Dear Michigan LCV Family,
Welcome to the January 28, 2021 edition of Three Things Thursday. This week’s Three Things includes a look at Governor Whitmer’s State of the State Address, President Biden’s amazingly diverse cabinet, and the single biggest day of climate action–yesterday! I also include some personal Michigan LCV news at the end.
1. State of the State Address: January 27, 2021
Last night, Governor Whitmer delivered her third State of the State Address, the majority of which focused on COVID-19 and Michigan’s economy. Speaking from her office rather than the podium in the Michigan House chambers, Governor Whitmer displayed the same strong, unwavering leadership that has been the hallmark of her time in office over the past two years. Through the tragedies that have impacted our state–the Midland dam collapse, racial violence, and the loss of thousands of Michiganders to COVID-19–Governor Whitmer has carried on, finding ways to get (more) PPE to our frontline workers and vulnerable citizens, and taking action on a wide range of environmental and public health issues facing our state.
The Governor’s State of the State Address touched on some of this, notably the MI Clean Water Plan, a $500 million investment in water infrastructure to ensure Michiganders have safe, affordable water and create jobs rebuilding our infrastructure. As the Governor said,
“Last year, I announced the MI Clean Water plan, a $500 million investment in Michigan’s water infrastructure. Direct dollars to communities for safe, clean water to residents. And it supports over 7,500 Michigan jobs.It’s time for the legislature to pass these bills so we can start rebuilding Michigan’s water infrastructure. I will keep working so every family in Michigan has clean, safe water.”
But, there’s a whole lot more the Governor has to be proud of, including the fact that she:
- Put forth the MI Healthy Climate Plan, the boldest initiative to tackle climate change and create good jobs in our state’s history.
- Enacted and defended a moratorium on water shutoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring Michiganders continued to have running water at home for basic public health and hygiene
- Ordered the shutdown of the 67-year-old Line 5 Pipeline, which poses the single greatest threat to our Great Lakes and the drinking water for millions of people
As the Governor wove her way through her speech, touching on the successes of bipartisan action last year and the need for more bipartisanship this year; as she spoke about her new “Michigan Back to Work” initiative and supporting our schools, about public safety and good paying jobs, I just kept thinking, “we are so fortunate to have ‘that woman from Michigan’ leading this great state at this incredibly trying time.”
While much more needs to be done to get our state back on track and to protect human health, our democracy and the environment, we’ve certainly got leadership from the top. It’s our job to be there to support the Governor, collectively working to ensure that 2021 is truly — to use her words — an annus mirabilis.
(You can read the whole State of the State speech here.)
Please know we issued a statement in response to the Governor’s speech emphasizing that — now that Governor Whitmer has a true partner in the White House — Michigan has a real opportunity to lead on protecting public health and updating our water infrastructure. You can read our statement on our website here.
2. President Biden’s Cabinet Picks
President Joe Biden has (pending confirmation) assembled the most diverse and talented group of climate and environmental justice champions in history to play key roles in his cabinet.
While on the campaign trail, the President spoke with conviction about the need to take action to address both the climate crisis and the environmental injustices that plague our nation. Yet, I think many were surprised by how quickly and determinedly the Biden/Harris administration moved to take action, starting with the group of leaders they have assembled, all of whom reflect the true racial, ethnic, and gender diversity found across America’s communities and bring significant depth and breadth of experience in how to advance the President’s agenda.
President Biden’s climate plan, the most aggressive climate plan of any president in history, is specifically focused on transitioning the U.S. to a 100% clean energy economy by 2050. By putting their trust in science and taking a holistic approach in addressing climate change, the President is committed to fostering economic development, creating high quality, clean energy jobs, and fighting for environmental justice. It is through that lens that President Biden has assembled the following cabinet:
- Brian Deese – Director of the National Economic Council. Brian helped broker the Paris Climate Agreement and (she says with great pride) was a member of the national LCV Board of Directors before stepping into this position.
- California Attorney General Xavier Becerra – Head of the Department of Health and Human Services. AG Becerra fought the Trump administration’s attempts to overturn California’s clean air and cash-saving fuel efficiency standards.
- New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland – Secretary of the Interior. A vocal climate champion and lead sponsor of the “30 by 30 Resolution to Save Nature” first introduced last year, Congresswoman Haaland is an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo, a 35th-generation New Mexican, and strong advocate for Tribal Nations. She will be the first Indigenous person to lead the Department of the Interior.
