We Need More and Better Ocean Protection for All

A landmark assessment of U.S. marine protected areas (MPAs) calls out significant gaps in our nation’s ocean protections, leaving most U.S. ocean waters and the wildlife they support vulnerable to a rapidly changing climate. This paper, A Scientific Synthesis of Marine Protected Areas in the United States: Status and Recommendations, evaluates the country’s 50 largest MPAs—which make up 99.7 percent of our protected ocean—and finds that most do not meet the needs of the urgent call-to-action known as 30x30.
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How to Ditch the Biggest Fossil Fuel Offenders in Your Life

Swearing off fossil fuels is the single-most important step we can take to help address global warming and save this planet. It has also become increasingly clear, amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, that ending our reliance on imported oil and gas shrinks the power that violent petro-states wield. True energy independence—in the form of a complete transition to clean energy—will require seismic shifts in all of our systems, from how we grow food to how we travel and build homes. It’ll also require full buy-in from our elected officials.
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Meeting This Moment: How the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Can Put Communities First

It’s been six months since President Biden signed the historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal presents a once-in-a-generation investment to embed community-led solutions, equity, and climate priorities in our nation’s infrastructure. This funding, combined with the American Rescue Plan Act’s (ARPA) broader flexibility guidance granted for the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, becomes one of the most significant federal investments to U.S. cities, states, and tribal lands at over $3.1 trillion to be obligated and spent by 2026.

How Infrastructure Can Help Bridge the Racial Divide

Embedded in many roads and highways across the United States is a legacy of government policies that have segregated communities, limited economic opportunity, and harmed the environment. You can tell a lot about a neighborhood by simply looking at its sidewalks, roads, and bridges. The lack of investment in sidewalks and other pedestrian infrastructure—especially in Black, lower-income, and tribal communities—creates higher pedestrian fatalities, making those communities dangerous by design. The cumulative impact of racism in this country disproportionately affects communities of color because they often have the wrong complexion for protection. The racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo this week highlights how the lack of access and community investment makes it easy to identify Black neighborhoods in the United States.

Atlantic Oil Drilling Is a Terrible Idea

In 2016, near the end of his term, President Obama announced he was permanently removing most U.S. Arctic waters and huge portions of the U.S. Atlantic Ocean from oil and gas leasing. It was a move that was supported by the vast majority of Americans and hailed at the time as a “historic victory.”

“Climatenomics”: New Book Shows How Climate Action Is Good for the Economy

Taking action on climate can create millions of jobs, drive economic growth, and make the United States more secure and competitive. Before I was an environmentalist, I was an economist: Seven years as a World Bank economist, another four as executive director of the Bank Information Center, and a few years as a strategy consultant taught me the importance of business, policy, and finance in solving the world’s biggest problems.

Meet FERC: One of the Biggest Climate Players You’ve (Probably) Never Heard of

Most of the time, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) maintains a low profile, rarely making headlines. But as the world community wrestles with the moral, economic, and climate implications of consuming Russian energy products, natural gas (or fracked gas), and its ready-to-ship cousin, liquefied natural gas (LNG), are having something of a moment. That’s why now is a good time to explore the federal agency that wields such extraordinary power over America’s fossil gas industry, and that has the potential to make that industry safer and more accountable.

Rebuilding Towards Justice

Pause, and look out your window—look up, down, and all around our streets, buildings, homes, cars, busses, the wires that carry our electricity, pipes that move our water and often fuel and ask: what would it mean if this was all built with justice in mind? What would it take for this to be a force for addressing climate change and ensuring our built environments can withstand what’s to come? That’s what Congress and the Administration invited us to do when the infrastructure law passed, following the precedent-setting Justice40 commitment to direct “40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities.” We need investments in our infrastructure, and we need to do it right. The infrastructure we have has reinforced systemic racism –whether by building highways that divide and displace Black communities or a water distribution system that exposes Black, poor, and immigrant communities to higher levels of lead or many more examples—it does not reflect the values of equity, inclusion, or justice.

Follow the Money and Change How It Is Spent

It bears repeating that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will be the largest infusion of federal transportation spending in local communities since the 1950s. It is a unique, once-a-generation opportunity to use infrastructure investments to meet our climate and equity goals. But inertia is not our friend. The grooves of transportation...

