Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren Target Big Ag in Iowa

May 21, 2019
 Democracy Food

Presidential candidates have long visited Iowa to pay lip service to rural communities, donning cowboy boots on farm visits and eating deep-fried butter at the state fair. However, a true commitment to American farmers must include breaking up the food monopolies that lower the prices farmers get for their crops while raising the cost of the seeds and other inputs they buy. And at the other end of the food chain, these food monopolies reduce choices for consumers and make food more expensive. So it’s a hopeful sign that several of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have made tackling corporate control of agriculture central to their campaign platforms.

Two candidates stand out as having the strongest policies addressing these issues so far. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) commits to breaking apart recent mega-mergers between seed and agri-chemical companies, such as last year’s acquisition of Monsanto by the German chemical company, Bayer.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has pledged to tackle consolidation in the meat packing industry, which has shuttered medium-sized plants serving regional markets and reduced livestock prices for farmers. Iowa is ground-zero for extreme consolidation in the hog industry, which led to the state shedding 82 percent of its hog farms between 1982 and 2007, even as hog production ramped up due to factory farms that popped up across the state.

Sanders is going even further by seeking to reinstate our country’s grain reserve, which would buffer our food system against the growing threat of extreme weather due to climate change. A grain reserve would allow the government to buy crops during surplus years and sell them during times of drought, disaster or other conditions that drive prices up. Current farm policies encourage nonstop overproduction, leading to a steep decline in prices of crops like corn and soy that only benefit corporate buyers and the meat industry, which feeds cheap corn and soy to its factory farmed animals.

Presidential candidates have no business visiting Iowa if they are not committed to addressing the root economic and policy causes behind the loss of family farms. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have set the benchmark this election cycle on the issue, and other candidates should come out strong, too. They must make restoring a fair playing field for farmers and consumers central to their campaigns – and we must hold whomever is elected accountable for following through on his or her promises.

A Ban on Fracking Is Missing From The Green New Deal. Help Fix That.

May 1, 2019

A Green New Deal has been on the lips and agenda of anybody with credibility on climate change these days. There’s one crucial piece of the plan we need your help to put in place: an explicit halt to new fossil fuel infrastructure, including fracking.

At Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Action, the joy was palpable when we learned that a Green New Deal was about to become a household term all over the nation. We and our members were steeped in gratitude toward Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey. But we were troubled by one major step we knew that the plan (so far) lacked. We’ve been working even harder than ever to make sure people understand how important a ban on fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure is if we are to thwart a lingering dependence on oil.

The Proven Perils of Fracking

Fracking has been ravaging our planet and our resources for decades now, under the pretense that Big Oil cooked up. They said it was safe, new technology. They said it was necessary. They said it wouldn’t hurt us.

Nothing could be further from the truth, now that the long term data is in. We have, as they say, receipts.

It turns out, as so many of us knew, fracking is a water hog. It siphons up gallon after gallon of clean water that belonged to the people, and returns very little (if any) that is still usable.

Fracking is causing earthquakes.

Fracking is playing a role in climate change.

And fracking has shown decreasing profits over time. Now the titans of industry have colluded to make up a supposed demand for plastics to export overseas, in order to prop up their failing investment and squeeze some return from it. Their new plan only endangers nearby families and the world at large even further, whether it’s from the risk of explosions or the long term effects plastics are having on the health of people and our planet.

The Good Sense of Renewables

The truth is that the fair and just transition to 100% renewables is more feasible than many thought possible, and less costly than remaining stuck on fossil fuels. Not only is it doable (and will result in great jobs), it’s necessary. Full stop.

The United Nations’ special panel on climate change released a report in October 2018 showing strong evidence that if society does not greatly reduce the major contributors to climate change by 2030, the hope of staving off the worst effects of climate change is all but lost. Moving to 100% renewable energy is one of the most impactful ways to reduce the CO2 emissions that endanger us.

There has been no time to feel helpless or to delay. We’ve been working for years to move the United States off of fossil fuels and we knew that everything we’d worked for led to this moment. Soon after, our role became clear as talk of a Green New Deal emerged — Food & Water Action and its members will be pivotal in shaping a real Green New Deal that not only invests in our future, but puts its foot down against the dirty energy swindlers that have stolen too much from society already.

We Need Your Help To Do This

It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to require research, organizing, legal work, media outreach, and endless hours of strategizing. And the opposition has a lot more cash to try to beat us with. But we’re all going to fight like we live here, because we do! That’s where you can help. By chipping in each month as a sustainer, in any amount that works for you, you help provide a base of support that we can plan on. That’s what is going to make ending fossil fuels possible.

