One Storm Shy of Despair

A Climate-Smart Plan for the Administration to Help Low-Income Communities
Two weeks after Superstorm Sandy, a line of people wait to receive supplies donated to the victims of the hurricane.

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2 Weeks after Superstorm Sandy, a line of people wait to receive supplies donated to the victims of the hurricane

By Cathleen Kelly and Tracey Ross

President Barack Obama announced yesterday at the fourth and final meeting of the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience a series of actions to help state, local, and tribal officials prepare their communities for the effects of climate change. These actions range from helping communities to develop more resilient infrastructure and rebuild stronger and smarter existing infrastructure, to making our coasts more resilient, to providing decision makers with better information on flood and other climate change risks. These are laudable actions that will help communities better prepare for the real and costly effects of climate change. But more action is needed, in particular, to address the skyrocketing risks of climate change in low-income communities.

While many describe extreme weather events as “social equalizers” that do not differentiate based on ethnicity, race, or class, the truth is that these events usually hit low-income communities the hardest because they exacerbate the health, safety, financial, and other socioeconomic problems that low-income communities experience year round.

Aside from a few new federal disaster assistance requirements aimed at helping low-income communities recover from Superstorm Sandy, increasing equity and protecting the most vulnerable populations from climate change risks have not been a strong focus of federal disaster-recovery efforts, resilience strategies, or planning. However, the task force, which the president created in his Climate Action Plan and launched by a November 2013 executive order, has an important opportunity to change this and help protect low-income communities from extreme weather events.

Here are four critical steps that can be taken to create resilient, safe, and equitable communities.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

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Updated: Ltr to Rep. Mark Amodei Opposing Passage of HR4923

by Vickie Rock

I am writing you today to urge you to vote NO on HR4923, the FY15 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill. This legislation moves us backward on energy and environmental policy by slashing funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency while boosting funding for polluting, mature fossil fuel and nuclear generation technologies. The bill also contains dirty water policy riders that threaten the waters Americans depend on for drinking, swimming, fishing, and flood protection.

But if that isn’t enough, I understand that it also includes anti-environmental policy riders that jeopardize our health and the environment, including those that would prevent action to combat carbon pollution by undermining the president’s Climate Action Plan. I oppose those riders and urge you to take action to remove those riders.

Across the country, clean energy is providing new jobs, decreasing air and water pollution, saving consumers money, and helping to combat dangerous climate change that threatens our future. I’ve personally participated in that effort by installing 9KW of solar generation on my rooftop. Yet HR4923, as proposed by the GOP majority, chooses to ignore those efforts and instead, doubles down on the failed energy policies of the past. If it’s enacted as currently proposed, it would CUT funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs and increase funding for fossil fuels that emit dangerous carbon pollution and contribute to global climate change.

HR4923 would increase costs to governments, insurance corporations and citizens from climate change-fueled extreme weather events like prolonged heat waves, more severe droughts, and an extended season of wildfires continue to rise. We should be increasing investment in cleaner technologies, not encouraging more production of dirty fossil fuels.

Then there’s the subject of the two harmful water policy riders. The first would PROHIBIT the Army Corps of Engineers from moving forward with their draft Clean Water Rule to protect small streams and wetlands that provide flood protection, filter pollution, and contribute to the drinking water for 117 million Americans. The second would PROHIBIT the Army Corps from updating the definition of “fill material,” which would allow mining companies to continue to dump toxic mining waste into mountain streams. Really? THAT is not GOOD policy and I urge support for any amendments that strike these harmful provisions. In addition I urge you to reject any attempts on the floor to add even more amendments that attack our important environmental protections. These policy riders should not be included in a spending bill, and they put the health and safety of Americans and our environment at risk.

PLEASE REJECT HR4923, a harmful spending bill that prioritizes the dirty energies of the past over the clean energies of our future and OPPOSE any anti-environmental amendments, including those that attempt to restrict the EPA’s ability to limit carbon pollution from power plants.


