In 2017, Puerto Rico was hit hard by two major hurricanes, Irma and Maria. First came Irma, a Category 5 storm that pummeled the island, leaving a trail of destruction. Less than two weeks later came Maria, another Category 5 storm that directly hit the island in what became the worst natural disaster in the U.S. territory's history. The storm moved directly across the island, knocking out electricity and inundating towns with floodwaters and mudslides.
Maria's immediate aftermath was brutal. It included cascading failures of critical infrastructure that threatened systems that people depend on to survive: energy, transportation, communications, water, and wastewater treatment. The storm caused $90 billion in damage to the island, and Puerto Ricans were forced to live without power for 328 days — the longest blackout in U.S. history. The storm also caused an estimated 3,000 deaths, according to an independent study commissioned by former Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello (D).
Nearly four years later, communities are still trying to recover and rebuild the island's infrastructure.
Historically, Puerto Rico's ability to recover from tropical storms and other disasters has depended on the federal government's efforts to ensure that communities get the funds they need to …
This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.
April 30 marks President Biden's first 100 days in office. He's appointed a great climate team and is negotiating an infrastructure bill that focuses on climate change. With luck, those actions will produce major environmental gains down the road. There are also some solid gains in the form of actions that have already come to fruition. Here's where things stand.
Executive orders. Former President Trump seemed to delight in issuing anti-environmental executive orders. All of those are gone now, replaced with Biden's environment-friendly substitute. In one important move, Biden restored former President Obama's estimate of the social cost of carbon, which Trump had slashed.
Foreign affairs. Here the big news is that Biden has taken the United States back into the Paris agreement and has submitted a commitment cut emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels …
It’s heartening to see that not all of the noise generated by the 2020 presidential campaign has dissipated in these post-election times.
President Biden pledged last week to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 — making good on a big campaign promise and possibly nudging some of us out of the still-skeptical category.
When I think about climate, I think about equity. Low-income people spend more of their paychecks on energy and transportation costs. Those sweet rebates on electric vehicles? They don’t go to people who can’t afford a new car, much less an electric one. As CPR Member Scholar Maxine Burkett notes, environmental degradation creates “sacrifice zones” — and communities of color pay the price. We simply cannot address climate change without addressing racism, and environmental racism in particular.
When I think about climate, I also think about jobs. Jobs that don …
President Joe Biden's April 28 speech to a joint session of Congress — his first major address since his inauguration — offers him a chance to outline and defend his policy priorities. He should use this opportunity to articulate a positive vision of regulation as an institution within our democracy and to champion the crucial role it plays in promoting the public interest.
Biden will likely focus much of his speech on his ambitious infrastructure plan, from which he can easily pivot to regulation. After all, robust regulations are essential to the success of the U.S. economy, no different from traditional "gray" infrastructure like roads, bridges, pipelines, and power lines.
Strong regulatory protections provide a foundation of trust, which is critical for keeping our economy humming. Imagine, for example, if the Biden administration's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its long overdue emergency temporary standard to protect …
This op-ed was originally published in The Hill.
Making Congress functional again is having a moment. The debates over ending the filibuster and legislation to prevent hyper-partisan congressional districts have received the most attention in this space so far. But lawmakers did quietly take an important step forward on mending congressional dysfunction when they reinstated the practice of earmarking the federal budget, reversing a decade-old ban.
Lawmakers should build on this fix to the budget process by cracking down on “poison pill” appropriations riders, a gimmick that proliferated in the vacuum left by the earmark ban.
These riders are the inverse of earmarks, which direct federal agencies to spend a certain portion of funds on a specific activity (like building a bridge or community center, for example). Poison pill riders, on the other hand, bar agencies from using funds for certain activities. They don’t repeal agencies …
On April 22, the White House confirmed that President Joe Biden will nominate Tracy Stone-Manning to head up the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a federal agency charged with overseeing national monuments and other public lands, as well as key aspects of energy development.
A longtime conservation advocate, Stone-Manning has worked for the National Wildlife Federation, served as chief of staff to former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and advisor to Sen. Jon Tester, and led Montana's Department of Environmental Quality.
If confirmed, she will oversee an agency of the U.S. Department of Interior that was used and abused by the Trump administration, Interior Secretaries Ryan Zinke and David Bernhardt, and Acting BLM Director William Pendley, who was removed from the post after serving illegally for more than a year. During the previous administration, the agency shrank national monuments, threw open the doors to fossil fuel extraction …
In 2020, the world banded together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, in 2021, the world continues to change, and we seem to be progressing forward. In turn, the spotlight shifts to another great calamity: climate change. The environmental crisis has made headlines with the Biden administration making climate mitigation and renewable energy top priorities.
With these advancements, researchers, corporations, innovators, and activists around the world are being tasked to follow suit. To stay united and take on another challenge: the transition to clean energy. But what does that entail exactly? How does a shift to renewables affect the average American household?
Scientists and …
Racism runs much deeper than policing and law enforcement. Racial injustice is deeply embedded in our nation’s past and present. It is systemic, institutional, and interpersonal, but it is not insurmountable. It’s time for a national reckoning that takes racism and white supremacy seriously and delivers fully enforceable policies that stamp out discrimination in policing and all other institutions in our country. Black Americans and other marginalized people are entitled to the same tenets of life and liberty as guaranteed to white people. Systemic racism and lawlessness by state actors make that impossible.
Today, a jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in May 2020. This is one small step toward accountability for those who perpetrate violence against Black people and other marginalized people. Still mourning the loss of George Floyd and calling out the names of Adam and …
Since President Joe Biden assumed office, environmental justice has been at the front and center of his administration. One key initiative: developing better mapping tools to identify communities that may bear a disproportionate burden of toxic pollution and climate change impacts. Biden’s environmental justice (EJ) plan emphasizes the value of these tools and the need to improve them.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) current tool — known as EJSCREEN — dates to 1994, when President Bill Clinton issued an executive order instructing federal agencies to collect, maintain, and analyze information on environmental and human health risks borne by low-income communities and people of color.
The EPA published EJSCREEN in 2015. It integrates demographic data (such as percent low-income, under the age five, over age 65, etc.) and environmental pollution measures at the block group or census tract level nationwide. The mapped data provide a visual …
Scholars and advocates of color last week hailed the Biden administration’s efforts to ensure that disadvantaged communities reap the benefits of federal climate investments — but added that the administration must be held accountable for following through on it.
“This is our moment,” said Shalanda Baker, deputy director for energy justice at the U.S. Department of Justice and a Member Scholar with the Center for Progressive Reform who is on leave while serving in the administration.
Others said the administration’s efforts don’t go far enough and instead called for an overhaul of governance, philanthropy, and an economy that exploits people of color and the planet.
The comments came during a day of dialogue among public officials and climate justice scholars, organizers, and funders representing the Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) community. Participants emphasized the importance of climate justice and culturally responsive climate …