5. It has been signed by the governor, and become law.
In 2008, Washington enacted legislation (RCW 70.235) that set a series of limits on the emission of greenhouse gases within the state: quote:
By 2020, reduce overall emissions of greenhouse gases in the state to 1990 levels;
By 2035, reduce overall emissions of greenhouse gases in the state to twenty-five percent below 1990 levels;
By 2050, the state will do its part to reach global climate stabilization levels by reducing overall emissions to fifty percent below 1990 levels, or seventy percent below the state's expected emissions that year. End quote.
In 2019, HB 2311 was introduced to modify these state greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets to
45 percent below 1990 levels by 2030,
70 percent below 1990 levels by 2040, and
95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, with the goal of net zero emissions. This would mean that any remaining emissions would be offset by sequestration.
The bill has passed the House and the Senate , and has been signed by the governor. It is one of the two priorities of environmental groups that passed this session. (The other is 5811, the Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) bill. See separate post on this.)
On January 15, the Washington State Senate passed the Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) Bill 5811 and sent it to the House, where it passed on March 4. It has been signed by the governor. SB 5811 authorizes the Department of Ecology (DOE) to adopt California zero emission vehicle program regulations. Currently, California has a quota of 22% ZEVs by 2025, and there is a proposal to make the quota 100% by 2050.
[Note from Deb Cruz, FAIN Issue Lead: This failure of the courts to uphold the Mashpee Wampanoag right to put land in trust is the first step in termination of the First Indian Tribe/Nation to greet and support settlers arriving on the Mayflower 1620. This is just the beginning not only for Mashpee Wampanoag, but also for other Nations across the U.S. Once the trust land process is refused, the courts positioning then leads to the withdrawal of other support and leaves the Tribes/Nations at tremendous risk. One only has to look back at the results of the Tribes/Nations statuses from the 1950s termination era: special look at what happened to Menominee and Ponca Nations.
This can be rectified in spite of the courts, through Congress, as the article HR 312 has passed the House, but has been sitting in the Senate since May 2019. The push from here will be to contact Senators and get them to start working on the bill.
Please take time to watch the video!!]
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe cannot restore its homelands through the land-into-trust process, a federal appeals court ruled last week in a major blow to plans to open a casino in Massachusetts.In a unanimous opinion issued barely a month after arguments in the case, the 1st Circuit Court of Appealssaid the tribe failed to show that it was "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934. The tribe did not gain formal recognition of its status until 2007, long after that date.As a result, the Bureau of Indian Affairs cannot go against the "unambiguous" language of the Indian Reorganization Act, a three-judge panel of the court determined. The 22-page decision affects the tribe's proposed casino site, as well as its headquarters, some 321 acres altogether.
Rosalinda Guillen is the executive director of Community to Community Development (C2C). Listen to the story of who she is and how her speech speaks to a profound understanding of intersectionality . . . racism, immigration, earth culture, environmental justice and climate change among many others not just from the head, but from the heart.
A federal judge banned oil and gas leases on nearly one million acres of public lands that are important habitat for the greater sage grouse, arguing that a Trump administration policy that curtailed public input on the leases was "arbitrary and capricious."
Couple aims to subvert work of traditional museums, promote environmental justice, climate concerns.By Elizabeth Shepherd Friday, February 14, 2020 9:22am, Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber After a year of living quietly on Vashon, Beka Economopoulos and Jason Jones have a spotlight trained on their longtime work at the intersection of art and activism — as well as their recent arrival on the island — with the announcement that they are the recipients of a prestigious $100,000 grant for their work. The award, announced in mid-January by Creative Capital, a New York-based funder, was made to the couple and their collaborator Judith LeBlanc to develop a major exhibition called “The Natural History Museum Presents: The Supreme Court of Red National History.” Read more here.
On February 4 the House Committee on Environment and Energy held a hearing on HB 2829 Declaring a Climate Emergency, which authorizes the Governor to declare an energy emergency for purposes of limiting greenhouse gas emissions and building resiliency to the effects of climate change. This bill appears to be dead for the session but may be introduced next year again.
SB 6628 revises the definitions of emission and emission standard to include direct or indirect releases or emissions of air contaminants into the ambient air. It authorizes the Department of Ecology to require persons who produce or distribute fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases to comply with air quality and emission standards or emission limits on greenhouse gases. The Washington State Clean Air Rule required lowering emissions 1.7% a year, but it was invalidated by the State Supreme Court because it involved indirect releases from gas distributors and refineries. This bill is dead for this session but may be introduced next year.