Oh SNAP – yes, again

Deadline: September 23 –

On July 24, 2019, the administration announced plans to disqualify three million Americans from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, informally known as food stamps) by taking away states’ ability to expand eligibility rules beyond Federal limits. SNAP is a crucial form of anti-poverty assistance here in California. The proposed rule change would disqualify millions of low-income recipients, and would worsen food security in the U.S., according to the USDA’s own analysis.

In this case, because the action is considered a rule change and not a law, we get to comment directly on the proposed change. The Food Research and Action Center has put together an easy form to submit comments on the rule. You can also comment directly on the Federal Register, but their website is difficult to use. Make sure to leave a comment by Monday, September 23. 

Here are some sample points you can mention, but be sure to use your own words and personalize your comments with why the SNAP program is important to your or your community, to make sure that each comment gets counted separately.

  • Cutting SNAP benefits takes food directly off of the tables of poor Americans
  • The USDA analysis found that the change would affect the food security and savings of Americans (More info here)
  • The current system supports working families who are just above the income limit for SNAP. Cutting this program discourages workers from taking a raise or increasing hours that would put them over the limit (More info here)
  • The proposed rule would require states to abide by an asset limit for eligibility,  which discourages families from saving money (More info here)
  • Making a rule change circumvents Congress, which has repeatedly rejected cuts to SNAP on a bipartisan basis (More info here)

For more background read our prior articles about SNAP:

No Drilling on Mt. Diablo

Action deadline: Comments on Proposed Resource Management Plan and Final EIS due June 9, 2019 –

This administration has a track record of sacrificing priceless public lands for the benefit of private oil and gas extraction, as shown by their efforts around the country and in California. They’re at it again — and this time, it’s right here.

On May 9, 2019, the Bureau of Land Management Central Coast Field Office released a Proposed Resource Management Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement to open up 725,000 acres of land in California for new oil and gas leasing. Public land that would be open for drilling includes areas in and around Mount Diablo State Park and in Butano State Park near Pescadero.

The Center for Biological Diversity writes that oil development along the Central Coast could involve fracking, and this resource management plan ends a six-year moratorium on leasing public lands to oil and gas extraction. An official with the California agency that oversees drilling has claimed that it’s unlikely any drilling would actually take place in the Bay Area, due to current pricing and supply, and because California has stringent regulations, but ANY possibility of new fossil fuel extraction is too much. The Center for Biological Diversity has criticized this plan due to the potential for drilling throughout the East Bay and along the Central Coast.

We need to stop this before irreparable damage is doneSubmit your comments using this form on the BLM website by June 9, 2019! Read on for instructions, talking points, and more information:

What to do:

Comment now! The 30-day public comment period ends on Sunday June 9, 2019. Submit your comments on on the BLM site here. When you comment online, you have a 60 minute time limit within which you must fill in all boxes with red asterisks on all pages (you don’t need to fill in the “Chapter Reference” or “Section Reference” boxes on the first page). Once you’ve finished with one screen, click the “Next” button in the lower right corner; the last screen will have a “Submit” button in that location. Or you can submit comments by mail to this address:

BLM Director (210)
Attention: Protest Coordinator, WO-210
P.O. Box 71383
Washington, DC 20024-1383

After you’re done, tell your friends, family, and neighbors. Not everyone is as active as you, our wonderful Indivisible members, but when something is local, it’s a great way to get others motivated to act. This plan is largely flying under the radar, but with your help we can get a strong local grassroots opposition. Share the link to this article with them!

What to write:

Here are some suggested comments; please personalize what you write, because copied and pasted comments or overly similar comments may be grouped together and not counted separately. Some of these sample comments have been adapted from the joint comment letter from the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club responding to the draft EIS, which can be found on page I-71 in the comments and responses here — click ctrl+f and in the search box, type I-71 (that’s a capital letter “I”).

