The Not-So-Secret Republican Plan to Destroy Our Climate Future


by Peter Hart

It’s fair to say that President Biden has been a disappointment in confronting the climate crisis — especially given his record of approving new fossil fuel projects. But the policies championed by the Republican Party are a stark reminder of how much worse things could get if they prevail in the 2024 elections.  

This was underscored by a debate between GOP presidential hopefuls, which included an upsetting display of climate denialism. Nearly all of the contenders refused to even acknowledge the science of human-caused climate change, and they were united in their calls to increase drilling and fracking. 

Despite the rising pitch of the crisis, climate deniers and Big Oil’s cronies dominate the Republican Party. They’re threatening to plunge us deeper toward climate chaos and tear down vital health and environmental protections.

And their plans are not exactly a secret — making the stakes of the next election crystal clear.

Republicans’ Abysmal Stance on Climate, Brought to You By Big Oil

Republican leaders would rather see polluters profit than listen to science and many of their constituents. August’s presidential debate emphasized as much.

The moderator asked candidates to raise their hands if they believed in human-caused climate change, and (perhaps) one candidate did (albeit briefly). Candidates took the opportunity to deflect, downplay, and even declare the “climate change agenda” a hoax. And they were united in their support for more fracking and drilling as part of an “energy dominance” agenda.

That’s no surprise when Republicans are receiving huge contributions from fossil fuel corporations. So far this year, fossil fuel donors sent $4 million to two Congressional Republican super PACs. This follows tens of millions of dollars donated ahead of the 2022 midterms — on top of the many millions they send to individual candidates each year.

All this is paying off handsomely for Big Oil and other dirty industries. Just two months after gaining control of the House in 2023, Congressional Republicans introduced dozens of bills endangering our environment and our climate. These bills aimed to gut environmental protections, slow climate action and infrastructure, and encourage more oil and gas production. 

In March, House Republicans passed a huge energy bill that would clear the way for even more drilling, refineries, and pipelines. While the bill was dead-on-arrival in the Senate, it’s a major indicator of Republican priorities: doubling down on dirty energy.

The Republican Climate Plan Is a 900-Page Nightmare  

Right now, House Republicans are quietly adding anti-climate provisions to spending bills — a dozen so far, according to The Lever. Fossil fuel-backed lawmakers are trying to stop the administration from spending money on climate action.

Their measures would block research on how climate change impacts the fishing industry, eliminate a National Science Foundation climate program, and end funding for a variety of international climate programs.

Supporters of these legislative maneuvers intend to create short-term headaches. They have little chance of actually passing, as spending bill negotiations move ahead with the Senate.

But the more substantial version of the Republican climate plan — which is nothing short of a nightmare — comes in the form of something called Project 2025

Project 2025 is a 900-page blueprint for a Republican president’s presumptive first 180 days in office. The plan was crafted by former Trump officials and a right-wing think tank linked to notorious oil baron Charles Koch.

If carried out, Project 2025 would:

  • Halt efforts to expand the country’s power grid to accommodate new clean energy; 
  • Cut funding for government agencies working on environmental justice and renewable energy;
  • Call for granting more regulatory powers to state officials, allowing Republican states to weaken or toss protections;
  • Block states from adopting standards to reduce car pollution; and
  • Fully repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, while giving an additional boost to fossil fuel drilling and exploration. 

Project 2025 aims to shift the federal government away from protecting our public health or environment and toward smoothing the path for polluting industries to grow. It may even challenge the very notion that federal agencies can do anything at all to reduce climate pollution.

Their “Battle Plan” Must Be a Call to Action

Though Project 2025 is bad enough on its own, Republican frontrunners may have even more in mind. For instance, Donald Trump recently mused about the need to rein in an array of independent government agencies — a list that would include the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission FERC). 

While that agency has been historically very friendly to fossil fuel interests, Trump’s obvious intent is to make it even more so. Even observers who doubt Trump’s ploy would be successful are worried about the chilling effect it may have on FERC.

