with Paulina Firozi

Two top contenders to be Joe Biden's running mate have put forward a broad proposal to tackle the disparate impact communities of color face from pollution. 

Though many months in the making, the legislation from Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) comes as each is being seriously considered by Biden to join him on the Democratic Party's presidential ticket. 

The bill introduced Thursday also arrives at a moment of political upheaval and protest as the nation grapples with a legacy of racial injustice in the wake of the police killing in May of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis. 

And Black Americans, who are more likely to face air pollution that compromises lungs, are among the groups hardest hit by covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

“Communities of color face public health challenges — which also make them more susceptible to the effects of the deadly COVID-19 virus — at alarming rates while too many in power look the other way,” Duckworth said in a statement.

Harris and Duckworth want to bolster funding for disadvantaged neighborhoods and strengthen the Civil Rights Act.

Under that landmark 1964 law, actions that cause pollution that disproportionately hurt poor and minority communities are supposed to be illegal. But in its 2001 Alexander v. Sandoval decision, the Supreme Court made it harder for residents to sue to enforce the law. 

The proposal from the two senators would undo that decision. 

The bill, called the Environmental Justice for All Act, would also require the Environmental Protection Agency to consider the cumulative impacts of permitting air and water pollution from several facilities in the same area. Highways and factories are often placed near poor and minority neighborhoods.

“For years, we're been trying to get the agency to look into that,” said Mustafa Santiago Ali, vice president of environmental justice at the National Wildlife Federation.

In addition, the legislation would fund new programs offering grants for research into public health issues, support workers who lose their jobs in the fossil-fuel sector and provide communities of color better access to parks.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who like Harris mounted an unsuccessful bid for the presidential nomination last year, is also a co-sponsor of the legislation.

Duckworth and Booker, along with Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), last year founded the Senate’s first-ever caucus focused on environmental justice. And in 2005 as district attorney of San Francisco, Harris formed a three-person team to focus on environmental justice prosecution.

“The crises our country is experiencing right now have exposed injustices in our nation that many of us have known and fought our entire lives, including environmental injustice,” Harris said in an emailed statement. “I started an environmental justice unit as DA of San Francisco for this very reason.”

Ali, who once worked as an assistant associate administrator at the EPA, said “this is one of the most comprehensive bills” tackling environmental racism ever introduced in Congress.

Both Harris and Duckworth are in the running to be Biden's No. 2. 

The former vice president has promised to pick a woman as his running mate, and he is under pressure from some activists to choose a person of color. Duckworth was born in Bangkok, and her mother is of Thai and Chinese heritage. Harris's father is from Jamaica and her mother is a Tamil Indian immigrant.

Biden is also considering former national security adviser Susan E. Rice, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), who are all African American, my colleague Annie Linskey reports.

The bill from Harris and Duckworth is largely in line with Biden's own $2 trillion climate change plan, which also calls for Congress to scrap Alexander v. Sandoval. Environmental justice is a major component of a climate package endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Biden keeps pushing back his self-imposed deadline for deciding who to add to the ticket. The announcement will most likely come during the second week of August, according to Linskey.

Though Harris and Duckworth released the bill in the middle of the veepstakes, the measure was crafted during months of in-person and online conservations between environmental justice groups and Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Donald McEachin (D-Va.), who introduced the companion bill in the House in February. 

Power plays

President Trump ousted two members of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board of directors, including the chair he appointed himself. 

He cited the federally owned utility’s efforts to outsource some jobs, targeting TVA for “unfairly replacing American workers with low-cost foreign labor," Steven Mufson reports.

“But that’s not the case,” Steven Mufson reports. “The TVA contracts, which require the work be done on U.S. soil, are the same as those issued by other federal agencies and do not specify whether the contractors use U.S. workers or skilled foreigners working in the United States legally, TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said.” 

Trump also threatened to fire more TVA board members if it did not change course. He further issued an executive order meant to ensure federal agencies and contractors hire American citizens. 

Mufson adds: “One administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly, called the executive order a 'meaningless dog whistle to political constituencies to make clear the administration is ‘tough’ on foreigners.'”

Hundreds of environmental groups want senators to vote against Trump’s pick to lead the Bureau of Land Management. 

More than 300 groups signed a letter sent to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this week saying the chamber has a “constitutional and moral duty to reject the nomination” of William Perry Pendley, citing in part his “radical anti-conservation positions, a deeply held belief antithetical to the agency’s mission that public lands should be privatized,” as the Hill reports.

Pendley has served as the acting leader of the agency since July 2019. Trump nominated him to take over permanently at the end of June. A date has not yet been set for a confirmation hearing.

“Mr. Pendley’s public record over decades both in and outside of government have made abundantly clear that he is abjectly unfit to lead any government agency and particularly the BLM,” the groups wrote in a letter.

Thermometer

Hurricane Isaias made landfall near the border of North and South Carolina. 

It’s poised to continue to swirl up the rest of the Eastern Seaboard, battering the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast with heavy rains, strong winds and flooding, Andrew Freedman and Jason Samenow report.

“The storm lashed the shores between Charleston, S.C., and Morehead City, N.C., where has caused widespread power outages, coastal inundation of three to five feet in some areas, and heavy rains that could reach up to eight inches,” they write. “…The storm, which had been a tropical storm throughout its near miss with Florida, regained hurricane status, its maximum sustained winds increasing to 85 mph.” 

A new report says a “rapid and total decarbonization” of the U.S. economy could fuel 25 million jobs. 

That’s according to San Francisco-based energy researchers Saul Griffith and Sam Calisch, who say such an effort — tripling the size of the electric grid, replacing all fuel-burning machines with electric machines and investing trillions in government funding — would tackle climate change and also address the wave of unemployment that has resulted from the pandemic, E&E News reports

“The report, ‘Mobilizing for a Zero-Carbon America,’ goes far beyond the energy prescriptions of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who has called for zeroing out the emissions of the electric grid by 2035,” per the report. “While it has the same deadline — 2035 — Griffith's plan would eliminate emissions not just from the grid, but also from most of the rest of the economy, including transportation, industry and buildings.” 

Oil check

General Motors wants a court to reinstate a racketeering lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler. 

GM cited new evidence revealing “how its rival got better labor contracts than competing automakers by paying off the United Auto Workers,” Bloomberg News reports. “GM said in a filing Monday that Al Iacobelli, the former head of union relations at Fiat Chrysler, was being paid by Fiat Chrysler to spy on GM while he was working at GM. Iacobelli and Joe Ashton, the UAW appointee to GM’s board, were both paid through offshore accounts to spy on GM, according to the filing in Detroit federal court.” 

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman dismissed the racketeering claims last month. 

The owners of the 7-Eleven convenience store chain will buy Marathon Petroleum's gas stations for $21 billion. 

It’s the largest energy-related deal of the year, the Wall Street Journal reports, and the latest in a wave of energy deals in recent weeks. 

“Findlay, Ohio-based Marathon had been close to a deal with Seven & I earlier this year, but talks fell apart in March as the coronavirus pandemic took hold. The company revived sales discussions months later, The Wall Street Journal reported in June,” per the report. “…The Speedway deal includes about 3,900 convenience stores and would bring 7-Eleven’s retail footprint in the U.S. and Canada to around 14,000 locations. Under the agreement, expected to close early next year, Marathon would supply 7-Eleven with about 7.7 billion gallons of fuel per year for 15 years.”