October 2019 Visit with Sen. Feinstein staff

The day before Halloween, as fires and blackouts were plaguing the state, a small group from Indivisible East Bay met with Senator Feinstein’s field representative Abby Ellis (and, for part of the meeting, with state director Jim Lazarus, who had to leave early to deal with the ongoing crises).

We asked Sen. Feinstein to be sure to block any government spending bills that give money to – or allow the administration to steal money for – harmful immigration enforcement, including the stupid wall. The next day she and her colleagues blocked a military spending bill that did just that! Thanks to everyone who called and emailed. Now, please call again, and thank Sen. Feinstein. Our calls of thanks are very important, as our Members of Congress receive plenty of calls from the other side, and staff lets us know when they don’t hear from us supporting their positive actions.

We also talked about the Climate Emergency as it relates both to the California fires and to federal funding for NOAA and NASA, which the Senate is actually handling well so far. We followed up on one of the big asks from our September Q&A with Jim in Berkeley, for Sen. Feinstein to co-sponsor Sen. Sanders’ Climate Emergency Concurrent Resolution, S.Con.Res.22 – but apparently Sen. Feinstein is still hung up on the fact that Sen. Sanders hasn’t put significant effort into recruiting her for it.

In Abby’s opinion, there is nothing Sen. Feinstein can do to either help asylum-seeking families turned away at our border or investigate the government’s improper role in sending them back to danger. She did say that the senator is committed to working to fix the problem if she ever becomes chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Speaking of taking back the Senate: we asked whether, if the Democrats did retake the Senate and the Republicans abused the filibuster, Sen. Feinstein would vote to eliminate the filibuster in order to address vital issues like gun safety, the climate crisis, and democracy expansion. Abby’s answer of “we’ll see” was a slight improvement over the last time we asked a similar question, when we got a “but bipartisanship!” answer. 

We also mentioned that we are counting on Sen. Feinstein to hold Trump accountable when impeachment reaches the Senate. And we checked back in about oversight of treatment of migrant children in detention with special needs (Abby does not know if they’ve looked into it), the stalled Violence Against Women Act reauthorization (Abby blamed Sen. Ernst for the lack of progress), and the American Family Act (still no reason given for not co-sponsoring).

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.

Rising for Climate, Jobs, and Justice

By Nancy Latham

On Saturday, September 9, over 900 Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice rallies were held worldwide. Indivisible East Bay represented at the San Francisco rally, with some 30,000 (that’s the reported, but unconfirmed, number) others on a gorgeous day, starting with two minutes of silence and connection with the earth.

Rise for Climate Jobs + Justice, photo by Nancy Latham

There were songs and some short speeches, and then we marched from the Embarcadero to City Hall, where we ended with another two minutes of silence and reconnection. At City Hall, marchers also found a bustling resource fair. Our IEB table was in excellent company between Indivisible SF and Indivisible Berkeley (why should the Indivisibles be separated?!?)

Rise for Climate Jobs + Justice, IEB GC members Nancy Latham and Nick Travaglini

IEB Governance Committee member Nick Travaglini held down the fort for the entire day, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and GC member Nancy Latham joined Nick for the last two hours after the march was over. From 2 to 4 PM a constant stream of people stopped by to learn more about Indivisible and to sign up to get our weekly newsletter and participate in actions with us. We hope to see some of these new faces at the next All Member Meeting: September 30, 1-3 PM at Sports Basement, Berkeley. RSVP (free, of course) and details here. We hope you join us, too!

Rise for Climate Jobs + Justice, photo by Nancy Latham

Photographs by Nancy Latham

Nancy Latham is on IEB’s Governance Committee, and is a passionate member of the Resistance. In her day job, she works with non-profits, foundations, and government agencies that support greater equity and justice through initiatives in youth development, education, housing, and community development.