Broadly speaking, Republican climate plans are about sending a clear message. The director of Project 2025 is not exactly subtle about their goals — as he told Politico, “We are writing a battle plan, and we are marshaling our forces.” 

That much is clear. The task for the rest of us — who want a livable future for ourselves, our communities, and the planet — is to make sure they lose. 

Join our efforts toward a livable future by volunteering with Food & Water Action!

How a Single Bill Could Wreak Havoc on Our Food System


by Mia DiFelice and Rebecca Wolf

This past spring, the Supreme Court affirmed a huge win for state authority to regulate agricultural goods. It upheld a California law that only allows the sale of pork, veal, and eggs from animals raised in improved living conditions.

But Big Ag and its cronies in Congress couldn’t let this go without a fight. In June, Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) introduced a bill called the “Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act.”

The EATS Act would stop many states’ regulations on agriculture and effectively deregulate the industry across the country. Everything from worker protections to food safety measures is now under attack. What’s more, deregulation promises to open the gates for Big Ag to get bigger, by giving it free rein to use the cheapest, most destructive practices it can.

Big Ag Has Its Hands All Over EATS

California’s Prop 12 requires that eggs, pork, or veal sold in the state must come from animals raised under certain conditions, like larger cages for birthing pigs. Californians were clearly in favor, with 60% in support of the law. In response, the pork industry took Prop 12 to federal court, claiming that it violated the Constitution. 

The National Pork Producers Council argued that the law interfered with interstate trade by affecting pork production outside of California. However, the Court ruled in favor of Prop 12.

In arguing against Prop 12, Big Ag once again showed its hand — it will stop at nothing to gain even more control over how food in the U.S. is produced, in this case by tearing down state regulations. This isn’t the first time Big Ag has tried to push dangerous policies like EATS. 

In 2018, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced what is informally known as the “King Amendment” for consideration in that year’s Farm Bill. (He also tried to pass a similar bill in the 2014 Farm Bill.) 

The King Amendment was nearly identical to today’s EATS Act and a huge gift to Big Ag. That was no surprise; Rep. King’s home state of Iowa has the largest number of pigs and chickens in the country. Almost all of them are raised on factory farms.

Now, the EATS Act enjoys the support of Big Ag lobbying organizations like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Producers Council, and the Farm Bureau.

The Overreaching Implications of EATS

While Prop 12 galvanized industry and built momentum for a bill like EATS, EATS’ influence would extend far beyond California. 

It would strip states of their right to regulate agricultural products sold within their borders, as it says that if there’s no federal standard, the states can’t make their own.

The approach is “lowest common denominator.” If just one state in the country allows the sale of goods made with a certain practice, every state would have to, no matter how hazardous, destructive, or inhumane the practice may be.

The range of laws that the EATS Act would affect is ridiculously, dangerously broad. The bill broadly implicates “preharvest production,” which could include regulations like:

  • Limits on what tools or chemicals farmers can use on their farms
  • Labor laws that protect workers or prevent child labor
  • Laws that restrict what chemicals can go into baby formula
  • Measures that prevent or contain diseases like bird flu

This poses a huge threat to our entire food system. For example, in Iowa, people cannot bring birds exposed to infectious diseases into the state without veterinary approval. EATS would endanger this law in the middle of a bird flu epidemic that has led to the deaths of nearly 60 million birds.

EATS also defines “agricultural products” so broadly that it could include everything from vaccines to vitamins. In total, the bill could nullify over a thousand state laws.

For years, states have been empowered to enact stronger food and agriculture protections than federal law and carry them out on their terms. But if EATS were passed, states would effectively deregulate the agricultural industry. It would allow Big Ag to use even cheaper, more destructive, and more harmful practices in more places.

The Political Game of EATS in the Farm Bill

As with the King Amendment, extremist politicians will likely push for EATS language in this year’s Farm Bill. And while passing the bill itself would be unlikely, using EATS as an opening move would tip negotiations closer to chaos. This is a terrible show of bad-faith bargaining.

What’s more, it’s deeply hypocritical. The EATS Act contradicts Republican calls for states’ rights. It denies states the ability to protect their citizens with regulations on what gets sold within their borders.

