Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Richard Glick announced Thursday that he plans to ensure the commission does a better job of including environmental justice and equity matters in the commission’s decision-making process by creating a new senior position focused on that task. “I believe that the commission should more aggressively fulfill its responsibilities to ensure our decisions don’t unfairly impact historically marginalized communities,” Glick said, adding, “This position is not just a title. I intend to do what it takes to empower this new position to ensure that environmental justice and equity concerns finally get the attention they deserve.” More details will be released in the future, but Glick said the new position will work with experts in all FERC’s program offices. Only Glick and one other Democrat sit on the five-member commission, but the chairman sets the agenda, and President Biden will get the chance this summer to appoint a new member when the term of one of the Republicans expires.
Buttigieg said Tuesday, “We’ve been asked to settle for less in this country, and I just don’t know why people in other countries ought to have better train service and more investment in high-speed train service than Americans do.” The same day acting Federal Railroad Administration chief, Amit Bose, praised California’s high-speed rail project as being worthy of more federal funding, noting:
America has a chance to lead the world once more through innovation in infrastructure–connecting our communities, creating good jobs, addressing climate change and ensuring equity. Passenger rail development, including world-class high-speed rail, can and must be a part of our strategy to accomplish these goals. As in many other arenas, California has taken the lead nationally to advance high-speed rail, starting an economically transformative project in the Central Valley and assuming the challenges that come with that leadership. The U.S. Department of Transportation looks forward to partnering with California as it leads the way to build back better.
Roger Rudick at Streetsblog CAL writes that planning documents are being completed so that stimulus funds will go directly to finishing the project in the Central Valley and bring it to the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and beyond.
Scott Waldman at ClimateWire interviewed the nation’s first White House National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy and her deputy Ali Zaidi this week. Said McCarthy, “We are situated in the White House because our role is to make sure that it’s a whole-of-government approach. Climate is no longer belonging to EPA and [the Department of the Interior]; it’s everybody—and so our job is to make sure we have a coordinated strategy with all the agencies.” Here’s an excerpt from the paywalled interview:
Who are you working with in these first few weeks? Are you in the Oval Office? Or are you working with lawmakers on the Hill?
McCarthy: We’re spending quite a bit of time with various labor unions, because the work on climate and clean energy is really shifting to growth and jobs on the clean energy side, so we want to make sure we’re getting input from constituencies the same as you would in any other case. We are talking to folks on the Hill. Some of them are really interested in specific issues; others, it’s just reconnecting. Both Ali and I have been here before, and we want to make sure that people know we’re back and know we’re still continuing to respect their judgments and wanting their input
For 70 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has conducted aerial counts of the world’s only natural flock of whooping cranes. But not this year thanks to the spread of the coronavirus. The flock breeds in Canada and winters on and around Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, where the tally is undertaken each year. Usually the count is completed with six flights, each with a pilot and at least two observers tucked tightly inside a small plane. Said Wade Harrell, the whooping crane recovery coordinator for the USFWS, “We decided to forgo the aerial survey this winter with COVID-19 cases currently spiking.” His view and that of other experts is that one missed year won’t hurt the federal effort to monitor the flock. Only about 825 of the birds exist. In 1941, habitat loss had pushed their numbers down to just 15. They average 5 feet from their bottoms of their black feet to the red caps atop their white heads, the tallest bird in America. Their wingspan is 7 feet. And they mate for life.
New Yorkers will vote later this year on an amendment that would add the right to clean air and water and a healthful environment to the state’s constitution. If the referendum passes, New York would become the third state—after Pennsylvania and Montana—to adopt an environmental rights amendment. Its wording is succinct and straightforward. “Each person shall have a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.” Said Democratic state Sen. Robert Jackson, who sponsored the proposal, “This language will finally put in place safeguards that require the government to consider the environment and our relationship to the Earth in decision-making.” The measure was approved in two successive legislative sessions in 2019 and 2021, a requirement for any constitutional amendment. In a 2019 letter signed by representatives of more than 90 environmental, labor, and other progressive groups, advocates for the rights amendment wrote:
Most New Yorkers are shocked to learn New York’s Constitution does not guarantee them a right to drink clean water and breathe clean air. The right to clean water, air and a healthful environment should be as fundamental as a person’s right to free speech and assembly. In fact,the right to divorce, to engage in lotteries, and gamble are recognized as inalienable rights that are afforded higher protections under New York law because of their inclusion in the Bill ofRights. New Yorkers deserve better.
The study conducted by a commission of health experts was published this week by The Lancet, the renowned British medical journal. Relaxed limits on fine particulate matter were probably the single greatest cause of thousands of deaths, according to the report. Much of the harm hit Midwestern and Southern states, where coal mining, oil drilling and natural gas extraction are prevalent and residents were more likely to support Trump than other places. Gretchen Goldman, a research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Bloomberg Green, “If you told me four years ago that scientific journals would be speaking out against Trump, I wouldn’t have believed you. But since then, there has been quite a shift, reflecting both the severity of what Trump did as well as the changing willingness of the scientific community to engage in policy conversations.” Trump rolled back dozens of environmental regulations, which the report states ultimately “hastened global warming, and despoiled national monuments and lands sacred to Native people.”