How State-Level Organizing Could Spark National Change in 2023

Categories

by Mark Schlosberg

It’s easy to feel discouraged with the House of Representatives controlled by hard right-wingers. But federal legislation is only one avenue for change. 

This year, Food & Water Watch is working at the state level toward big policies with national impact. Building on our years of work with communities on the ground, we’re growing grassroots power. Because of that work, 2023 could be a banner year, with or without federal legislation. 

From New York, to Iowa, to Oregon and beyond, here’s how we’re moving the needle on food, water, and climate. 

How State Wins Ripple into National Action

Though the national stage gets much attention, we’ve seen how state victories can be just as impactful. For instance, back in 2011, we called for a ban on fracking, despite its popular support and reputation as a “bridge fuel” among many environmental organizations. 

Some said fighting for a ban was politically naive, but we didn’t listen. With grassroots partners in New York, we built a powerful coalition and successfully banned fracking in the state. That helped change the conversation, and the environmental community has now reached a consensus against fracking.

Moreover, the New York ban led to bans in Maryland, Washington state, and communities across the country. It also energized a growing movement working to move off fossil fuels. 

We’ve seen this happen with other issues as well, from banning arsenic in chicken feed in Maryland, to stopping water privatization in California and Illinois. These state-level efforts laid the groundwork for nationwide change. 

Now, we’re building on this history of influential state wins in our current campaigns. 

Fighting Factory Farms With Statewide Bans

For years, we’ve worked to stop the factory farms that dominate our food system, threaten our climate, and pollute our communities. 

In Oregon, a moratorium on factory farms is now in sight. We have a new governor, more champions in the state legislature, and more organizations joining our efforts. This year, we’re doubling down on on-the-ground organizing, helping Oregonians to engage their representatives and communities in this fight. 

A statewide factory farm moratorium in Oregon — the first in the country — would advance efforts against factory farms nationwide. Moreover, it would help us fight factory farm gas, a greenwashed marketing ploy propping up both dirty energy and factory farms. That’s why we’re dedicating more research, national volunteers, and funding for key tactics. 

Protecting Our Water by Going After Its Worst Abusers

Across the U.S., millions lack access to affordable clean water at the tap — but not because there’s no water. We face a crisis of underinvestment in water infrastructure, coupled with policies that put big agriculture and fossil fuel corporations before our human right to water. 

Nowhere is this crisis more extreme than in California, where over a million people lack reliable access to clean water. In 2023, we’re ramping up our campaign for water justice in the Golden State. That includes fighting for a moratorium on fossil fuel permits, factory farms, tree nuts, and alfalfa. These industries guzzle tons of water, even when the wells of nearby residents run dry. 

With upcoming research and new volunteer efforts, we can pressure Governor Newsom to protect our communities and climate. Last year, we successfully moved Newsom to embrace protection zones between oil drilling and homes and schools. This campaign, led by environmental justice groups, shows that big changes in California are possible. 

Now, we’re growing our efforts to stop new drilling permits. A statewide moratorium on new drilling in California would be the first of its kind, setting a powerful national precedent. 

Stopping Fracked Gas in Its Tracks

The science is clear: we need to move off fossil fuels as quickly as possible. That means ending policy that benefits dirty energy companies, as well as investing big in clean energy. 

So in New York, we’re working to ban gas hookups in new construction. We already won a gas ban in New York City; now, the state ban is just within reach, with support from Governor Hochul and more than 80 state legislators. 

At the same time, we’re pushing for the Build Public Renewable Act, which would allow New York’s largest public utility to build new renewable energy projects. 

Not only are we targeting fossil fuels in buildings — we’re working against fracking operations, fossil fuel power plants, and pipelines in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California.

Moreover, we’re fighting Big Oil’s latest schemes to protect its dying industry. High on our radar: carbon capture and storage. In Iowa, we’re fighting plans for three carbon pipelines that will threaten public health and mask more pollution and emissions.