The Act also flies in the face of historical bipartisan collaboration on competition measures. Far from “ending trade suppression” between states, the EATS Act just helps Big Ag get bigger. Deregulation will allow Big Ag to pursue even more cost-cutting measures than it already does. This will in turn hasten corporate consolidation in the name of profit. 

That doesn’t sound like competition to us.

We Must Keep EATS From Passing

The EATS Act is infuriating but not surprising. It’s the latest of many examples of lawmakers bending to Big Ag over the well-being of their own constituents. EATS would gut critical state protections against the whims of powerful ag interests — the same interests already wreaking havoc on local environments, economies, and food systems. 

Even the introduction of the act shows that extreme right-wing politicians are sinking to new lows, throwing out good-faith negotiations. If it passes, EATS would threaten a variety of vital regulations and cut off a crucial avenue for reining in Big Ag. We need to ensure that this bill dies in Congress.

Call on your Congress members to say “No” to the EATS Act!

How Food & Water Action is Fighting For a Fair Farm Bill For All


by Mia DiFelice and Katy Kiefer

Decades of bad farm policy have made our food system unsustainable — for farmers, for rural communities, for families across the country, and for the planet. But this year, we have an exciting twice-in-a-decade opportunity to reshape that policy. 

The Farm Bill passes through Congress every five years, disbursing billions of dollars for nutrition and agricultural programs. As lawmakers negotiate the 2023 Farm Bill this summer and fall, Food & Water Action is seizing the moment. Our volunteers are working hard around the country to rally support in their communities and help us get the food policy we need.

Why We’re Fighting for a Fair Farm Bill

For decades, Big Ag has hijacked the Farm Bill and federal food policy to benefit corporations over families and farmers. 

For example, the Farm Bill has spent billions a year incentivizing harmful agricultural practices instead of supporting small- and medium-sized, sustainable food production. It also provides funds for infrastructure on factory farms that pollute our air and water and threaten our climate. 

Previous Farm Bills have helped Big Ag get bigger by encouraging record profits and rampant market concentration. As a result, a few mega-corporations rack in the cash, hollowing out rural economies and forcing small independent farmers to get big or get out.

A Fair Farm Bill Works for Families and Farmers, Not Big Ag

We need a Farm Bill that works for farmers and families; for local rural communities and everyone at the grocery store. Through this legislation, we can help shake loose corporations’ stranglehold on our food system, fostering good livelihoods, lower food prices, and greater access to healthy food.

Moreover, the Farm Bill could be a powerful tool to help protect our climate, environment, and public health. It could pull support for destructive practices and megacorporations, then direct that funding toward actually sustainable agriculture.

If the Farm Bill is to serve us and not Big Ag, here’s what it needs to do:

  1. Ban factory farms, which wreak havoc on the environment and rural economies; 
  2. End subsidies for factory farm infrastructure, while directing more funds toward sustainable farming practices;
  3. Create a federal farm safety net that protects small from unpredictable markets;
  4. Break up mega-corporations and stop consolidation; and
  5. Create fair and competitive markets where small- and mid-sized farms can thrive.

Bringing the Farm Bill to Our Communities

As lawmakers negotiate on the farm bill, they need to hear from constituents. That’s why this year, Food & Water Action volunteers across the country are bringing the Farm Bill to their communities. 

We’re tabling at farmers’ markets and other local events. We’re educating neighbors about the Farm Bill and gathering petition signatures to send to lawmakers. And this fall, we’ll meet with legislators to deliver signatures and speak with them about the farm policy we really need.

Katie Olsson has served as a volunteer leader with Food & Water Action for the past year. This summer, she’s joining our Fair Farm Bill Action Team in Michigan, and she shared a bit about what she’s learned with us.

“I can speak about agriculture and the Farm Bill much more intelligently than I could a few months ago and can confidently share that information with others. It has been fun going to farmers’ markets and collecting signatures, too!”

Katie Olsson, FWA Volunteer Leader

Through her work on the team, Katie has learned about the importance of the Farm Bill and how her own state’s senator helped to pass measures supporting small farmers in the 2018 Farm Bill. 