- Michael Regan – Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator. Mr. Regan is an EPA veteran and a former head of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. He will be the first African American to lead this critical agency.
- Pete Buttigieg – Secretary of Transportation. Former mayor of South Bend, Buttigieg has a background in urban affairs and has committed to the need for climate action and net zero emissions in developing a clean energy economy. When confirmed, Buttigieg will be the first LGBTQ cabinet member.
- Brenda Mallory – Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair. With decades of experience on climate and natural resources issues, and as former General Counsel for the CEQ), Mallory has a wealth of knowledge around the National Environmental Protection Act and is strongly committed to making sure all communities have a seat at the table.
- Gina McCarthy – National Climate Advisor. Former EPA Administrator under President Obama, former president and CEO of NRDC, McCarthy will use her wealth of experience to ensure President Biden’s climate strategy is implemented. She was a key author of the Clean Power Plan and brings a focus on equity and justice to the position, recognizing the disproportionate impact of pollution and climate change on the communities with the least agency to affect change.
- Ali Zaidi – Deputy National Climate Advisor. An extremely smart, talented climate policy leader, Zaidi has experience in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Domestic Policy Council (DPC) in the Obama administration, and leadership experience as the New York deputy secretary for energy and environment
- John Kerry – Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. Kerry carries with him a national and international reputation and depth of experience. He will play a vital role in moving Biden’s climate policy forward, both domestically and internationally, and will help in rebuilding our reputation and relationships with international partners.
- Jennifer Granholm — Secretary of Energy. As governor of Michigan, as well as in her career after leaving office, Granholm consistently championed clean energy, economic development and technological advancement, while demonstrating a commitment to environmental justice and equitable climate solutions. In 2007, Granholm (1) issued an executive order to create the Michigan Climate Action Council to develop a comprehensive climate action plan for the state, and (2) issued an executive order “Promoting Environmental Justice” before starting the Michigan Environmental Justice Plan in 2009. Among her many accomplishments, Granholm founded the American Jobs Project, a 30-state, multi-university research project focused on clean energy jobs in advanced manufacturing.
Granholm’s confirmation hearing took place yesterday. In advance of the hearing, I authored an opinion editorial entitled Biden taps state leaders who have led the way on fighting climate change, which was published in the Detroit Free Press earlier this week. The Detroit News published a piece about the hearing, which you can access here.
This is a dream team for those of us who work to address the climate and water crises every single day. We are excited by the prospect of their collective leadership and ready to support the administration in every way possible.
3. The Single Biggest Climate Action Day in Decades, Protecting Public Lands and Water
Yesterday, the Biden administration executed the Climate Day of Action, an enormous day for the protection of the environment and tackling climate change.
As LCV President Gene Karpinski said in a press release, Wednesday was “the single biggest day for climate action in more than a decade, and what makes it all the better is that President Biden and Vice President Harris are just getting started!”
As a member of the national LCV Education Fund Board of Directors, I am immensely proud of the work the national organization has done to make this moment possible, including all the deeply collaborative work with the 30+ state Leagues across the country. It is clear that the Executive Orders from the White House are great first steps towards re-establishing the U.S. as a leader on environmental issues and the climate crisis, both domestically and abroad. As Karpinski went on to say:
“Today’s actions help deliver on their historic commitments to set our country on a path to 100 percent clean energy by 2035, protect 30 percent of our lands and ocean by 2030 and stop reckless giveaways of those lands to oil and gas CEOs, address environmental injustice, ensure that 40 percent of all investments are directed to frontline communities and communities of color, create high-quality jobs, restore the role of science in decision-making and more. This is what the record number of voters who overcame historic barriers to elect President Biden and Vice President Harris are counting on.”
Wednesday’s executive actions included:
- Ensuring that the climate crisis is at the center of U.S. Foreign Policy and National security agendas/considerations
- A moratorium on entering new oil and gas contracts/leases on public lands or offshore waters; also included is a major review of leases currently in operation, but those leases are able to continue operation at this time
- The establishment of two new federal entities to help address the climate crisis:
- The White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy
- The National Climate Task Force
- Action that requires federal agencies to eliminate subsidies afforded to fossil fuel consumption/companies to the greatest extent possible
- Large-scale federal procurement of clean energy infrastructure, especially targeting zero emission (Electric) vehicles
- Establishment of a Civilian Climate Corps
And, similar to the goals outlined in Gov. Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan, the actions require new federal infrastructure and developments to “reduce” climate impacts and emissions.
