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

November 7, 2018
 Climate

 

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. 

Group Reveals Concerning Big Energy Campaign Finance for Ron DeSantis

October 10, 2018
 Climate  Florida

Today, new Food & Water Action research revealed that energy utility companies including Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, Gulf Power, and TECO have given $3 million this year to Associated Industries of Florida’s (AIF) controlled PACs and given $9 million over the past 5 years. AIF, one of the most powerful lobby groups in Tallahassee, has endorsed Ron DeSantis for Governor and funneled millions of these dollars to the Florida Republican Party.

This campaign finance report calls into question if key pieces of DeSantis’s environmental platform can be taken seriously given that his policies are adamantly opposed by the special interests supporting him. Desantis says he will push to ban fracking but AIF has been one of the most visible groups lobbying against legislation to ban fracking over the last two years. DeSantis says he will also ensure offshore drilling doesn’t occur near Florida, but AIF supports drilling off the coast, even going as far as opposing Amendment 9 that would ban offshore drilling within state waters. Energy utilities like Florida Power & Light also rely on natural gas obtained from fracking.

Voters have become acutely aware of how corporate special interests play a disproportionate role in influencing water, energy, and environmental policy. News reports in the past weeks have described how DeSantis has pledged not to take money from Big Sugar, a major culprit in the algal blooms that have been contaminating Florida’s water. But AIF has meanwhile been receiving sugar industry money that has also benefited DeSantis’ campaign.

Food & Water Action is calling on DeSantis to show he’s committed to his policy positions by asking him to renounce AIF money and any other funds from the energy industry.

DeSantis’s opponent, Andrew Gillum, has signed Food & Water Action’s pledge against accepting any Big Oil & Gas campaign funding. If DeSantis wants to show he is honest in his promises to ban fracking and stop offshore drilling, he must give the money back and stand up to special interests like Florida Power & Light and Associated Industries of Florida that stand to benefit from oil and gas drilling.

Note: The five AIF affiliated PACS have given almost all their money to republican candidates: from 2013 to 2018, 89% of campaign contributions from AIF-controlled PACS went to Republican candidates ($328.5K to GOP candidates of $370.5K total contributions). In 2018, contributions have been slightly more Republican leaning, with 93% going to GOP ($135.5K to GOP of $145.5K total contributions).  These numbers do not include money spent on advertising, scorecards, events, staff, and other political spending.

Now Even Ultra-Conservatives Want to Ban Fracking

September 14, 2018
 Climate  Florida

Earlier this week, Ron DeSantis laid out his environmental platform. 

Before evaluating one of the key pieces of his platform — banning fracking– it should be noted that while in Congress, Ron DeSantis has racked up an abysmal voting record on the environment. The League of Conservation Voters has given DeSantis a lifetime voting score of 2%. So 98% of the time, DeSantis has voted against environmental protections. DeSantis even refuses to admit that climate change is an issue and denies that human activities play a role in the warming climate. He also repeatedly accepts campaign funds from Big Oil & Gas. It is difficult to believe any of his campaign promises to ban fracking and offshore drilling when the very industry that is pushing the ‘drill baby drill’ mentality is bankrolling his campaign. 

The bright spot: After several years of pushing for a statewide fracking ban in the Sunshine State, it is clear now fracking has grown past its partisanship and become an issue that people of all political identities are behind. Ultra conservative gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis has not only declared his support for banning fracking, but has stated that he’ll advocate for a fracking ban starting on day one, if elected. Before the primary election on August 28th, Food & Water Action recorded all seven major Republican and Democratic candidates expressing concrete support for a statewide fracking ban. This was unprecedented, not only in Florida but across the country. Banning fracking has been mostly seen as a progressive issue, but this election season has proven that is no longer the case. 

This sends a strong message nationwide that fracking is too dangerous for our water, our communities, and climate — not just for Florida, but everywhere. This is a far cry from President Trump’s frack-at-any-cost mentality. The Trump Administration has lowered environmental standards for the fracking industry, allowed the industry to send more methane into the atmosphere, and even opened up more public lands to fracking. Big Oil & Gas has a stronghold on our top level public officials, so it’s up to us to make sure our state and local governments respond to the will of the people and protect the environment.

President Trump should take heed: the movement to ban fracking is growing. We are excited to work to make sure Florida will be the fourth state to ban fracking. We’re sending a message nationwide that the drilling practice is too dangerous for Florida and too dangerous for America.

Donate to Keep Your Community Safe from Fracking!

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!