“I have also learned how bad Big Ag is on so many levels and how important small and particularly indigenous farmers are on all those levels,” Katie said. “Small and indigenous farmers care for the earth. Big Ag destroys it!”

Food & Water Action organizer John Aspray tables at a vegan market in Des Moines, Iowa.

A Fair Farm Bill Benefits All of Us

Kathy in Nyack, NY, is a public health nutritionist who has kept her pulse on food policy for years. Since joining the Farm Bill Action Team in June, she’s collected more than 900 petition signatures.

Kathy became interested in food policy thanks to her work and her concerns about the environmental impact of factory farming. But she emphasized that the Farm Bill is important for everyone. It touches so many parts of our food system and, as Kathy said, “We all eat!” 

“So food is a good way to reach people,” she went on. “And that’s what we’re trying to do — reach people and educate people about the food they are eating.” 

A fair Farm Bill would help us ensure the food we eat is affordable, healthy, and supportive of small farmers and rural economies. And it’s not too late to join our fight for it!

Get involved with our Fair Farm Bill Action Team!

The Biggest Threat to the Colorado River: Thirsty Corporations


by Kat Ruane and Mia DiFelice

Over the past few years, the Colorado River has plummeted to crisis levels, setting off alarm bells for the 40 million people who depend on it for water. 

But recent proposals for cuts on water use have completely ignored a major driver of the crisis: Big Ag. Thirsty mega-dairy cows and cash crops are guzzling the Colorado River at a reckless rate. 

Bad policy and Big Ag’s reign over the Colorado threaten the future of the entire region, especially for those already vulnerable to climate change and water scarcity. To secure a livable future in the Basin, policymakers must completely rethink water use and rein in Big Ag’s water abuses.

Decades of Mismanagement Have Brought the Colorado River to Its Current Crisis

Water on the Colorado River has been tightly managed, going back a century to the passage of the Colorado River Compact. 

Under the Compact, the states split 15 million acre-feet* a year. The Lower Basin states (Arizona, California, and Nevada) get 7.5 million acre-feet, while the Upper Basin states (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) take what’s left. 

Additionally, the Basin is home to more than two dozen American Indian tribes, whose recognized rights make up about a quarter of the River’s flow.

However, the 1922 Compact and its allocations were based on the unusually wet conditions of the time. They didn’t account for the river’s usual flow, for our current climate change-fueled megadrought, or the region’s population boom.

What’s more, the water shortage threatens the vital hydropower produced in the river’s reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell. If water levels sink much lower, they won’t be high enough to flow and generate electricity. This would take relatively cheap power off the table for millions in the region.

In June 2022, the federal government gave the Basin states an ultimatum: create a plan for water cuts, or it would write its own. 

This past May, Lower Basin states proposed to cut their water use by 13%. But this interim deal only amounts to a quarter of the cuts needed for Lake Mead and Lake Powell to recover. And states will still need to go back to the negotiating table before 2026.

Alfalfa and Mega-Dairies Monopolize the Colorado River

These state-level negotiations miss the mark entirely, as they ignore a key regional factor in the crisis: Big Ag. 

The Basin is dominated by agricultural industries that just don’t make sense in the desert. That’s part of the reason Basin states use way more irrigation water than other states across the country. (Arizona, for instance, uses over three times the national average.)

One major guzzler: livestock feed crops. These crops, including alfalfa, account for 55% of water use in the Basin. Our partner organization Food & Water Watch estimates that alfalfa in the Basin consumed 2.2 trillion gallons of water in 2022 alone. That’s enough to meet the indoor water needs of 40 million people for three and a half years.

Another major guzzler: mega-dairies, which confine 500 cows or more. Mega-dairy cows in the Basin number collectively in the millions, and together they need 218 million gallons of water every single day for washing and drinking.

Bad Policy Has Allowed Big Ag to Hijack the Colorado River

Adding Big Ag’s water abuses to climate change has created a vicious cycle. The worse the climate gets, the more water big farms need. And the more water those farms use, the less water is available for other uses — a problem that is, in turn, heightened by climate change-fueled drought.