In order to focus on the recovery and transformation of industrial communities that depend economically on fossil fuels or industrial jobs, the President’s action establishes the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization. As we all know, one of the most consistent arguments made by fossil fuel advocates is that the lag time between eliminating fossil fuels and the establishment of new, clean energy jobs in communities that have depended on industrial work for generations would be too much to handle while we transition to a clean energy economy. This argument is certainly something that Gov. Jennifer Granholm was confronted with several times throughout her Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, and is a serious issue that needs to be addressed for large portions of the American workforce as we facilitate this transition.
The President’s action also formalizes the administration’s commitment to addressing environmental justice issues, taking steps to ensure that environmental justice is at the core of every federal agency’s mission, as well as the government-wide “Justice40 Initiative” aimed at delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities and the implementation of an Environmental Justice Scorecard.
The last and perhaps biggest part of the Biden administration’s Climate Day of Action was the Executive Order on the 30×30 Plan. The ambitious “30 by 30” pledge, which was first introduced in December of 2020, focuses on a ten-year goal of conserving 30% of U.S. land and water by 2030. The plan will safeguard the nation’s land, water and wildlife, preserving environmental integrity. Along with climate leaders like New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland, nominee for Secretary of the Interior, President Biden has taken an aggressive and much needed stance on the preservation of America’s land and water, which is a critical part of his overall agenda on the environment and climate change. This is especially important for communities across the U.S. that are intrinsically dependent on their environment in terms of their way of life, cultural identity, and community cohesion, such as rural communities, Tribal Nations, and even private landowners.
Please know that the 30×30 Plan is broadly supported by local and state elected officials from all over the country. In fact, state Leagues, including Michigan LCV, mobilized 450 state and local elected officials from across the nation to sign an open letter declaring their support for the 30×30 Plan. Over the past month, Michigan LCV staff have been mobilizing mayors to sign a mayors-only letter that will be a dynamic follow-up onto the state and local elected official letter. So far, we’ve secured signatures from Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers, Ypsilanti Mayor Lois Richardson, Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, East Lansing Mayor Aaron Stephens, and Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor, and our work has just begun.
What a week! Considering where we found ourselves at the beginning of January, it’s sort of breathtaking to be reporting on all these incredibly positive changes. I’m under no illusions that it will be easy to reverse the damage caused by the Trump administration, which includes (re)building trust among and between the American people. But, the momentum found in the actions taken by state and national leaders to address the most pressing issues of our time is so inspiring. Let’s take a moment to celebrate and take a deep breath before going back at it.
Thank you all for your support. None of this would be possible without your deep belief in our work and the change that needs to happen to protect people, planet and public health.
P.S. Celebration and Sadness at Michigan LCV
In FANTASTIC, celebratory news, we welcomed a new member into the Michigan LCV family this week: Lauren Mallas had a baby girl! “Baby Mallas”, as the team referred to her throughout Lauren’s pregnancy, decided to arrive about five weeks early, which caught all of us by surprise, notably Lauren! But, “Baby Mallas” — now known as Isabel — is healthy and mother Lauren is healthy and very, very happy. L’chaim! Congratulations! Or, in Greek, συγχαρητήρια για το νέο μωρό or syncharitíria gia to néo moró.
In sad news, we lost a beloved former board member: the amazing Joan Wolfe passed away on January 23rd.
Unlike our friend Dave Dempsey — Great Lakes champion and author extraordinaire–who was fortunate to work with Joan during their shared time in the Milliken Administration, I only had the chance to know Joan in her late 70’s and early 80’s. Even so, Joan was still very much the activist she had been all her life, plowing ahead despite her failing eyesight and increasing mobility challenges. No surprise, Joan pressed her book, Making Things Happen: How to be an Effective Volunteer, firmly into my hands during her early days on the board. I feel really lucky to have had the chance to work with and get to know Joan, and I will always cherish our visits in beautiful Frankfort.
I urge you to take a moment and read about Joan’s life. Her journey and accomplishments are so inspiring. May she rest in peace.
Lisa Wozniak, Joan Wolfe and MLCV Board Member
Kerry Duggan in August 2009
Joan L. Wolfe (May 2, 1929 – January 23, 2021)
Joan L. Wolfe, trailblazing environmentalist and the first woman chair of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Commission, died peacefully in her sleep of end stage dementia at age 91.
