by Mia DiFelice
Heading into the November midterm elections, we need to go all out to elect more and better Democrats.
On issues that matter most — the climate crisis, access to clean water and a sustainable, just food system — we need bold action. We need a Congress that will take on the fossil fuel industry and big agribusiness. We need representatives who will use their power to bring about meaningful and lasting solutions.
The current Congress is divided by the narrowest of margins, allowing a few conservative Democrats to dictate the terms of legislation. We have seen what happens when Senators like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema can call the shots on our climate agenda. As it stands, Congress won’t pass the ambitious policies we need to keep our planet livable and support working families.
But even with a narrowly divided Congress and a moderate Democratic president, we’ve made important progress in the last two years. This is a testament to our movements’ organizing efforts and a growing progressive contingent in Congress.
The victories over the past two years are a starting point. Many have gone under the radar, but they were only possible because of the Democrats in national office. With more and better Democrats, we can achieve even more in the two years ahead.
Here are seven wins we can build on after the midterms:
1. Phasing Out Single-Use Plastics On Public Lands
In June, the Department of Interior issued an order to phase out single-use plastics on public lands by 2032. Plastics are almost entirely derived from fossil fuels and only 10% of all plastics ever made have been recycled.
Plastic trash breaks down in our soils and washes into our waterways, where it pollutes our environment, our food and our bodies. This order is an important step in protecting our national parks and wildlife refuges from toxic plastic pollution.
2. An Unprecedented Deployment of Clean Energy Funds
Under the Defense Production Act, Biden authorized the Department of Energy to grow U.S. production of clean energy technologies. This includes both renewable solar power and conservation technology like heat pumps and insulation.
Biden’s use of the Defense Production Act signals that the executive branch is finally prepared to treat climate change as it is: an existential threat to be met with a whole-of-government approach. It also recognizes that an energy transition is too dire to leave to private corporations and a wily market.
3. The House Holds Big Oil Accountable For Its Lies
For decades, fossil fuel corporations have grown profits by spreading lies about the climate crisis. But in September 2021, the House Oversight Committee began investigating its history of deceit.
The Committee, led by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney and Rep. Ro Khanna, will finally hold the industry accountable for profiting billions of dollars off lies that have kept us dependent on their climate-wrecking products.
4. A Proposed Methane Rule Tightens Emissions Control
In November 2021, EPA proposed a new Clean Air Act rule to tackle climate pollution from the oil and gas industry. The proposal would restrict emissions of not only new oil and gas projects, but — for the first time ever — existing ones as well.
The rule especially targets methane emissions, which is integral to fighting climate change. As EPA reports, the methane emitted from our oil and gas industry has a greater climate impact than the emissions of all greenhouse gasses from 164 other countries. Additionally, the rule takes aim at toxic air pollution like volatile organic compounds, which disproportionately sicken low-income communities and communities of color.
5. Biden’s EPA Starts Regulating Toxic PFAS
In 2022, the Biden administration set new advisory levels for several PFAS chemicals. These chemicals are toxic and don’t break down in the environment — yet we have used products with PFAS in them for decades.
The EPA’s long-awaited advisory levels come closer to the research that shows no level of PFAS are safe. While we have a long road ahead of us to tackle our country’s widespread PFAS problem, the EPA has taken vital first steps.
6. Support For Environmental Justice Communities
The Biden administration has taken several steps to improve funding for environmental justice communities that have been historically excluded from federal assistance. It created the first-ever Environmental Justice Advisory Council and announced the Justice40 initiative, committing 40% of the benefits from federal climate and sustainability programs to EJ communities.
The administration’s commitments have already led to on-the-ground change. For example, the USDA and EPA are working on new guidance and a pilot for rural wastewater projects. We can push for more and greater programs like these with Democrats in Congress.
7. Executive Action Against Monopolies And Corporate Greed
In 2021, an executive order outlined 70 actions to foster competitive markets. As our sister organization Food & Water Watch reported, the market power held by just a few corporations in our food system enables unjust practices to thrive. But now, the Biden administration is taking aim at this market power with investigations, regulations and legislation.
For example, the USDA recently proposed changes to the Packers and Stockyards Act that would give them more tools to stop abusive practices among meat corporations. These changes would strengthen rural economies, ensure food security and empower family farms.
With Democrats In Office, We Can And Will Win More
Our elected officials have achieved a lot in the past two years, but we have a long road ahead of us. To build on these victories, we need a strong showing in the midterm elections. Across the country, Food & Water Action is mobilizing support for climate champions, building people power behind a livable future for all.
Help us spread the word!