So why are these thirsty industries so huge in this already dry region? Years of poor state-level water governance and federal policies that favor Big Dairy.

Like the rest of our food system, fewer, larger operations have come to dominate the dairy industry. Weak federal antitrust laws and lax enforcement have allowed rampant consolidation, while federal focus on export markets has squeezed farmers’ prices. To compete in global export markets and keep their livelihoods, farmers feel pressured to “get big or get out” — grow their herds or stop farming altogether.

Big Dairy depends on feed crops like alfalfa — and now, researchers can trace 75% of Lake Mead’s decline over the past two decades to irrigation for cattle feed.

But Big Ag’s greed is not the only culprit. It’s gotten a boost from the region’s inflexible and outdated regime of water rights. 

In the current system, the oldest rights are practically untouchable. So despite record droughts, senior water rights holders like those in Southern California still get the same allocations. As a result, alfalfa production levels have changed little in California during the 2011-2017 drought, with some regions actually producing more.

The Bureau of Reclamation is developing new guidelines for water use on the Colorado River. Join us in demanding that it put families before Big Ag.

The Colorado River Crisis Hits Hardest for Those Excluded From Negotiations

While corporations can turn scarce water into cash crops, many people can’t even access the water that’s rightfully theirs. 

Native Americans have lived in the Basin since before the U.S. government existed and have senior water rights over states. Yet, allocation discussions — from the original 100-year-old Compact to today — have excluded them.

The result: a patchwork of realized and unrealized water rights. Many tribes’ lack of infrastructure prevents communities from actually using the water they have rights to, while legal battles have tied up some rights in court.

For instance, the Colorado River borders more than 100 miles of Hualapai land. But the Tribe’s rights to the river are pending in Congress, and it’s currently barred from drawing a single drop.

We Need to Completely Overhaul Water Management on the Colorado River

While some communities can’t even get drinking water, industrial farms are guzzling with impunity. We’ve known for decades that the arid West can’t sustain Big Ag. Our governments need to act like it. Continuing down this path will only lead to harm for communities and ecosystems already struggling to survive in a hotter, drier climate.

Now, Basin states and the federal government are considering allocations beyond 2026. State leaders must seize this opportunity and radically rethink their water use.

* An acre-foot is a measurement of water equal to the amount it would take to cover an acre of land with water a foot deep. One acre-foot is about 325,851 gallons.

Building a Better Future in Allegheny County with Sara Innamorato


by Megan McDonough and Mia DiFelice

Update (May 17, 2023): In yesterday’s six-way primary, Sara Innamorato won the Democratic nomination for Allegheny County Executive. She will face her Republican opponent in November but is likely to become the next County Executive, thanks to the region’s strong Democratic base. 

Sara’s victory shows that bold progressive candidates who serve the people, not profit, will win — even in places like Allegheny County where, historically, corporate polluters have dominated the political landscape. 

Moreover, Sara’s win shows the strength of people-powered, grassroots efforts. To that end, Food & Water Action knocked on more than 40,000 doors in support of her campaign. We look forward to Sara’s term as County Executive, as she fights against corporate polluters and for a brighter, greener future for all County residents.

Hers is the latest victory for progressive candidates in the region, including Food & Water Action’s 2022 endorsed candidate Rep. Summer Lee and our supported candidate Rep. Chris Deluzio.

Western Pennsylvania, home to Allegheny County, has become the heart of the nationwide fight to end our reliance on fossil fuels. The region has seen not only the growth of fracking, but now an expanding petrochemical industry. 

Until recently, fracking companies have wreaked havoc on the region — which sits atop the Marcellus Shale formation — with impunity.

But thanks to grassroots movements, including Food & Water Action’s Municipal Ordinance Project, the tide is turning. Now, there are 25 municipal ordinances protecting over half a million Allegheny County residents from fracking. 

Additionally, last year we helped to pass a ban on fracking in Allegheny County Parks. Originally vetoed by the current county executive, the ban now protects 12,000 acres of County park land. 

