A Sky [Not so] Full of Stars

By. Christian Baran

Do you remember the last time you saw a night sky filled with stars? Not just a couple littered throughout a hazy sky, but the glittering sea of diamonds set against an inky black expanse that we now only associate with extremely remote areas or planetariums? I’m going to guess that, for most of you, it’s been awhile. 

This is of no fault of our own. For almost a century and a half, our world has been soaked with artificial light so thoroughly that many of us don’t know anything different. In 1994, when power went down in Los Angeles following a devastating earthquake, emergency services fielded dozens of calls from residents worried about a “giant, silvery cloud” in the sky. It was the Milky Way.

Our starless skies are a direct result of light pollution, an insidious form of pollution that goes unnoticed by most. Although much artificial light is helpful, even necessary, it can quickly become a pollutant when it turns excessive or inefficient. And light pollution doesn’t just spoil the night sky. It also wreaks havoc on our climate and the ecology of our world.

Unshielded streetlights diluting the skies above may seem far removed from an issue like climate change. But think about the sources of that light. Electricity production is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the United States, just barely lagging behind transportation. Almost 20% of that production goes toward powering our lights. That gas station you pass on your drive home isn’t just spewing artificial light into the night sky. It’s also letting greenhouse gas production go to waste. 

But wait. Artificial light isn’t all bad. We need it to see at home, illuminate our offices and feel safe walking around our cities. How much actually qualifies as light pollution? According to the International Dark Sky Association (IDA), the number is shockingly high. Almost 30% of all outdoor light goes to waste, escaping into the sky from unshielded or improperly placed bulbs. This wasted light has devastating impacts for our climate, causing about 21 million tons of carbon emissions per year.  That’s equivalent to over the emissions of over 4.5 million cars being driven for one year. It’s a number we can’t afford in a climate crisis. Unfortunately, light pollution’s trail of destruction doesn’t stop there. 

Light pollution’s reach extends to ecological systems around the world. Most animals, including 70% of mammals, are nocturnal. They’ve adapted over millions of years to forage, socialize and hunt in the dark. Even slight changes in lighting patterns can set off chain reactions in delicate ecosystems, disorienting food chains and mating cycles. Human society has brought a bit more than slight change over the past 200 years, resulting in drastic alterations to ecosystems everywhere. One poignant example involves sea turtle hatchlings. 

Although sea turtles spend the majority of their lives in the ocean, most of them hatch from nests on beaches. Hatchlings have evolved to head for the brightest spot around once they’ve broken free of their eggs, which has historically been the ocean reflecting moon and star light. However, as society has congregated around the coastlines, building cities and other bright developments, it’s had the inadvertent effect of confusing sea turtle hatchlings. Disoriented, baby sea turtles turn their backs on the ocean and crawl instead toward bright lights further inland to be crushed by a car or die of dehydration in a concrete jungle. In Florida alone, light pollution is responsible for millions of sea turtle deaths each year.  

Luckily, light pollution prevention is simple, if not necessarily easy. Outdoor lighting should be fully shielded and directed downward. If people would focus their lighting on where they needed to see, rather than into the sky, light pollution would for the most part cease to be an issue. As a rule, then, no light should be emitted above the horizontal plane. There’s simply no need in most cases, and it’s easily accomplished by installing shields. 

Other solutions are equally as intuitive. Outdoor lighting should only be turned on when needed. Commercial buildings that are unattended after the workday can be retrofitted with motion sensors and timers to cut costs and prevent light pollution. Cost-effective LED lights are good options for those on a budget as long as they avoid blue-light bulbs, which are more damaging to the night sky than light with lower color temperatures. Solutions like these are easy to implement; the small costs are well worth the ability to see our night skies in all of their primordial glory.

As long as humanity has existed, we’ve been able to look up each night and see a dazzling array of stars lighting up the night. The heavens have served as inspiration for countless pieces of art, literature and folklore since our Ice Age ancestors began scribbling star maps on walls. Now, 99% of people living in the United States or Europe are unable to see the Milky Way due to light pollution. Light pollution is slowly killing our planet and taking our night sky heritage hostage. For the sake of our planet and its magnificent view, please take action on light pollution and support local organizations. If you’re interested in getting involved in community action, check out the Facebook page for the Washington, DC Chapter of the IDA. If you’re located elsewhere, find a nearby IDA chapter here.

Job Announcement: Maryland Director

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is seeking a talented advocate and manager to lead our work in Maryland toward an equitable, clean, and resilient climate future.

Is this for you? If you’re an experienced and skilled change-maker seeking a chance to make a big difference on climate change, this could be the job for you. CCAN has been called the “best regional climate change organization in the world” by renowned climate activist and author Bill McKibben. We work on the doorstep of the nation’s capital and we help influence both state and national climate policy. Please read on if you are interested in expanding and strengthening Maryland’s climate movement in this critical decade. 

About Us

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) is the first group in the Chesapeake region of Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. dedicated exclusively to building a powerful grassroots movement to fight climate change. Our mission is to build the kind of movement it will take to put our region on the path to climate stability, while using our proximity to the nation’s capital to inspire action in neighboring states, around the country and around the world. We put every tool to work for climate justice – legislation, grassroots organizing, legal challenges, and traditional and online media outreach, to name a few. To increase the number of tools we have to make change, CCAN has a political arm, CCAN Action Fund, and the Director will work closely with CCAN Action Fund to lobby and engage in limited political activity. 

About the Maryland Director

Our next Maryland Director will have the skills, passion, and commitment to guide our team to its next series of victories for the planet and the people of Maryland. We are working with individuals and organizations across Maryland to push for and normalize equitable policies and programs that will put us on a path to a carbon-free economy. We are looking for a motivated, creative, and strategic problem-solver to help lead the way.


  • 5+ years of experience that includes running campaigns, lobbying, and managing staff. Candidates with less than 5 years of professional experience will not be considered.
  • Commitment to the mission of fighting for climate justice 
  • Strategic campaign development expertise with a commitment to problem-solving
  • Track record of working in coalition with groups and individuals across a diverse spectrum of racial and socio-economic backgrounds
  • Experience with and commitment to building power through grassroots organizing
  • Proven ability to be self-driven, while working collaboratively with a team 
  • Highly organized, with the ability to manage multiple priorities at once without sacrificing quality  
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills

Additional preferences

  • Experience working with the media 
  • Expertise in climate and energy policy 
  • Advocacy experience in Maryland  

Core Responsibilities

The Maryland Director will work with a dedicated team of CCAN campaign staff, including our talented field organizers, a proven communications team with expanding digital resources, and an executive management team with decades of experience developing campaigns and advancing policy solutions in Maryland. The Director will lead the formulation and execution of successful campaigns that center equity in the fight to tackle the climate crisis. The Director will work with elected officials, opinion leaders, coalition partners, and grassroots constituencies across Maryland. The main realms of responsibility include:

  • Campaign Development: Develop and manage statewide campaigns with strategic focus and measurable results that continue to build a diverse and powerful climate movement in Maryland.  Work with CCAN’s communications team to develop and deliver powerful campaign messages that resonate across Maryland.
  • Lobbying: Serve as CCAN’s and CCAN Action Fund’s primary lobbyist in Annapolis, requiring daily presence in Annapolis during legislative session (mid-January through mid-April), building relationships with elected officials and lobbying them to support our policy priorities.
  • Policy Development: Develop and promote equitable policy solutions to climate change in Maryland that curb climate pollution and improve people’s lives. 
  • Coalition Work: Collaborate with climate, justice, environmental, business, and other allies in Maryland to maintain and further expand a broad and powerful climate movement unlike anything the state has ever seen and win shared climate victories. 
  • Field Management: Work with CCAN’s grassroots team to ensure that our network of volunteers and community partners committed to winning climate victories is increasing in size, breadth, and strength.

The Details

The salary range for this position is $70,000-$80,000, depending on experience level. We provide a generous benefits package including health care, dental coverage, retirement plan, and four weeks of paid vacation. This position is based in our Takoma Park, MD office, blocks from the DC Metro’s Red Line. As frequent in-state travel is necessary, a car, insurance, and satisfactory driving record are required. During the COVID-19 pandemic, all staff are working from home.

CCAN is an equal opportunity employer, committed to a diverse workforce. We value bringing a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives on staff because it makes us smarter and more effective at what we do and, ultimately, we want our staff and supporters to reflect the communities we organize. We are seeking to recruit individuals from underrepresented groups to apply for this position. 

How to Apply: Please apply through our online application form, where we will ask you to submit responses to a few short questions in lieu of a cover letter and to attach your resume.  Applications are due by May 23, 2021.

Applicants who are invited to a first round interview will be notified by Friday, June 4th and interviews will take place shortly thereafter via Zoom. Applicants who are being considered for the final round of interviews will be asked to complete a 2-3 hour job-related skills test. Final interviews involve multiple members of the hiring committee and typically last 60-90 minutes. 

All applicants to all CCAN positions are asked to fill out a demographics questionnaire for our own internal tracking purposes. All responses are kept anonymous and separate from any hiring processes or decisions.

All About the Biden Climate Plan w/ Leah Stokes, Ben Beachy, and Andres Jimenez

In this episode, CCAN hosts our second federal webinar! This time about President Biden’s climate plan. Included in the American Jobs Plan. We’re joined by guest speakers, Dr. Leah Stokes of Evergreen Action, Andres Jimenez of Green 2.0, and Ben Beachy from the Sierra Club. 

Read along with the full transcript here:

Charles Olsen  0:04  

My name is Charlie Olsen and this is upside down; the podcast from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. In this episode, CCAN hosts our second federal webinar. This time about President Biden’s climate plan. Included in the American jobs. We’re joined by guest speakers, Dr. Leah Stokes, Andres Jimenez, and Ben Beachy

Mike Tidwell  0:48  

Welcome, everyone to the zoom event to break down the amazing new climate and infrastructure plan from President Joe Biden, called the American jobs plan. This webinar will focus more on the climate, the clean energy, jobs and climate justice features of the plan. And we’re so thrilled to have you all join us on my kidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and he can Action Fund and until this year, my team has been mostly state focused on successful clean energy policies in Maryland, Virginia and local dt. So it seems logical for us now to host this webinar from the DC region for all of you nationwide as Congress soon takes up the President’s $2.8 trillion climate and infrastructure plan. Among other things, that plan would mandate 100% clean electricity in our nation by 2035. Building 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations creates a $10 billion climate crisis core and mandates that at least 40% of all climate investments and benefits accrue to historically disadvantaged communities. Today we’ll cover not only the substance of the plan, but also the politics, laying out the pathway for Congress to make it law this year. With your help. Today’s webinars co hosted by T can Action Fund and our friends at evergreen action, a nonprofit inspired by the work of Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State. evergreen is devoted to rapidly solving the climate crisis with justice while creating millions of good paying new union jobs. Much of Biden’s climate plan, in fact, is inspired by evergreen work. Speaking of jobs, this plan would create a lot of them 19 million according to the White House. So we thought we’d show this quick video from the group climate power just to give you a sense of what we’re talking about. Calling all builders, all welders and roofers, engineers and electricians, calling all brick masons and Boilermakers, steel workers and steamfitters. Your country is calling you to rebuild America to create a cleaner, safer, more prosperous future. We’re all tackling climate change. This is the job of our lifetime, it’s time to build back better. Let’s get to work.

The work that certainly is inspiring. So let’s jump into the details of the plan with our inspiring speakers. today. We’re going to start with Dr. Leah Stokes of evergreen action, who will explain the core feature of Biden’s climate plan: a 100% clean electricity standard by 2035. Lia will break down that policy including the infrastructure investments needed to make it happen. Next we’ll hear from Ben Beachy, director of the living economy program at Sierra Club, he’ll ask the question, is the Biden plan really enough to meet the climate and economic crisis? And how can we improve it? Then Andre, tremendous of the group 2.0 will dive into the equity and justice features of the plan, of which there are many laws Quintin Scott of seeking an action farm will tell us more about jobs, especially jobs that would accrue to the key state of West Virginia under the binding plan. So let’s get started. And by the way, if you have questions for our speakers, you can place them in the q&a tab. Also know that this program is being recorded. And if you joined us a few minutes late again, I’m Mike Kidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and we’re breaking down the details of Joe Biden’s American jobs plan. Our first speaker again is Dr. Leah Stokes, a professor of political science at UC Santa Barbara, and who sits on the advisory panel of evergreen action. She’s a rising star in the climate movement whose advocacy on 100% clean electricity has been featured in national publications and the new climate podcast by legendary blogger Dave Roberts. Leah Calla if you can, more about the 100% clean electricity standard and why it’s so important that President Biden included it in his American jobs plan.

Leah Stokes  5:08  

 Well, thanks so much for having me, Mike. And it’s so wonderful to be here with my co panelists to be talking about this really crucial issue today. And as Mike said, I’m going to break down what’s in the Biden plan. So as you may know, about two weeks ago, they released the American jobs plan, and I’m going to help you understand what’s in it.

So the first thing to know if you want to know about the American jobs plan 101 is spending. The spending is a little complicated, actually, because it turns out that some things were not fully costed in the estimates that the White House put out, specifically, tax credits. So the plan is somewhere in the range of between two and $3 trillion, probably closer to $3 trillion, to invest in infrastructure and job creation, some of the really key components in terms of where that spending is planned to go, according to the White House is into transportation. There’s a lot of detail there for things like rebuilding roads and bridges, but also really key climate investments like electric vehicle investments, and charging infrastructure, and public transit. Another really big tranche of spending is the power sector, where it’s likely that the spending is around 500 billion. And that’s because there’s both direct spending of 100 billion, and potentially up to $400 billion in tax credits for the power sector. So that could combine to about $500 billion. And that’s a very good number, if that is the final number that Congress comes out with, because that’s what a lot of folks have been saying, we likely need to make this transition in the power sector, which is what I’m going to focus on a lot today. There’s also money for lots of other things like affordable housing, investing in electrifying and making affordable housing more sustainable to the tune of $200 billion. And they’re spending for research and development for key breakthrough technologies like hydrogen, of 180 billion. Now, many groups were calling before the plan came out. And after the plan came out for more spending, there was a letter just a few days before it was signed by labor unions, environmental groups, environmental justice groups, calling for $4 trillion in spending. And there is a very prominent move with the thrive agenda, which I’m sure Ben Beachy will talk about calling for more like $10 trillion in spending. So you know, many groups are saying this is good, it’s a down payment, but it’s not enough. And it’s important to remember that this is just really the opening salvo from the White House that Congress is actually ultimately responsible for setting the scale of spending. Now what Congress could do is they could go bigger, or they could go smaller. And of course, all of us want to be pushing for Congress to be going bigger as this develops.

Now, what in the American jobs plan? What’s the 101? In terms of the policies? Well, of course, there’s a clean electricity standard, which is really monumental. President Biden ran and one on a 100% clean electricity standard by 2035, which is a really landmark idea that came from the Inslee campaign and the Warren campaign and eventually made its way into the Biden campaign. And Biden talked about this goal when he was signing the executive orders on climate during his first few weeks in office. But you know, by putting it into the plan, it seems like a lot of folks in Congress and other places are really saying, Wow, this is real, this is a big focus. And notably, the budget that came out yesterday, also included spending for the Department of Energy to set up a clean electricity standard program and actually implemented it. There’s also extensions of really important renewable energy tax credits, and specifically converting them to direct pay. What does that mean? It means that you don’t need to have tax liability in order to use these policies. These are called the investment tax credit, or the ITC, and the production tax credit or the PTC. And these have been really important policies to building wind and solar across the country. And they have a huge support of the industry in terms of extending them. So that’s a very important policy as well. The environmental justice movement has been very vocal in saying that 40% is a really important number in terms of making sure that investments are going into disadvantaged communities. And the plan says that 40% of the benefits of investments will be flowing to disadvantaged communities. And there are folks like Shalonda Baker, who was hired into the Department of Energy who’s actually tasked with trying to think about how to implement those policies. There’s really big investments in transportation, probably folks have noticed that the Secretary of Transportation Pete Buda judge is up there every day, biking around and talking about TVs and trains. And he seems to be like a mini President Biden, very excited about the future of transportation. And so that’s probably the biggest ticket item in this plan is investments in the transportation sector. There are potential huge investments in building electrification. And what I’d really like to see in that area is rebates. So that

Every consumer No matter how much money they make, or how much tax liability they have, can electrify their homes because we know we can deliver really important public health benefits by getting people off of fossil gas, especially for cooking, which turns out as the science is becoming clearer and clearer, it’s actually creating quite dangerous indoor air pollution. And so building electrification is going to be really important to be doing all across this country, for everybody. And something that’s gotten a lot of folks very excited is a plan to eliminate all fossil fuel subsidies. This is something that President Biden has talked a lot about. And there’s a plan here to actually do that. And lots more. So let’s dive into the clean electricity standard. My personal favorite thing, what is a clean electricity standard? Well, it’s a requirement. So it’s not an option, it says you must do something. And the requirement is for electric utilities to increase their clean electricity by a certain deadline. So we could think about 80% clean power by 2030, which is directly on the road directly on that path and the straight line to 100%. Clean Power by 2035, which is President Biden’s landmark goal. So this is a really important policy. And it’s not, it’s not market based. It’s not an option. It’s a requirement. And it’s important to note that it’s not really a new idea. This is something that environmental advocates have been pushing for including C can in states across the country for decades. And therefore it’s a very proven policy, we know how it works. So already one in three Americans live in a place that’s targeting 100% clean electricity. So all we’re trying to do here is scale it up.