Ultra Conservative Congressman Ron DeSantis Announces Support for Fracking Ban in Florida

July 3, 2018
 Climate  Florida

Amidst a Sean Hannity led rally in Tampa, Florida, Food & Water Action volunteer Ginger Goepper spoke briefly with Congressman Ron DeSantis about his stances on offshore drilling and fracking.

Congressman DeSantis has stated his support for an offshore drilling ban in Florida, but has never spoken publicly about his support for a ban on fracking in Florida. As a major candidate for Governor, Floridians are eager to know his plans to protect Florida’s aquifers and water resources, if elected.

The Congressman acknowledged his support for a ban on offshore drilling. When asked whether or not he also supports a ban on fracking, Congressman DeSantis said “yes.”

As the self-proclaimed most conservative major candidate in the Florida Gubernatorial race, Congressman DeSantis’s stance against fracking displays the growing bipartisan support for protecting Florida from the risks of fracking and offshore drilling.

You can watch this exchange here:

Congressman DeSantis is the last of the seven major gubernatorial candidates to now be on the public record as being against fracking in Florida. We now must ensure that whomever is elected as Florida’s next governor will live up to their campaign pledge and pass an executive order to ban fracking in our Sunshine State.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is Great on Climate. And She’s Not Alone.

June 28, 2018
 Climate  New York

The talk among progressives and the Democratic establishment this week has centered largely on the stunning upset victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over party stalwart Rep. Joe Crowley in a Congressional primary in a working-class district of New York City on Tuesday. Ocasio-Cortez’s solidly progressive, impressively ambitious platform has rightly been heralded by pundits and the media as a new marker for equality-minded leadership in Congress. Particular attention has been paid to her bold climate and energy agenda.

Ocasio-Cortez’s climate agenda is based on a strong, clear, and unambiguous call for 100% clean, renewable energy in America by 2035, and a “green new deal” of economic and environmental justice. We need more voices like hers in the next Congress. Fortunately, we may soon have them.

Support for Full Renewable Transition Growing

There is already a growing movement in Congress to pass legislation that would give America completely clean energy by 2035 – the platform Ocasio-Cortez campaigned on – and there are dozens of Congressional candidates aligned with the movement waiting in the wings to join her in D.C. in January.

Last September, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) introduced the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future (OFF) Act, which among other things would ban all new fossil fuel extraction and move the country to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2035, all while prioritizing environmental justice and ensuring a just transition. This is by far the strongest, most comprehensive, most aggressive climate and energy legislation ever introduced. Currently, 35 members of Congress have co-sponsored the bill, formally adding their voices to the call for its passage into law.

Food & Water Action Leads on Climate Change

Last year, Food & Water Action stood with Rep. Gabbard and original co-sponsors Reps. Nanette Barragan, Barbara Lee, Ted Lieu and Jamie Raskin as they introduced the bill and helped kick off the campaign to rally support for this critical legislation around the country. More than 400 groups including Progressive Democrats of America, National Nurses United, Democratic Socialists of America, Our Revolution, and a host of grassroots organizations from coast to coast endorse the OFF Act and are organizing to move it forward.

Ocasio-Cortez’s call for a compete energy transformation by 2035 is consistent with science and follows her pledge to co-sponsor the OFF Act when she is in congress. In fact, she was one of the very first Congressional candidates to do so. And she’s not alone. More than 100 federal candidates have pledged to support the OFF Act – so far, 23 of them have won their primary fights and will compete in the general election in November.

A Growing Climate Caucus in the Next Congress

A handful of these candidates, including Ocasio-Cortez and Deb Haaland (NM-1), are in largely Democratic districts and are certain to join Gabbard in fighting for the OFF Act in Congress next year. Many others constitute some of the most competitive and high-profile races in the country. These include Katie Hill, who is taking on Steve Knight in CA-25, Katie Porter, who is taking on Mimi Walters in CA-45, Kara Eastman, who defeated a former congressman in her primary and will be taking on Don Bacon in NE-2, Liuba Grechen Shirley, who will be taking on Peter King in NY-2, and Gil Cisneros, who will be competing for the open seat vacated by Ed Royce in CA-39. In Wisconsin, both Randy Bryce and Cathy Myers, who are running to replace retiring speaker Paul Ryan, have pledged to support the OFF Act.

While it is not clear who will emerge victorious in all of these and other competitive races in November, what is clear is that when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez heads to Congress in January, she will be in strong company in her fight to address the climate crisis. She will be joining a growing number of fighters for climate justice in the critical struggle to protect our planet and all people living on it.