That brings us to this year’s race for county executive and the campaign of Representative Sara Innamorato. Sara has served as a climate champion in the State House of Representatives and is now running for county executive on a platform that prioritizes clean air, environmental justice, green jobs, and more. Food & Water Action is proud to endorse Sara’s campaign

At a recent Food & Water Action event, our Pennsylvania Director Megan McDonough spoke with Sara on the importance of this race, the threat of the fracking industry, and her vision for a better future.

Below is an excerpt from Megan’s interview with Sara, edited for clarity and length.

On the Regional and National Significance of the Office of Allegheny County Executive

What makes this County such an important place for both state and national politics?

When we’re electing our national leaders, people are always looking at where Pennsylvania is going. And here in Pennsylvania, our counties are responsible for the administration of elections. 

In the past, we’ve done an excellent job counting our mail-in ballots and administering elections. But we still don’t exercise the full potential of our elections division; we could be putting out ballot boxes and making it more convenient for people to vote early. 

We have such an opportunity to go further, to decrease every barrier possible, so that as many people as possible can exercise their right to vote. And the excitement and infrastructure we’re building in the County, reaching the 1.25 million people who live here — that’s infrastructure we can turn over into 2024.

Why is the county executive such an important position? Why should people care — whether they live in Allegheny County or elsewhere?

Back in the day, we had a heavy industrial sector and we had — and still have — some of the worst air quality in the country. But the County passed regulations before we even had a federal Clean Air Act. 

It’s the county executive and their Department of Health — not the EPA, not the state Department of Environmental Protection — that crack down on polluters and issues permits. 

When we talk about the amount of pollution we’re releasing from Western Pennsylvania and its impacts, that is within the purview of the county executive. That’s one reason why this role is so consequential; not only for people who live here, but for our region and across the state. 

On the Threat of Fracking in Allegheny County and Beyond

What are the risks of expanding fracking for people who live outside of Allegheny County?

Just last week, I met with folks from Dimock, who I’d been in contact with during my time as a state representative. They’ve been without water, because fracking companies came in and took what was theirs. To this day, they still do not have clean water.

And these guys from Dimock told me that one of their friends — someone who had handled fracking waste — passed away from a rare type of poisoning that he likely got from doing that job, and which he got paid $12 an hour to do.

All three of them — because of their constant exposure to fracking waste and chemicals — are sick. Their families are sick. They’re watching their neighbors die of cancer. 

Elected officials are the protectors of public health, public safety, and the commons. Previous officials have let companies destroy all of those things in the name of jobs and corporate profits. We can’t let that stand any longer. 

When we make decisions about what industries we invite into our backyards, the voice of the community is most valuable. We have this opportunity to set ourselves on a new path away from extraction. To not only begin clean-up and right the wrongs from the past, but also offer opportunities and participation in this new green economy. 

And, we want this to be a regional effort. That’s where we’re going to make a real and tangible difference — not only in the lives of the people here in Allegheny County, but throughout our region, and across the state.

We mentioned the parks ban earlier, the first successful anti-fracking initiative at the County level. Would you support expanding that as a county executive to other County-owned lands, or possibly County-wide?

Absolutely. We believe we have the legal options and that we can exercise the full power of our Department of Health to write an ordinance that will give us the opportunity to ban fracking. That would be an incredible win not only for the County, but throughout the Ohio River Valley. 

It’s good for our economy, too, because we’ve seen time and time again how oil and gas companies come in and say, “This is how many jobs we’ve made. Look at all this money we’ve made.”

And then we see what’s happened to communities that are heavily fracked over the course of 10 years. They’ve lost population. They’ve lost jobs. The income per capita has declined, and devastation has been left in the wake. People are sick. They are without clean water, and they can’t use their farmland or any other green space.

So this is going to set us on a course of saying, “We’re ready for a new economy, one that’s more inclusive, one that is justice-centered.” We’re ensuring that prosperity is shared, especially in places that have been left behind for far too long.