So can Congress do this? Yes, it can pass a CES, there are three options for how to do this. The first is passing a CES through regular order. Now, as you know, we only have 50 votes in the Senate, but the democrats have. And so if you want to do it through regular order, you need 60 votes in the Senate. So if we were to be able to come up with a clean electricity standard that 10 Republicans would vote for, it could be bipartisan, and the White House and Senate mentioned and others have said that they want to try to do things in a regular order way first. So I think that that’s likely what we’re going to see in the coming weeks now. Former Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said consistently that he has no interest in doing these things. So that may not go very far. But there are efforts to try to do it with maybe some senators, like perhaps Senator Murkowski, who are more willing to come to the table. Now, there’s a second option, of course, which is if you get rid of the filibuster, then you only need 50 votes to do it. But again, Senator Manchin has said that he doesn’t want to do that. Now, there is a third option, which I think in the long term is likely to be what we see get done to pass the American jobs plan. And that’s the same way that the COVID relief package that was just passed, was passed, and it’s called budget reconciliation. And it requires 51 votes in the Senate. So basically, 50 democratic senators plus vice president Kamala Harris, and what we have been doing at evergreen action, in partnership with data for progress is figuring out how to do that through budget reconciliation. And there are many options to do it. And you don’t have to take it from me, you can take it from the Secretary of Energy, Granholm today, who said that in the media, which is very exciting that she also agrees with this view. And of course, the Biden administration does not have to wait for Congress to start making progress on clean electricity, it can already take action through the Environmental Protection Agency. And administrator Reagan has said many times that he plans to start doing that. So utility should recognize that there’s already existing authority to make progress on these power plants. And perhaps they’ll get a better deal if they come to the table and negotiate.

Now, you might say, do we really need a clean electricity standard? Absolutely, we do. And let me tell you why. If all we do is extend the renewable energy tax credits, which I support, and is very important, it will get us some of the way there but not all the way there. What models are showing is that it’s only going to get us to between 44 to 50% 56%, clean power by 2030. Keep in mind, we’re at 40% right now, okay, so that’s going to only increase us by 16%. Over this decade, and we don’t want to increase by 16%, we want to double the amount of clean electricity over this coming decade, we want to get from 40% to 80%. So this policy is going to be an absolutely important floor and foundation for our work. But it is not sufficient. And it’s really important that everybody understands that. And this isn’t just my modeling. This is modeling that comes from an example from rhodium, who’s been very much out there supporting the tax credits. Now, a clean electricity standard, by contrast, will give us much more, it’ll give us 80% clean power, of course by 2030. But critically, what the models are showing, and this is a bunch of models from a bunch of independent groups and analyses. It’s on they’re all converging towards really exciting

numbers that will get 86% reduction in carbon pollution below 2005 levels, that’s amazing, we’ll get 93% reduction in co2 emissions, that’s really, really important. And we’ll get a 76% reduction in NOx emissions. And we don’t have the data yet. When it comes to mercury pollution and particulate matter, other really hazardous pollutants that overwhelmingly are in communities of color. And that leads to facts like black children having asthma rates two times as high as white children. But the point is that this clean electricity standard will fundamentally deliver pollution reductions in disadvantaged communities in communities of color, and we’ll deliver on the environmental justice goals that we all have. So I just want to really emphasize this point that this is all about pollution reduction at the end of the day.

Now, why are we so focused on electricity? Shouldn’t you know why is this so important? Why do I go on and on about this every day? Well, a clean electricity system. So our clean electricity standard gets us to 80% by 2030, plus electrification, meaning things like electric vehicles, electric buildings, those two powerful ideas combined can give us between 70 to 80%. Economy wide carbon pollution reduction, how does that work? Well, here’s what the current pollution looks like: the economy wide electricity sector is the second biggest source really closely tied with trends with transportation, we can zero that out. Okay, so we eliminate that one, transportation, we can cut massive amounts of emissions. If we electrify that sector, you know, it’s not going to be easy to electrify aviation or some long haul trucking or certain things are going to be hard. So we won’t get to zero. But maybe we’ll say around 5% emissions will stay in that sector. Industry. folks think that we can electrify about half of heavy industry. So let’s say we can cut that about down to 10%. And buildings, we can just electrify buildings. So what does that get us? That gets us if this is the correct math 75% reduction in carbon pollution and what will that mean for two for nitrous oxide for particulate matter for mercury for all these conventional air pollutants, those are going to go really, really small as well. So this really is a pathway to climate stability. It’s not just a pet project of mine. It’s a vision for how we actually get economy wide decarbonisation. Last couple things come from my friends at data for progress, where they have been doing insane polling. But how popular these ideas are, as you can see, they have polled almost 17,000 likely voters across the country, which is an insane number of polling. As a person who does polls, that’s very big, you can see that we get majority support strong majority support amongst Democrats were in the 80 percentage point support, that’s huge independence of majority support. And republicans if we take those don’t know we’re just about 50%.

Now, this is a particularly popular idea amongst communities of color amongst black and Latin x communities. Why because these communities are on the frontlines of pollution. And they understand that clean electricity will really deliver those benefits that I’ve been talking about for those communities. So we have way above average support in both black and Latin x communities. If you’re interested in learning more about all these ideas, we’ve published two reports, a roadmap to 100%, clean electricity by 2035, and a polling memo with data for progress. So really excited about all this hope that everybody will join in on this. And it’s a really big fight we have ahead of us. And let’s try to get to 80% clean power by 2030. 

Mike Tidwell  18:30  

Leah Stokes, thank you so much. That was Leah Stokes. She is a professor of political science at UC Santa Barbara, and also on the board of advisors, that evergreen action. And if we could just, you know, sort of harness her energy alone, I think we could power Chicago for a couple of years. Thank you, Leah, for everything you do in our movement, for how clearly and passionately you argue for these common sense policy options. And we really appreciate it. And now three games of common sense actions. I want to introduce Jamie DeMarco, he is the federal policy director for Chesapeake Climate Action Network and he can Action Fund. And Jamie, can you tell everyone how they can take action right now in support of this 100% policy that Leah just laid out? 

Jamie DeMarco  19:20  

Absolutely. So the Americans job, the American jobs plan, as Leo was talking about is by far and away the strongest climate plan ever proposed by a US president. But it doesn’t matter how good of a plan we have, if we can’t get it passed in Congress. So we have to work our butts off these next few months to make sure that this plan gets even stronger, and to make sure that it gets passed. And I’ll tell you one thing.

If the only people pushing for this policy live inside the DC beltway, then it’s going to fail. All politics is local, and the only way the American Jobs Act is going to move through Congress is if it is being pushed

By every corner of the country, and so my colleague, Charlie is going to share in the chat a link to a resolution, explicitly stating support for the 100% clean electricity standard that Leo was talking about, and urging President Biden to pass that in urging Congress to pass that. And when members of Congress when senators, look at a list of who’s signed a letter like that, a senator will, you know, look for some of those big names

that, you know, have influence in DC. But then the next thing they’re gonna look, it’s, they’re gonna see, do I see any local groups whose names I recognize, it’s clear they live in my state, and that more than anything, I think, is going to influence whether they listen to this letter, or toss it in the recycling bin, the 10,000 other letters they got that day. So what I’m asking you is to take that link in the chat, and give

and ask one local organization in the state where you live, to sign that letter. I mean, it doesn’t have to necessarily be a climate organization, it could be a high school club, it could be a local church. I mean, think big and broad, the more grassroots, if there’s an organization that meets and has a name and has membership, then I encourage you to ask them to sign this resolution. We’re just getting started with it. I think we’re going to get a lot more. And I hope after this webinar, that’s the first thing you do. Mike, alternate back over to you. 

Mike Tidwell  21:26  

Thank you, Jamie. And also, we’re going to post into the chat, a fact sheet that we have about all the climate features of the American jobs. So look for that, as well. It’s a fact sheet that you can actually find put together. So as you’re asking your friends to sign the petition in favor of 100%. You can have this handy fact sheet that we’re also posting in the chat and that will have on our website at sea can action fund.org. And so we’ve heard about the 100% feature, the Biden American jobs plan. And again, I want to tell you if you’re just joining us or if you join late on Mike Treadwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network NC can action funding, you’re tuned in to a webinar where we’re breaking down joe biden’s American jobs plan. So I want to bring up our next speaker, Mr. Ben beachy, and Ben is director of the Sierra Club living economy program. He has worked on economic policies for over a decade in organizations fighting for workers rights, climate justice, public health and self determination, then and Sierra Club have been vocal advocates, along with sunrise, many unions and progressive legislators on Capitol Hill for the thrive agenda. And that agenda, as many of you know, calls for the spending of not $3 trillion over eight years per Joe Biden, but $10 trillion over 10 years to solve the climate crisis and build the just economy. So Ben, welcome to this webinar and tell us first, what are your thoughts about the Biden plan? And how might it be changed to think of better with the thriving agenda? 

Ben Beachy  23:18  

Thanks, Mike. And really glad to be with y’all. It’s a really pivotal moment. It’s hard to talk about this moment, without using hyperbole about the extent of the opportunity that comes for us. We really don’t get many chances like this. This is really truly a once in a generation opportunity to remake the economy. So what is our take on the American jobs plan?

I look at that question as Mike teed up and Leah teed up through the lens of something called the thrive agenda, which many of you are familiar with. But for those for whom thriving is new. Starting about a year ago, it was just when the pandemic started to spread across the United States, Union, racial justice, climate and other grassroots groups came together and began to assemble a bold Crossman plan for economic renewal, a plan to tackle mass unemployment, systemic racism, the climate crisis and public health all at the same time. In September, we launched this plan in a congressional resolution that came to be known as thrive. Over 100 members of Congress endorsed the plan, along with several 100 of the nation’s largest labor, racial justice and climate groups. Thanks to this broad backing, the Senate leader Chuck Schumer pledged that thrive would form part of the governing agenda for 2021. To fulfill those words last month, those same movement groups joined together with congressional leaders to launch the thrive act, a bill with a detailed plan to build an economy that actually fosters justice, not crisis. So over the last two weeks, activists have held over 200 events across the country, from Alaska to West Virginia, to call on their members of Congress to back a recovery package.

That is as bold in scale and rooted in justice as thriving. And right in the middle of all this organizing is actually the first day that people started organizing across the country that President Biden launched the American jobs plan.

The American jobs plan and thrive are singing from the same hymnal. Both of them start from the premise that we cannot afford to return to the pre pandemic normal, because normal was fundamentally unjust, unhealthy and unstable. Both of them offer solutions that are as interconnected as the crises we face. Recognizing that a strong jobs plan is a strong climate plan is a strong racial justice plan. So we see echoes of Thrive throughout Biden’s plan. And that’s why many of the movement groups as Mike and Leah spoke to many of the groups that have been working to thrive have been celebrating the American jobs plan as an encouraging start. And now we are asking Congress to go even bigger and bolder to match the scale of the crisis that we face. So thrive calls for an uncommon real plan to do three things that would be bold in scale, wide in scope, and strong and standards. The men do a quick overview of each of those and name how the American jobs plan stacks up. So first on scope. The thrive act calls for investments to be economy wide, so that we tackle pollution, unemployment and injustice in every sector that we find it. And here the American jobs plan largely delivers. I mean, this is not merely the pothole filling plan of 2021. Like thrive, the American jobs playing calls for replacing all lead pipes, electrifying Postal Service vehicles, expanding clean and affordable public transit, achieving 100%, carbon pollution and free electricity by 2035. As Leah spoke to upgrading millions of homes and buildings supporting clean manufacturing, creating a civilian climate corps to restore our lands and expand, expanding access to affordable care for the elderly. The only sector in thrive that American jobs plan omits is investing in regenerative agriculture, to support family, farmers and climate resilience. So that’s one area where Congress has the opportunity to go further.

Second standards, all these investments that I just named will create a ton of jobs. But job quality and job access are just as important as job quantity. The latest labor data we just crunched in a report last month shows that if we just pump money into the economy without strong labor and equity standards, we would be actively reinforcing the unjust status quo. In short, we would create millions of mostly mediocre non union jobs for predominantly white men.

Instead, both thrive and the American jobs plan recognizes that building a more just economy requires all of these investments to be paired with strong wage and benefit standards, access to unions, and equitable hiring that favors women and people of color.

And both thrive in American jobs playing Call for these investments to go first and foremost, to frontline communities who’ve endured decades of divestment due to redlining, exclusion and structural injustice, thrive specifically calls on Congress to dedicate at least half half of these investments to frontline communities.

Finally, to determine the scale of investments that thrive would call for us to ask the economist at the University of Massachusetts, how big this economic recovery package needs to be to meet our jobs, justice and climate goals. And you can find their analysis in the report that we launched last month, the economic modeling produce a very clear answer, $1 trillion per year, for a decade

$1 trillion per year would create and sustain over 15 million good jobs. That’s how many we need to create an end to the unemployment crisis and get the job to everyone who’s currently out of work. $1 trillion per year for a decade would cut our climate pollution kneeling in half by 2030. And $1 trillion per year with at least half going to frontline communities would meaningfully counteract systemic racism, and economic gender and environmental injustice. So scale is where we’re going to be focusing most in pushing Congress to go further than the American jobs plan, you know, at nearly $3 trillion, the American jobs plan is definitely large. It’s just not as large as the physical reality of the climate of the climate crisis, the economic reality of 15 million people being out of work, or the structural reality of systemic racism. It’s an encouraging start. And now in most sectors, Congress needs to take that investment amount and multiply it by three.

So use an architectural metaphor, Biden just lay down the foundation of this house we’re building. It’s a broad foundation. It’s a really strong foundation. Now it’s on Congress to build a couple of stories on top of it.

To see why scale matters, I’ll just use a couple of examples. First electric vehicles. The American jobs plan names $174 billion for electric vehicles again,

Good start and Congress needs to go further. Senator Schumer, for example, has a clean cars for America proposal that would invest nearly three times as much to replace over 63 million gas vehicles. So Congress should fully fund Schumer’s plan to replace 10s of millions of gas vehicles with clean electric vehicles, instead of leaving those gas vehicles on the road.

As another example, look at public housing. The American jobs plan includes a $40 billion investment in public housing, Congress should go further to upgrade the full public housing stock, which would cost about three times as much as reflected in the green new deal for public housing. Relative to the American jobs plan, investing at the full amount would improve living standards for an additional 1 million public housing residents, cut an additional 4 million metric tons of carbon emissions and create an additional over 100,000 good jobs. That is why scale matters.

Now, some people may argue that this call for Congress to go even bigger, bumps up against another reality that we face the political reality of our Congress. First of all, Joe Manchin has called for at least $4 trillion for this package. So we haven’t yet hit that current, that political ceiling.

But second, this political reality, unlike the physical reality of climate change is one that we can actually bend. And it’s on us to do that bending. And right now, as I started with, we have a bigger opportunity to bend Washington, then at any point I’ve seen in my career, there are precious few moments when all of the requirements for big structural change, line up, broad public support, strong organizing, elected leaders we can work with, and cross movement unity, now is one of those unicorn moments. So let’s seize it to bend Washington to deliver an economic renewal plan as big as the crisis we face. 

Mike Tidwell  31:56  

Ben, that was an incredibly great summary. And I’m especially encouraged that our good friend, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has set its sights and at least he has on record is setting sights even higher than that 2.8 trillion or the Biden plan.

I do I do want to say real quick, put it in a plug for Stephanie Kelton book, anyone who knows me knows I talked about this book all the time, the deficit myth, if you haven’t read it, you need to get it, you need to read it, you need to listen to it on books on tape. Because it makes clear we have the money. We have the money, we have the money for 10 trillion over 10 years, despite COVID spending despite deficit spending, yes, we can raise taxes as the President wants corporate tax rate taxes on folks making more than $400,000. But even beyond that, there’s so much capacity in the economy. There’s so many people unemployed, there’re so many factories, still not at full capacity, that inflation just isn’t a problem and isn’t expected to be a problem for a long time. And as long as inflation is kept in check. Honestly, deficits are a mess. They’re not a problem.

And deficit spending is just investments in society. So wonder, make a plug for Stephanie Kelton, plug the deficit. And I want to ask you, Ben, how can folks plug in with zero carb and others? What are some concrete steps people can do to make pushing the thrive agenda and getting the biggest Biden plan across the finish line? How can we make it part of part of our lives? What are a couple of things we can do as activists to get involved with your club? 

Ben Beachy  33:42  

Another great question, Mike. So I actually just dropped into the chat a link that helps to answer that question. So I mentioned that it was just last month, the same week, actually, that the American jobs plan drops.