This is a fight we must win, because this planet is the only one we get. Become a monthly member today!

Fight like you live here.


These 5 Lawmakers Have Taken The Most Cash From Dominion Energy

November 15, 2018
 Democracy  Virginia

How much does it cost to get access to craft and re-craft legislation that hurts consumers and rakes in profit as the country’s fifth largest utility? Here’s how much Dominion Energy has paid these five legislators.

Dominion has been the biggest corporate campaign donor in Virginia over the past 20 years, but it has been a significant player in Virginia politics since at least the 1970s. Dominion’s political expenditures have successfully pushed an agenda that benefits the company’s bottom line. As former Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said of the company’s political activity:

“Dominion’s investing. It’s paid off handsomely.”

The Top Five Virginia Recipients Of Dominion Campaign Cash

From 1998 to mid 2018, Dominion’s political action committee (PAC) and employees contributed over $10 million to Virginia state candidates. The ample campaign generosity is bipartisan: 86 percent of Virginia legislators have received Dominion-affiliated campaign cash. Of the $2.7 million funneled to Virginia’s current lawmakers, 25 state legislators received more than half of the largesse and the top five recipients received nearly one-third of its contributions.  

Top 5 Virginia Recipients of Dominion Campaign Cash, 1998-2018

Incumbent and party State legislative body and district Dominion PAC contributions Dominion employee/ individual contributions Total Dominion contributions
Richard L. Saslaw (D) Senate District 35 (Fairfax) $255,500 $18,750 $274,250
Terry G. Kilgore (R) House District 1 (Wise County) $171,391 $25,250 $196,641
M. Kirkland Cox (R) House District 66 (Chesterfield County) $106,611 $42,110 $148,721
Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R) Senate District 3 (Hampton Roads) $92,990 $22,550 $115,540
R. Creigh Deeds (D) Senate District 25 (Charlottesville) $104,450 $5,850 $110,300

SOURCE: Food & Water Watch analysis of National Institute for Money in Politics data.

Dominion also has generously backed and courted Virginia’s governors — of both parties, including $50,000 to Governor Ralph Northam’s inaugural committee. It has lavished gifts, entertainment and trips on legislators and officials. Between 2008 and 2016, the company spent over $430,000 on meals, cocktails, sporting events and hunting trips, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project.

These gifts included $122,000 for taking legislators to Washington Redskins games and $47,000 hosting legislators at a Georgia quail hunting plantation. Fortune magazine called the Gillionville Plantation an “obscenely expensive” hunting resort. Virginia State Senator Thomas “Tommy” Norment, one of the top five recipients of Dominion campaign cash, went to Gillionville several times but he also served as the Chairman of the Virginia Commission on Electric Utility Deregulation and sponsored at least two of Dominion’s legislative initiatives.

Dominion Energy Reaps The Benefits Of Its Investment In Politicians

Dominion exercised its political power to repeatedly reshape Virginia’s electric utility regulation over its key subsidiary Virginia Power — each time adjusting the rules to benefit Dominion while driving up electric bills for consumers. It also has thwarted popular and progressive energy measures. For example, Dominion ensured that utilities (like its subsidiary Virginia Power) would be gatekeepers for community-based solar projects instead of allowing churches, apartment complexes or other community organizations to develop and benefit from their own solar projects.

But electricity deregulation — and various iterations of re-regulation over coming years — was the big legislative prize for Dominion as the company rode the late-1990s wave of state electricity deregulation. When that deregulation failed to deliver the benefits that Dominion promised, the company promoted a series of changes to Virginia’s utility law that confounded regulatory oversight and ensured that its allies in the legislature had the final say over utility regulation. In the end, Dominion’s efforts created a system of such light regulatory oversight that in 2017 Goldman Sachs referred to Virginia as “one of the top state regulatory environments for utilities.”


Climate Catastrophe Is The Ultimate Price Consumers Are Paying For Dominion’s Profit

As Dominion expands its sprawling network of fracked gas investments like pipelines, power plants, export terminals and fracked gas drilling, it is turning a blind eye to the scientific community’s warnings to rapidly shift away from fossil fuels for the survival of humanity of the planet. Instead of shifting investments into renewable energy (almost none of its Virginia Power utility capacity comes from solar or wind — 0.3 percent), it is doubling down on its fossil fuel footprint — including the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline running from West Virginia through Virginia to North Carolina. This agenda exacerbates the risk of catastrophic climate change that puts Americans and the world in grave danger.