We’ve spent years on the ground in Iowa, helping to build a powerful bipartisan movement against these pipelines. In 2023, we’re advancing efforts to pass legislation that will stop pipeline companies from wrenching land from families and farmers.

Iowans aren’t the only ones threatened with Big Oil’s climate scams — hydrogen power buildouts, factory farm gas facilities, and more loom over communities across the country. A victory in Iowa will drive efforts nationwide to stop harmful industry boondoggles.

2023 Will Be Our Year — With Your Help

In the face of congressional inaction, we know we must use every strategy we have to protect our food, water, and climate. We’ve seen how state-level organizing can drive huge national changes. So in 2023, we’re doubling down on everything from blocking fossil fuel permits to protecting our water; ending factory farms to exposing carbon capture and other greenwashing grifts. 

But we can’t do it without you. Every campaign starts at the grassroots, with communities pitching in whatever they can — time, expertise, resources. With your help, we’ll secure the wins we need to secure a livable future for all.

Join us in our work toward a livable future for all!

Hydrogen Hubs: How This New Boondoggle Will Cost Us Billions

Categories

by Mia DiFelice

It may start with tanker trucks rolling past your neighborhood; a nondescript warehouse; a bold announcement from your governor, or a small press release in your local paper — your city is preparing to become part of a hydrogen hub. 

So what exactly does this mean for you, your neighbors, and the climate?

In 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act created a pot of $7 billion to fund the development of hydrogen hubs (H2Hubs). In the coming years, the Department of Energy will distribute those funds to at least six proposals, submitted by state or regional coalitions.

Proponents proclaim the H2Hub program is central to our country’s “low-carbon” future. But they are ignoring or hiding hydrogen’s many problems — from its health and safety risks, to its bogus climate credentials. 

The Endlessly Dirty Possibilities of a Hydrogen Hub

Though H2Hub proposals vary widely, they all entail networks of production, transport, storage, and end-users for hydrogen. Some of the proposed projects could sprawl across several states; for example, through thousands of miles of pipelines for liquid hydrogen or hydrogen-derived ammonia

Hydrogen or ammonia could end up at fertilizer corporations, oil refineries, heavy-duty transport companies, power plants, and more. Some proposals even suggest exporting hydrogen and ammonia, creating new global markets for what are essentially fossil fuels.

Hubs will also differ by the feedstocks used to make hydrogen. Notably, DOE’s program requires at least one hub to use natural gas, and at least two built in a “natural gas-rich area.” 

This would include hubs using industry-branded “blue hydrogen.” Boosters claim blue H2 is “carbon neutral” because it combines gas-powered hydrogen production with carbon capture technology, designed to grab CO2 emissions and store them underground. 

However, carbon capture has never worked reliably or at scale. And even if this fairy tale did deliver, it wouldn’t be good news. Lifecycle emissions of “blue hydrogen” are actually worse for the climate than burning coal. Moreover, “blue hydrogen” would create more pollution from fracking and pipelines.

So it’s no surprise that dirty energy companies have flocked to hydrogen development and H2Hub proposals. Facing blowback from broken promises and dangerous pollution, they are now using hydrogen to greenwash and create new markets for fracked gas.

At the same time, DOE requires only one of its H2Hubs to produce renewables-based hydrogen. But even so-called green hydrogen has a dirty underbelly, including its huge costs and unsustainable water consumption. It doesn’t live up to its climate claims, either, as it diverts renewables on the grid to less-efficient hydrogen production.

How an H2Hub Could Shake Up the Ohio River Valley

The Ohio River Valley is home to Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia — and a H2Hub proposal. Centered in West Virginia, the applying coalition includes EQT, a Pittsburgh-based gas company, and Chemours, a spin-off of chemical giant Dupont. 

Nationwide, H2Hub proposals have spurred policies to make applicants more attractive to hydrogen business. The Ohio River Valley is no exception. Recently, Pennsylvania passed $1 billion in tax credits to any facility that becomes part of a H2Hub.