The cross movement coalition that has been pushing thrive, drops and launched the thrive Act, which is a new bill that lays out in detail, how we can mobilize the public investments at the scale of the crisis that we face, with strong equity and labor standards attached to them to invest in, in bold climate, jobs and justice solutions across the entire economy. Right. That act, we’re trying this month in the month of April is a critical month to really shape what this congressional package is going to look like. So we’re calling on everyone to ask their members of Congress to indicate that we need a big bold package that is as big and interconnected with the crisis we face. By signing on to the Thrive Act, the more members of Congress, we get to sign on to the thrive acts, the more that we show that there is broad political support for going bigger and bolder. And now is the moment to do that. And so the plan is to really introduce this bold legislation towards the end of this month. And so right now is the critical window to get members of Congress

To sign on as original co sponsors of this legislation. And so that link I pasted in the chat is just an easy way to do that has called scripts if you want to call it has an email if you want to email has tweets, if you want to tweet it, you remember Congress to urge them to co sponsor the thrive but I can say go big and bold. 

Mike Tidwell  35:16  

Great and everyone who’s RSVP for today’s webinar, we’ll follow up with an email with all these links to Leah Stokes’s report on 100% clean electricity from evergreen to action items from Sierra Club, to sign petitions that will send you from seeking an Action Fund. So that all becomes in one email as a follow up to this webinar, including a recording of the webinar that we hope that you’ll share with your friends. So Ben beachy, thank you so much for joining us today. We’re now going to turn and focus a bit more on the equity and justice features built into the American jobs plan. We’ve invited Andre temenos to give us his thoughts today. Andreas is a longtime activist in his home county of Fairfax, Virginia, and a former staffer at the citizens climate lobby, he now serves as executive director of the group 2.0, whose mission is to advocate for greater diversity and inclusion in the American environmental movement and across corporations and governments. Andres welcome and what are your thoughts on the American jobs plan? 

Andres Jimenez  36:23  

Mike, we’re gonna start. Thank you so much for having me. This has been quite the amazing journey from the last time you and I spoke on a call like this, where we were pushing for something different to where we are now really bringing out what the change that Leah was talking about. You know, one of the things to keep in mind is, is it perfect? Is it exactly what we want? No, but boy, are we in a better place than we were this time last year. So that gives me hope. It should give your listeners hope I’m excited. But there is lots and lots to go through. So let’s get started. But an amazing job by Ben and Leo, so awesome to hear their comments, and hear what they had to say. So thank you for that. So first, I want to thank everyone for attending today’s discussion. I’m honored to be here. My name is Andres humanas. And I am the Executive Director, as Mike mentioned the green 2.0. So just to tell you a little bit about us green 2.0 is an organization that aims to hole environmental organizations and the people in charge of climate actions accountable for including the very people who are most affected by environmental issues, people of color.

For far too long decisions about environmental practices were made in communities of color that ultimately have long term consequences. rarely, if ever were people in those communities brought in to decide and implement those decisions. And that is why it’s important for the Biden administration to build a diverse coalition to ensure that frontline communities are centered. The American jobs plan has some key equity and justice related provisions, as Mike Lee and Ben mentioned, first and 85 billion investment in modernizing public transit. While emphasizing that communities of color are more likely to use public transit than their white counterparts. It’s essential the budgets understand how issues this proportionally impact communities of color. The plan also calls for 20 billion for a new program that allows communities harmed by highways and other infrastructure to have key decision making roles and new projects that promote access and advanced justice while addressing previous malpractices. There is also an investment in the healthy ports program to mitigate the impacts of air pollution on communities of color near ports. There is a 5 billion investment in the redevelopment of brownfields and Superfund sites with corresponding economic and workforce development plans. This includes funding to support community driven environmental justice efforts, emphasizing grants to address pollution, and other hazards frontline and fenceline communities are based. There is an 111 billion investment in ensuring clean and safe drinking water in all communities. We know that lead pipes and unsafe drinking water poisoned communities in Flint, Baltimore, Newark and that 9.2 million households in the nation still have lead pipes. This plan calls to replace all lead pipes in homes. It also caused calls to modernize wastewater and stormwater infrastructure across our nation and its territories. In this plan, there is also an emphasis on resilience in all services, including related to climate change and extreme weather to ensure related disasters that disproportional

Impact communities of color are both prevented and mitigated. There is a $50 billion investment in infrastructure resilience that includes building above codes, and a 100 billion investment in electric transmission infrastructure. As we continue to face extreme weather conditions like those we’ve seen in Texas, Puerto Rico and throughout our nation, we will need large investments and these kinds of projects. Additionally, as part of an $800 billion investment in schools, the administration is focused on building and operating school facilities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and spurred green spaces and safe air. In this plan, all schools environmentally speaking, would be a safe space for young people and communities to gather and learn. There is a $2 billion increase overall for the EPA, including 936 million for a new accelerating environmental and economic justice initiative. This includes a community air quality monitoring program that includes the investment in the water infrastructure that I discussed earlier. And investment in this EPA, in particular, is an investment in combating the climate crisis and supporting marginalized communities who have been ignored for far too long.

The plan seeks to build the capacity of the existing workforce by calling for a $100 billion investment in workforce development, infrastructure and worker protection. A key component of this is apprenticeships, creating roughly one to 2 million new apprenticeships and targeting those opportunities for people of color. This also includes key provisions on programs that support middle and high school students of color and connect them with STEM programs. through partnerships with employers in higher education. The plan calls for a $40 billion investment in a new program for dislocated, dislocated workers, which funds workers who have lost jobs through no fault of their own, to gain new skills and emergent sectors. Additionally, there’s a $12 billion investment in targeting workforce development opportunities in underserved communities that specifically calls out structural racism and urges that all clean jobs need to be accessible and open to communities of color.

The jobs plan also focuses on eliminating racial and

ethnic inequalities in research and development instead. In order to address this there is a $10 billion dollar investment in historically black colleges and universities and other institutions that serve students of color specifically, there is also an additional 15 billion investment in research and a billion dollar investment in research incubators to provide graduate fellowships and other opportunities to students of color. Lastly, as the plan looks forward to the future, it creates a $10 billion investment in the civilian climate corpse, which is tasked to serve and kind of as conservation and resilience workers who conserve public lands, and advanced environmental justice with a strong emphasis on diversity in that workforce. There are also examples of a plan that reflects and understands the need for under-representative communities to have a just transition and clean energy economy. This coupled with the Justice 40 plan to ensure that 40% of all of the benefits of relevant federal investments go toward disadvantaged communities. And the goal of establishing an environmental justice scorecard shows a commitment to beginning to address the root causes of an environmental malpractice, diversified and diversifying the environmental movement during a time when the administration has pledged 40% of the Climate Action Plan to frontline communities is vital. With this plan measuring benefits over funding it requires for the administration to work directly with environmental organizations. If these organizations aren’t as diverse as the communities impacted. Mike, how can we ensure these plans are effective? Study after study shows that communities of color suffer from our dirty energy economy, the air is more polluted, the water is more dirty. And these communities often live near toxic waste sites. The oil and gas industry dumped 9 million tons of methane and toxic pollutants into the air each year disproportionately impacting the health of these communities. If anyone can address these issues, it’s the people that live it. These are the people that should have positions at all levels of environmental organizations, people of color care about the environment, but their expertise and knowledge often aren’t tapped into it. We are seeing progress in the movement.

As shown in our last report card, but there’s still a long way to go. This is why we’re expanding the number of organizations we serve a greentube window from 40 to 80. This year. This is exciting because as the movement grows and climate increases climate action increases, we can continue to hold accountable organizations accountable to do the right thing. Environmental leaders cannot claim to care for the future of the planet while ignoring so many. Mike, we must work for change. But we also must keep in mind that this change needs to be accelerated. 

Mike Tidwell  45:33  

Thank you so much. Andre. I know I know why you began with the question, Where do I begin? And there’s so much to like in this plan? There really is and you enumerated a lot of them under the heading of equity and justice.

I do think though your work at Green 2.0. It’s so pivotal. If folks haven’t checked out green 2.0 check out their website, and sign up for their email alerts. Because Andreas and his staff are doing amazing work, holding groups accountable to implement a vision of a truly just and fair build that better vision and I think you’re right Andres, how are we going to implement these plans were 40% of benefits and investments go to disadvantaged communities, if our groups themselves are diverse and and include them. So thank you for your work. Thank you for joining us, and drop your website in the chat. And we’re all included in the follow up email that we send to everyone. But thank you again, Andre 10 minutes, Executive Director of green 2.0. And now we will move to our last speaker. And let’s move back to the topic of jobs and these closing minutes. Climate policy is a jobs policy. So says the white house so we thought we would ask one more speaker to touch on some of the jobs components of the American jobs plan that haven’t been covered in full yet including how this plan would create jobs in the critical state of West Virginia. And so Quintin Scott is the federal policy associate of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and secant Action Fund. Before coming to see Karen Quintin worked as a legislative staffer on Capitol Hill and served as Chief of Staff, right, state senator in his home state of Illinois Quinten What else do we need to know about jobs within the American jobs plan? 

Quentin Scott  47:38  

Thank you for that introduction, Mike. Really appreciate it. And labor is going to be a big part of the American jobs plan. And so the American jobs plan is a pro worker plan designed to address climate change and get America back to manufacturing. The plan impacts labor across multiple sectors from repairing roads and bridges, retrofitting buildings for efficiency, upgrading electric grid and replacing 100% of lead pipes and much much more. My analysis plan in Pittsburgh surrounded by labor, he recognizes we don’t have to choose between good paying union jobs and doing what’s necessary to tackle the climate crisis. We have a moment to do it all. His policies have been proposed with labor in mind and labor at the table. Biden’s plan will create high quality jobs with prevailing wages come with worker protections in our field with workers from communities where the projects are located. How will Biden actually accomplish this? Which is the big question. The American jobs plan calls on Congress to pass the protecting the right to organize act or the proact. The proact would allow us to override so called Right to Work laws and over two dozen states can collect dues from those who opt out in order to cover the cost of collective bargaining would make employee interference and influence and union elections illegal would allow newly certified unions to seek arbitration and mediation and to settle impasses in negotiations. prevent any employer from using an employee’s immigration status against them to determine their employment establishes monetary penalties for companies and executives that violate workers rights. The house has already passed it proactive March now we need to send it to do the same. In addition to supporting the pro it the American jobs plan provides $10 billion for labor enforcement and increased penalties and employees violate workplace safety and health rules. The plan provides $25 billion to upgrade childcare facilities and build new ones. The plan also creates tax credits for businesses that build childcare facilities providing employees with greater access to on site childcare. This would ease the pressure of working parents and allow greater participation in the workforce. The American jobs plan has $500 billion to build out renewable energy 230 213

billion dollars to build 2 million low emission and affordable homes $175 billion towards electric vehicle adoption 80 billion to improve rail services and passengers for passengers and freight. These historic investments come with attachment requirements for prevailing wages. Like I mentioned, buy American made materials to rebuild infrastructure, job training, and strong labor and installation standards. Here at Chesapeake Climate Action Network, we see how jobs are going to impact West Virginia. In West Virginia, there’s 1500 bridges and over 3200 miles of highway in poor conditions. 24% of West Virginians live in an area with no broadband infrastructure to deliver acceptable speeds low income families spend 10 to 12% of their income and for their home energy costs by retooling West Virginia’s economy, we can create 50,000 jobs in the first year alone according to the new jobs, West Virginia new jobs coalition, over 16,000 jobs in manufacturing 6400 drives and clean energy 2400 jobs and building retrofitting buildings for efficiency and 6000 jobs in the care industry. The American jobs plan for $16 billion to cap abandoned oil wheels, oh wells and continue to leak methane into the air and contaminate waterways. In West Virginia alone, it is estimated that 440,000 abandoned wells exist and require 3500 workers to plug them. Like Andreas mentioned already $10 billion to the civilian climate courts, which will put young people to work and good union jobs and pass environmental justice and build community resilience and preserve public lands. We hear the question all the time in West Virginia. What about the coal miners? Well, the American jobs plan supports a just transition, which will ease the cost and hardships that some workers and communities will face as we transition away from fossil fuels. The plan invests 100 million in workforce development and infrastructure 40 billion of that 100 billion with support workers who have lost their jobs for no fault of their own, and to provide Career Services and skill development for jobs and clean energy and other sectors. Another $48 billion to strengthen connections between high schools and community colleges and technical schools and additional 12 billion explicitly target workers penalised by structural racism and economic inequities, especially people of color women, and formerly incarcerated individuals.

To create an economy of the future we must meet. Our climate goes by creating windmills, solar panels, batteries, electric charge stations, plug orphan oils and more. But these technologies don’t come out of nowhere, we need to work with people to build, install and maintain these technologies for decades to come. And Biden’s American jobs plan gets that done. And that’s why it’s so essential that we tell Congress that they need to support Biden’s American jobs plan so we can get this historic moment pass. 

Mike Tidwell  53:10  

Thank you Quentin. I mean, just just hearing what this plan will do for West Virginia alone is amazing. We have talked for years and our movement about investing in communities, investing in transition, investing in healthcare, investing in, in equity, and the features that you just named are amazing. I had no idea Additionally, that there are that many unplugged wells, or leaking wells in West Virginia alone. I know the other day, Joe Biden, throughout the figure of the number of uncapped wells across the country. And he, after he stated that number, he just said, what are we doing? You know, it’s just the way he said it? What are we doing? Why are we letting these wells leak that those are jobs that not only benefit workers, but benefit the climate? So thank you, Clinton very much for that for that update. And now I’m just gonna pitch it back to Jimmy DeMarco, federal policy director. He can tell us, Jamie, one last time, what are some things that folks on the call can do to be part of this historic moment? I mean, I thought that Ben Beachy put it so well, it is so rare that you have public support. You have a broad coalition, ready to work at the same time that you have leaders ready to take action. I mean, we cannot blow this, y’all. We can’t. We cannot blow this moment. And so Jamie, tell us what we can do. 

Jamie DeMarco  54:47  

Thanks, Mike. Yeah, this has been incredible. I’ve learned a lot and I am blown away because in the past half an hour or so. The folks on this call have gotten seven more organizations to sign

The resolution supporting 100% clean electricity by 2035. So we are not just here listening, we’re like doing the work as we’re listening. This is like, superhuman group of people we got right here, though I know we put a bunch of links in the chat. And so everything people have shared is going to be shared in an email afterwards. And we really encourage you to, you know, check out diverse screen, check out the thrive agenda at Sierra Club. These are the incredible people and incredible organizations that are doing exactly what the world needs right now, the last thing that we’re going to put in the chat, it’s just an opportunity to message your senator about

You know, I think the message is going to be pre filed, or prefilled, to talk about 100% clean electricity by 2035. But if you want to talk about five agenda, if you want to talk about replacing lead pipes, whatever

you want your senator to know about the American jobs plan, and how important it is to pass and how it needs to be stronger. Still, just put that in the message and let your senator know, you know, we all know senators get a lot of emails, but it still counts, and it still matters. And like I said, it only works if we work from the grassroots up. 

Mike Tidwell  56:07  

Thank you, Jamie. And I want to thank everyone for joining us all across the country. I want to thank especially our members in the states of Maryland, Virginia, DC and West Virginia who’ve joined the call. They’re very many of you on this call. Thank you. Thanks for everyone watching on Facebook Live and YouTube. Thank you, Leah Stokes, it is always great to get recharged by your great passion for these issues. Thank you, Leah Stokes of evergreen action. Quintin Scott, of course, if you can, then Vici we’re going to bug the heck out of you to give versions of that of the things that you said on this call over and over again in different formats. Same with you, Andre, 10 minutes of green 2.0. Thank you all. And Jamie DeMarco of C can and we will be in touch will be a follow up email, we’re going to answer some of your questions that we were not able to get to that were posted in the q&a, we’ll do that in a follow up email. And everybody stayed close, we got a lot of work to do. This is the sprint we told ourselves over the years, over the years, solving climate change, we can’t burn ourselves out. It’s a marathon we got to. We got to know one stuff in front of the other. But right now it is a sprint between now and the August recess, when Nancy Pelosi and others have said they want to wrap this, this American jobs plan up, which means we’ve got to work. You know, sleep is overrated, you know, get as much as you can. But, you know, let’s, let’s do everything we can to get this path. Let’s make this part of our life. Let’s tell our friends. Let’s get our group signed on to these ladders. It’s worth the extra effort because our grandkids and kids are going to ask us what we did in that moment when all these historic threads came together, and we had that rare once in a generation chance to really, really, really change society and save our planet. That’s the moment we’re in right now. Every second is precious. Thank you for spending a few other seconds with us today. We’re honored to have you with us and we will be in touch. And everybody. Have a great day. See you later.

Charles Olsen  58:43  

Thanks for listening to the upside down. This podcast is produced by me, Charlie Olson. with incredible support from the entire weekend staff. Check out the show notes for links to all the things discussed in this episode. If you want to know more about how you can get involved with seeking in the climate fight, check out our website at Chesapeake climate.org. If you want to get in touch with us, follow us on instagram and twitter at sea kin. And if you enjoy the work we do, why don’t you share us with your friends. Sharing the show is a super easy way to help spread the word about the work we’re doing in the fight for bold climate actions. Thanks again for listening. I’ll see you next time.

Quentin Scott – CCAN’s Federal Campaign Associate

For the past few months CCAN has been boldly going where we have never gone before (excuse the star trek references) into a massive federal campaign! For about the same time we have started the Upside Down podcast and have been introducing you to our staff (albeit slowly) and today I am beyond excited to be talking with our new Federal Campaign associate Quentin Scott. 

