March 2020 Newsletter: COVID-19 Edition

Lessons from COVID-19

The world is in crisis, a COVID-19 crisis, that is shaking the foundations of our economy, our health care system, and our sense of wellbeing. But with this crisis comes a teachable moment, and lessons to be gleaned, if we are willing to pay attention. Here are a few lessons shared with us by physicians on the front lines of this crisis:

1) We are all in this together–health is planetary and there are ecological determinants of health that are at play here. Our uncontrolled interaction with the natural world is one of the root causes of this crisis.
2) Inequality hurts everyone’s health.
3) Lives are saved when we listen to the scientists.
4) If we work together, we can change the world quickly for the better.

Though we are working safely from our separate homes, all of us at CSE  remain deeply committed to our work at the local, state and national level, and are working on numerous fronts for “system change, not climate change,” and a Green New Deal that will put people back to work while healing our country and our ailing planet. We’re here for you. Please stay well and save lives by staying home.

Bailout People, Not Polluters!

CSE is part of a national effort being coordinated by U.S. Climate Action Network (USCAN) that is activating on all fronts for a national and global policy response commensurate with this crisis. Together, we have been collectively responding to the need for local and federal policy to stop utility shut offs and evictions, while working to prevent corporate bailouts of fossil fuel companies. And we have been pushing for a Peoples Bailout through our work with the Green New Deal Network. We cannot allow Trump to use the cover of the COVID-19 crisis to roll back all environmental laws and bailout corporate polluters.  Please take action and demand a Peoples Bailout by signing on here TODAY! Although a $2 trillion package has passed Congress, there will be more federal action, and we need to show Congress we have public support for these priorities.

In collaboration with our friends at Labor Network for Sustainability, we can anticipate more opportunities to support the worker-led demand that President Trump immediately use the Defense Production Act to control the supply chain and order massive production of N95 masks, gowns, and other equipment needed desperately by frontline workers.

With USCAN, we are also collaborating on identifying and providing programming which is absorbing for the millions of kids out of school.  Everyday at 4pm GreenFaith is providing space to get on line with faith leaders. At 3pm and again in the evening, Sunrise Movement is providing a Green New Deal course through Sunrise School. (See below for more on CSE’s Green New Deal classes.)

Jordan Cove Fracked Gas Pipeline Conditionally Approved Oregon Permit Denials Remain

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the construction of the Jordan Cove fracked gas pipeline and terminal in Coos Bay, Oregon. Read Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s outraged response here. Despite the approval, the project has no viable path forward without key permits that have been denied by the state. Read more from our friends at Rogue Climate here.

Solidarity With Wet’Suwet’en Water Protectors

CSE is honored to stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en and their supporters (Read our letter of support here.) As the Wet’suwet’en People of northern B.C. continue their heroic resistance to the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline—which even in this global pandemic

is being illegally constructed across their territory—the Wet’suwet’en are calling out for solidarity from community groups, unions, NGOs and governments.

Credit: Michael Toledano

Learn more about the Wet’suwet’en’s decade-long resistance by visiting their website and exploring their toolkit for supporters here. Take supporting action today: help shut down the project’s funds!

Victory at Standing Rock!

On March 25, 2020, a federal court granted a request by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to strike down federal permits for the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.  The Court found the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it affirmed federal permits for the pipeline originally issued in 2016. Specifically, the Court found significant unresolved concerns about the potential impacts of oil spills and the likelihood that one could take place. Read more here.

Oregon Governor Brown Issues Climate Executive Order

On March 10, 2020, Oregon Governor Kate Brown released an executive order, EO 20-04, that lays out the goals for Oregon’s climate response on an emergency timeline. While the document references the importance of science-based targets and timelines, the document gets the actual science wrong. According to the most recent Paris climate goals, we need to markedly enhance our ambition with annual targets, not decadal ones, and shoot for a global average temperature increase that does not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius, not 2 degrees Celsius, as this EO references.

CSE will be coordinating with community partners to track the directives given to Oregon’s state agencies and commissions on the timelines announced in the EO. Many of the agencies will need to respond to these directives with their plans by May 15, 2020. To get involved in this process, please write us at:

Portland Climate Emergency Declaration

On February 12, 2020, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler released a draft “Climate Emergency Declaration” for public review. Many groups, including CSE, provided comprehensive input on this draft. The resolution is presently scheduled to come up for a vote on Earth Day, April 22, 2020.  It is important that the final resolution is bold and utilizes the many tools at the city’s disposal–such as specific code changes–to drive climate action further and faster. The resolution must also tie funding to its goals or risk becoming an “unfunded mandate” that languishes along with other well-meaning mandates, gathering dust.  We look to the City of Portland to continue to lead boldly on this global climate crisis and will be pressing them for far more ambitious plans in the months ahead.

Zenith Five Trial Ends With Mistrial, Case Dismissed

On February 27, 2020, after four long days of court, the landmark case of the “Zenith Five” concluded in a mistrial –in the first case in which the ‘climate necessity defense’ has gone before a jury.  The six-member jury did not reach a final decision, but five members found the five climate activists not guilty of criminal trespass when they built a garden over train tracks to stop the export of tar sands crude oil at Portland’s Zenith Energy terminal. A week later, the district attorney dismissed the case, marking an incredible victory for the climate justice movement.

CSE’s Staff Attorney, Nick Caleb, served as an expert witness during the trial. He testified on the importance of nonviolent civil disobedience when our current political and legal systems prevent policymakers from taking necessary action to curb rising greenhouse gas emissions.

For more, read this powerful op-ed by Jan Zuckerman (on right, holding sign) an educator and member of the Zenith Five, published in The Oregonian.

Take Action!

The fight against tar sands by rail continues. Right now, we have an opportunity to stop Zenith’s tar sands business for good by stopping it from renewing its expired air permit.  But to get there, we need the City of Portland to step up and defend our right to say “No!”  Learn what you can do by opening our Action Toolkit here.

CSE’s Online Classes on Green New Deal Continue

Our six-part series on regenerative agriculture and a Green New Deal ended just as the COVID-19 crisis hit. Thankfully, we were able to teach our last two classes on Zoom and were able to turn what we learned into the beginnings of policy recommendations which CSE submitted to city and state agencies, calling for greater support for regenerative agriculture via city and state procurement policies, among other things. We are grateful to Will Newman, an organic farmer in Clackamas County for 30 years, for leading our classes. The classes were taped and will be made available for a suggested fee of $10/class.

CSE Staff Attorney Nick Caleb is now leading a free series of classes on “Environmental Policy and a Green New Deal,” every Wednesday from 3-5 pm, via Zoom, through May 8, 2020. For more information or to join the classes, write:

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