“Dominion’s stranglehold over politics, energy, and infrastructure in the state of Virginia is a travesty to democratic values,” said Jorge Aguilar, Food & Water Watch Southern Region Director. “Such a legacy of pollution continues to threaten communities with major fracked gas infrastructure, climbing climate emissions, and controversial projects like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the Cove Point export terminal, power plants and electric transmission lines. It is up to our elected officials to halt dirty fossil fuel development and flip the switch on dirty energy by committing to rapidly shifting to 100 percent clean renewable energy now.”


2018 Midterms Signal The Start Of A Green Wave — We Can Still Avert Climate Chaos

November 7, 2018


After two years of the Trump alliance’s runaway gutting of environmental, health, and safety protections, this election showed signs of hope that we can still rewrite our climate future. Here are our champions.

by Mark Schlosberg

With climate change catastrophes accelerating and the Trump faction in Congress declaring war on the environment for the past two years, the midterm elections were critical for anyone who cares about their food, water, and the climate on which we all depend. While some votes are still being counted, what is clear is that there will now be a firm check on Trump and what is just the start of a new green wave of climate champions is about to enter Congress. Climate will be a bigger political issue in 2019 than ever before.

Democrats Took Control of the House — The GOP’s Gutting of Safety Measures Can Be Challenged

At the federal level, Democrats took control of the House. Turnout was significant, with 114 million ballots having been counted so far. It means that Democrats now have the power to block legislation that guts protections for clean water, safe food, or a livable climate. It also means that powerful congressional committees — bodies that have been looking the other way the last two years — can exercise oversight and hold Trump’s corrupt EPA, Interior Department, and others accountable.

Most pressingly, the latest science (laid out in the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says we need to move off of fossil fuels as soon as possible. This means we need to pass aggressive legislation at the federal level by 2021 and crucially, voters ushered in several champions that share this vision.

Food & Water Action Rallied Bold Candidates Against Fossil Fuels

Throughout 2018, Food & Water Action has been asking candidates for Congress to pledge to support the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act, or OFF Act — the strongest climate bill in Congress, which would start the transition immediately and require 80% renewable energy in the next decade and 100% by 2035.

Several candidates who not only signed the pledge or made similar public commitments, but boldly support it were elected, bringing a new wave of climate champions to Congress.

These new members of Congress will include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an early signer of the OFF Act pledge who Food & Water Action endorsed and who has traveled the country talking about the need for a Green New Deal; Deb Haaland, who Food & Water Action endorsed and worked to elect one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress; Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who also become the first Muslim American women elected to the house; Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who ousted Carlos Curbelo, chair of the phony Climate Solutions Caucus; and Susan Wild, who also won her race in Pennsylvania.

Three other races are not called yet, but have our climate champions ahead at the time of publishing. These include Katie Hill, whose district includes Porter Ranch, which was the site of the 2015 Aliso Canyon gas blowout and whose campaign Food & Water Action endorsed and worked to support; Harley Rouda, who is leading climate denier Dana Rohrabacher in Orange County; and Kim Schrier in Washington.

There Are More Climate Champions Now In Other Seats Nationwide, Too

At the state level, huge gains were also made nationally that provide significant opportunities. A few that have significance for climate include:

  • Jen Metzger won her State Senate race in New York. Food & Water Action endorsed her and did significant organizing work in support of her election. Several other progressive senators that we endorsed there won as well, giving the Democrats a majority in the New York State Senate for the first time in years and a block of champions who support moving to 100% renewable energy by 2035 and oppose new fossil fuel infrastructure.
  • In Pennsylvania, Food & Water Action PAC helped elect a slate of progressive state representatives including Danielle Friel Otten. Friel Otten lives 40 feet from the Mariner East 2 pipeline and has worked with Food & Water Action organizers for the past year and a half fighting the project. Food & Water Action PAC staff played a key role in her voter mobilization effort.
  • Gretchen Whitmer won the race for Michigan Governor. She has pledged to shut down Enbridge’s Line Five (the pipeline running through the Great Lakes) and we will ramp up a campaign to hold her to it and win the multi-year effort to protect the region from this ticking time bomb.
  • In California, Food & Water Action helped elect Robert Rivas to state Assembly. Rivas, who worked with Food & Water Watch on successive campaigns to ban fracking in San Benito and Monterey counties, has pledged to aggressively take on the oil industry in Sacramento.
  • In Florida, both gubernatorial candidates pledged to ban fracking. Andrew Gillum ran on a strong environmental platform including moving off of fossil fuels and banning fracking. Ron DeSantis, who is currently (at the time of publication) leading by a narrow margin, made banning fracking a core principle of his environmental policy. A fracking ban bill has been championed by a bipartisan group of leaders there in the past few legislative sessions. Regardless of who wins, we will hold the new governor accountable to his commitment to ban fracking in the coming year. We will also push to make sure the new governor does more to push renewable energy in the state.
  • In Connecticut, where Food & Water Watch has worked with over 50 communities to ban fracking waste, Ned Lamont who was elected governor has committed to banning fracking waste throughout the state. We look forward to working with him to make this a reality.
  • Voters stood against the harms of water privatization from coast to coast, with Baltimore voters outright banning water privatization in a campaign spearheaded by Food & Water Watch, and Monterey, CA voters advancing a measure to start the process of taking over the private water system.