Quentin Scott joined CCAN in January 2021 as the Federal Campaign Associate working to build political will for groundbreaking climate justice policies in the Executive Branch and Congress. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, he got a first-hand look at the two Americas and sought to bring the two Americas closer together through advocacy. Quentin’s passion for math and science landed him at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Instead of using his skills for engineering, he uses his knowledge to build data-informed campaigns. Before joining CCAN, Quentin was chief of staff for an Illinois State Representative and a legislative correspondent in the US House of Representatives, and has led numerous issue and candidate campaigns across the Midwest. In his roles he has stood with neighborhood advocacy groups to hold industrial polluters accountable in communities of color and looks forward to bringing that fight to the federal level. Quentin enjoys exploring new places and has been to 36 states. When he is not traveling you can find him engaging in some form of competition, whether that’s video games, board games, or on the basketball court.

Check out the full transcript here:

Charles Olsen  0:06  

Hi, my name is Charlie Olsen. And this is Upside Down, the podcast from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

For the past few months CCAN has been boldly going where we have never gone before, please excuse the Star Trek references, into a massive Federal Campaign for about the same time we started the Upside Down podcast. And we’ve been introducing you to all of our staff albeit kind of slowly. And today I’m beyond excited to be talking with our new federal campaign associate Quentin Scott. Quentin joined CCAN in January 2021, as the Federal Campaign associate, working to build political will for groundbreaking climate justice policies in the executive branch and in Congress. Growing up on the south side of Chicago, he got a first hand look at the two Americas and sought to bring the two closer together through advocacy. Quentin’’s passion for math and science landed him at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. But instead of using his skills for engineering, he uses his knowledge to build data informed campaigns. Before joining CCAN Quintin was Chief of Staff for an Illinois State Representative and a legislative correspondent in the US House of Representatives and has led numerous issue and candidate campaigns across the Midwest. In his roles, he has stood with neighborhood advocacy groups to hold industrial polluters accountable in communities of color and looks forward to bringing that fight to the federal level with CCAN. Quentin enjoys exploring new places and has been to 36 states. Quite impressive. When he’s not traveling, you can find him engaging in some form of competition, whether that’s video games, board games, or on the basketball court. Quentin, how are you doing today?

Quentin Scott  1:50  

Well, thank you for that introduction, Charlie. I really appreciate it. And I am doing really well, it’s an exciting time here at CCAN.

Charles Olsen  1:57  

It’s really good to have you. It has been a pleasure to have you on the staff- all of this federal work that we’ve been doing is really exciting. It’s kind of upsetting that both of us have started at CCAN in the work from home remote world. So we’ve never actually met in person. So that is a whole nother dynamic to add here.

Quentin Scott  2:19  

Yeah, I’m looking forward to finally crossing that off the list of things to do. I think I’ve only met Mike and Jamie in person. Yeah, it’s everybody else.

Charles Olsen  2:28  

The see can happy hours are lackluster, until we’re done. That’s for sure.

I’m very excited to get to know you a little bit more. But I’m even more excited for our listeners to be able to get to know you and the awesome work that you’re doing. Your background and advocacy stretches back up quite a ways. Can you just tell me how you got your start in climate advocacy? 

Quentin Scott  2:55  

Yeah. So just taking a little step back I know, about 10 or 11 years ago, you know, I didn’t know anything about politics, or, quite frankly, didn’t pay attention to it. And then all of a sudden, you know, I come back home to Chicago after college. And I didn’t recognize my neighborhood. There were vacant properties, there was, you know, seems to be police officers on every corner patrolling. And so I just didn’t really recognize what had happened in the four years that I left Chicago. And so I decided to dive into policy and advocacy and in solution dive into know those spaces, you quickly realize there are a lot of intersection between so many different issues and climate and environment became one of those and you see it all the time. On the south side of Chicago, when we have a major snowstorm or rain that thunderstorm. You see streets flooded and infrastructure, not capable of withstanding these super storms. And then you trace that back to, you know, the fossil fuel industry and everything around climate. So, you know, I didn’t really get into climate for environmental reasons I got into it because of racial justice issues. But once you get into those spaces, you quickly realize that so many other aspects of our lives are affected by climate. And, you know, that’s a space that I didn’t see too many people of color in my community I occupy. So I took it upon myself to occupy that space and bring more attention to climate issues, environmental issues, and the black community of the Southside of Chicago.

Charles Olsen  4:47  

Could you take a moment to highlight some of the work that you did while you worked at the state level and in the House of Representatives before climate policy, just to give us a sense of some of the stuff that you’ve worked on?

Quentin Scott  5:00  

Yeah. So a lot of it was as Chief of Staff, we had inside the district is the Port of Chicago. And so we dealt with a lot of dredging issues. And there are a lot of factories along that area that dumped a lot of pollutants, quite honestly, on neighboring homes. So constituents would come into our office and, you know, complain about how, when they wake up in the morning, there’ll be a thin layer of like, soot on their cars, and things of that nature. So I worked closely with the Illinois EPA, to, you know, investigate those claims and to, you know, put stronger standards on our corporate partners and industrial partners in those neighborhoods. So I did a lot of, you know, at the state level, making sure that we’re enforcing policies and writing letters and helping organize hearings and meetings down in Springfield, and make sure that the voices of our constituents were heard. And so really, I just made sure that I made my boss a partner to environmentalists in our neighborhoods.

Charles Olsen  6:15  

Thank you. I want to come back later, to your experience in Chicago and the work that you did there. But you’ve talked in the past about the importance of data informed campaigns, and I’m not quite sure what that means. Could you enlighten me a little bit?

Quentin Scott  6:34  

Yeah. So data informed means that we are taking the time to use science to help inform the messaging in our strategy, we don’t want data driven campaigns, because then that’s taking it a step too far. And I’ll give you one prime example. In 2016, the data suggested that Hillary Clinton did not need to go to certain Midwest states of Wisconsin, and Michigan, because historically, the data suggested that there was no need for a Democratic presidential candidate to go there. And now we know the results of that 2016 election. But a data informed campaign would suggest that we use resources more wisely. And as we used to always say, it’s about reels, not fields, because sometimes you feel like something is a big issue within the community. But when you really do the data, you realize, oh, only one or two people are impacted by this thing. And we want to make sure that we’re using resources that influence the entire campaign and move voters in the most effective way.

Charles Olsen  7:52  

Can you tell me how this applies to the climate work that you’re doing now?

Quentin Scott  7:56  

Yeah, absolutely. So I know, taking data and making sure so for example, we’re doing a lot of work in West Virginia. And so with this climate movement, we want to make sure that we’re now doing polling, and we’re doing listening sessions. And we’re gathering up all this data to help inform Joe Manchin and Senator capital of West Virginia, this is what their constituencies want. As well as that gives us a little insight of where we need to do more work. Where do we need to do more education? Where do we need to do more organizing? So we’re gathered up all these different data points, so we can sort of plan out our work and use that those results to ultimately influence those two senators,

Charles Olsen  8:46  

You’ve already kind of touched on this in a variety of different ways. But what role do you see yourself filling in the climate movement at large? 

Quentin Scott  8:58  

So for me, I pride myself on being a team player and versatile. And so not only do I bring sort of this data, analytical perspective to things, but also I have a lot of organizing experience. And so use my diverse background. You know, I see myself as filling in those gaps, where we need somebody to learn a skill or become an expert in a certain area and not do that. For example, with CCAN, we’ve been pushing Biden’s American jobs plan, and part of that there are a lot of jobs coming out of it. And so for CCAN I’ve played this role as a job expert, so in the last six weeks, I have read everything I could get my hands on in terms of how much does will be created for individual states. The White House actually released the report today, breaking down how jobs will how the investments in jobs will go to each of the 50 states and sort of dive into even those numbers, but so it’s for me, I just want to make sure that I’m feeling with ever to spaces needed connecting people to whatever communities that need to be connected to. So I just want to be a versatile advocate and flow between roles and, you know, take on whatever challenges when needed.

Charles Olsen  10:20  

Can you tell me a little bit more about your organizing experience? Are there any moments from that work that you’ve done that stand out prominently in your mind?

Quentin Scott  10:32  

Yeah, absolutely. One of my first projects I ever worked on was the fight for 15 in Illinois. And so I spent the summer of 2014 going around to communities across the Chicago land area, collecting petition signatures, and asking for small donations to support, you know, raising the minimum wage in Illinois to $15. And I know those were some of the toughest conversations I’ve had at doors with people. But it was also very rewarding to sort of like engage with somebody who was a small business owner, and they are pushing back on, you know, why the $15 minimum wage wasn’t good for their business, and then sort of laying out all the different reasons why it was important, and how it was doable for their small business. And then at the end of that five to 10 minute conversation, they signed the petition in though and donated like $5 to the cause. And so like getting those, it takes some time to get those victories. But those conversations were well worth it. And ultimately, Illinois did pass, you know, raising the minimum wage, and so to see sort of the star on the front end of that fight, and persuade some folks who might not be natural allies to that fight, and then ultimately passed it into the law was something that, you know, I was very proud to sort of be on the ground floor, so to speak, of the 15 fight in Illinois,

Charles Olsen  11:58  

From that experience, how, how does that influence the way that you tackle advocacy in your work now?

Quentin Scott  12:05  

So I think that that experience taught me, number one, to sort of meet people where they are. And sort of, it’s really important to listen, because the easiest way to turn someone off is to just sort of like blow past their concerns, and not sort of like acknowledge that you hear them. And I acknowledge that that’s a legitimate concern. But there’s also a solution to their problem. I think that’s very important in this in the climate work that we’re doing this year, and right now, is that now where as we make that transition from fossil fuels to renewables, there’s a lot of know coal miners and fossil fuel workers who are getting very concerned about their livelihood changing, and so that it helps me in West Virginia to have a difficult conversation with coal miners, in terms of I have to listen and appreciate where they come from, and understand that, you know, I’m not a coal miner. That’s not my experience. I’m not from West Virginia. And that needs to come in and be respectful of that. And to help move the conversation along and it’s not just one conversation is being patient and having multiple conversations. So I feel like that those are lessons I learned very early on in my advocacy work. And I’ve seen this be successful throughout. And so and what we’re having probably the most important conversation of this century, right now, I’m able to sort of draw on those experiences and be effective.

Charles Olsen  13:34  

Well Quentin it sounds to me from what you’ve said that you are a natural bridge builder, between people who need information and you going out of your way to learn everything you can about it and provide it to them. So I’m going to echo the Twitter trend: Quentin Scott, you are infrastructure.

Quentin Scott  13:55  

I appreciate that.

Charles Olsen  13:58  

I want to hear more about you now. I know you grew up in the south side of Chicago. And I grew up in New York. So naturally, I’m sure this debate is going to be had for for decades, centuries to come, but I got to know pizza man.

Quentin Scott  14:21  

Oh, I knew that was coming. Um, I’m gonna be honest. I am not really down for the Brooklyn style slices, you know, folding it up. I’m not for that. But on the flip side, Chicago is known for deep dish, but that’s more of a tourist attraction with anything. Chicagoans don’t eat deep dish as much as the world thinks we do. We’re in between with like, you know, your natural sort of thin crust. We just don’t do the whole folding thing. 

Charles Olsen  15:00  

Okay, I can respect that. That’s like in New York, there’s a bunch of dollar pizza slices that are all the fake dollar pizza slices. Yeah. Okay. I respect that. Back to a more serious note, you have talked a lot in your bio, about the two Americas in your experience of that. Can you explain what that means and what that means to you?

Quentin Scott  15:31  

Yeah. So the two Americas are, you know, acknowledging that we live in the same country, but the systems and institutions that we interact with, treat us vastly different. And you don’t even realize it because your whole life you live in one or the other America. And only in certain moments, do you realize that there’s actually another side to this coin. And I think that college was the place I first realized that to be true. As you said, in my bio, I went to Embry riddle Aeronautical University. The student population is I think, 93%, white. And so you know, all my friends, and my classmates are people who know where I had come from. And so those four years really showed me this the different way, they think the different way that because I spend, like, spring breaks with my roommates, families and different vacations, and it really just showed me just how there’s just different approaches to America. And then, so that was the beginning of that process. And then as I started to venture out more into America and experienced more of the workforce and different other aspects of life, I realized that the Chicago that I grew up on in the south side is not with a lot of people experience. And that there are other options, because so many boats that I grew up with think that this is how things are. And I remember distinctly, my mom is a fourth grade teacher, well she was a fourth grade teacher at this time. And I, when I moved to DC, herself, she was telling her students that I’ve moved out to DC. And so their first reaction was, oh, why did he move out there? Because he got some woman pregnant? And my mom just thought that- that was why would he move somewhere? Because he got someone pregnant? Why couldn’t he have moved to DC because he was doing a job or had opportunity. And that just shows you sort of the mindset of some of the children that come from the south side of Chicago, that everything is that people don’t move from Chicago, because of opportunity, they’ve moved because they’re running from something or running to something, you’re, like I say, running away from something. So that’s just just really sort of highlights sort of, why don’t they think that they had these opportunities in front of them? And I think, quite honestly, that’s a lot of work that we’re doing right now. And I think what environmental justice is, know, providing these opportunities that historically have left communities of color behind that these jobs and opportunities that are going to come with Biden’s plan are jobs and opportunities that historically people communities of color haven’t had don’t think that they are entitled to. And we know and I want to change that narrative. Because that, you know, we are as American as anybody, and we should be able to have access to resources and opportunities. And we don’t have to think that, you know, we aren’t capable of doing these things.

Charles Olsen  18:49  

I appreciate you sharing that experience with me. You spent a lot of time working on more local level politics. And I’m just curious about what made you take the jump from the more local politics where you were more into the community to federal big picture work.

Quentin Scott  19:09  

When I made the decision to get into policy and organizing work. I honestly didn’t know what that meant and where that started. And so that’s why I was doing a lot of stuff at the local level, because that’s just the only entry point I knew how to get into. So that started with me volunteering for my alderman. And working for things like rainbow push in the Chicago Urban League and places like that. But in my personal life, I always paid attention to what was happening in Washington DC. And so I finally started working for my alderman, who was in I guess it’s okay to say her name now, ultimately Sandy Jackson, and she was the wife of former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. So once I started working for her, I then started making connections to his office. And so after about 10 months working there, you know, I reached out to his office and, you know, inquired: How do I go about, you know, doing more. And because I, you know, it’s one thing to have an impact in your neighborhood where you grew up in, or on the south side of Chicago as a whole. But I started thinking more nationally, like, I want to impact communities in Chicago, and Philadelphia, and Houston and Oakland, and DC. And so how do I do that? The only place I could think of was at the federal level. So that’s why I started asking those questions and plotting out my plan to go to work in Congress. And, you know, in 2012, I ended up there, and that was a great year because of Obama’s re election, there’s a lot going on. And so I got the opportunity to really, you know, work on the appropriation bills and see how the house operating worked and how legislation is passed. And you realize that what they teach us in civics isn’t exactly how it happens in actuality. So, you know, it was a very good experience, and you’d learn, you know, if two things kind of happened, one, I learned the process, and it’s very exciting to pass legislation, and you realize how powerful the Capitol building is, like impacts not just this country, but globally, like it changes the course of like history when they do things right there. But that’s also the depressing part is that when they choose not to pass meaningful legislation, or, you know, it doesn’t get out of one chamber, and it’s just like, we’re wasting years and time, you know, and so, you know, most days you feel really great about the work that you do. And other days, you just feel like, man, like, how do we not do that? And it’s all because maybe one or two senators or whoever it is, and I feel, I think that what I felt in 2012 has gotten worse. And we all sit here in 2021. And we can all see those things. No, the hyper partisanship is at an all time high. And, you know, we’re sitting here debating, should we do something about climate? When we all know we do? Well,

Charles Olsen  22:22  

Well, now you’re working on it. And that is, that’s my next question for you. You have been since you jumped in at CCAN working on our first big Federal Campaign. Can you give us the explainer, what are you working on here right now?

Quentin Scott  22:45  

Yeah, like I said, at the very beginning, exciting, exciting times at CCAN, we’re doing some big things. And we’re part of some historic legislation or trying to push them to historic legislation. So in short, we are working on a clean electricity standard by 2035. And so the goal is to have 100% renewable energies being the source of our electricity for our country. And so right now, there’s several different policies that get us there. But basically, if we can get 80% by 2030, which is the next 10 years, it puts us on the pathway to get to 100% by 2035. And so we’ve already seen the House of Representatives get on board with this, they introduced the clean future act last month that has 100% 2035 standard. And then last week, Biden and his American jobs plan also announced the same standard of 20 100% by 2035. So we have the house, we have the White House, now we’re working on the Senate. But to get it passed, Biden has attached a lot of investment to it. And that’s actually the key to it. Having a standard alone does not get us to 100% by 2035. Having investments in tax credits doesn’t get us there either. We have to have both the standard and the aggressive investments to get us there. And Biden has promised $400 billion in direct investment for renewables, and then another 100 million to upgrade our electric grid soakin. We can connect all of the solar and wind generation to the grid that we have also include battery storage. So we’re talking about millions of jobs to do all this work over the next few years. next decade, I should say. So it’s exciting times and a lot of money. And so we look forward to helping carry that war for Biden.