But here’s the catch: any facility in the hub can claim a credit for hydrogen as well as fracked gas. Pennsylvania’s Governor Wolf claimed that the gas credit is for a “bridge” phase that should last only “a year or two,” before hydrogen goes completely renewable. Yet, the law allows companies to claim the gas credit for two decades

What’s more, this Pennsylvania credit adds to the flood of subsidies hydrogen producers can claim via the Inflation Reduction Act.

A H2Hub in the Ohio River Valley, and anywhere, is a risky bet on a huge buildout of doubtful technology. Residents would be stuck with the pollution, and taxpayers would be stuck with the bill.

H2Hub grants could cover, at most, 50% of a project’s cost — the rest would fall to private companies and other public sources. That includes taxpayers, through subsidies like those in the Inflation Reduction Act and Governor Wolf’s measure.

Plus, for hubs that include power production, utilities could pass the cost of new hydrogen infrastructure onto ratepayers. By one estimate, higher taxes and utility rates would cost Pittsburgh households at least $1,000 a year if a hub came to Western Pennsylvania. 

“Permitting Reform” Threatens to Fast-Track H2Hubs 

In late 2022, so-called permitting reform dominated debate in Congress. While proponents argued that we need permitting reform for clean energy buildouts, we know it’s really about fast-tracking fossil fuel infrastructure — including hydrogen projects.

A leaked early draft proposal bore the watermark of the industry group American Petroleum Institute, which seems to have majorly swayed the proposal. 

Massive public opposition blocked the proposal from passing this year. But as many Congressmembers are prioritizing it this year, we’re staying vigilant. Proposals like those bearing an API watermark would not only grow fossil fuels — it would drive even more pollution and emissions through fast-tracked hydrogen hubs.

Hydrogen Hubs Distract From Real Climate Solutions

DOE won’t announce the H2Hub grant recipients until later this year. It will then take years more for projects to come online. However, the program is only part of a bigger buzz around hydrogen. 

Projects across the country are already in motion, including hubs that could move forward without DOE funding. Those projects count venture capitalists, huge corporations, state universities, and more among their backers and developers. They’ll also rely on federal and state subsidies to boost profits.

But we can’t let these projects go through without a fight.

Ultimately, H2Hubs will be expensive and resource-hungry, especially for energy and water. A buildout will fleece taxpayers while doubling down on dangerous pollution in frontline communities. 

At the same time, H2Hubs could entrench our fossil fuel dependence and distract from real climate solutions. By worsening the climate crisis, they’ll threaten our food and water, too.

We know how to fight climate change, and it doesn’t involve expensive, polluting technologies backed by Big Oil and Wall Street. Instead, we need bold plans to phase out fossil fuels and replace them with clean, renewable energy.

People need to know: we don’t need expensive, polluting hydrogen hubs. We need renewables, now.

This Bill Will Help Lower Gasoline Prices By Banning Gas Exports

Categories

by Mia DiFelice

Gas prices have been top-of-mind and top-of-newsfeed for months now, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine and supply shocks in the wake of the pandemic shook up the market. More recently, international oil cartel OPEC+ announced plans to lower production to keep prices high.

But few outlets have pointed to one of the key drivers of our pain at the pump — greedy oil and gas corporations that would rather send our supply abroad for maximum profit than serve customers at home. 

Our researchers have dug through the data, and we’ve found damning evidence of corporate greed. Oil and gas companies have been exporting historically high amounts of finished gasoline, squeezing domestic supply and sending high prices even higher.

But now, Rep. Rho Khanna (D-CA) has introduced new legislation to end gasoline exports.

Our Gasoline Export Boom is No Coincidence

Our latest analysis shows that in the first six months of 2022, gasoline exports jumped nearly 9% compared to the first six months of 2021. And 2021 was already a huge year for gasoline exports. The U.S. exported over 12 billion gallons, 1.5 billion more than 2020. That gasoline could have fulfilled the needs of 30 million American drivers for a whole year. 

