Seven years ago, public officials in cash-strapped Flint, Michigan, cut city costs by tapping the Flint River as a source of public drinking water.
So began the most egregious example of environmental injustice in recent U.S. history, according to Paul Mohai, a founder of the movement for environmental justice and a professor at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability.
When they made the switch, city officials didn’t properly treat the new water, which allowed lead from corroded pipes, bacteria, and other contaminants to leach into the public drinking water supply. Flint residents, who are disproportionately low-income and Black, immediately raised alarms about the fetid, brown water flowing out of their faucets and cited health problems, such as hair loss and rashes.
But the city didn’t officially acknowledge the problem or begin to take decisive action until a year and a half later.
In the meantime, more than 8,000 children under age 6 were exposed to water contaminated by lead, which can cause developmental delays, learning difficulties and a host of other health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no safe level of lead in children’s blood …
This op-ed originally ran in the Baton Rouge Advocate.
Since I began serving on Louisiana’s Climate Initiatives Task Force, charged with finding a way to zero out net greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, there is one question I get from people more than any other: “C’mon, are you serious?”
It’s not that Louisianans don’t see the need. Sea-level rise could soon swallow our coast, and hurricanes souped up by climate change are now the new normal.
The problem is how we see ourselves. Louisiana, I’m reminded, is an oil-and-gas state. Whatever were we thinking?
My quick response is Louisiana is really an energy state, with more sun and offshore wind than most of our peers.
My longer answer is that I really don’t know how serious we are. But I’ve started following a trio of issues that could tip the scale …
This op-ed was originally published in The Hill.
Since taking office, President Biden has pursued an active agenda to address many urgent matters that require his prompt attention. We hope one important initiative does not get lost in transition: restoring the norms of good governance.
During his term in office, President Trump sought to exert absolute control over the apparatus of government by undercutting normal operating practices and systematically dismantling protections for officials whose duty to the public might override their personal loyalty to him. It is no secret that Trump demanded personal loyalty from executive branch officials and fired those, like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who prioritized complying with the law over following his orders. He has taken many actions to strip, override and undermine essential protections for our nation’s public servants.
Biden has already taken some steps to address these concerns. On Jan. 22 …
As the U.S. Senate considers President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees, one stands out as much for the position he was appointed to as for his impressive qualifications.
Two days before his inauguration, Biden announced that he planned to elevate the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), often referred to as the president’s science advisor, to Cabinet rank. The move underlines Biden’s break with the previous administration’s de-emphasis and politicization of science, which downplayed climate change, sought to slash climate-related research spending, and crafted rules designed to limit the influence of science in agency decisionmaking.
Created by Congress in 1976 to help the president and White House staff steer the country in an increasingly complex world, OSTP leads cross-government efforts to incorporate scientific and technological developments into policy and budgetary decisions. During the Trump administration, OSTP staff dropped by …
This post was originally published on Lawfare. Reprinted with permission.
It is now a week out from the start of the massive Texas grid failure that has resulted in numerous deaths; millions of people plunged into darkness; scores of communities without clean water or heat in record cold temperatures; and billions of dollars in catastrophic damage to homes, businesses and the physical infrastructure that supports them. Critical questions surround the causes of this massive disaster and how to plan for the future so that a tragedy of this scale does not happen again.
At this point, there are many facts that Americans already know. Contrary to the spurious claims by Gov. Greg Abbott as well as numerous right-wing politicians and pundits, freezing wind turbines and the state’s history of supporting renewable energy development did not cause the grid to fail. Indeed, wind turbines outperformed grid operator …
As many of you know, I started as the Center for Progressive Reform's new executive director this month. I am thrilled to join CPR in this historic moment, to commit the next stage of my life to fight for the integrity and strength of our democracy, and to establish, as FDR said 90 years ago, "the purpose of government to see that not only the legitimate interests of the few are protected but that the welfare and rights of the many are conserved."
CPR's mission speaks to me personally. My own winding story saw me raised in the American South, defending refugees and human rights in Central America in the '80s, living in Cuba in the '90s, and, for the past 15 years, working at Oxfam to defend workers' rights and socially vulnerable communities in the United States. The fault lines of race and entitlement that …
This op-ed was originally published by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
In the midst of this long dark winter, it's heartening to see the Biden administration lay out a bold agenda for a more secure, fair, and sustainable future. Holding the Biden administration to its promise to reform the regulatory process to "ensure swift and effective federal action" to "improve the lives of the American people" is a crucial part of that effort. From her perch on a key congressional committee with oversight over agencies and the rulemaking process, the Delaware Valley's own Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon is well-positioned to do just that.
While not on most people's radar, the system of centralized regulatory review poses a potentially significant obstacle to President Joe Biden's ambitious agenda. Originally created by President Ronald Reagan, this process functions as the bureaucratic instantiation of the "job-killing regulations" myth that Reagan so successfully infused …
A half century ago, hundreds of Black sanitation workers marched through Memphis carrying signs bearing four small words: "I am a man."
Their short slogan carried a powerful message: Low-paid Black workers are human, and they deserve to be treated as such. Their lives, to quote today's activists for racial justice, matter.
The slogan — and its larger campaign for racial and economic equity — challenged systemic oppression of Black people. And it took on underlying white supremacist beliefs that positioned them as less than human and unworthy of humane working conditions and pay.
The campaign was sparked by an incident on February 1, 1968, when Memphis city officials forced workers to collect garbage during a heavy rainstorm, according to The Washington Post. Two men took refuge from the rain in the back of their truck and were crushed when it malfunctioned. The city refused to compensate their …
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When the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act was enacted 50 years ago, it was hailed as critical legislation that would make workplaces safer and healthier for all. Thanks to this law, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has made great strides toward protecting worker health and safety. Unfortunately, the law didn't go far enough then — and it doesn't go nearly far enough now.
The law, essentially unchanged since its enactment in 1970, has not kept up with the growing scale and changing nature of work in the 21st century. Rather, due to limited resources and authority and, at times, lack of political will, the agency has failed to address numerous well-known workplace hazards or emerging ones, like COVID-19, climate hazards, and artificial intelligence.
One of the …
All workers need the ability to earn paid sick days so they can take leave from their jobs to care for themselves or their loved ones when they are sick or injured. The coronavirus pandemic has made the need for this basic right — guaranteed to workers in other wealthy nations but not here in the United States — clearer than ever.
Paid sick leave is more than a workers’ rights issue. It’s also a civil rights issue.
Lawyers, engineers, and others in the higher-paying “professional” class are far more likely than frontline, lower-income workers to have access to paid sick leave, the American Civil Liberties Union recently noted. They’re also more likely to be able to work from home during the pandemic, putting them at far less risk of contracting COVID-19.
And they’re more likely to be white.
Due to long-standing structural inequities and intentional …