  • Many of the lands included in this plan would require fracking in order to extract oil and gas. Fracking involves the use of toxic and poorly understood chemicals.These toxic chemicals get into the groundwater, especially in California, where fracking operations are dangerously shallow.Our communities, waterways, wildlife, and outdoor economy will all be put at risk.
  • The development scenario used to determine the environmental impacts is a low-end assumption that does not take into account technological improvements that may lower the costs or uncertainty in drilling within the East Bay or Central Coast. This masks the potential environmental costs of more intense fossil fuel extraction.
  • Opening up new public lands to fossil fuel extraction is contrary to California’s commitment to building a sustainable future without reliance on fossil fuels.California has a statutory target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, and a plan to reduce petroleum consumption by 45 percent by 2030 to meet this target.We need environmentally and economically sound energy strategies focused on the development of renewable energy sources.
    • Why despoil our environment to extract a resource we have decided to move away from?
  • The climate crisis requires swift and immediate action. The extraction and burning of fossil fuels will worsen this crisis, contrary to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which mandates that the BLM manage public lands “without permanent impairment of the productivity of the land and the quality of the environment.” The only way to avoid permanent impacts to the quality of our environment from the climate crisis is to keep proven fossil fuels in the ground.
  • Our beautiful public lands are a precious resource that deserve to be protected. Destroying our natural landscapes cannot be easily undone, and the wider, long-term effects even less so. We must not sacrifice our health, wildlife and climate to profit the oil and gas industry.In a state where water is so precious — to agriculture, human populations, and wildlife — clean water is worth more than oil.

There’s more you can do! In our recent article we told you how to leave comments opposing the BLM’s draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that would open up public lands and mineral estates in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Kern, and six other California counties to oil companies. Comments are due June 10, so there’s still time.

 

Fantasy Landscape, photograph of Mount Diablo by Richard Conlon 

A light at the end of the tunnel of endless war

Deadline: Now through June (at least) –

Earlier this week, the House Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to the defense spending bill, proposed by Representative Barbara Lee, that would repeal the 2001 Authorization for Military Force (AUMF). The AUMF, first passed in 2001, gave the President the power to use military force without prior Congressional approval, but only in response to attacks deemed directly or indirectly responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Since then it’s mushroomed in frankly terrifying ways: see our previous posts on the AUMF and our own Representative Barbara Lee’s years-long efforts to repeal it. And now the Administration has threatened to invoke the AUMF as justification for starting a war with Iran without consulting Congress.

We are so thankful for and and proud of Rep. Lee, and hopeful that we may actually see an end to the endless wars that we’ve been involved in. But first, that spending bill needs to pass the full House of Representatives, and the Senate.

What you can do:

  • If your Representative is Barbara Lee (email; 510-763-0370): thank her for her tireless opposition to war and support of checks on the Executive branch.
  • If your Representative is Eric Swalwell (email; 510-370-3322) or Mark DeSaulnier (email; 510-620-1000): ask them to voice their support for the AUMF repeal, and to vote for the defense spending bill with the AUMF repeal when it comes to the floor of the House.
  • Senator Dianne Feinstein (email; 415-393-0707) is a senior member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, so start calling her now to make a statement in favor of repealing the AUMF and commit to voting for it in committee.
  • Senator Kamala Harris (email; 415-981-9369) will not vote until (and unless) the bill comes to the Senate floor, but we can start asking her now to make a statement in favor of repealing the AUMF and to commit to voting for it.

Remind all of our legislators that it is past time to end this conflict; and it is more urgent now than ever, as the present administration is intent upon prolonging, expanding and intensifying this never ending war. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen!

Bring the Resolution (for a Green New Deal)

You may have heard since our last post on the Green New Deal that we now have a pair of resolutions in the House and the Senate “Recognizing the Duty of the Federal Government to enact a Green New Deal”! To keep the Green New Deal on our policy agenda, call your representatives and urge them:

  • to vote for the resolutions if they have the chance, and
  • to keep pushing for legislation to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs in our growing green economy, and support all communities and workers through the transition.

See the call scripts at the end of this post; read on for an update on the Green New Deal resolutions and other, related legislation, and what the Republicans are doing in response.

Senate Resolution 59, introduced February 7th, and House Resolution 109, introduced February 8th, are identical resolutions that in some form include all of the Green New Deal features we’ve described in our previous blog posts: to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs and ensure economic security for all people, invest in sustainable infrastructure, secure a clean and healthy environment, and promote justice and equity for Indigenous peoples, people of color, immigrants, rural communities, and other groups experiencing discrimination or disinvestment. In response, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced Senate Joint Resolution 8 as a trolling attempt to to sow division among Democrats who have differing policy views on how to address the climate crisis. S.J.Res.8 – which has the best shot at getting a vote this Congress of the three resolutions – contains the same text as the Democrats’ resolutions, but could, if it passed both houses, theoretically go to the President for his signature, unlike the Democrats’ simple resolutions.

