Inslee advisers launch group to push Dems on climate

Source: By Adam Aton, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, May 14, 2020

Former climate advisers to Jay Inslee launched an advocacy group today focused on pushing Democrats to adopt more aggressive policies for addressing climate change.

The group, called Evergreen, also released its first policy plan, which calls on Congress to pass a financial rescue package for states suffering from the coronavirus pandemic that could be used to advance state climate programs.

Veterans and allies of Inslee, the Democratic governor of Washington, who based his campaign for the 2020 presidential nomination on combating climate change, say their new group will coordinate polling, policy and messaging for climate action.

Evergreen has charted a path for Democrats to use federal aid to boost state climate programs, called the “Clean Jumpstart” plan. Without federal help, the group writes, budget shortfalls will lead states to cut essential services as well as their climate investments.

“States — with Donald Trump in the White House — are where climate action is actually happening right now. And so the cuts to state budgets actually threaten that progress,” said Jamal Raad, Evergreen’s campaign director and Inslee’s former communications director.

Democrats should still fight for federal investments in clean energy, as they did in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the group said. But they’re urging lawmakers to also give more money — and more flexibility — to state, tribal and local efforts.

Polling from Data for Progress, conducted in partnership with Evergreen, suggests that policy is popular: 72% of voters support flexible state aid, while 29% think aid should be limited to coronavirus-related expenses.

Democrats have proposed $1 trillion in state and local aid as part of another round of federal relief. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), citing the national debt, suggested states should declare bankruptcy — a position that some GOP lawmakers have distanced themselves from.

Evergreen identified 11 broad routes for Congress to boost locally administered programs. Many of them, such as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Weatherization Assistance Program, would benefit people with low incomes.

Other options include accelerating the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s hazard mitigation grants; expediting the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Liquidity Facility to directly finance state and local projects, including infrastructure; and boosting block grants through the Department of Energy and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Evergreen’s plan also calls for new programs, like a Clean Infrastructure Bank, that build on the group’s debut policy program, the Evergreen Action Plan, which drew heavily from the Democratic presidential campaigns of Inslee, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (E&E News PM, April 15).

Maggie Thomas, a climate adviser for Inslee’s and Warren’s presidential campaigns, will be Evergreen’s political director. Sam Ricketts and Bracken Hendricks, both senior climate aides to Inslee, are co-founders of the group.

Evergreen plans to collaborate closely with other climate groups. Evergreen’s advisory board includes Julian Brave NoiseCat, vice president of policy and strategy at Data for Progress, as well as Rhiana Gunn-Wright, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and one of the Green New Deal’s architects.

The board also includes Andrew Light, a senior international climate official in the Obama administration who is now at the World Resources Institute; Evan Weber, co-founder and political director of the Sunrise Movement; Sonia Aggarwal, vice president of Energy Innovation; KC Golden, board chair of 350.org; Leah Stokes, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Alexandria Villaseñor, co-founder and co-director of US Youth Climate Strike; the Rev. Lennox Yearwood, founder of the Hip Hop Caucus; and Keya Chatterjee, executive director of the US Climate Action Network.

The brewing fight that Evergreen is wading into, NoiseCat said, is over what the post-pandemic recovery will look like. With Democrats so far declining to fight for federal climate action in the response packages, that makes it even more important to support states, he said.

That policy work could also help prepare for the possibility that Democrats retake the federal government.

“We really, really want to make sure we rebuild in a way that is green and sustainable,” NoiseCat said. “We want to be prepared with all the policy and polling and jobs research — all that stuff — for when it’s time to start rebuilding.”