States Commit to Clean and Healthy New Buildings

Washington and Colorado recently took exciting steps to ensure new buildings in their states are built ready for the all-electric future. Washington State’s policy, that just passed the state’s building code council, requires all new commercial buildings to use high efficiency heating equipment that can run on 100% clean power. The Colorado bill that is on its way to the Governor’s desk requires that any municipality that chooses to adopt or update building codes also update to the latest international energy conservation standards.

Offshore Drilling 101: The Five Year Program

With a worsening climate and biodiversity crisis, and repeated dire warnings by the IPCC and IEA about the urgency of getting off fossil fuels in order to sustain a habitable planet, you may find it surprising that the U.S. is even contemplating expanded offshore leasing for oil and gas. This is particularly true considering that new offshore leasing would do NOTHING to address current high energy prices, as my colleague wrote about here, including because it takes five or more years for resources from new offshore leasing to come online.

A Rapid Test Finds New Energy Justice Opportunities at DOE

With funds from the new infrastructure law, communities have an opportunity to launch new public and community energy programs, seek investments in transmission and grid infrastructure to help meet local climate and resilience goals, and work toward energy justice. The Department of Energy (DOE) is authorized to invest $62 billion...

Why Forest Carbon Offsets Aren’t a Substitute for Slashing Emissions

Delta Air Lines emitted 14.3 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2020. Now the company is trying to make up for it by preserving more than 780 square miles of forest half a world away from its headquarters in Atlanta. The $30 million project aims to protect trees from illegal logging and expanding palm oil plantations in Cambodia’s Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary and Indonesia’s Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve on the island of Borneo. At Keo Seima, the project has created jobs, such as law enforcement and community agents, and secured land tenure for the Indigenous Bunong people.

A Mississippi Tribe Is Growing Its Own Organic Movement

A decade ago, Daphne Snow had to drive three hours from her home in Philadelphia, Mississippi, to buy organic vegetables. Since then, some organic produce has crept into the state via national supermarket chains, but quality, locally grown options are still hard to find. Even so, Snow gets what she needs because these days, she helps grow the vegetables herself.

Meeting the Challenge of Lead Service Line Replacements

The October 2021 passage of the historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) provides $15 billion to States to fund the replacement of lead service lines – the most funding ever invested by the federal government for this work. States and water systems around the country are gearing up for implementation.

Let’s Make Lead History

New federal dollars can kickstart our effort to get the lead out of our drinking water. My daughter Sophia is almost two years old, and it is an amazing experience each day to watch her learn about the world and her relationship to it. At this tender age she is also learning lots of words and is quick to use them to ask for (demand) what she wants. One word I hope she continues to say this way until she’s at least 16, is the way she says water, which she pronounces as “ya ya.” She is rarely seen without a sippy cup and is very good at staying hydrated with her “ya ya.”

We Have No More Time to Waste on Chicagwa

We can’t afford to wait another generation to address Chicago’s lead pipe problem. Chicago’s eyebrow-raising, canned drinking water initiative is still going strong as the city handed out free cans of Chicago tap water downtown last week to promote our “safe” water. After getting my...

Update: Reasons Remain to Stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline

In September 2020 I blogged about the five top reasons to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). I wrote that the pipeline is unnecessary and that it would perpetuate our dependence on dirty energy while imperiling the climate as well as clean water and the wellbeing of local communities. Construction began on the pipeline, but because of all the flaws in the plans, several court cases have overturned approvals that it wrongfully received from four different federal agencies during the Trump administration.

Greenwashing Alert: “Chemical Recycling” Isn’t Actually Recycling. It’s Plastic Incineration.

In his more than 10 years of organizing, Graham Hamilton of the global movement #BreakFreeFromPlastic has never seen people spring into action as quickly as they did in Macon, Georgia, last November—and over Thanksgiving weekend, no less. With just a few days’ notice, about three dozen experts, advocates, and Macon residents attended a public hearing—about half of them in person and during a pandemic—to comment on a so-called “chemical recycling” plant proposed by a company called Brightmark. Only one person at the meeting spoke in favor of the facility.

What if States Turn Pavement Into Charging Stations?

We both appreciated comic books while growing up, and one of us especially enjoyed “What if?,” which explored different outcomes based on the choices of characters. We are at a “What if?” moment now with the new “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.” What if states use the funds to build new traffic-clogged highways? Or what if they take a share of those funds and invest it in ways that will reduce our dependence on oil and help deliver a cleaner future?