To achieve the ends of the GND, the resolution text describes a 10-year “national mobilization,” including a long list of goals and projects that range from investment in climate resiliency projects to overhauling the transportation system to cleaning up hazardous waste sites to promoting international technology exchange. The resolution plans to achieve these goals through “transparent and inclusive consultation” with affected communities and workers, training and education, research and development of renewable energy technologies, creation of jobs with family-sustaining wages, and enacting and enforcing rules and regulations to protect workers and the environment.

The resolutions recommend concrete, achievable, affordable, and necessary solutions. Two economists writing for Forbes argue that increased taxes on the wealthiest people and increased borrowing are safe, sustainable, and effective funding sources, and that our economy has the capacity to increase productivity enough to provide jobs for all those who want one. Research efforts have identified detailed solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reaching 100% renewable energy in the US. Experts agree that the technology already exists to achieve the Green New Deal’s environmental goals.

While we definitely want to go out dancing to celebrate this awesome step towards addressing climate change, and while we support these pieces of legislation and urge our Members of Congress to vote for them, we also want to point out that these are resolutions, not bills. They are symbolic statements of position or intent by the voting chamber; they do not require any action once passed, and will not lead to concrete change without further legislative action. In essence, the resolutions are an important first step, and since they’re a symbolic gesture without any commitment of resources, they allow our representatives to show support for the big ideas that we need in order to tackle climate change, while leaving debates over the details for a later discussion. As Vox climate writer David Roberts put it, the resolutions aren’t intended to serve as a policy blueprint, but are “a prelude to two years of intense policy development” – so Democrats should unite around the Green New Deal’s goals, which means supporting them even in the form of McConnell’s S.J.Res.8  if and when it comes up for a vote.

We in the East Bay are fortunate that our MoCs have solid pro-environment track records. However, our Senators and Representatives all have nuances in their policy approach and varied areas of interest for climate action. See what they say and how they vote below (NOTE: All vote scores are based on the League of Conservation Voters Lifetime National Environmental Scorecard).

What you can do:

Call your Members of Congress NOW and keep calling! We don’t know yet if or when a vote on the Green New Deal will be held, so we need to keep the pressure on.

What to say:

For Sen. Feinstein:

My name is ____, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank the Senator for her continued and vocal support of federal action on climate change, and for returning donations that violated her No Fossil Fuel Money pledge. I also want the Senator to vote in favor of the Green New Deal resolution, not just vote “Present.” Climate change is the most urgent challenge of our time, and supporting the Green New Deal would demonstrate that the Senator understands the kind of action we need to take to prevent catastrophic levels of global warming.

For Sen. Harris:

My name is ____, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank Senator Harris for co-sponsoring Senate Resolution 59 in support of a Green New Deal.  This is an important first step that we need to take in order to address the current climate crisis. I want the Senator to continue to publicly push for a Green New Deal, to talk with her colleagues to encourage their support, and to pressure the Senate leadership to put this resolution up for a vote.

For Reps. DeSaulnier, Lee and Swalwell:

My name is ____, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank Representative ________ for co-sponsoring House Resolution 109 in support of a Green New Deal. This is an important first step that we need to take in order to address the current climate crisis. I want Representative ________ to continue to publicly push for a Green New Deal, to talk with (her/his) colleagues to encourage their support, and to pressure the House leadership to put this resolution up for a vote.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

Your East Bay MoCs and the Green New Deal

 Sen. Dianne FeinsteinSen. Kamala HarrisRep. Mark DeSaulnierRep. Barbara LeeRep. Eric Swalwell
Supports the Green New Deal?In spirit, yes, but she she has her own draft resolution (on hold for now).

Cosponsor of S.Res.59

Cosponsor of H.Res.109

Cosponsor of H.Res.109

Cosponsor of H.Res.109
What have they said?Feinstein is a solid supporter of science, and says “Climate change policy should always be based on objective science and never on politically biased panels.”

Read Feinstein’s latest statement here.
Harris has made a clear statement of support on GND in her most recent Medium Post.

NOTE: Equity must be at the center of environmental policy for Harris, as noted when we went to visit her in DC.
No public statement on the GND.

DeSaulnier has prioritized protecting fuel efficiency standards & promoting zero-emissions vehicles.
“We must take action on climate change — now.”

Lee was an earlier supporter of the GND, and supported a proposal for a Select Committee for the GND.
“I am working to encourage innovation in the field of renewable energy and energy conservation.”