These exports put pressure on our domestic supply of gasoline. Because of the supply squeeze, corporations can boost prices — and profits. Shell’s profit margins from refining alone have tripled in this year’s second quarter, to the tune of billions of dollars. Chevron and Exxon’s refining profits have also surged by the billions since this time last year.

In October, the U.S. Department of Energy pointed out that these profits are possible because gasoline companies have failed to manage their domestic supply. But while we suffer at home, those very same companies are exporting gasoline at historic levels.

This is only the latest in a long line of corporate greed that takes advantage of crises for profit, while hurting workers and families. In the past few years, lying meat corporations have hidden behind the pandemic to price-gouge us at the grocery store. Meanwhile, fracked gas companies jumped on Europe’s energy crisis to build out polluting infrastructure in our communities. 

Without government action, we can’t expect corporations to give up on their dirty tactics.

We Can Lower Gas Prices By Banning Gas Exports Now

Political pundits have taken the Biden administration to task for not drilling. But not only did Biden ramp up drilling well before our gasoline price hikes — this false claim distracts from the real issue of gasoline exports. Moreover, more drilling for crude won’t help gasoline supplies when refineries are already running on all cylinders.

Over the past few years, Food & Water Action has thrown a spotlight on the role of corporate greed in rising prices. This week, we finally have action in Congress. The Gasoline Export Ban Act, introduced by Rep. Khanna, would require the president to ban exports when gasoline prices rise above $3.12 for one week. 

Today’s gas prices show yet again that corporations can’t be trusted to keep the interests of their customers in mind. Rather, they’re happy to pursue any path that will bring them more profits. We need the Gas Export Ban Act to reign in Big Oil and lower the prices on this essential fuel for working families.

Ask your Congress member to support the Gas Export Ban!

Kick Manchin To The Curb — Elect More And Better Democrats

Categories

by Mark Schlosberg

This year’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) marked the nation’s first-ever major piece of climate legislation. The Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden, was a tribute to the growing climate movement. But because of one Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), the Act was not nearly bold enough. 

Worse, it was larded up with fossil fuel industry giveaways, including billions in subsidies for the climate scam carbon capture and storage. The Act also opens the Gulf of Mexico to more drilling and holds renewable development on public lands hostage to drilling permits. 

Over the last two years, an even Senate split has given coal baron Joe Manchin final say over much of the Democratic agenda, slowing our transition off fossil fuels. But there is no reason Manchin should have so much power. 

This November, we have a chance to make him irrelevant by voting in more Democratic senators and shifting the balance of power. 

Manchin Heaps Gifts on Big Oil, Blocking Bold Climate Action

Over the last two years, Sen. Manchin has blocked Biden’s agenda and meaningful climate action. In doing this, he has consistently carried water for the fossil fuel industry. 

First, Manchin held up Biden’s infrastructure agenda by cutting a deal with Republicans to create the bipartisan infrastructure bill, rather than just passing Biden’s Build Back Better proposal. In doing so, Manchin secured funding for industry pet projects like carbon capture, hydrogen, and fossil fuels, including specific fossil fuel projects. 

Next, Manchin walked back his commitment to advance Biden’s agenda until he could pare down its scope and ambition significantly. The result was the Inflation Reduction Act. Again, Manchin made sure the legislation was filled with gifts to his fossil fuel patrons (the senator receives more donations from the fossil fuel industry than any of his colleagues). 

But even with the IRA and its giveaways in hand, Manchin wasn’t done. He has since pushed a dirty side deal to fast track more fossil fuel projects under the guise of “permitting reform.” Thus far, thanks to organizing and an outcry of opposition, we shut down the deal for now.

Manchin Only Has Power in a 50-50 Senate

How can one Senator force through such a litany of pro-fossil fuel provisions, even as global warming continues to escalate? It has only been possible with an evenly divided senate. 