Joan’s activism began in the mid-1960s, as a foot soldier in the effort to ban DDT and similar pesticides. In 1968 she founded the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC), a consortium of conservation and citizens groups with a strategic focus on enacting legislation. As WMEAC’s Executive Director, she coordinated the drafting and passage of the landmark Michigan Environmental Protection Act of 1970. At Joan’s behest, the law was written by University of Michigan law professor Joseph Sax. Giving citizens standing in court to sue on behalf of the environment, it became the model for similar statutes in a dozen other states, and the basis for federal and international environmental law. Both she and her husband, Willard E. Wolfe, DDS, were also key strategists in writing and lobbying for passage of Michigan’s Inland Lakes and Streams Act of 1972.
In 1973 she was appointed by Governor William Milliken to the Michigan Natural Resources Commission, and later became its first woman chair. That same year she was awarded an honorary doctorate in Public Service by Western Michigan University. She later served on the first Natural Resources Trust Fund Board, the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Electric Energy Alternatives, and the board of the National Audubon Society. In 1991 she authored the book Making Things Happen: How to be an Effective Volunteer. She was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1996, and the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame in 2014. Much to her husband’s delight, Joan also reigned as Queen of Kalkaska’s 2004 National Trout Festival.
Her son John is often bemused by people’s feeling of helplessness around government. “As my mother showed me, all it takes to get laws passed and policies changed is a phone with a twenty-foot extension cord to let you pace back and forth, endless cups of instant coffee, and the courage and conviction to call strangers and make them your friends and allies.”
The daughter of William and Mary Lou Luedders, Joan grew up in Highland Park, Detroit. She attended Hollins College in Virginia for two years, and then transferred to the University of Michigan, where she earned an undergraduate degree in economics. She married Will Wolfe in 1953, and they raised their sons Peter and John in Belmont, Michigan.
Joan was an avid and expert birder, with a special fondness for spring warblers. She frequented many favorite birding spots throughout western Michigan. She and Will, often with friends, traveled near and far on birding expeditions. They visited the seasonal bird migration funnels of the Great Lakes: Point Pelee in Ontario, and Whitefish Point in the Upper Peninsula. Later in life, they crossed the treacherous Drakes Passage to observe penguins in Antarctica, trudged the tundra of northern Alaska, and climbed into treetop observation platforms in the jungle canopy of Panama.
In addition to many joys, Joan weathered a few deep sorrows. Her younger son Peter was killed in 1984 while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala. The partial dismantling of her greatest legislative achievement, the Michigan Environmental Protection Act, by a conservative majority of the Michigan Supreme Court in 2004, was a second blow.
Joan and Will retired to Frankfort, Michigan, living on Bridge Street and then at the Michigan Shores Cooperative. After her husband Will died in 2011, Joan remained active and engaged in the Frankfort area community despite considerable health challenges. She was deeply helped by her executive secretary Anne Noah and caregivers Patricia Reed, Susana Sanchez, Carol Franks, Paula Carrier, Julia Thompson, Lene Estrin, and Sherry Gilbert, as well as the compassionate staff at The Maples. Her longtime caregiver Patricia Reed was at her side when she died.
She is predeceased by her son Peter Wolfe, husband Willard Wolfe, fraternal twin Dean Luedders, sister Sarah Luedders Dawson and brother-in-law Robert Dawson, brother- and sister-in-law Warren and Shirley Wolfe, and nephew Steve Luedders’ wife Janet.
Joan is survived by her son John Wolfe and daughter-in-law Arnell Hinkle, of Berkeley, California, and Scott Houseman, a close friend of her sons who adopted Joan and Will as “second parents.” She is also survived by her sister-in-law, Pat Luedders, and many treasured nieces and nephews and their children: Elizabeth and Jon Jacobs and sons Peter and William; Steve Luedders; Andrew Luedders and husband Jakub Pijewski; Christie Overgaard, son Peter and daughter Rachel; Charles and Leia Wolfe, daughter Carly and husband Brendan Lohr, and daughter Alexandra Wolfe; Elizabeth Wolfe-Brusher and Gerald Brusher, daughter Elyse and son Alex; and Thomas and Deborah Wolfe and sons Max and Jack. She is also survived by her longest childhood friend, Susan Hines, born only a few days apart, as well as a broad circle of cherished friends.
Donations in her memory may be given to the West Michigan Environmental Action Council. Jowett Family Funeral Home is handling the arrangements for the family.