Check out his strong track record from previous sessions of Congress.
How have they voted on environmental legislation?*90%
Pro-🌍
100%
Pro-🌍
99%
Pro-🌍
96%
Pro-🌍
95%
Pro-🌍
*Note: All vote scores are based on the League of Conservation Voters Lifetime National Environmental Scorecard

Elizabeth Douglas and Sylvia Chi contributed to this article.

Photograph “Green New Deal Presser” © Senate Democrats 

Oakland Women’s March 2019: What Did You Miss?

By Anne Spevack

Like many other Indivisible East Bay members, I spent January 19, 2019 at the Women’s March in Oakland. The Women’s March is an inspiring and hopeful day where all kinds of people with different experiences and priorities turn out to stand – and march – in solidarity with each other. But for me, the reality of this year’s event did not fulfill the ideal of mutual support and solidarity, because the day’s logistics meant that some of the speakers – especially some of those from important, marginalized communities – were literally left behind.

The Oakland Women’s March organizers did a great job of scheduling a group of diverse, inspiring speakers, representing youth, immigrant women, formerly incarcerated women, women with disabilities, and more. One of the speakers I was most excited to see was Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter. Unfortunately, despite the great lineup, Ms. Garza and many other speakers never had the chance to deliver their message to the crowds that had gathered, for the simple reason that the march started before their time came to speak.

The schedule: The rally started at 10, and the march was scheduled to start at 11. At other such marches I’ve attended, times are approximate; the march starts when the speaking ends. However, at this year’s Women’s March, the march started on time, even though just over half of the speakers had finished their speeches. Thus, I watched 80 to 90 percent of the gathered crowd disperse before the last four speakers took the stage. And these speakers including activists representing some of the most marginalized groups represented at the march: Hai Yan Wu, an organizer for Asian Immigrant Women Activists, who gave her speech in Chinese; Stacey Milbern, a disability justice advocate; and Jennifer B. Lyle, the Executive Director of Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth (MISSSEY). And closing out the rally was Garza, who had been advertised as one of the major speakers of the day.

Garza’s speech focused on the power of supporting each other across our differences. She proclaimed her support for her Muslim, immigrant, Jewish, LGBTQ, etc., sisters. Garza has at multiple times spoken out in support of the Women’s March, despite continued concerns about the intersectionality and inclusion within the organization and movement. I felt ashamed that most march attendees weren’t there supporting her and the other speakers.

I don’t think this was intentional on the part of the March organizers; I assume the rally and march were intended to be sequential, not to run over each other or to leave speakers addressing empty space. And a lot of attendees were there primarily to march, and left the rally to march with their group and not to snub any particular speaker. But impacts matter, and in this case the impact was a very visible lack of support for the speakers and the groups they represent.

Indivisible, the Women’s March, and other major organizing efforts have come a long way since 2016, building lasting movements, sparking national conversations, and trying to support each other in the face of our common struggle and peril. Let’s keep that growth going by continuing to learn from and support each other. I hope that we will be mindful of who is speaking, literally or metaphorically, and how we can be better at listening to their voices.

For another perspective: indivisibleeb.org/2019/01/23/oakland-womens-march-2019/

Photograph by Christoph Neyer

Anne Spevack is an expert on transportation and infrastructure issues with a passion for the environment, and is rapidly becoming an expert in the Green New Deal.

Keep the Pressure on for a Green New Deal

As Democrats are considering incorporating the Green New Deal (GND) into 2019’s congressional agenda (see our previous blog post for more on this proposal), a new poll shows strong bipartisan support for the idea of transforming the economy through fighting climate change. Despite the Green New Deal’s popularity, however, the House of Representative’s plan for action on climate change does not appear to be as strong as we had hoped – and may not include the Green New Deal at all. Read on for more details on these recent developments, and see the sample scripts at the bottom of this post to tell your Representatives that we need a Green New Deal now!

Tackling Climate Change in the Blue House

With Democrats taking control of the House in the new year, climate change is back on the legislative agenda. Representative Nancy Pelosi (incoming House Speaker-designate) and other Democratic leaders have pushed for reinstating the Select Committee on Climate Change, which Republicans killed eight years ago. However, climate activists, along with Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who worry that action from this committee will not be aggressive or swift enough, have proposed establishing a Select Committee for a Green New Deal, which would be tasked with developing a national plan to eliminate carbon emissions while guaranteeing jobs and environmental justice by 2020.  What form the climate change committee will take will be determined on January 3, 2019, when the House convenes and votes on its rules for the upcoming session.

Who Likes the Green New Deal? Everyone!