Charles Olsen  24:57  

So it’s a pretty big deal for the climate.

Quentin Scott  25:00  

Yeah, pretty big deal. A little bit like $1 trillion, big deal at the end. And when it’s all said and done, it’s gonna be about a trillion dollars spit.

Charles Olsen  25:10  

So most people, when they hear that that’s, that’s a pretty big number to them. But I know from conversations that you and I have had, and from our previous episode where we had the economist Stephanie Kelton, for our first federal webinar, we learned that a trillion dollars for the US federal government, isn’t that big of a deal. Can you kind of explain that for our listeners?

Quentin Scott  25:37  

Yeah. So I think this kind of goes against conventional wisdom of what we’ve been talking about econ 101. But we have to remember that the federal government’s budget does not work, like your budget that you make for the grocery store, and all of that, because the US government is his own sovereign nation with his own currency, they can essentially print as much money as they want. Now, you have to kind of worry a little bit about inflation. But particularly in this moment, the argument is that this money would not give, it would not create inflation, because it’s not necessarily printing more money than we need. It’s just replacing and allocating resources to places they’re already gaps. And the thing is, we’ve already done this, and there was no inflation. We all know about the bank bailout that was just under a trillion. And there was no inflation after that. And, matter of fact, we had, like, record high growth in the economy. So it has been done in the past. We know that we can do it again, especially since it is replacing money, not necessarily just overflowing the economy with new dollars. So I think that, you know, I suggest everybody check out Stephanie Kelton. She’s way better at explaining it as one of the foremost economists in the world. So check it out. Stephanie, Dr. Stephanie Kelton, or our webinar where she can go into more detail about it, but we do have the money, and we should spend it.

Charles Olsen  27:24  

So this is a pretty big investment. You started talking about the jobs, can you tell me a little bit more about the impact that CES will have on people across the country?

Quentin Scott  27:37  

Yeah, so it creates jobs, simply because there are a lot of technological advances we need to make in order to make this a reality. So we need to build batteries that could store all of this energy that we’re going to be creating, we need solar panels installed, we need windmills installed, we need to just upgrade the grid which generally hasn’t been upgraded since the 1950s. So there are a lot of ways to plug in jobs. Because right now, China and Europe are leaders in all of these areas. And we have like one battery factory in the whole country. So we obviously need more. And there are a lot of rare metals that go into batteries and solar panels that we have to bring in from other countries. But we have those resources right here. And we don’t have any Korean mines that mined for these rare metals. And so they’re mining jobs, they are battery building jobs or installation jobs. They’re like, like Biden’s plan suggests there are millions of jobs that need to be created just first to catch up to what the rest of the world is already doing not to take a leadership role, but just to catch up. So we need to make that investment because otherwise 15 years from now, when we have no choice but to make these changes, we’re going to be so far behind that we won’t even dictate how those industries play out.

Charles Olsen  29:10  

How can people listening get involved and help us get a CES pass this year?

Quentin Scott  29:17  

Yeah, so you heard me mentioned that the house is on board. Now that White House on board. We are lacking some support in the Senate. There’s about 45 senators who we feel confident are going to vote for this, but we need to get to 50. So we need to put pressure on the Senate to pass this reconciliation. Sure. That’s some words that if you don’t know what it means, at least you’ve probably heard it because reconciliation seems to be the only way we can pass things in the senate these days. In short, the reconciliation is sort of the workaround to the filibuster is a special budgetary instruction where you only need to get to 51 votes. To pass anything through, but it can only focus on budgetary and taxes. And so we can do a lot of the budgetary investments to see reconciliation. But that still means we need every democrat in the 50/50 Senate to vote for it, including Joe Manchin in West Virginia, including Cinema in Arizona. And so those are two standouts that we want to make sure that we’re putting pressure on them. And to be honest, put pressure on all the other rank and file democratic senators, because the best way to influence other senators is to get their colleagues to influence them. So we want to make sure that we reach support, and Tina Smith, who’s leading this CES fight in the Senate, we want to support her and keep reminding her that she has our support back here in the States. So she can when she’s engaging in those difficult conversations with Manchin, she doesn’t necessarily have to give that much back, as we were actually having a conversation in an earlier meeting, that in order to pass this $2.2 trillion bill, at some point, the administration is going to have to give 10% of the bill back to Republicans. But we want to make sure that the 10% that they give back, it’s not the clean electricity standard. So we want to make sure that we put pressure on all the senators that they hold the line on 100% see as by 2035. So yeah, reach out to your Senate.

Charles Olsen  31:32  

Great. And we’ll include links in the show notes, of course, to ways for people to do that. Great. And I have one last question for you. Before I let you go today. And this one has been burning, since I started prepping for this episode. In your bio, you said that you love to play strategy board games. And so do I. Okay, what’s your favorite board? game?

Quentin Scott  31:57  

Risk is definitely at the top. Oh, we got to play. Okay, you look like a risk guy. We definitely like risk. Very much. So yeah, yeah. And then sort of like equal to that. Have you ever played Go? 

Charles Olsen

No, I haven’t. 

Quentin Scott

Go is basically a strategy game, a Chinese strategy game, it’s about how to occupy the most space with the fewest amount of stones. And so it’s a lot of complicated sort of placement and how to like defeat your opponent. But it’s, it’s similar in some ways to chess, and which is another one of my favorite board games. So just go and risk. Any of those I’m down to play,

Charles Olsen  32:44  

we’re gonna have to play, you’re gonna have to show me how to play go. Is there any wisdom from that game that you take into your work? You know, how to take up the space?

Quentin Scott  32:55  

Absolutely. I think it helps really, with planning out your work, right? So you want to because we have a finite amount of time that day to get anything done. So it’s like, how do you plan out your work? And where are you going to place your piece on the board? So what am I going to do every day, that’s going to lead to me dominating this board. Because ultimately, you want to dominate the climate space. So in using the least amount of time possible, so I think go is a really good way of developing the sort of priority skills that you need.

Charles Olsen  33:29  

Awesome. Well, Quintin, thank you so much for talking with me. I’m super grateful that you’ve shared your experience, and I’m really excited to continue all the federal work.

Quentin Scott  33:41  

Charlie, thanks for having me. It’s an awesome time and I look forward to coming back here.

Charles Olsen  34:00  

Thanks for listening to Upside Down. This podcast is produced by me, Charlie Olsen, with incredible support from the entire CCAN staff. Check out the show notes for links to all the things discussed in this episode. If you want to know more about how you can get involved with seeking in the climate fight, check out our website at Chesapeake climate.org. If you want to get in touch with us, follow us on instagram and twitter @CCAN. And if you enjoy the work we do, why don’t you share us with your friends. Sharing the show is a super easy way to help spread the word about the work we’re doing in the fight of bold climate actions. Thanks again for listening. We’ll see you next time.

Meet CCAN’s Northern Virginia Organizer – Zander Pellegrino

Just a few weeks ago CCAN had the pleasure of welcoming our new Northern Virginia Organizer, Zander Pellegrino to our team and we are very excited to introduce you to him!

From Harrisonburg, VA Zander has spent the past few years working in climate resiliency and planning. He comes to CCAN with a fresh perspective and a deep commitment to helping people where they are. 

We sat down with Zander to chat about his journey in climate activism and his road to CCAN, his role in the climate movement, and what he sees as his most exciting challenge moving forward!

Check out the full transcript for the episode below:

Charles Olsen  0:04  

Hi, my name is Charlie Olsen and this is upside down the podcast from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

You grew up in Harrisonburg and you have been working in climate stuff. You went to school for biology and policy. Can you tell me about, like, the first time that you can remember ever being worried about climate change? When was it? When did it first pop into your head?

Zander Pellegrino  0:34  

This is probably a pretty relatable story, a familiar story for Virginia to Maryland people who grew up at the time I did, but it was on Tangier island with a Chesapeake Bay foundation trip. That was really the first time that I thought about climate change, in really tangible, impactful ways. Yeah, I remember a lot from that trip. And really credit my high school teacher, Mr. Blosser, and the Chesapeake Bay foundation for making that happen. 

And what I remember in terms of climate change is really the the sense of, the sense of loss for for humans and people that have been living there and the sense of loss for ecosystems. Because when you’re,  when you’re there, you can see, you can see, the island being washed away, so quickly. And it’s a smaller scale than ice caps melting, but it was so much more of an impact, it was so much more close to home, than the ice caps because you can see people pointing 40 feet out into the water and saying, this is where the coastline used to be. And then you can take a night walk and see bioluminescent bacteria on the sand and think that that’s going to be gone in two years.

Charles Olsen  2:07  

So how did you go from that experience to working in climate activism in college? And now being a full time organizer for climate advocacy?

Zander Pellegrino  2:18  

I’m not sure, is the short answer to that.

Charles Olsen  2:22  

Let’s let me frame it another way. Let’s, let’s do what I like to call running down your resume. Can you walk me through the steps, you know, college, first job, first time organizing, and then get build, build the framework that will talk through

Zander Pellegrino  2:43  

When I’m telling this story I want to focus on, really the importance of emergent strategy. I like it a lot, about agent Barry brown and those types of ideas. And I don’t really want to tell my story in a linear, concrete way because it wasn’t planned. And so much of our lives and activism aren’t planned. And so I’ll tell you what happened. But know that it could have gone a lot of different ways. And this is the way that it did go. And in terms of climate, I studied biology as an undergrad because, I’ve told this story before. But I just wanted to know what was underneath my skin. I looked at my skin and just felt Wow. I can’t not I can’t not learn that there’s blood and organelles and bacteria and that potassium channels change electricity currents and make me go. Like I can’t not know that. And then that really shaped why I wanted to study biology and then through that, you move really quickly to courses and wetland delineation and ecosystem services and outside of the classroom really thinking a lot about carbon emissions from, from our school, from William and Mary, I helped with the greenhouse gas audit for a while, for years there. And one of the early stories there was thinking about how we can have some better decisions and better funding for climate action because something that really was exciting that happened years before my time there was students wanted to generate funds for climate action. So they released a survey and said, you know, we want to pay an additional $10- $15 per semester and use those funds to go towards climate action projects. But with some of the professors and AI on the committee, we realized that we didn’t have any the projects were going towards broad research and some on a track and infrastructure improvements which was great but we really needed and kind of some long term endowed funding to do climate action so we started thinking about how we can set up activities that are actually going to allow us to to reduce emissions on meaningful scale long term and that was a lot of what was happening in undergrad it was very ambitious focused and very ecosystems focused and and towards the end of it i started thinking even more about adaptation and the human costs and the disproportionate human costs for, for communities around the world who are going to get hit first versus most by climate change but that really was towards the end of undergrad and thinking about that i applied to jobs throughout the world to work on climate adaptation and community level greening and environmental projects and just went with the first job that that accepted which was in Cairo, Egypt. 

Charles Olsen  6:09  

I’m interested in the path you took from your experience in undergrad- can you tell me a little bit about the work that you did on that school committee and how that work influenced your desire to go into planning for your jobs right out of undergrad and to study planning in your grad program?

Zander Pellegrino  6:36  

I could but I don’t think it did. I think what really influenced that decision was, was looking around my peers and seeing the people that I was interested in were going towards DC to work on things that I was doing- either as like international development subcontractors and I just didn’t want to try and participate in a climate adaptation project- this isn’t necessarily how I think now- but this is what I was thinking about my really the extent of my thinking then was if I’m going to be working on projects related to climate adaptation and environmentalists throughout the world, I don’t want to do it from DC I want to do it where the projects are being implemented and so that’s why i applied on more of the implementation and project management side. On pencil that included some jobs in DC, some jobs around Virginia, and some jobs within international development. 

Charles Olsen  7:36  

I saw that while you were pursuing your graduate degree at Yale you published some papers talking about community resiliency and trust during the planning process and just from listening to you talk for the past couple of minutes I already see how a lot of those values have been instilled in you through your education and like just through your experiences- I’m interested in connecting that to the work you do today. How do you view your experience working in those community resiliency projects to your job currently as an advocate?

Zander Pellegrino  8:14  

Yeah one thing that I think I really took away from, I can talk and give examples of this, but really so much of public participation and community advocacy and community outreach and all these words we use to describe talking to people who are going to be impacted by development at the end of those processes, oftentimes proposals and what actually happens it’s no different than what planners and leaders and often white male architects and engineers propose at the beginning. I was talking to committee members and I saw that in New York City with the east side coastal resiliency project, and get the drawbacks of relying so heavily on contracting to do community outreach work and I saw that in Egypt with some Jazz Edson driven development corporation projects, both focusing on urban greening and within both projects, there was tons of community outreach meetings people had no shortage of opportunities to chat they just weren’t listened to because their comments were either out of scope because they were focusing on the actual lived experiences and issues that they were facing, which in the community in Cairo, were a sewage system which flooded and was so backed up that the NGO couldn’t solve that. That was out of their control and so they just heard what they did and said “hmm I guess we’ll do some urban guards because they couldn’t solve what people wanted them to solve” and then in New York City it was really the current plan is to bury the east river park under 10 feet of topsoil and that’s not at all what people said they wanted. And so the way that that relates to my work is I’m very aware that one way this job could go, could be to bring out community members, get them to public hearings, have them get public comments, share their experiences, their stories, and then at the end of the day, none of that will make a difference. And the planning agencies will be able to say, because we held a public hearing, we are participatory, we are community based, we have committed by it, even as they don’t listen, or rule. community members frustrations as out of scope, economically infeasible, or say that we’ll get to them in further implementation. And that’s something that I’m aware of, as I step into this space.

Charles Olsen  10:48  

I’ve heard a story about your work, organizing at Yale, can you tell me a little bit about that?

Zander Pellegrino  10:54  

Well, you probably heard was that I was one of the participants who shut down the Yale Harvard game, and demanded that those universities divest from both Puerto Rican debt that they’re holding, and from fossil fuel companies. 

Charles Olsen  11:08  

What are some of the takeaways from that experience?

Zander Pellegrino  11:12  

My role in that was very much as a body and as a recruiter. And I feel like that was an appropriate role for me in that space. And something that was really important, I think, was that a lot of the organizers had coordinated with the leadership of the football teams, before they shut down the event. They kind of anticipated the argument of “Oh, yeah, sure. We want to divest from climate, but why are you harming these these young boys future, let them just, let the boys play. And we don’t need to do this here.” But so much of the point of direct action is to make an existing crisis visible. And by reaching out to the leadership of the football teams and having them record pre record comments that say, we support this action, we don’t want our schools to be invested in fossil fuels or holding debt from a colony. Either, it kind of anticipated and prevented some of those arguments, which was, I think, very smart. And kind of interesting takeaway.

Charles Olsen  12:18  

You mentioned before that you wanted to approach your story with an emphasis in emergent strategy. And I know that that is a concept that is really popular in advocacy circles. But can you tell me a little bit about how that informs the work that you hope to do in Nova?

Zander Pellegrino  12:39  

There’s an essay on that subject, and in the collection, or we can say and one thing that I took from that essay was that I want to be like, like, like either migratory board or a monarch who is who is going someplace that their parents came from, but who they’ve never been themselves, and they don’t know that there’s a plan, they just feel a need to go. And that’s what we do is we go where we need to be. And we find our people there. And we connect with them. And we continue to support them on that path. And maybe we know we’re going to Canada, but we probably don’t know where we’re going to stop. And we definitely haven’t been there before. And we won’t go back to our home ever again. That’s the cycle. And and so I think that oftentimes, activists and organizers can obsess about and focus on the most impactful strategy or tactic. And I think that that is a very white idea that we can control the world. And I don’t necessarily think that that’s the case. And that’s not to say that I’m not going to be strategic, and I’m not going to employ strong tactics, but in the back of my mind, and in the forefront of my relationships are going to be a recognition that, that we’re all just one little butterfly, and it’s nice when we can move in the same direction together.

Charles Olsen  14:19  

You mentioned something about, you know, the emphasis on tactics and strategy being a very wide idea, and I want to explore that a second. Can, can you kind of explain your logic behind that?

Zander Pellegrino  14:38  

I think sometimes: That we’re not always going to win. I think that in order for us to imagine a new unjust world, we have to take on fights where we’re not going away. I mean, right, right. Before this, I was I was collaborating with a group Tennant organizers and flushing New York and in Queens and what we were focusing on was, was the fight that was going to be really hard for us to win it was advocating against a rezoning, that was going to rezone an area right along the flushing Creek for to make it able to be developed for luxury apartments that were just going to be there, we’re gonna be somewhat even past the height restriction. And we’re in the pathway of planes applying to LaGuardia, there’s giant towers that did not need to be there, but the developers already own the land. They even if the rezoning failed and we won,  that we could still develop it as of right and do whatever they wanted to do with it, we weren’t. But we organize and we fought, and we held rallies, and we submitted public comments, and we connected with each other and built connections from housing organizers too. We’re focused on displacement and anti gentrification with environmentalists who have done bio blitzes and surveys of flushing Creek and know about the wetlands and about how polluted that area is, and came together to tell a story that says you can’t hold development over people’s heads and hold a clean environment over people’s heads. And say that the court said that a clean environment is the price of, of development that you have to accept this, because they were promising to clean up the creek and provide a prominent and provide a publicly accessible water access, even if it would retain be privately owned by the developers. And that was the argument and we came together to say, That’s not enough, even when there wasn’t a really strong legal or political pathway for us. 