Important Measures In Colorado and California Were Derailed, But We’ll Regroup For The Next Fights Ahead

Proposition 112, a Colorado measure that would have protected citizens from the risks that fracking poses to their health and safety, was foiled by over $40 million in misleading advertising from the oil and gas industry. Likewise, industry spent massively against a local measure in San Luis Obispo County in California: Measure G, which would have banned fracking — a necessary step toward a livable climate for our future. Sadly, this crucial initiative to protect the public was also defeated.

Food & Water Action takes on fights because they are the right thing to do to protect the people, and we don’t shy away from the battles that we could sometimes lose. Each election expands our reach, educates voters over time, and positions us to be stronger for future initiatives. We’re proud of the work our team and allies did in these hard-fought ballot campaigns and know that even in these losses, the movement will be better positioned to advance protections for people and the environment in the years to come.

We Helped Get These Champions In the Door — Now the Next Phase Of Work Begins

The majority of this is great news, but it is just the beginning. It shows that when we mobilize people to demand a fair and livable future, we can win, but those wins are by no means guaranteed. We have a ton of work to do — to hold officials accountable to their promises, to support elected champions in their efforts, and to grow and broaden the movement. And make no mistake, there were significant losses yesterday as well — and many of these losses are the product of politically gerrymandered districts and voter suppression tactics that we must fight at every turn.

Despite those obstacles, the 2018 election shows that together we can achieve big things: we can block the worst of Trump’s environmental agenda in Congress, we now have leaders in place that can advance measures at the state level to move off fossil fuels and onto 100% renewable energy, and we are one giant stride closer to moving a massive federal program to get off fossil fuels and onto 100% renewable energy immediately.

But these things will only happen if we redouble our efforts; we need to build stronger and broader coalitions, we need to engage even more people in the political process, and we need to build on these wins as we continue to fight for our food, water, and future of our planet. We need you with us.

Chip in to Food & Water Watch for the work ahead. 

Florida’s Next Governor Supports A Fracking Ban

July 10, 2018
 Climate  Florida

You can’t stop an idea when its time has come. All seven of Florida’s potential next governors — Democrats and Republicans alike — have gone on the record to support a ban on fracking.

It’s a rarity in America to find bipartisan agreement on any issue. Defying the odds, fracking has become an issue that garners critics across party lines. Sensing that opposition to fracking was spreading so widely, Food & Water Action set out to record each and every one of Florida’s seven major gubernatorial candidates publicly declaring they are in favor of a fracking ban. We were 100% successful.

How Did This Happen?

There has been sweeping support for a fracking ban across Florida for a while now. But over the past few months, leadership in Florida have responded. Beginning on June 9 at a gubernatorial debate, the first four candidates proclaimed support for a fracking ban. These are influential and powerful leaders in the Sunshine State and included Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Congresswoman Gwen Graham and Orlando entrepreneur Chris King.

After this massive anti-fracking expression from leadership, one of Florida’s most powerful politicians followed suit. Adam Putnam, the Commissioner of Agriculture, went on the record in support of a fracking ban, quickly followed by Jeff Greene and then the ultra-conservative Congressman Ron DeSantis. Food & Water Action volunteer Ginger Goepper finagled some face time with the Trump-aligned candidate last week and directly asked him whether he supports a ban on fracking. His response, while not confidence-inspiring, was clear. “Yup. Yes. Yeah.”

What Does This Mean?

Fracking has been a hot topic in Florida for a while now, but this new tide toward public commitments in support of a fracking ban is especially revealing about what the next lawmaking session has in store. Oil and energy companies will continue to line the pockets of candidates in hopes of profiting from fracking, but Floridians care more about their environment, public health, and the local economy. They know fracking would threaten each of those. This outpouring of support for a fracking ban from each next potential governor just reiterates: you can’t get elected in Florida if you don’t support a ban on fracking. If Florida is any indication, fracking is about to become as politically toxic across the nation as it is to our future.

Donate to Keep Fracking Out of Your State!