 

Checking in with State Senator Wieckowski

Last week saw the passage of AB 398, the compromise cap-and-trade bill, which prevented the much more progressive SB 775 from working its way through the legislature.The author of SB 775, State Senator Bob Wieckowski (SD-10, Fremont), spoke at an event in San Francisco hosted by the Universal Income Project on Tuesday evening. Members from IEB as well as our friends at CA StateStrong & Indivisible SF attended the event to express our support for SB 775 and our disappointment that the Senator (and most other Democrats) voted for AB 398.

Senator Wieckowski responded that AB 398 is mediocre, that he had a hard time casting his vote, and that his staff supported a no vote, but that he was “definitely feeling the heat” from Jerry Brown, who designed the current cap & trade system protected by AB 398 and considers it his “baby.” Wieckowski also talked about the role of SB 1, the gas tax bill that was passed earlier this year, implying that some legislators feel paralyzed in passing any more legislation that could be perceived as a tax this year. He said if he could do it again, he would come out louder and earlier in support of SB 775. We told him he could and should let the grassroots help him in his efforts to pass progressive environmental legislation.

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On a positive note, Senator Wieckowski talked at length about SB 775 and his continuing desire to overhaul and improve the entire system. When we asked whether there was any path forward to implement the good parts of SB 775, he said the current bill just punts the responsibility of the entire program to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) – so in theory, there’s nothing prohibiting more legislation that would direct CARB to implement some of SB 775’s features (for instance, not allowing rollover carbon emission allowances). Senator Wieckowski seems quite knowledgeable about environmental matters and concerned about other environmental issues, including decarbonizing the grid and promoting the use of clean vehicles. Overall, perhaps the most optimistic takeaway is that we have found an opportunity to work with a legislator who is not used to working with the grassroots but is open to our input, our help, and our support for pushing the environmental needle left. So let’s keep showing up!

By Jiggy of CAStateStrong

When political expediency trumps climate leadership

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The California Assembly is set to vote this Thursday, July 13, on a pair of bills which would determine our state’s ability to control greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. AB 398 would extend California’s current cap-and-trade system while AB 617 would put in place additional monitoring of airborne pollutants and impose penalties on polluters. The pair of bills have an “interesting” mix of measures to get lukewarm support of mainline environmental groups, industry, and climate change policy wonks. AB 398 in particular is problematic – it’s being rushed through the legislative process by Speaker Rendon and Governor Jerry Brown, with a vote set for just 72 hours after the publication of the bill’s text.

The bills’ compromises – deals for fossil fuel companies, utility companies, pollution penalties, and funding for vulnerable communities – were engineered to achieve a bipartisan two-thirds majority, including moderate Democrats and some environmental supporters who otherwise might have held out for a more forward-thinking plan. AB 398, which deals with carbon emissions, is a retread of our current cap-and-trade system with some modifications that will extend it to 2030. The extension has some odd-seeming provisions such as stripping local air quality management boards’ powers to innovate for their jurisdictions, but it essentially contains much of the same problems that experts have identified with the current cap-and-trade scheme. Perhaps most importantly for environmental justice advocates and some other critics of the bill, the bill yields to business by setting a limit on the prices that businesses will be charged in the future for buying emissions allowances, rather than increasing the price of those allowances over time. It would also allow companies to hoard and bank carbon allowances, giving them more leeway to pollute.

The bottom line, however, is that this bill represents a genuine missed opportunity for leadership on climate change policy on a global scale.

That missed opportunity becomes evident in light of  SB 775, the other significant piece of climate legislation wending its way through the legislative committee process. With less of the flashy support from leadership (and thus dismissal by some of the larger environmental groups), this bill has some breakthrough carbon pricing mechanisms which aim to return increasing dividends to every California resident, in a similar fashion as Alaska’s Permanent Fund program. The shift from a regulatory regime (setting a cap) to more of an incentives-based regime for reducing carbon intensity over time (including a border adjustment tax based on carbon intensity of an imported good) would allow California to leverage the massive size of its market to start the domino effect of promoting carbon pricing beyond its own borders.