We’re planning and creating the jobs of the future. We can say, “We’re not only going to shut things down, but we’re going to bring in jobs and companies.” We’re going to invite companies that are part of our community and care deeply — that don’t just throw some money at a public works project here and there, but are truly a part of the community. 

That way we can get all of these things. We can win on the environment, we can win on good public health, and then we can win on creating prosperity that is sustained and that is shared. 

On the Relationship Between Public Health, Justice, Jobs, and Climate

How do you plan to tackle the problems of polluters and public health? And are you open to meeting with people to come up with those solutions?

Absolutely. I believe that being an elected official and governing is a team sport. Most importantly, that means working with people who are most impacted by policy decisions being made in halls of power that they typically are not a part of.

We need to go into communities that are impacted by industries and government inaction. And we need to rebuild the Health Department — specifically the Air Quality Division — so we can enforce better, strengthen our health and safety standards, and incorporate environmental justice into our permitting decisions. 

We have a Clean Air Fund, and when the past county executive administration fined industrial polluters, that money was supposed to be directed to citizens who have been most impacted by pollution. For so long, it has been a mystery where that money has gone. The way that the fund has been used has not been transparent, and there are millions of dollars in it.

It would be a small but meaningful gesture to reinvest that money into communities that have been disproportionately harmed by our industrial polluters.

Last year you finished the legislative session by passing the Whole-Home Repair Act. Congratulations! Why did you work to write and pass that bill? And what do you hope will come out of it?

I live in a very rapidly gentrifying urban neighborhood. I have seen development come into my community, which was traditionally very working class. My neighbors were being offered cash for their homes, and rents were rising. They weren’t able to benefit from the investments that finally came after decades and decades of waiting. 

Not only did I see my neighbors go through it. When I was a teenager, my dad suffered from addiction. My mom, my sister, and I left him, and we went from having this really solid middle class life to losing our stability and losing our home. I know how important it is for everyone to have a safe, stable, and healthy home. That really drove my work as a State representative. 

And we can’t think about things like housing in a silo. We have to think about them in an intersectional way. 

In Western PA and across Pennsylvania, climate change is manifesting as more intense rainfall, happening in a shorter amount of time. Basements are flooding, more homes are susceptible to landslides. Our infrastructure — including our most vital infrastructure, our homes — is deteriorating faster. 

I knew that with a home repair program, we would have an opportunity to tackle many things. We would be able to help people stay in their homes, especially in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. Having a home repair can make a huge difference in sparking an upward spiral of community development and community investment. 

And, by weatherizing and making homes more energy efficient, we’re reducing our overall energy use. The bonus is that this work cannot be outsourced. People who live in the region must do it. So the money that we are investing in these types of repairs, it’s circulating in the local economy.

On What It Means to Support Her Campaign

We are less than one month out from the election. As in any campaign, the last few weeks are critical. Can you tell us why it’s important for people to get involved right now, and how they can do that?

We’re at a critical point in this campaign where we have the polling. We know that when people know about this campaign, they are more than likely bought in. 

We’re inviting them to participate. We are saying, “There is plenty of room for you because we are a multi-racial, multi-generational, working class-centered campaign. There is room for all of us.” 

And so your time, your money, your networks — they are invaluable at this point in the campaign. That’s what we need on election day. We need to make sure that we’re exhausted. That we have reached every single person that we are capable of reaching. Because that’s the way that we are going to build a better world. That’s how we’re going to make sure that we have key re-elects next year, and we protect what we value most. 

That’s what your investment means. It’s an investment in me. It’s an investment in this vision. And it’s an investment in the future of democracy and this green economy that we are going to build together.

Help us support candidates like Sara and a fracking-free future!

East Palestine Makes Clear: We Need to Ban Vinyl Chloride


by Mia DiFelice

When that Norfolk Southern train first derailed in East Palestine, vinyl chloride was one of the top concerns. In the days after, officials on the ground burned more than 100,000 gallons of it from five of the derailed train cars. 

Now, more than a month later, officials have found distressing levels of dioxins, toxic byproducts of burning vinyl chloride, in the soil around East Palestine.