With this split, a single senator can cast a tie-breaking vote. And by threatening to withhold that vote, that senator can single-handedly set the terms of the party’s agenda. And this is exactly what Manchin has done.

Democrats entered their current tripartite majority (President, Senate, and House) with big plans to fight climate change and help workers and families. But Manchin blocked support for climate measures, healthcare, and more. He nixed some of the most transformational measures in what would have been Build Back Better, and then in what became the Inflation Reduction Act.

If Democrats had a majority with only two more senators, Manchin and his sometime ally, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), would no longer have such powerful votes. The rest of the party could move forward without them — in essence, making Manchin irrelevant.

With Our Work, Democrats Can Take The Senate And Hold The House

This November, we have a chance to make Sen. Manchin irrelevant and advance a bolder and more progressive climate agenda. That depends, however, on Democrats expanding their majority in the Senate and holding the House. Simply put, we need more and better Democrats. 

Food & Water Action is working to make this happen. In these midterms, we’re campaigning for progressives in tight races that could make or break the next few years of climate action.

For instance, strong progressive Jamie McLeod Skinner could win a swing district in Oregon. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, we’re supporting Chris DeLuzio and climate champion Summer Lee. These Pennsylvania districts are especially important, as increasing turnout will improve the odds that Democrat John Fetterman wins the state’s open Senate seat against right-wing, Trump-supported Mehmet Oz. 

This election cycle, turnout is critical. Despite Manchin’s huge drag on the Democratic agenda, Democrats are the party in power and face major headwinds. It’s going to take an all-out effort, but winning is possible.

Together, we can expand Democratic control in the House and Senate and work over the next two years to advance a progressive food, water, and climate agenda. 

Help us get out the vote — commit to asking friends and family to head to the polls!

Katie Muth Endorsed by National Environmental Organization

Categories

Food & Water Action, the political arm of the national advocacy organization Food & Water Watch, is endorsing Katie Muth in the race for Pennsylvania’s Senate District 44, which includes parts of Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties.

Muth’s Republican opponent has received thousands of dollars from pipeline corporation Energy Transfer. 

Food & Water Action Pennsylvania State Director Megan McDonough released the following statement:

“Senator Muth is a lifelong Pennsylvanian who understands the importance of protecting our communities and families from corruption and corporate greed. As a state senator, Katie has been a true champion in the fight for clean water and a healthy environment for all, and we are proud to endorse her for another term fighting for the people of Pennsylvania. 

“We got to know Katie through the work she did in her community to stop Sunoco’s disastrous Mariner East 2 pipelines. She helped lead her neighbors in a fight against a powerful international corporation and the politicians who failed to protect residents from water contamination, sinkholes and property damage. Katie Muth is exactly the kind of fighter we need in Harrisburg.”

Food & Water Action Endorses Michelle Hinchey for New York State Senate District 41

Categories

For Immediate Release

Today, Food & Water Action, the political arm of the national advocacy organization Food & Water Watch, endorsed Michelle Hinchey in the race for New York’s 41st Senate District, covering portions of Greene, Ulster, Dutchess and Columbia Counties.

Michelle won the endorsement based on her impressive record on climate and other environmental issues. Hinchey is firmly committed to the fight to move New York to 100 percent renewable energy, stopping fossil fuel infrastructure projects and protecting publicly-owned water systems from corporate takeover. 

With the endorsement, Food & Water Action Organizer Emily Skydel issued the following statement:

“Michelle Hinchey is a true climate leader, and the fighter the Hudson Valley needs. Last year, she worked alongside Food & Water Action and the climate movement in the successful fight to stop the proposed Danskammer fracked gas power plant. In one legislative battle after another she has proved her mettle, championing the All-Electric Building Act and Build Public Renewables Act, standing up to polluters and standing up for the Hudson Valley.

“Michelle understands the urgency of the climate crisis and is committed to moving New York off fossil fuels. We are proud to endorse Michelle Hinchey and get to work to send her back to the Senate.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]