The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication recently conducted a poll of registered voters’ opinions of the GND. Based on the poll, the authors estimate that 81% of registered voters support the GND’s policy goals, including 64% of all Republicans and 57% of conservative Republicans. That’s more than half of conservative Republicans! Another important finding: 82% of respondents had not heard of the GND before the survey, meaning that most people are likely to support the Green New Deal if it’s described to them, but that word hasn’t gotten out about it.

Bipartisan support for action on climate change isn’t just found in the polls; a bipartisan carbon tax bill was introduced last week in the Senate. The bill was not expected to pass, but some see it as a starting point for bipartisan negotiation. Some Republicans have shown indications that they may be ready to compromise as the devastating effects of a changing climate become ever clearer.

Climate Action is Coming – But is it Enough?

The Green New Deal is a crucial opportunity that we cannot afford to miss. With a blue House, an energized progressive base, and bipartisan support, the House leadership has an opportunity to direct the policy agenda on this issue. Unfortunately, a few recent news items have put into question whether they will take this opportunity or let it pass.

First, Maryland Democratic Representative Steny Hoyer, the incoming majority leader, stated on December 19, 2018, that the committee that will tackle climate change – whatever that committee may be – will not have subpoena power, the legal authority to demand documents and testimony from relevant players. While the committee would likely have no problem collecting documents and testimony from climate scientists, a lack of subpoena power would prevent the committee from compelling testimony from the fossil fuel industry. Such testimony would allow the committee to establish key findings about issues such as fossil fuel funding for climate change denying think tanks and lobby groups and other bad faith efforts (some quite extraordinary – the Heartland Institute took out a billboard comparing the Unabomber and Osama Bin Laden to people concerned about global warming!), which could motivate strong action and justify the scope of the legislation.

Second, on December 20, 2018, Florida Democrat Kathy Castor (who has a 93% lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters) announced that she was chosen to lead a new committee on climate change in the next Congress. The details of the committee have not yet been made public, but Representative Castor stated that although a Green New Deal would be a consideration in the committee, “that’s not going to be our sole focus.” She also indicated that they were not planning to disqualify members from serving on the committee if they take money from fossil fuel companies. While the new committee shows that the leadership is planning to focus on climate change, it is also seen as an indication that they are not moving forward with a Green New Deal as proposed.

What you can do – call your Members of Congress NOW

Green New Deal supporters in Congress have said that they have not heard opposition from Democratic leadership to the GND’s proposed policies, but “they’re not willing to go out on a limb” because they aren’t sure of support from their caucus and they’re concerned about overstepping other committees’ jurisdiction. So far, only 43 of the 235 Democratic representatives have spoken out in favor of the Green New Deal. This means that Democratic leadership needs to hear from caucus members (our representatives) that there is solid support for a robust committee to work on the Green New Deal plan by 2020; and that in order to support the plan, the committee needs subpoena power to be able to compel testimony from relevant players.

You know what that means … time to call your Members of Congress and let them know we need immediate action on Climate Change through a national Green New Deal. Despite the government shutdown and the recess between Congressional sessions, Capitol offices are open and the staff is there to record your comments (though you may have to leave a message as some offices are short-staffed). Asking our MoCs to publicly support the Green New Deal is the best way to show leadership that the House needs to take it up as soon as possible.

Representative Barbara Lee has already shown public support for the plan. Representatives Eric Swalwell and Mark DeSaulnier have previously been strong advocates for action on climate change and the environment, but have not yet publicly supported the Green New Deal.

You can also contact your local and state representatives to sign on to the platform – read our previous article about the movement to get local and state leaders on-board. The more pressure to act on a Green New Deal, the better!

WHAT TO SAY:

If you are represented by Rep. Lee (CA-13):

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for supporting the Green New Deal. The United States needs to take immediate action on climate change while supporting our economy and workers. Please continue your commitment to sustainability and use your influence to ensure that a committee with subpoena power is established and takes up the Green New Deal in its agenda.

Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661; 1301 Clay Street #1000N, Oakland CA 94612

If you are represented by Rep. DeSaulnier (CA-11) or Swalwell (CA-15):

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. The United States needs to take immediate action on climate change, and I know it can be done in a way that supports our economy and our workers. I ask you to publicly support the Green New Deal, which is the only concrete proposal to ensure action on climate change. Please continue your commitment to sustainability and use your influence to ensure that a committee with subpoena power is established and takes up the Green New Deal in its agenda.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095; 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804

Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

To check on who your representative is, please enter your zip code at this link to verify.