Charles Olsen  16:56  

Do you know in Northern Virginia, suburbs of DC, there are similar patterns of development to parts of New York, can you talk a little bit about what you see as some of the fights on the horizon for you organizing in this area?

Zander Pellegrino  17:14  

I, I imagine they’ll follow similar patterns, but I can’t talk about them in detail yet. I’m still learning, still getting to know the area and I’m continuing to meet with activist members who do you know?

Charles Olsen  17:30  

What are some of the aspects of CCAN that brought you to the organization? Why do you apply? Why do you want to work for us?

Zander Pellegrino  17:42  

When people ask me where I work, I tell them I work at CCAN and the link I send them is not the, like the CCAN homepage, it’s the link to the “Our wins” page. I know this seems a little inconsistent with what I just said about fighting no matter what. But I’m excited and proud of beating the ACP and other work that CCAN has done and a strong coalition of others. And I think that that is something that really enticed me and excited me. And I was coming from an NGO background and really seeing the limits of working on an isolated project and wanted to combine some of that knowledge and some of those community connections and some of that framework with focusing on changing loss.

Charles Olsen  18:27  

Climate advocacy is tough work, working in a nonprofit, there’s a ton a myriad of issues and stuff that we have to face all of the time, and it is tiring. So the question that I like to ask people, when I’m trying to get to know them a little bit more is, how do you deal with it? What are the, what are the things you do to manage the stress of working on such a big and complex issue? I know you love poetry?

Zander Pellegrino  18:59  

I do. I can, I can talk about that in a second. But my girlfriend too, she said that I could mention her name in the interview that we make. We’ve just started growing microgreens and so that’s something that I do is, that we do that together. And that’s been really fun. Oh, she said her full name people.

Charles Olsen  19:20  

Get the shout out.

Zander Pellegrino  19:21  

Yeah. And so we, we have our little microgreens together, but I also I really, I do like poetry. And I like feeling things that I can’t put into words. And that’s one thing that I do. Podcasts isn’t the best way to explain or share that information. But I like, I like it.

Charles Olsen  19:45  

If you could enact one policy to solve a problem at any level B local, federal, international, state level. What policy would you enact and why?

Zander Pellegrino  20:02  

I put an act of fossil fuel moratorium because I’m sick of talking about an area that we need natural gas to talk about it anymore. I’m sick of hearing it as a transition tool and as an integral component of the world, because sure, but that’s the world that we’ve made. And we can change it. And we need to imagine a new one. And I think a fossil fuel moratorium may give us a little bit of oomph to, to stop listening to natural gas enthusiasts and start reading Octavia Butler and start thinking about what this world could be, instead of being constrained by the pipes, and the toxins and the compressed gas that does currently make up part of it.

Charles Olsen  20:45  

What are you excited about moving forward?

Zander Pellegrino  20:49  

I’m really, I’m really excited that what my job is now is to call someone up and listen to them. I think that’s the best. I’m really thrilled about that. And I’m excited and encouraged, because CCAN and our coalition members have participated in so many ways of making a new world, whether it’s whether it’s direct action that is about personal divestment, or whether it’s direct action that is a rally or a blocking of fossil fuels, infrastructure, or just so many different ways to use our minds and our bodies and our friendships.

Charles Olsen  21:37  

Before I let you go, I always like to leave a couple of minutes for my interviewee for any final thoughts that you may have anything that you want the people listening to this to know about you?

Zander Pellegrino  21:54  

Yeah, I want people to know that I, that I don’t have all of the answers and that, and that that’s not a reason that we shouldn’t work together. That’s the reason that we should work together. Because, because we can figure it out together. And that I think that’s one reason I had trouble answering your question before, if one person in human history who I would want to meet or who would surprise people that I admire is because the past couple months, I’ve become maybe too comfortable but even more comfortable with the idea that that we are moving away from the model of just a mover and shaker that influences policy and cuts the backroom deal and galvanizes the masses to lead a protest just as that’s that doesn’t have to be the way things go. It can be, it can be all of us and it can be all of us that I may not even know and that the people that I probably admire in history I may not have heard of and they probably worked with their friends and in Coalition’s and that’s okay.

Charles Olsen  23:03  

 Zander, thank you so much. Your, your worldview is beautiful. I admire it and a lot of it resonates deeply with me. And I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me for this today. I’m super excited to be able to share your story with all of the listeners and CCAN supporters. So glad to have you on the team.

Zander Pellegrino  23:28  

I’m glad to be here. Thanks a lot.

Charles Olsen  23:29  

Thanks for listening to Upside Down. This podcast is produced by me, Charlie Olsen with incredible support from the entire CCAN staff. Check out the show notes for links to all the things discussed in this episode. If you want to know more about how you can get involved with CCAN and the climate fight, check out our website at Chesapeakeclimate.org. If you want to get in touch with us, follow us on instagram and twitter @CCAN. And if you enjoy the work we do, why don’t you share us with your friends. Sharing the show is a super easy way to help spread the word about the work we’re doing in the fight for bold climate actions. Thanks again for listening. I’ll see you next time.

The Path to 100% Clean Electricity by 2035 with Leah Stokes

In this episode of Upside Down, On February 24th, CCAN, CCAN Action Fund, and Evergreen Action hosted this all-star panel on the Policy, Politics, Economics, Climate Science, Jobs, and Justice Behind Biden’s Plan for 100% Clean Electricity by 2035. We were joined by author and scientist Michael Mann, Economist Stephanie Kelton, Dr. Leah Stokes, and Johnathan Williams of the Sunrise Movement. 

Check out the full transcript for the episode below!

Check out The New Climate War

Check out The Deficit Myth

Check out Short Circuiting Policy

Charles Olsen  0:01  

My name is Charlie Olsen. And this is Upside Down, the podcast from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

Mike Tidwell  0:09  

Welcome to this zoom event called Pathway to 100%. It’s a webinar on the policy politics, economics, climate science and justice behind President Joe Biden’s plan for 100% clean electricity by the year 2035, and how Congress can make this law this year. I’m Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the CCAN Action Fund and until this year, my team here has been mostly state focused on successful clean energy policies in Maryland, Virginia and local DC. So it seemed logical for us to host this webinar from the DC region for all of you nationwide as Congress soon takes up a core piece of President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion climate plan. DOD policy again is 100% carbon free electricity grid by the year 2035. Today’s webinar is co-hosted by CCAN and our friends at Evergreen Action, a nonprofit inspired by the work of Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State. Evergreen is devoted to rapidly solving the climate crisis with justice, while creating 8 million good paying new jobs. Much of Biden’s climate plan is inspired by Evergreen’s work. Of course, nearly a third of all US greenhouse gas emissions come from the power grid. But the solution is much bigger than that. As we move to electrify everything in our economy, transportation, building, heating, cooling, up to 70 to 80% of all greenhouse gas emissions will ultimately be displaced by wind and solar and smart grid technology. So 100% clean electricity is a key. But can we do it? Thankfully, 30 states already mandate large shares of their grid come from clean energy. Right outside my window in the city of DC the legal mandate is 100% clean electricity by 2032. But can we do it for all the states by 2035? Moving us toward our Paris Climate Commitment: in a moment you’ll hear from Dr. Leah Stokes of Evergreen Action, who will explain more fully this tool of a clean energy standard, or CES, and how state policy is already working and how a national CES could function so CCAN can out a feasible legislative pathway for Congress. Imagine the US Congress that passed 100% CES this year, it’s breathtaking. But we have to do all of this with jobs and with justice, of course. So we’ll hear from my esteemed colleague Quintin Scott, of CCAN Action Fund about jobs and on the justice and equity movement we need to win. We’ll hear from Jonathan Williams, the internal justice coordinator at the Sunrise Movement. But before all that, we have to cover two fundamental issues first, after four years of Donald Trump’s inaction, does the latest climate science actually give us much of a chance? Do we still have time? And if we have time, does our COVID damaged economy still have room to invest massively in climate solutions right now? Or will new deficits as Republicans say, “tie our hands”? Thankfully, the news is encouraging on both the scientific and the fiscal front. So let’s start with science. And by the way, if you have questions for our speakers, place them in the q&a tab. Also know that this program is being recorded. So, Dr. Michael Mann is a well known climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel Panel on Climate Change. He is also the author of the brand new book. I have it right here. I’ve read it. It’s fantastic. The brand new book called “The New Climate War”, in which a Texaan takes head on what he calls climate Doom-ism. Dr. Mann, welcome. And what is the evidence that the climate window has not yet shut on?

Michael Mann  4:18  

Yeah, Thanks, Mike. And thanks to CCAN for sponsoring this event, and of course, to my co-panelists. So really, the message of my book, The New Climate War is that there is both urgency and agency. Yes, we know that we have to act now. We can see the detrimental impacts of climate change now playing out in real time in the form of unprecedented extreme weather events. And of course, we saw this unprecedented polar vortex event in Texas last week. And we can talk about the role that climate change might have played with that particular event. And there is a potential role that climate change plays in that specific event, but more broadly, these extreme weather events are costing us dearly, they are attacks on our economy, and they’re leading to a loss of human lives. That’s the face of climate change. It’s no longer subtle. It’s no longer about polar bears up in the Arctic, or penguins down in the Antarctic, it’s about things that are happening in our own lives today that are impacting us in an adverse way. So yes, there is urgency, but there’s agency, it’s not too late. To prevent the worst impacts of climate change, we need to limit warming to about a degree and a half Celsius, that’s about three degrees Fahrenheit if we are to avert the worst impacts of climate change. But there is still time to do that. And one of the developments in the science of climate modeling over the past decade, actually provides us some reason for cautious optimism. We now understand that if we stop burning carbon, now, if we stop emitting carbon pollution into the atmosphere, within a few years, the surface temperature of the planet will stabilize. We used to think that that warming would continue for decades. But we now understand that because of the role that the oceans in the biosphere play, their ability to take in carbon to draw down from the atmosphere, if we stop putting carbon into the atmosphere, then we have those sinks, drawing it down, it’s like a sink, with the drain open and the water level sinks. And so in the end, we get the warming that we’ve pretty much caused thus far, if we stop emitting carbon. Now, that means that there is a direct and immediate impact of our efforts to reduce carbon emissions, there is widespread sort of doom and gloom in certain circles, in our climate discourse, people who have become convinced that we are undergoing runaway warming, for example, or that we are committed to runaway warming, the science doesn’t indicate that the best available science tells us if we stop burning carbon now, surface temperatures stabilize, and all those impacts related to the warming of the earth surface stop getting worse. And so now is the time to act. And you’ll be getting quite a bit of information about that from Leah and others about the opportunities that we really have right now to see meaningful climate action, that sort of action that will prevent catastrophic warming of the planet.

Mike Tidwell  7:35  

That’s Dr. Mann, and again, the book is The New Climate War. And it’s an amazing, timely book. And one question we’ve gotten from a viewer already, Dr. Mann is, what was the old climate war? And what is the new climate war?

Michael Mann  7:54  

Yeah, thanks for that question. The old climate war was this assault on the basic scientific evidence, the scientific foundation of human caused climate change. And I found myself at the center of those attacks. Because of the now iconic hockey stick curve that we published a couple decades ago, that became sort of symbolic in the climate change debate, because it demonstrated the profound impact that we’re having on the planet, the upturn blade showing the unprecedented warming of the past century in the context of the last 1000 years. And so I found myself at the center of this very fractious debate, because of the science that we had published two decades ago. Well, look, as I said before, the impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. We see them play out in real time on our television screens, in our newspaper headlines. So the forces of inaction, I call them, the activists, fossil fuel interests, and those who have done their bidding, can no longer claim that it isn’t happening, but they haven’t given up this battle, they still want to keep us addicted to fossil fuels. And so they’ve deployed a whole new array of insidious tactics to prevent us from moving on. And that includes dividing us getting us fighting with each other, deflecting attention away from the needed systemic changes the policies to individual action, as if it’s just about you and me, and that we don’t need larger policies and incentives, or promoting as we already said, doom and gloom, because if you really believe it’s too late to do anything about the problem, that potentially leads you down that path of inaction and look, the activists, they don’t care about the path you take. They just care about the destination. They want you disengaged- it’s important to recognize these obstacles that remain because we’re so close now. We can see it, we can smell it. We’re so close to seeing the action that we need. And Leo will talk more about that, certainly. But these obstacles are still in our way. We have to recognize them. We have to fight back against these tactics, because this is our time. This is our moment.

Mike Tidwell  9:49  

Thank you, Dr. Michael Mann. Again, the book is The New Climate War. It’s as all of Dr. Mann’s writing has been over the past decade: very exciting. That’s the ball clear, urgent, passionate, and fundamentally, I found optimistic. But optimism predicated on that urgency of turning off the greenhouse gas spigot as soon as possible. So Dr. Mann, thank you for making time in your busy schedule to join us today. And I encourage everyone to read his new book. Thank you. If you’re just joining us, I’m Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and we’re discussing a core part of Joe Biden’s proposed climate plan: 100% clean electricity by 2035. reaching that goal will require billions of dollars in wind and solar and smart grid technology, much of it with government incentives, loans and direct investments, not to mention the need to rebuild much of, if not most of our national infrastructure to adapt to climate change. But can we afford it? Isn’t our country broke after trillions of dollars and COVID spending on top on top of the previous past deficit? Our next guest, Dr. Stephanie Kelton of Stony Brook University says no, no and no to that last question. She says not to listen to the growing budget hawks in the news. Her new book, “The Deficit Myth”- also excellent reading. (And) by the way, shows deficit spending can and should power us to climate solutions like 100% clean electricity and a new Green Deal and other social enhancement goals. Kelton served as chief economist on the US Senate Budget Committee in 2015. And she was also an economic adviser to Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign, she is hands down a leading voice from the rising economic school of thought known as modern monetary theory. Dr. Stephanie Kelton. Welcome, and please take it away. 

Stephanie Kelton  11:58  

Well, thank you, Mike, thank you for the invitation to be part of this and join this esteemed panel, I’m very happy to have a few minutes to talk a little bit about the book and situate the arguments as you just did in the context of this, I think, (it’s an) important fight that we’re about to have, because it is going to be a fight right getting the kinds of investments the large scale public funding of the on the order of magnitude that is going to be required to meaningfully get at this problem. The crisis that we’re facing is substantial. And you know, as Dr. Mann said, I like this term, the inactivists that he has us thinking about and he said, they’ve developed insidious tactics to block us right to make things seem insurmountable. Well, they do that on the fiscal front as well. And that’s what so much of my book is aimed at really empowering the rest of us people who have been fooled by the the narratives that dominate the idea that the federal government has to try to balance its budget that it’s faced, that it faces, financial constraints that are akin to those of a household that it could run out of money. I mean, we hear this from political leaders, you know, after the financial crisis in 2008. It was just a few months after Barack Obama became president, that he was pressed on this question about how much money was being spent to deal with the financial crisis and the economic fallout? And the question put to him was, at what point do we run out of money? And he responded, we’re out of money now. And I remember the way my heart sank in that moment, because we, I knew, immediately that we weren’t going to come close to doing enough to support the economy. As soon as he uttered those words, I essentially thought, Oh, boy, you know, all bets are off, we’re going to do far too little and we’re going to be stuck with a really lackluster economy, livelihoods and lives, you know, damaged for years to come. And it’s exactly what happened. So they use these narratives, they preach doom and gloom. They tell us that, you know, we’re doing terrible things to the next generation that we’re these deficits are adding to the national debt. The national debt represents a real burden on future generations. They play to the morality of the deficit spending, telling us we’re bankrupting our kids and our grandkids. They tell us you know that it’s a national security threat. They tell us that we could end up like Greece- mired in a debt crisis, you know, bankrupting the country. They try to fear monger with respect to countries like China and tell us you know, we’re borrowing from China. Do you really want to be borrowing from you know, a foreign countries, especially those that may not be our friends and so we were up against a lot historically, when it comes to defending the kind of bold, ambitious spending program that we are going to need if we’re going to deal meaningfully with the crisis and hold global temperatures from increasing the way that Dr. Mann describes. So in the book, I tried to dispel these myths, starting with the simple recognition that the federal government operates a budget that is nothing like the budget that we all face. It’s not like a household budget, they do not face a financial constraint that the federal government is the issuer of the currency. And the rest of us are just users of the dollar, we use the currency, which is why, frankly, the cares package and all of the other spending bills that Congress has rolled out to deal with COVID and the economic fallout.

