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What we can do for the environment post-Pruitt

We fought hard to prevent the confirmation of Oklahoma's attorney general Scott Pruitt as new head of the Environmental Protection Agency. While he was confirmed, our efforts were not without impact.

The vote was close, closer than expected; more senators voted against Pruitt than any previous EPA nominee in its 46-year history; Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine, crossed party lines to vote no; EPA employees broke rank to write letters against his nomination; and 3,000 emails linking Pruitt to energy interests were released on Wednesday. These letters expose that Pruitt's allegiances to Oklahoma gas, oil, and utilities are absolute.

But now what?

What you can do

Unlikely as it seems, defenders of Pruitt map one path forward for us. In the lead up to his hearing, the Competitive Enterprise Institute wrote a letter of support stating Pruitt "understands that many of the nation's challenges regarding clean air and water are best met at the state and local level." During his confirmation hearing last month, Pruitt himself said "It is our state regulators who oftentimes best understand the local needs and the uniqueness of our environmental challenges."

State and local governments can and will act as bulwark against the coming roll back of federal environmental regulations and life-saving public health measures the E.P.A. enforces like the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Act, the WOTUS rule, and the Good Neighbor Act, as well as broader efforts to support divestment from the fossil economy, Indigenous sovereignty, the EPA's Clean Power Plan, and the Paris Climate Agreement. Regulations are tied up in lengthy bureaucratic processes and courts and cannot be overturned overnight. Climate scientists, local government, and environmental groups - along with unaffiliated citizens and activists - can and will resist their dismantling at every turn. We will double down our efforts at the state, local, and grassroots scale to safeguard the health of our environment and our communities.

Here are some good things happening on the state level:

  • Illinois implemented the Future Energy Jobs Bill, its most significant climate and energy bill in the state's history, in December. Ohio and Michigan are making similar plans.

  • Seattle City Council unanimously approved an ordinance to end its relationship with Wells Fargo, an investor in the DAPL pipeline and the company building it, Energy Transfer Partners of Texas. This will cost the bank $3 billion dollars a year.

  • Despite Wednesday's devastating removal of the Water Protectors at Standing Rock, statements this week from NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Comptroller Scott Stringer give us reason to think officials are listening and responding to the call respect Indigenous land, disproportionately targeted by extraction industries. Both DeBlasio and Stringer publicly expressed disapproval of the Dakota Access Pipeline: DeBlasio sent a letter to banks letting them know that financing the pipeline comes with "serious risks." Stringer joined 120+ investors speaking out against #DAPL and called on banks to "take meaningful action and develop a new plan that respects the tribe and the sovereignty of their land."

1. Our main assignment for you now: start becoming familiar with your State Senate. Use this website to learn who your State Senators are, who comprise the upper house of legislature in your state. Your state legislature's primary purpose is to draft and approve changes to the laws of your state. Set a calendar for yourself to check in every few weeks to see what bills are up in the State Senate--it will take a minute to get used to, but this is the best way to start being apprised of legislation at the state level.

2. Join 350.org's Climate March on April 29.