Kamala Is A Climate Cop
Background image: American Wind Energy Assn.

One of the things I liked most about the Democratic primary race was all the cool policy ideas percolating among all the candidates. While Elizabeth Warren made it an actual slogan, virtually everyone else in the field was also putting out innovative policy proposals. (If Donald Trump really wanted to scare suburban voters, he'd warn 'em Cory Booker was coming to their neighborhoods to read an extensive policy brief based on think-tank proposals to them. Maybe without a shirt on.)

Sorry, lost the thread there. Point is, there were a ton of great ideas out there, and a lot of them have been picked up by the Biden campaign, like big chunks of Jay Inslee's climate proposal, with its emphasis on using government's purchasing power to encourage green manufacturing and require that federal contractors pay good union wages, or the caregiving policy that borrows heavily from Elizabeth Warren's proposals. And now that Biden has named Kamala Harris as his running mate, she'll bring to a Biden White House a commitment to environmental justice, as Mother Jones's Rebecca Leber discusses in some detail. Green energy and justice? Let's get cracking!

As Leber points out, the environmental movement at large took far too long to recognize that racism and pollution have always gone together, with the most polluting sites being located in or near communities of color. Mind you, activists from those communities knew damn well what was going on, and their voices have finally had an impact: Most of the major climate proposals from Democrats in 2020 put particular emphasis on stating that frontline communities affected by polluters have a large say in shaping the solutions. Leber adds that

the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted Black and Brown Americans, is making the stakes clearer than ever — and makes addressing the pollution in these communities all the more urgent.

As a presidential candidate, Harris's climate proposal (archive link — Harris's campaign site now redirects to Joebiden.com) was far more progressive than Biden's early centrist mumblings. Harris fully embraced the Green New Deal (as did Biden, once he issued a plan) and called for an end to fracking, a position that Biden hasn't yet gotten on board with. As we say, most Dems' climate proposals included an environmental justice component: Inslee's plan gave it central emphasis, and Warren had an entire policy paper devoted to the topic. Same goes for Harris, who said that in addressing the climate crisis, "we must make empowering impacted communities the foundation of our mission." Just gonna keep that tab open for later perusal, I am.

Even before naming Harris yesterday, Biden's climate proposal was on board with that emphasis — again, not a huge surprise, since his policy positions since clinching the nomination have drawn from many of the best ideas of his primary competitors. His plan calls for 40 percent of spending on green energy to go to communities that have been harmed by dirty energy, and like Harris, calls for action against polluters that "disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities." And of course, part of the plan is dedicated to making sure every community has clean drinking water, which would also mean infrastructure jobs replacing old dirty pipes.

Beyond the campaign, Leber notes, Harris has also been big on environmental justice:

Last year Harris partnered with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to propose a draft bill, the Climate Equity Act, that would require an equity score to assess any environmental project's impact on frontline communities, much in the same way the Congressional Budget Office scores the economic costs and impacts of bills. The proposal requires an extra level of scrutiny for White House executive actions on low-income communities and people of color, as well as feedback from those affected communities, and it creates a new Climate and Environmental Justice office to coordinate all the impact assessment efforts. Amid the veep speculation, Harris made headlines again this summer by officially introducing the act.

Harris has also worked with fellow Senate Dems Cory Booker and Tammy Duckworth to put forward a bill that would

reverse a 2001 Supreme Court decision that made it harder for Black Americans to sue under the Civil Rights Act for the disproportionate pollution in their communities. The Environmental Justice for All Act would also require the Environmental Protection Agency to consider the historical, cumulative pollution in a community before it could approve a permit for a new factory or highway.

Wow, wouldn't it be nice to have an Environmental Protection Agency that once again protects people and the environment, instead of using the machinery of government to redefine regulations so polluters can only be held accountable if they leave behind a notarized declaration that they intended to dump toxic sludge to harm Black people?

Leber notes that Harris could also have a significant influence in one other key area: providing input on appointments. While running for president, Harris committed to making sure all her Cabinet appointees would share her commitment to action on the climate. Seems like she'd be a pretty good person to help Joe Biden put a Cabinet together, if Elizabeth Warren doesn't helpfully hand over her picks first.

All of that sounds like reason for optimism, and for activism. Let's get these two elected — I'm really enjoying typing "Biden-Harris," and it would be great to keep typing that for at least four more years.

[Mother Jones / Biden 2020 climate plan / Harris climate plan (archived) / Background image for photoshoop: American Wind Energy Assn]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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