The disparity between what we could achieve and the politically expedient goal of staying with the tried and true is vast. We have no illusions about how this vote will go down on Thursday, nor do we expect SB 775 to proceed in the legislature if AB 398 passes, since the two are competing programs that cover the exact same time period. For those who want California to lead and innovate in climate policy, however, we recommend using our call script here to urge legislators to oppose AB 398 and support SB 775. At the end of the day, we need time for more debate and commentary so that we can arrive on a truly forward-thinking plan. A rushed 72-hour window does not achieve this outcome.

For additional talking points, refer to CalFACT and this helpful guide by our friends across the Bay.

 UPDATE: As of 4 PM, due to voter demand for more time to consider the bills, the votes have been pushed to Monday, July 17.  IEB Member Mandeep Gill and Colin Miller of Oakland Climate Action were in Sacramento and met with our reps and staffers all day about why we want the better climate policy in SB775. Keep calling!

Feinstein Beats Warriors!

By Leslie Price

While hundreds of thousands of excited fans gathered in Oakland on June 15 for the Warriors’ victory parade, nine dedicated folks from Indivisible East Bay and other local groups met with Senator Dianne Feinstein’s State Director Sean Elsbernd and Field Representative Abby Ellis. Both were open, gracious, and genuinely impressed that we skipped the festivities and fought the crowds to make it to their office.

We spent a substantial portion of the meeting discussing health care. Though Senator Feinstein wouldn’t commit to withhold consent because she feels other important business would suffer, she is willing to work hard to slow down a vote on Trumpcare. She’s considering filibustering by amendment during vote-a-rama, but she’s (unsurprisingly) not planning to do anything showy like holding her own hearing on the Capitol steps with the other female senators.

We also talked extensively about corruption in the White House and among the Republican members of Congress. The senator will not join the members of Congress suing the President for accepting foreign emoluments out of concern that her opponents might use such action to claim that she is biased, impeding her efforts on other fronts. For example, she is working with the GOP on investigations concerning the FBI and had a hand in getting Senator Grassley on board, and she is working hard to maintain the blue slip process and to push the Russia investigation.

We asked whether the cuts to the USDA budget have encouraged California’s Republican representatives to stand up to some of the Trump Administration’s most harmful actions. Sean said cuts to the EPA are actually most upsetting to the representatives and their constituents, because these will affect air quality, which then affects children and the elderly. (According to Sean, those elected officials didn’t think Trump would really do something so drastic.) Our group had a positive discussion about how much air quality has improved over the years and how anything that affects the young and old tends to get people thinking beyond party affiliation.

Our group also asked some tough questions regarding civilian oversight of the military: specifically, about a strategy for Syria and whether Senator Feinstein will work to avoid funding a war with no limit. Sean was impressed and indicated that we are the only group that has ever presented Senator Feinstein’s staff with in-depth questions about this. Although the staff generally talks to the Senator about issues pushed by the most constituents, Sean and Abby agreed to bring our concerns to the Senator, and encouraged us to continue to bring it up with other groups to help bring more attention to the issue. We also talked about the urgent need for congressional oversight of military intelligence when the White House can’t be trusted to tell or discern the truth.

We had very positive discussion and agreement about prioritizing census funding, enhancing whistleblower protections, and a weekend summertime town hall, or two, or four (likely in August near San Diego and/or Fresno). Overall, our meeting was productive and positive, and Sean and Abby seemed to appreciate our interest and energy. We are getting to be regular guests, and the Senator’s staff reminded us that they’re happy to host us or make the trek out to us. (The fact we always bring treats probably doesn’t hurt either!)

Climate Action: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

It’s been a dizzying week: the announcement from the White House of intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement; reactions from elected representatives on every level who understand the need to protect the environment; statewide legislation on cap and trade. Take a deep breath and get in touch with the heroes and/or villains of this important moment.

The Good – Thank You to Paris Agreement supporters!

Please thank our California leaders who have committed to upholding the terms of the Paris Agreement on state and local levels. (More information about the benefits of the Paris Agreement, and responses to some of the White House misinformation.)

These Bay Area mayors are part of the Climate Mayors coalition: Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, San Leandro Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter.

