What’s At Stake In The Midterms: Seven Victories To Build On


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!

How We’re Changing The Game On Climate From Inside NY’s Assembly


by Santosh Nandabalan

Eight years ago, New York banned fracking — yet the state is still stalling measures to end its addiction to fracked gas. Despite the Democratic supermajority in our State Senate and Assembly, New York has repeatedly ignored the bills needed to meet state renewable energy goals. It is not mandating all-electric buildings, building public renewable energy or funding a just transition to a clean energy economy. Instead, year after year, our state government sides with real estate developers, private utilities and the fossil fuel industry. 

NY State Assembly Blocks Climate Action

This year, the real obstacle to climate action was the New York State Assembly. For example, the All-Electric Building Act would have moved new buildings off dirty fossil fuels. Additionally, the Build Public Renewables Act would ramp up our renewable energy capacity. These bills are crucial to enforce our state’s climate law and make a dent in the oncoming climate crisis. The bills gained momentum and support in the State legislature, but failed to pass in the Assembly. Despite plenty of support from the public and from elected officials, neither bill reached Governor Hochul’s desk for signature.

As a result of this continued inaction, New Yorkers will suffer more pollution and face greater climate change risks. And it’s all because Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie refused to bring these bills to the floor for a vote. If our assembly members couldn’t get these bills passed this year, it’s not because they aren’t hearing from us — it’s because they’re not listening.

Climate Can’t Wait And Neither Can Our Legislators

This past year, Food & Water Watch built support for climate bills by lobbying elected officials to co-sponsor them. We targeted key leaders, like Governor Hochul, through mass constituent calls and repeated rallies outside offices and at public events. When New York prepared to finalize its annual budget, we had Senate and Governor support for the All-Electric Building Act’s goals. However, the Assembly stood in the way of passing it. The same goes for the Build Public Renewables Act — though it passed the Senate, the Assembly refused to touch it.

It became clear that so long as the same business-as-usual politicians had power in the Assembly, we could not win the bills we needed. Entrenched assembly members like Kevin Cahill in the Hudson Valley dodged meetings with us. He refused to stand up for these bills while delivering empty rhetoric on climate change. But his constituents weren’t having any of it.

When this year’s legislative session ended, we were ready to pivot. For months, we prepared to replace the dead weight in Albany with real climate activists. If we could get another one of us into office, they could organize from within the Assembly to ensure that climate bills pass.

When Our Politicians Can’t Get The Job Done, We Elect New Ones 

This is where Food & Water Action’s electoral work comes into play. By endorsing and joining statewide campaigns to elect climate champions, we can uplift new candidates. We get out the vote, canvas door-to-door, phone bank and more.

In the Hudson Valley, climate activists Sarahana Shrestha and Vanessa Agudelo led the successful fight against the Danskammer fracked gas plant. Both advocated for Public Power and a Gas-Free New York on the campaign trail. In New York City, Illapa Sairitupac, a longtime activist fighting fossil fuel infrastructure, ran to do the same. The cards were stacked against all three candidates. They challenged both well-funded, Democratic establishment picks and right-wing interests that spent enormous sums of money on false smear campaigns.

In the waning months of the legislative session, current assembly members dithered and delayed climate action bills. Meanwhile, Food & Water Action joined these candidates’ campaigns to get them into office — one door, one phone call and one conversation at a time.

A Big Win For Climate In The Hudson Valley

Once the dust had settled on election night, a lot of status quo Democrats trotted easily into office again. The climate movement, however, was hyper-focused on the New York Assembly. We knew we had to show Speaker Carl Heastie there were consequences for climate inaction and get another fighter on our side in Albany. Of our three endorsed candidates, Shrestha emerged victorious. She toppled sitting assembly member Kevin Cahill, a 26-year incumbent backed by corporate interests and the Democratic Party machine. And perhaps more importantly, she won a district with significant rural areas that hadn’t seen strong climate leadership until now.

With Shrestha’s victory in the Hudson Valley, we can win tangible, concrete climate measures this upcoming session. That includes the vital Build Public Renewables and All-Electric Building Acts. But these bills are just the beginning. We must keep electing the right people who will get the job done for New Yorkers and all of us nationwide.

Many large environmental groups don’t do this kind of electoral work, especially during the primaries. But to win a clean energy future, we need to reach out to more voters, primary more status-quo candidates and demand real climate action, now. Food & Water Action will continue the fight to move off fossil fuels. We will always work to elect politicians who will meet this moment and organize for the future we deserve.

Next up: the general election.

To build this momentum in the midterms, we need your support.