Update: 4/13/2014
If deliberately making the environment worse is your cup of TEA, like Rep. Mark Amodei and his brethren in the House Of Representatives, you’ll be thrilled to know that they just passed the mother of all anti Mother Nature bills. Rep. Mark Amodei voted “FOR” passage; Rep. Joe Heck at least had the good sense to see the folly in HR4923 and that it would harm his Nevada constituents.  Energy efficient light bulbs are out. Low flow toilets are out. Renewable energy programs get cut, while taxpayer subsidies for coal and other fossil fuels get increased. The EPA is forbidden to implement any action designed to fix climate change and even the study of climate change is banned. The Corps of Engineers can’t do anything to protect our streams and waterways.  And, funding for storing nuclear waste storage in Yucca Mountain is in.  There isn’t really any sense to any of this. It is just a collection of middle fingers to the Obama administration and environmentalists. Hopefully, the bill won’t go anywhere in the Senate or be signed into law by the President as it was passed by the House.

Still waiting on any response back from Representative Amodei’s office re: my letter requesting that he vote “NO” on this onerous bill.

Secretary Jewell Announces Two Solar Projects Approved in California, Nevada

As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon pollution, create jobs and move our economy toward clean energy sources, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced the approval of two solar energy projects located near the Nevada-California border that are expected to supply 550 megawatts of renewable energy, enough to power about 170,000 homes, and support more than 700 jobs through construction and operations.

Today’s approvals bring to 50 the number of utility-scale renewable energy proposals and associated transmission that the Interior Department has approved since 2009, including 27 solar, 11 wind, and 12 geothermal projects. Together, the projects could support more than 20,000 construction and operations jobs and, when built, generate nearly 14,000 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 4.8 million homes. Thirteen of the projects are already in operation, including the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, a 377-megawatt solar thermal plant that started commercial operations and delivering power to California’s electric grid last week.

“When President Obama first took office in 2009, there were no solar projects approved on public lands, and no process in place to move forward the hundreds of applications pending from businesses that wanted to harness renewable energy to help power our nation,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “With today’s milestone of 50 utility-scale renewable energy projects approved on public lands since our standing start in 2009, and with a number of those already producing energy for the nation’s electric grid, our clean energy future is bright.”

The first project is the 300-megawatt Stateline Solar Farm Project, a facility that will be built in San Bernardino County, California, on approximately 1,685 acres of public land located two miles south of the California-Nevada border. Using photovoltaic panels, the facility will generate enough electricity to power approximately 90,000 homes and create an estimated 400 jobs during construction and 12 permanent jobs during operations. The facility will connect to the grid via a 2.7-mile 220-kilovolt transmission line.

The second project is the 250-megawatt Silver State South Solar Project located near Primm, Nevada on approximately 2,400 acres of public land. The facility is expected to power approximately 80,000 homes and will be located adjacent to the 50-megawatt Silver State North Project, the first solar plant on public lands to deliver power to the grid. Silver State South will also use photovoltaic panels and will generate an estimated 300 jobs during construction and 15 permanent operations jobs.

Both projects are proposed by the company First Solar and have commitments from Southern California Edison to purchase the projects’ output for 20 years.

“These solar projects reflect exemplary cooperation between the Bureau of Land Management and other federal, state and local agencies, enabling a thorough environmental review and robust mitigation provisions,” said BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze. “Secretary Jewell’s commitment to a landscape-level approach represents a responsible balance between the need for renewable energy and our mandate to protect the public’s natural resources.”

First Solar has agreed to undertake significant project design changes and mitigation measures to minimize impacts to wildlife, water, historical, cultural and other resources. For example, the BLM worked on the Stateline proposal to reduce the project’s footprint by more than 20 percent to avoid and minimize project impacts. In addition, as part of ongoing efforts to protect the threatened Desert Tortoise, the BLM is expanding the nearby Ivanpah Desert Wildlife Management Area by more than 20,000 acres and requiring that the developer achieve 3:1 compensatory mitigation for Desert Tortoise for its 1,685 acres.

For the Silver State South project, the project design was modified to reduce the size of the facility by 100 megawatts. Mitigation measures include soil stabilization to prevent erosion and polluted runoff. In addition, the developer must fund over $3.6 million for Desert Tortoise mitigation and $3.5 million for studies intended to guide future efforts to protect the Desert Tortoise in the project area. The company must also assess the project’s potential adverse impact if archaeological properties at the site are found to be eligible for National Register of Historic Places listing.

“As we implement the President’s Climate Action Plan to generate jobs, cut carbon pollution and move our economy toward clean energy sources, we need to do so in a way that takes the long view and avoids or minimizes conflicts with important natural and cultural resources,” added Jewell.

Additional information on the projects is available here.