The government can spend, even in a time of crisis, even when tax revenues are falling off a cliff. States can do what cities can’t. So mayors and governors are begging Congress for help. Small businesses and large businesses can’t do that, and households can’t do that. So the government is stepping up and providing income support loans and grants and other forms of assistance. Because the government can do what the rest of us can’t do, they can literally spend money they do not have, right. And so we get very anxious because we hear words like deficit and debt. And I just want to kind of lower the temperature in the room. Remind people that the deficit is just the difference between two numbers. That’s all it is. It’s the difference between how many dollars the government spends into the economy every year, and how many dollars they subtract back out mainly through taxation. So every time we hear the word deficit, what we should understand is that the government is making a deposit to some part of the economy that government deficits are nothing more than financial contributions. There are deposits being placed somewhere in the economy, every deficit is good for someone. Right? The question is, for whom? And for what? So when the republicans passed their tax cuts at the end of 2017. And guess what the price tag estimated price tag of those tax cuts was $1.9 trillion. Does that sound like a familiar number $1.9 trillion? Is the estimated cost of the GOP tax cuts 2017. What did they do? They lowered the corporate income tax rate and they lowered personal income taxes mostly on people already doing phenomenally well. 83% of the benefits went to people on top 1%. But they did it not because they thought deficits were this horrible, dangerous, awful, rotten thing to do, but because they understand perfectly well, that a government deficit creates a windfall on the other side of the ledger for somebody else, that $1.9 trillion. Government deficit is a $1.9 trillion surplus in some other part of the economy. Now think about 1.9 trillion. President Biden is asking for that 1.9 trillion will similarly create a deposit in other parts of the economy, but it will go to the unemployed, it will go to people who are really struggling, it will go to help get shots in arms and to build out the vaccination effort and to help plug holes in state and local government budgets. So every deficit is good for someone. It’s always a question about for whom and for what so what are we hearing now wrapping up quickly? We’re hearing that it’s too much. It’s too big. It’s too risky, and it risks overheating the economy. So we’re hearing from some pretty high profile economists who are warning that this 1.9 trillion is already too much. That concerns me a lot. And I think the good news is that most economists disagree with those who are making this claim there are only a handful that think it’s too big, most economists disagree. And what concerns me is that President Biden is calling the 1.9 trillion downpayment. On the other side of the relief package, he comes for the recovery package. And that’s what I think we’re here to talk about, right? That’s the build back better agenda. That’s where he comes back and asks for money to do climate and infrastructure and sustainable housing and all the other things, if we are led to believe that we’ve already done as much as we could afford to do that doing anything further, is dangerous, risky, puts us in some Jeopardy, we’re in real trouble, because they will try to weaponize the use of additional deficit spending to distract us to preach the gloom and doom right to use these kind of insidious tactics to to shake our confidence going forward. And so I want us to, you know, stand up very tall and be very assured that, at the end of the day, whatever Congress wants to spend, we can afford. If Congress commits the resources, the money will go out. You don’t find the money, you find the votes. And if you can, if you can accumulate enough votes to pass the legislation. The funding will be there, because Congress has the power of the purse, right, Congress can commit all of the dollars that it deems necessary to meaningfully engage in this fight to win this, beat this crisis. So the real risk, the thing you have to watch out for is inflation. There are limits, I’m not here to suggest that there’s no constraint, no limit whatsoever, there are limits, but they are not that you run out of money. They are not that you bankrupt your country or your kids and grandkids. The relevant constraint is the economy’s capacity to safely handle any spending that Congress appropriates. And so the limit is inflation. And as long as the real resources are available, we have the people we have construction workers, architects, engineers, steel machines, and we can build and maintain infrastructure and lay broadband and build high speed rail and do the rest of it. That’s what really matters.

Mike Tidwell  21:05  

Dr. Calvin, thank you so much for that concise and, frankly, truly illuminating argument. I know that I first heard you on a podcast talking about this issue about six months ago. And it truly changed my thinking on the possibilities of our economy. And I want to thank you for that. And those of you watching a lot of the Green New Deal thinking has been informed by modern monetary theory. That as you said, Dr. Kelton, it seems like when the republicans want money for war, they find it. When they want money for tax cuts, they find it. But when it comes time for climate and social safety net programs, they tend not to find it. I’m also encouraged, as we move on to our next speaker, that Janet Yellen has responded vocally that she feels like the Treasury has the tools to deal with inflation. And there’s no real evidence that inflation is heating up despite all the spending we’ve had just in the last two months from COVID. And the predicted spending we need to do for stimulus, infrastructure and climate. So again, the book is Deficit Myth. It’s really changed my thinking on this issue. I think every climate activist, climate activists, not just the economists, needs to read this book, because we need to fearlessly and confidently beat back the arguments that are already coming, that our country is bankrupt and we can’t fulfill Joe Biden’s climate plan with the investments we know we need. So Dr. Kelton, thank you so much for joining us. So the science tells us there’s still time and new economics shows the evidence: rich potential for pulling off massive climate investments would defend, not weaken, prosperity. But now we’re in a sprint. After Donald Trump and previous years of inaction, we no longer have the luxury of a multi decade marathon to achieve solutions we must sprint sprint toward passage of a clean electricity standard and other vital climate features this year, in fact, by August, here to tell us about the specifics and the nuances of abiding 100% clean energy standard is Lia Stokes. She’ll also lay out the challenging but utterly achievable pathway to legislative victory using so called budget reconciliation. Again, if you’re just joining us, I’m Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. And if you have questions for our speakers, place them in the q&a tab. So Dr. Leah Stokes is a professor of political science at UC Santa Barbara and sits on the advisory board of Evergreen Action. She is a rising star in the climate movement, whose advocacy on 100% clean electricity has been featured in national publications, and the new climate podcast of the legendary Dave Roberts.

Leah Stokes  23:58  

I’m Leah Stokes. I’m a professor at UC Santa Barbara, I work with Evergreen Action and Data for Progress. And we recently released a report showing how we can get to 100% clean electricity by 2035. If Congress does what’s necessary and acts and I just want to say that it’s been so wonderful partnering with CCAN. Quintin, Mike and Jamie have become good friends in the few weeks we’ve been working together, and I’m really excited to keep working with them.

So the challenge, as Mike was just saying is the pace and scale right we are behind the curve on this before Biden made this really landmark pledge for 100% clean power by 2035. We were talking about decarbonizing our electricity system by 2050. And in a certain sense, you might say we were on track for that. In fact, by 2020, we were at 40%, which would be right in that crosshairs right there of what’s necessary. But look at this figure some more. We’re really living on borrowed time with our nuclear fleet and our hydro power fleet which are not growing and can even be shrinking in some cases. So renewables in the very best year are growing about two percentage points annually. And they need to be growing at least four or five percentage points to be on track for what’s necessary. And if we instead say, we’re not aiming for 2050, we’re aiming for climate stability, here, we’re aiming for 2035, then the math just gets more punishing. So we really have to get Congress to act to make sure that we are seeing deployments of four or five percentage points annually of renewables. And the good news is that 2020 was the best year yet, I think there was something like 37 gigawatts of wind and solar built. So we are making progress. And we just need to scale this up with federal support. If you’re interested in this, I made a little video about it, which kind of helps you intuit some of the math. Um, so what is a clean electricity standard? Well, basically, it’s a requirement, it’s a requirement for more clean electricity by a certain year. So for example, 80% clean power by 2030, which is directly on the path to 100% clean power by 2035. This policy exists, as Mike was mentioning, and a lot of states, sometimes it’s called a renewable portfolio standard. Sometimes it’s called a clean electricity standard. And the really important thing is that President Biden campaigned and won on this policy. He just talked about 2035 all the time, if you ever heard him talk about climate change, he was talking about 100% clean power by 2035. So we know this is a really top issue for the Biden and Harris administration. And as Stephanie mentioned earlier, this is a core part of his build back better agenda, which is the next thing that Congress is going to turn to and I found it so inspiring to hear Stephanie talk about how we cannot let people tell us that we somehow don’t have the money for the most important investments that we can be making in our climate stability, because nobody was making that argument when the Cares Act was passed last year, which included massive bailouts for the fossil fuel industry. And unlike bailing out the fossil fuel industry, investing in clean power, as Stephanie was saying, is an investment in our economy. Indeed, it will actually pay us back by putting people to work by cleaning up the air. And that’s going to not just provide jobs, but also a lot of health benefits that, for example, will affect our health care system and bring down health care costs. This is a really practical, proven and popular approach. And I’m going to talk about the popular more in a second. But what do I mean by practical improvement? Well, you might not know this, but you may just be living in a state or city right now, that is already targeting 100% clean power. And that’s because more than one in three Americans already live in a place that is planning to do this. So this isn’t really a new idea. It’s something that we’ve been doing since the 80s, and 90s, and states across this country. And it’s really very popular. So we know how to do it. We know it’s going to deliver job creation and justice. And we know that people support it. So let’s just look at the fantastic polling that data for progress did as part of our work on this. Well, here’s the top line findings:  the strong majority of people across this country support Biden’s bold pledge for 100% clean power by 2035. Of course, that’s particularly strong amongst democrats and even independents. But even amongst Republicans, if we include people who aren’t quite sure, we’re still getting to that 50% support number. So this is a popular approach. Notably, some of the really key swing states where you know, Biden had to win in order to secure the presidency, are places where this is a really popular idea. And indeed, in Arizona and Michigan, Biden actually ran campaign ads during the general election on climate change. So voters knew what he was up to. And they were strongly supportive. Let’s look for example, at Arizona here, well over 50% are supporting this policy. And I just want to also highlight that this policy will particularly deliver benefits for Black Latinx and indigenous communities. And that is because we have overwhelmingly placed our fossil fuel infrastructure, in communities of color, we have put the harms of our energy system into communities of color, and let the benefits overwhelmingly flow to white communities. And we know that because of research, now, here’s what this shows: particularly black and Latin x communities are quite strongly supportive of this policy. So we have more than 70% support in black communities, and 65% in Hispanic communities. So you know, this is a policy that will really deliver on the core ideas of the Green New Deal, which is about equity, job creation and justice. And so that’s why I’m very excited about this policy. And I’m going to turn it back to Mike now to ask some more questions about how exactly we might get this done.

Mike Tidwell  29:45  

Yeah, thank you, Leah. The numbers are astounding. I am proud to live in a state, Maryland, where we have a commitment to 50% clean electricity by 2030. Virginia is going to be near 50% by 2030. And as I mentioned earlier, DC is already on its way to 100%. So this is exciting. One question we’ve gotten, Leah, is what do we do about gas? We know that coal is in decline? Oil is not necessarily what we’re talking about that much in terms of electricity. But very briefly, what is the role, if any, for gas? And can you really get to 100%? By 2035, versus this idea of like, 80% by 2030?

Leah Stokes  30:28  

Well, I think it’s really important to recognize that we know that the 80 to 90%, clean is very doable. There was an amazing report that came out of Berkeley and Grid lab last year, if you just go to 2035report.com, they showed that we could get to 90% clean power by 2035 and save customers money. Why do we save customers money? Well, right now, dirty coal plants continue to operate, that are not economic, they actually cost customers every hour of the day that they operate. And you don’t just have to take that from me, you can take that from the CEO of Nextera, a very large power company, who said a few weeks ago, there is not a single economic coal plant left in this country full stop period. So shutting down these coal plants will not only deliver massive health benefits, particularly to communities of color, but will also deliver lower cost power. So we know we can get to 80 to 90%, clean. And that’s really what we have to be focused on right now. There’s no more excuses left, and that last 10% of the electricity system is going to be harder to decarbonize. Now, the good news is that and I’m happy to talk a bit more about the budget reconciliation process. But the good news is that what we’re talking about in this package anyway, is a 10 year window. So we’re really talking about making sure we get that 80% clean power by 2030 into law. And that is directly on the path to 100%, clean by 2035. And notably, you can’t tell me it’s not possible because the entire state of Colorado is already in law planning to get to 80% clean power by 2030. And we have one Corporation in Google, which seems to think it can get to 100% clean power by 2030. And Google, you may recall, is perhaps the largest energy consumer in our country. So this is not a small fish, so to speak. So you know, we are going to need to have some innovation to get to that deep decarbonisation. But look, we had a moonshot. And we put people on the moon, we had World War Two, and we defeated, you know, really strong forces. And so we can do this, if we just get started today, and we invest in these solutions.

Mike Tidwell  32:37  

Well, let’s talk about how we’re gonna do it. Right, we know that we’ve got a narrow window legislatively in, in this Congress really this, this bill needs to pass by August, or it’s going to be very hard to pass it all. I just want to recommend this report that Leah has mentioned, “A Roadmap to 100% Clean Electricity”, that that evergreen put out and we’ll put in the chat, I really encourage you to read it. You can see I have marked it up. I mean, it’s for if you’re a policy wonk, this is a report to read in terms of 100%. But Dr. Leah Stokes, tell us in the next two or three minutes, how we can do it, the filibuster apparently is not going to leave our future Congress. And there’s this idea of budget reconciliation that you mentioned, how can Congress pass 100% clean energy standard by budget reconciliation?

Leah Stokes  33:38  

Yeah, so I’m happy to give everybody an intuition of that. So we can of course, pass it by eliminating the filibuster that does not look like it’s on the agenda right now. But we can still pass it through budget reconciliation using the 51 vote strategy. And basically, once a year, Congress can use a budget reconciliation process. I’m going to talk a little bit more about that. But the fact is that last year, Congress did not use it, meaning that the first bill that we’re talking about passing right now, that $1.9 trillion package for COVID, and sort of stimulus that is being passed on last year’s fiscal year budget reconciliation process. And the next approach, which is really the recovery and the build back better policy, which will start in the spring, once we’re past this current negotiation. That will be the big climate clean energy and investment package, that’s going to be the build back better package. And we believe based on you know, more than 10 months of research and talking to people that we can put a clean electricity standard into that policy. So how do we do that? Well, basically what is budget reconciliation, budget reconciliation is a policy that is a series of profit allows policy to be in a negotiation if it is focused on government revenues, government expenditures, or and or debt. So if we’re doing anything where the government is spending money, or raising revenue, or you know, putting money towards the debt by spending money in the way that Stephanie described, that counts under budget reconciliation, and we can design a clean electricity standard that fits into these constraints, what is the basic intuition? Well, in our report, we outlined more than six options about how to do it. But the basic intuition is that we have to provide funding for utilities that are doing the right thing. We say if you build clean power at the pace and scale that’s necessary, if you’re adding four or five percentage points a year of clean power, you will get resources from the federal government. And the critical thing is that it’s not just a carrot, it’s also a stick. If you do not do the right thing, if you do not move at the pace and scale that’s necessary, there is a penalty to be paid. And so that’s the basic intuition of how to do this because it’s all about revenues, if the utilities are not doing what’s right in terms of these penalties and expenditures, when the gut when these utilities are doing what’s right, we give them resources. So this is a requirement. It is not a market based mechanism where we hope and pray that things might happen, it is a requirement. And it will go alongside other key investments like extending the production tax credit, and the investment tax credit, and crucially, turning those into direct pay mechanisms so that they are more easily used by actors in society. So that’s the basic intuition. And I’ll just say, too, that this is not the only thing we have to do to get to 100% clean power, there’s a lot of other things that this package must include. So those investments turned into direct pay that I’ve met, that I’ve already mentioned, things like supporting the shutdown of coal plants by getting rid of coal, plant debt, pushing for electrification, especially in buildings, as well as in our transportation sector, streamlining, clean, energy permitting, and siting and also transmission so that we can build all the infrastructure that’s necessary, promoting competition to keep the prices low, so that as people are using power for more and more things, like their cooking and their heating and their cars, electricity is not really expensive, promoting intervene, or compensation programs, which by the way, Firk is setting up an Office of Public Participation right now. And you can get involved in that. That’ll basically pay advocates to advocate for clean power, and address this technology innovation gap so that we know we can get that last 10% done. So I think Quintin is going to probably speak next, but as you point out his job creation and justice that were really for here, and this policy will deliver it. And so that’s why it’s so critical to get this as part of the build back better agenda.

Mike Tidwell  37:39  

Well, again, thank you, Dr. Stokes, the report: A Roadmap to 100- we’ve got it posted in the chat. It really is a readable, comprehensive, clear plan, not only for the policy of how it could work in the states and at the federal level. But how we can pass it through various scenarios, budget reconciliation, we call your report the Bible around here. So if you’re part of a group that wants to be part of this historic push for clean energy this year, to get passed by August, please read that report. And you’re going to hear, at the end of this hour, from Jamie DeMarco CCAN who’s going to tell you more details how you and your organization can plug into Thank you, Dr. Stoke. And now let’s talk again, as Dr. Stokes said more about jobs. What Dr. Stokes highlighted. It’s so exciting. We want to delve more. Quintin Scott is the federal policy associate for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. And first he can act in fun. He’s a native of Chicago, and spent years as a policy advocate in the Illinois General Assembly and as a staffer on Capitol Hill.