Vinyl chloride and dioxins may have come under the spotlight most recently in February, but they’ve been harming communities for decades. And if our current plastics boom continues unabated, their threat to us will grow.

We can’t let this happen. That’s why Food & Water Action and our allies are calling for a ban on vinyl chloride. 

Vinyl Chloride is a Public Health Nightmare

Vinyl chloride is a colorless, flammable gas used to make PVC, a common plastic. Researchers have linked it to cancers, harm to the nervous system, and birth defects.

There is no safe level of exposure, and yet we find vinyl chloride in nearly every corner of our lives. It’s in our cars, our packaging, the siding on our houses, and the pipes that bring water to our faucets. It’s in our furniture and in the gift cards and toys we give to our children.

We also find vinyl chloride in the water we drink and the food we eat. Notably, it leaches into our water through PVC pipes. Our water supply and farmland are further threatened during chemical spills like that in East Palestine. 

Even worse, as the train derailment reminds us, burning vinyl chloride releases dioxins. These carcinogens can also damage our hormonal, reproductive, developmental, and immune systems. 

Dioxins from industrial processes or accidents like that in East Palestine have contaminated the crops and animals we eat. They can persist for years, and take just as long to travel from the air to soil to food, and ultimately into our bodies.

Making Plastic from Vinyl Chloride Endangers Workers and Communities

Vinyl chloride is used almost entirely by the plastics industry, at great risk to both our health and our climate. 

PVC plastics are harmful throughout their lifecycle, from the raw materials to disposal. These plastics and the vinyl chloride required to make them pose major health risks to workers and surrounding communities. 

Researchers have found vinyl chloride in the air around manufacturing and processing plants, hazardous waste sites, and landfills. The chemical also threatens the communities through which it travels, as we’ve seen in East Palestine.

At the same time, workers exposed to high levels of vinyl chloride have reported a range of health issues. Those include joint and muscle pain and even changes to their finger bones.

Vinyl chloride’s hazards fall especially on low-income communities and communities of color. That’s because much of the country’s vinyl chloride is manufactured in Black and Brown communities in Louisiana, Texas, and Kentucky.

These communities are unfortunately well-acquainted with pollution, largely from the petrochemical and chemical industries. In Louisiana, along one 85-mile stretch of the Mississippi River, rates of cancer have risen so high that the region has been dubbed “Cancer Alley.”

Vinyl Chloride and PVC Will Keep Growing If Dirty Industry Gets Its Way

Vinyl chloride isn’t just a public health issue; it’s part of our climate crisis, as well. Fossil fuels, specifically ethane sourced from fracking, are used to produce vinyl chloride.

In 2022, ethane production hit a new monthly record, and that number will only grow if the PVC market expands as predicted.

This trend is likely to worsen thanks to the vinyl industry’s lobbying. Over the years, its leading trade group, the Vinyl Institute, has spent millions on those efforts. For instance, the Insitute has countered efforts pushing the EPA to regulate PVC waste as hazardous.

Right now, it’s pushing for more water systems to use PVC pipes, rather than traditional metal ones. This would risk vinyl chloride contamination in our water supply, endangering public health and our right to safe water.

So far, these efforts are paying off. The four member chemical companies in the Vinyl Institute have all announced multi-million or billion-dollar expansions to their PVC operations in recent years.

What’s more, as we replace fossil power with renewables, the growth of vinyl chloride and plastics would serve as a lifeline to fossil fuel corporations.

That’s already happening in Western Pennsylvania, just 20 miles away from East Palestine. In Beaver County, PA, a Shell cracker plant has recently begun operations turning ethane into plastic. Already, the plant has violated its permits for air pollution — it spewed as many toxic volatile organic compounds in September 2022 as it was permitted for the entire year.

We Can’t Let Vinyl Chloride Pollution Continue

We don’t have to live with vinyl chloride, and we don’t have to let the vinyl lobby or the frackers win. We have alternatives to PVC plastics that we could be using, and we have laws that the EPA could wield to regulate and even ban toxic chemicals. 

So we’re calling on the EPA to ban vinyl chloride, and we’ll keep fighting until all our communities are safe from it.

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