Governor Jerry Brown immediately took the lead with Governors Inslee (WA) and Cuomo (NY) in announcing an alliance of states that would uphold the Paris Agreement; other governors continue to join.

In Congress, both California Senators and all East Bay Representatives have publicly spoken out against the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Please thank them AND ALSO encourage them to join the Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group exploring policy options to combat the causes and effects of climate change.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email): (415) 393-0707
Sen. Kamala Harris (email): (415) 355-9041
Rep. Mark Desaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000
Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370
Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322

More good – California cap and trade legislation: A cap and trade bill, SB 775, is moving through the CA state senate. Find out more about SB 755. Ask your senator and rep to sign on to the bill.

And even more – Oakland takes a stand: On June 6, the Oakland City Council adopted a resolution, proposed by Councilmember at Large Rebecca Kaplan, urging the United States Congress to enact a revenue-neutral carbon pricing fee similar to that proposed by SB 775. Thank Councilmember Kaplan and voice your approval to your Councilmember.

The Bad – Paris Agreement foes in the pocket of the oil and coal lobbies (quelle surprise!)

Twenty-two Senators who sent a letter urging the president to withdraw from the Paris Agreement have collectively taken in more than $10 million from oil and coal lobbies. You can contact Senator Mitch McConnell – as Senate Majority Leader, he’s supposed to be responsive to all of us. If you have family and friends who are constituents of any of the other Senators on this list, please ask them to contact them (here is the phone number for the Senate switchboard, which can connect to any Senator’s office). Also note: Senators with asterisks are up for re-election in 2018!

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.); Sen. Jim Inhofe (Okla.); Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.)*; Sen. John Cornyn (Texas); Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.); Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.)*; Sen. Mike Enzi (Wyo.); Sen. Mike Crapo (Idaho); Sen. Jim Risch (Idaho); Sen. Thad Cochran (Miss.); Sen. Mike Rounds (S.D.); Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.); Sen. John Boozman (Ark.); Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.); Sen. Luther Strange (Ala.); Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah)*; Sen. Mike Lee (Utah); Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas)*; Sen. David Perdue (Ga.); Sen. Thom Tillis (N.C.); Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.); Sen. Pat Roberts (Kan.)

The Ugly – These men should be nowhere near climate change or energy policy.

The Current Occupant of the White House; Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency; Rick Perry, Department of Energy

Support SB 775, Carbon Pricing Bill

A new carbon pricing bill, SB775, is moving through the CA state senate. If you live in the 7th or 9th Senate Districts, urge Sen. Steve Glazer and Sen. Nancy Skinner to support the bill.

If you’re in the 10th Senate district, then you can rest easy. Your Senator, Bob Wieckowski, was one of the authors of the bill. He deserves a thank you!

Find your local reps here.

What we like about SB775

  • A steadily rising price for pollution credits – the bill would modify California’s cap and trade system to have a steadily rising price starting in 2021, This would allow consumers, businesses, and investors the predictability they need to accelerate the shift to a clean energy future in California.
  • Protecting low and middle income households – the bill includes returning some revenue from the program directly to households, which will protect households from the effects of price increases while still motivating emissions reductions. This can allow the price to rise to the level necessary to reach our climate goals, while protecting families and communities, stimulating our economy, and encouraging ongoing public support for the state’s climate programs.
  • Simplicity – the bill would eliminate offsets and allocation of free allowances as well as minimizing banking of allowances from year to year.
  • Improved air quality in disadvantaged and fenceline communities – the elimination of offsets and free allowances should motivate greater emissions reductions at all sites statewide and reduce the chances of toxic “hotspots” in low income neighborhoods.
  • Wider coverage of emissions – With no free allowances and 100% of the emission allowances auctioned, a greater part of the economy would be covered by the carbon price.
  • Protecting the California economy and jobs – the bill provides for a border adjustment to provide a level playing field between California and states and countries without a similar carbon price, thus discouraging the movement of emissions (and jobs) outside of California.
  • Greater emissions reductions – with the price rising steadily to a level higher than under existing statute, we can expect a greater reduction in emissions from the carbon price.

For more info, see the website of Californians for a Carbon Tax.