Quentin Scott  38:54  

Thank you for the introduction, Mike, it’s my pleasure to be on this very distinguished panel. It is time for the United States to commit to a 100% clean electricity standard by 2035. We have an opportunity to reimagine a robust US economy and create good paying jobs now and be a global leader in innovation and manufacturing. Once again, every conversation about clean electricity standards eventually comes back to jobs. Where would those jobs be? How much would those jobs pay? The answers to these questions are the guy that takes us from conversation to commitment? The answer is simple. Decarbonizing the grid by 2035 will create millions of good jobs that will be available to those currently working in the fossil fuel industry. There will be plenty of jobs just cleaning up the mess we’ve already made. There are hundreds of 1000s of orphan wells in coal mines in places like West Virginia that need to be kept. The Columbia center of global energy policy recently released a study saying a federal program to plug orphaned wells could create as many as 120,000 jobs. If 500,000 wells were plugged in The majority of these jobs will be in rural communities like West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Alabama. The good jobs from clean energy are so compelling that even building trades are coming around to the fact that clean electricity is good for labor. The main AFL CIO and rail workers united endorsed the main green new deal in 2019, which included 100% clean electricity standard 17, New York City labor unions came together to form the climate jobs New York coalition. We heard the President of the Texas AFL CIO voice that it’s time for unions to play a role in really shaping the future, and there are going to be great new opportunities for labor. United Auto Workers region nine in New York even joined the New York renews coalition, which successfully enacted 100% clean electricity standard. We need to pass the 100% clean electricity standard by 2035. To make sure that we are building a clean energy future here at home. The United States has fallen behind China and Europe in the race for producing high tech batteries that store solar and wind energy. According to the benchmark mineral intelligence, China dominates battery production with 93 Giga factories that manufacture the lithium ion batteries versus only here in the US. At this current rate, China’s projected to have 140 Giga factories by 2030, while Europe will have 17 and the United States just 10. If this trend continues, a decade from now, we will be dependent on China for a significant portion of our battery needs. Despite the lack of leadership at the federal level, some American businesses are taking a lead. For example, General Motors has started building a battery cell factory in Lordstown, Ohio, that is already bringing jobs to the area and eventually will employ 1100 people. acting quickly, we can help make sure that these jobs of the future are American jobs. President Biden sees our need for clean energy and job creation as connected challenges. Biden proposed to make a 2 billion, excuse me, $2 trillion public sector investment into infrastructure and is projected to create 10 million new direct and indirect clean energy jobs, including funds for displaced workers and fossil fuel industries. He will also defend workers rights to form unions and collectively bargain to ensure jobs created offer good wages, benefits and worker protections. President Biden is committed to investing in transformative scalable technologies to meet our country’s energy needs. Just a few weeks ago, we saw the Department of Energy announce a $100 million investment and more investments are coming this year, as proposing the Stokes Ricketts report, which all of you are going to go read after this webinar. Along with clean electricity standard. We need a national energy efficiency benchmark, which according to the study done by the Political Economy Research Institute, will create 700,000 new jobs across the country. already more than two and a half million Americans have careers in wind, solar and energy efficiency. That is more than all the jobs in coal, oil and gas combined. In 100% clean electricity standard will create millions more. These are not just wishful thinking projections. We know that clean electricity standards create jobs because we’ve seen them happen since 2010. Solar jobs in the US have increased by 300%. In states with the most solar jobs are the states with 100% clean electricity standards like California, New York and Arizona. Since Maryland passed clean energy standards. We’ve seen Maryland solar industry go to over 210 companies and employ 5300 residents and pay for 20,000 jobs in 2013. alone. The United States has a long history of using innovation to spur economic growth, building the necessary infrastructure to meet the 2035 clean electricity standard can create millions of good paying union jobs from battery manufacturing to solar panel installation and a time of growing unemployment. 100% clean electricity standard gets us good paying jobs now.

Mike Tidwell  44:04  

Thank you, Quentin I’ve got one question we’ve gotten just briefly before we move on to our last speaker from the sunrise movement. We’ve gotten a question of how will Biden and Congress make sure that newly created clean energy jobs go to current fossil fuel workers?

Quentin Scott  44:24  

Yeah, that’s a great question, Mike. We recognize that fossil fuel communities across this country have fueled America. And as we transition to clean electricity, we need to make sure that’s a smooth transition. We can start by having dedicated funds to protect retirement and health benefits, provide funds to local governments to maintain quality education and other local services as there’s displaced economic activity, provide job training, and facilitate connections between people unions and employers. At the state level, we’ve seen places like Mexico and Colorado already established just transition offices. For fossil fuel workers, what last year, West Virginia introduced a bill that would create a similar office in their state. There needs to be additional federal funds to bolster the effectiveness of these offices. And so other states are encouraged to establish those offices as well. On January 27, Biden actually signed Executive orders that established the National Climate Task Force, and one of their missions is to create good paying jobs and create economic growth across all communities. So there are a lot of efforts already in place. And as we go through this transition, more resources will be dedicated to making sure that those jobs go to the right places. And for those fossil fuel workers.

Mike Tidwell  45:40  

Thank you, Quentin Scott, he is the federal policy associate for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. And for all of you, Capitol Hill staffers who are watching this webinar, you’ll see more of Clinton, as our organization joins our partners nationwide and makes 100% clean energy happen in Congress by August. Thank you, Quentin. You’ll see a lot more of him and also coming up shortly, CCAN federal policy director Jamie DeMarco, again, before we leave today is going to let you know the information and tools all of you on this call will need to plug in to this historic congressional push. But right now, in addition to new jobs, to pass 100% clean energy policy, we must address and repair past environmental and justices in this country and create a clean energy economy for all Americans. Thankfully, the administration has declared that all of its climate policies, including 100%, clean electricity must ensure that at least 40% of the new investments in benefits flow to communities of color and historically disadvantaged communities. By the way, that concept and that number 40% comes from our great friends in New York state who made that a state policy two years ago, and now it’s being borrowed by the administration. So thank you New York. The administration has clearly already created the White House, environmental justice Interagency Council to help push for this on all fronts, but we, the movement, will have to hold them accountable and ensure that in our own work, we are centering black and brown communities. Here to discuss this is Jonathan Williams. He is the internal justice coordinator at the great fantastic, historic organization, sunrise movement. Jonathan, take it away. 

Johnathan Williams  47:33  

Hi, thank you so much for having me. I hope you all can hear me. Yeah, I’m going to talk about the movement on the ground, the seat that gets it done. And I’m driving back to my education at the Chesapeake Bay Governor’s School, I came back to watch some students giving all these presentations about what would be exciting. And then I spoke and I delivered the same question that I’m delivering now. So what are we going to do about it, you can have all the ideas in the world and unless we can get it across the finish line, it doesn’t matter. Um, and I hate to harken back to a trying time for liberals, leftist Democrats. But I think there was an analysis of power that Senator Bernie Sanders had when he said, Not me, us, versus what I’ve heard from other people running for office. And that’s the understanding that we have to have people power at the base of everything we do. I think we can see with a lot of frustration, people are like, Democrats are governing, but they’re not governing, like they have power because a lot of the avenues in DC are blocked. So we have to get out in the streets and make them room because we can open up the room from the outside. And that can happen specifically using a tool that Dr. Martin Luther King would call the dramatic crisis, you find the public site of tension for injustice in our society, and you show up on the streets and you make it known we can see this in Texas right now, where there’s sunrise hubs on the ground, going to the state capitol and taking it to Greg Abbott and said “You destroyed our electrical grid and Republicans in this state allowed this electrical grid to get to this place”, and they’re creating the dramatic crisis that’s gonna be needed to take the country into this discussion and build alignment around this. And we’re gonna have to do that on Democrats and Republicans to really make folks feel and understand that this has to happen. Um, and in doing that, people get a little nervous because it sounds like a destructive process. I’m talking about showing up, rattling, making noise and that’s part of it. In the New World, we’re going to have to get rid of some of the old but we also are bringing a prophetic and a beautiful vision of what the world can look like. And we’re talking about what we’re going to be seeing in the years to come. And that’s really important to center. Some of the things that we have to be careful about as people on the left is sometimes we get too far in the future. And we’re talking about like, maybe wonkish, or like things that are disconnected from people’s reality right now. And that’s very dangerous because republicans are talking in reactionary terms, and things that are very issue present today. So we have to engage in what we can have, and meet people where they’re at. And this is where we bring in the communities that we’re talking about black, brown, indigenous marginalized people.

We’re not going to create the vision and we don’t have the imagination, I don’t have the imagination for myself, to imagine a world that includes all people, you need an imagination of all people to create a world that’s going to work for all people. So we have to be bringing people from all over the country into this work, and meeting them at where their concerns are right now. And I want to stress why it’s so important that we don’t leave these people out. Sometimes we get into the room, and we start doing politicking, we leave these communities behind. And we can’t do that. There’s a reason that the Green New Deal is very different from the New Deal, and that the New Deal did leave these communities behind. And we allowed this conversation of progress to happen at the expense of a lot of black, brown indigenous people. And when those people lost their trust in the federal government to work on their behalf, and to reaganism, and the idea that we have to do it on our own, but we don’t have to do it on our own. And that’s the job of a movement is to make sure that the federal government is working on behalf of these communities, so that they can trust us when we ask them to vote, we kind of think I work in the south as an organizer. So we think you can just show up and ask for a vote, you have to build a relationship. And this has to be started in relationship with people now meeting their needs now. So they’ll show up and vote in the future. Um, and so if you’re if you’re really if you’re listening to this, now we have to move beyond a place of passive supporting and petition signing. And it’s gonna take that dramatic crisis of showing up at the site of tension and standing by the people who are most affected, because you’re not going to convince coal miners in West Virginia that you’re going to be on their side someday in a transition, if you’re not on their side today, with the the labor disputes that they’re having, and, and the the environmental injustice that those communities are are having right now. And that’s where the moment of the movement comes in, is supporting those people where they are today. Presenting that, that crisis, and, and fighting for folks from the bottom on up. And I think that is a generational struggle where the sunrise movement comes in. And we don’t have any qualms about shaking any tables. And when we do that on the outside people, the people inside Washington DC here hear the windows rattling, and they decide to move a little bit faster, and we create room for people to do things like get that 50 plus vote. And when we rattle those windows, you know, maybe an undecisive Joe Manchin decides that we are going to work through budget reconciliation after all and get this passed.

Mike Tidwell  53:14  

Well, Jonathan Williams, the internal justice coordinator at sunrise movement, powerful, powerful comments, we’ve we had one viewer, say how much she admires sunrise because you operate under the theory of no permanent friends, no permanent enemies and occupying Nancy Pelosi, his office turned out to be the best thing you could do for our friend the speaker. One question we have just very, very briefly if someone has given everything that’s happened in the last year on race and justice, what makes you hopeful?

Johnathan Williams  53:54  

That’s really hard. I was in DC when Donald Trump took his fun little photoshoot with the Bible. I was tear gassed raising the number one voting issue in this country. And the intersectional nature of this conversation that we can’t leave behind these folks, I think is ever present in a lot of people’s minds right now. We need to gain a further understanding of, like, the small ways that even leftists and liberals and democrats can perpetuate racial harm, but people know that we have to work on it. And, you know, I have a white mother. And we have gotten a lot farther and just that conversation between us in this last year that we have a lot further. So I think people know and knowing is half the battle.

Mike Tidwell  54:41  

Thank you so much, Jonathan. Thanks for being with us from the sunrise movement. And again, if you joined us I’m Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. We’re discussing the upcoming fight to pass the by 100% clean energy standard and Congress by August. We turn now to the ban. We will be leading CCANs Capitol Hill efforts and are already known by many of you. In the US climate movement, Jamie DeMarco is a CCAN federal policy director and previously worked for the citizens climate lobby and other groups fighting for state and federal climate policies. Jamie is going to tell us at long last how all of you and your organizations can concretely right now plugin because it’s exhilarating. All hands on deck sprint of an effort to get this bill passed 100% clean by summer’s end, Jamie, tell us how we can get involved. 

Jamie DeMarco  55:38  

I get such a kick out of watching those videos. Oh my gosh. And we saw on this call just the tip of the iceberg. We had people all over the country jumping in the water for 100% by 2035. Because they were real powerful grassroots energy behind this 100%. Clean Energy by 2035 is rapidly growing to be a center of gravity and our movement. And whoever you are. Your help is needed to make sure we pass an equitable 100% clean energy standard as soon as we can. And if you want to work to pass it, please email me. I put my email in the chat, please, please send me an email. As soon as this webinar is over. I know we’re over two minutes, I’m going to wrap up really quickly by saying that our path to transformative policy is through Biden’s build back infrastructure package and reconciliation. That package will live or die between now and the start of the August recess. So we have five months for the fight of our lives. And if we miss this window, there may not be another one until it’s too late. Many of us have taken comfort in the message over the years that this is not a sprint, it is a marathon. So we need to be in it for the long haul. I know I’ve taken a lot of comfort from that mantra over the years. But we must be doing intervals or something because right now, this is a sprint and there is a finish line in August. And we are neck and neck with disaster as we run to it. And I hope all of us are going to live our lives over the next five months so that when we look back, we can look back knowing we did everything we could to run as fast as possible to join the race. Email me, Jamie@Chesapeakeclimate.org. It’s in the chat. Let’s hit the ground running for 100% by 2035. 

Mike Tidwell  57:16  

Thank you, Jamie DeMarco, thank you everyone for joining. We had nearly 400 folks show up for that. The biggest zoom event in the history of CCAN and CCAN Action Fund. I want to thank Evergreen Action Dr. Michael Mann, Dr. Stephanie Coulson, Dr. Leah Stokes, Quintin Scott, Jonathan Williams, Jamie DeMarco, thank you, all of our speakers, thank you to the CCAN staff who helped pull this off. This is just the beginning. It’s going to be a sprint between now and August. But we’re going to be in touch with you soon as we continue to work with Evergreen with Sunrise with other groups to make this bill law in the coming month. So thanks again for joining us. And we will see you next time, everybody.

Charles Olsen  58:11  

Thanks for listening to Upside Down. This podcast is produced by me, Charles and with incredible support from the entire CCAN staff. Check out the show notes for links to all the things discussed in this episode. If you want to know more about how you can get involved with sinking in the climate fight, check out our website at chesapeakeclimate.org. You want to get in touch with us and follow us on instagram and twitter @CCAN. And if you enjoy the work we do, why don’t you share us with your friends. Sharing the show is a super easy way to help spread the word about the work we’re doing in the fight for bold climate actions. Thanks again for listening. We’ll see you next time.

Tell FERC to Stop Construction of the MVP

Right now, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has a chance to right the decades of wrongs they have permitted and perpetuated within our energy system. And, we have another chance to stop construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).

Let’s start with some context. 

The face of this agency has changed dramatically over the last six months. With the confirmation of two new Commissioners (and the anticipated appointment of another Commissioner from the Biden Administration in June), climate champions will likely be the majority for the first time since 2017. This could mean a reform in the way they approach community engagement and the certification of fracked gas projects in general. While these new faces may result in more sweeping changes, they will also affect the same battle we have been fighting for years: the fight against the Mountain Valley Pipeline. 

The most recent open docket regarding the MVP, CP21-57, includes two different, but connected, parts. As with most things related to the FERC, this docket lacks clarity on which topics are still open to public comment. 

One certainty, however, is that the April 15th extended deadline includes the scoping process for NEPA compliance. What this means is that the public can weigh in on whether this project requires an Environmental Assessment or an Environmental Impact Statement. We at CCAN, alongside many others, are requesting a new complete EIS, which requires an in-depth analysis of all environmental factors (including environmental justice considerations and impact on public lands).

The second part of this docket is MVP’s request to bore tunnels underneath 181 waterways in West Virginia and Virginia to complete pipeline construction (note: MVP submitted the Notice of Scoping MVP regarding these waterways, but the docket has been open for this certification since before the scoping was put on the table). 

This certification is an attempt to change MVP’s water crossing methodology from open trenching to conventional boring to circumvent a ruling from the 4th Circuit Court that they cannot trench. Yet, in their renewed certification request, MVP wants to retain the ability to switch between the two methods when they hit problem areas — without oversight or notice. Keep in mind that much of this landscape is fragile karst topography (meaning the ground is filled with underwater rivers and caves) and that any boring will disrupt this ecosystem and could have detrimental impacts. 

There are a few glaring problems with this docket — aside from the significant harm to the environment, public health, and sacred sites continuing construction would cause.

Namely, the comment period is far too short for any meaningful engagement with the public to occur. Additionally, MVP has already paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for previous violations. How can we in good faith grant more permits when we know that MVP will continue to violate them? And finally, granting this certification is vastly out of touch with the direction that federal and Virginia state goals are headed toward fossil fuel-free energy. 

I imagine by now you’re pretty fired up and want to do something about it. There are a few ways to make your voice heard. You can start by signing this petition to join hundreds of other climate-concerned folks. Second, if you have more time to spare, you can draft an individual comment to post to the docket. Here is a step by step guide on navigating the website along with the submission link and tips for framing your comment.

It may seem like you’re getting the runaround with these open comment periods for different regulatory bodies. You’re not wrong. FERC has not proven itself willing to respond to issues brought up by the public. Far too often, they have rubber stamped projects like the MVP. 

We cannot be discouraged. Submitting public comments is a vital part of the process, primarily for giving grounds to our legal teams if it comes to trial. So while we should engage in this process, we should not be so blind as to believe that comments alone will bring about change. And, there is always the chance that the new commission will act in the interest of the public, more so now than ever before.

Nonetheless, we must continue to think creatively and use every tool in our belts to stop this pipeline. For that reason, I also urge you to join us as we walk the Southgate route on May 2nd to reach communities who will be impacted by the extension project. We will be distributing vital information to those who lack internet access. We cannot trust that MVP or its regulating bodies will do this outreach, so we will take it upon ourselves to educate our fellow community members and gain more allies in this fight. 

I hope you submit a comment or sign the petition and we’ll see you in May!