The Environment Is on the November Ballot — Here’s Where and What’s at Stake
By Tara Lohan
Environmental issues such as polluted drinking water in Michigan and harmful algal blooms in Florida could influence which candidates voters will support in this November's midterm election, said Holly Burke, communications coordinator of the League of Conservation Voters.
"Water issues really resonate with voters in states where clean water has been a dramatic problem," said Burke.
These issues may affect certain political candidates, but in some states ballot measures will be a more direct way for residents to weigh in on environmental issues. For those hoping that statewide initiatives will help to combat environmental rollbacks at the federal level by the Trump administration, this election will be a crucial test.
The statewide ballot initiative with the greatest environmental significance will be decided by voters in Washington state, which could signal a shift in climate change strategy.
Two other western states will take on clean energy standards, and water issues will appear on the ballots in three states, including a confusing measure in Florida that pairs offshore drilling with an unrelated measure on vaping.
"We're seeing a lot of support for states to take the lead in the light of federal attacks on clean energy and climate," said Bill Holland, state policy director for the League of Conservation Voters.
A Fee on Polluters
The biggest test will be nearly 3,000 miles from Washington, DC, in Washington state. If voters approve Initiative 1631, Washington could significantly move the needle on climate action by being the first state to enact a fee on carbon emissions.
Carbon pricing bills have been proposed by a number of state legislatures, including Washington's, but none have yet to pass in the U.S. Now Washington voters will decide for themselves on the issue and if Initiative 1631 wins, it could trigger efforts in other states.
"We're super excited and see it as a potential model nationwide," said Holland.
The measure would put a fee of $15 per metric ton on carbon emissions, beginning in 2020. This fee would increase $2 every year until the state hits its 2035 greenhouse gas reduction goals and is on track to meet its 2050 goals.
There's a lot at stake, not just for Washington, but the whole country.
"If it passes, Washington will take its place as a part of a growing West Coast climate vanguard, alongside California and Oregon, representing close to 20 percent of the U.S. economy," wrote David Roberts at Vox. "If it fails, it will not only be a crushing blow to an already battered state climate community, but it will cast doubt on the larger states-will-save-us narrative, which is just about the only narrative U.S. climate hawks have left."
Just two years ago Washington voters rejected a similar measure, Initiative 732, which would have created a carbon tax. The measures, however, aren't identical. A carbon tax would have directed revenue generated by the program to the state's general fund. This year's Initiative 1631 instead uses a fee, which directs the money to specific purposes.
Money raised by Initiative 1631 would be divvied up, with 70 percent directed toward supporting clean air and clean energy investments; 25 percent invested in clean water and healthy forests; and the remaining 5 percent targeted for helping communities deal with the impacts of climate change.
The initiative was put the ballot by a coalition of community, environment, labor and climate-justice groups.
The opposition, led by Western States Petroleum Association, has raised $21 million to defeat the measure, but Holland says he still likes the initiative's chances of success. "Climate change is on the ballot and we think there is broad public support for holding polluters accountable," he say.
Montana and Alaska voters will weigh in on water protections, but of two very different sorts.
In Montana Initiative 186 seeks to protect the state's waters from pollution from new hardrock mines. It would give the state's Department of Environment Quality the ability to deny permits for a new mine if the project's plan doesn't prove that it will prevent water pollution "without the need for perpetual treatment."
The biggest financial supporter of the initiative is the fish-friendly nonprofit Trout Unlimited. Anglers have good reason for hoping to keep the state's rivers clean and its fish populations healthy. The measure is opposed by mining interests led by the Montana Mining Association, which is concerned it would result in job losses and other economic damages.
The state is still dealing with the toxic legacy of earlier hardrock mines that have resulted in one of the country's largest Superfund sites. And mining issues are still front and center. Montana's Smith River was highlighted earlier in the year by the nonprofit American Rivers in its annual survey of the country's "most endangered rivers" due to a proposed copper mine currently vying for permits.
Further north, Alaska's Measure 1 would set up stricter permitting regulations and new requirements for projects that could impact aquatic habitat for salmon, steelhead and other anadromous fish, which migrate between rivers and the ocean.
"It enhances the public process and public participation in decisions around large-scale development that would impact salmon habitat, which is a core part of Alaska's identity," said Holland. The fish have not just environmental, but economic and cultural importance in the state.
Groups like the Alaska Center, Wild Salmon Center and Alaska Conservation Foundation are supporting the measure. It's opposed by numerous oil drilling and mining companies, including BP Exploration Inc. Alaska, ConocoPhillips and Hecla Mining Company.
Drilling off Florida
One of the most confounding ballot initiatives will appear before Florida voters.
When voters get to Amendment 9 on this year's ballot, they will decide whether to ban offshore oil and gas drilling in state waters. At the same time, they will vote on whether to allow vaping (the use of "vapor-generating electronic devices") in indoor workplaces.
This odd confluence stems from the state's strange initiative process. Florida's Constitution Revision Commission only convenes every 20 years to decide which constitutional amendments to place on the ballot. In some cases they are grouped together.
The dual measure makes for odd bedfellows (and potentially voter confusion). A yes vote means a voter is in favor of banning both offshore drilling and indoor vaping. A no vote would be in support of drilling and vaping. If you're in favor of one, but not the other, you're out of luck.
Supporters of the measure are largely environmental groups opposed to drilling, while opponents are a mix of petroleum companies and the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association.
Vaping aside, offshore drilling is gearing up to be a key issue. The Trump administration has worked to reverse offshore drilling moratoriums and safety regulations issued by Obama administration, and has sought to open most of the country's waters to drilling.
Clean Energy Standards
Washington won't be the only state voting on issues related to energy and climate.
Nevada's Question 6 and Arizona's Proposition 127 are both measures that would increase the state's renewable portfolio standards, which is the minimum amount of electric power that utilities need to get from renewable sources. Both would bump the standards to 50 percent by 2030.
Nevada's current renewable portfolio standard is 25 percent by 2025, but the state is already almost there. In 2016 it had 21.6 percent of electricity generation coming from geothermal, solar, wind, biomass and hydroelectric power sources. Of that mix of renewables, 44 percent came from geothermal. But solar could be huge for the state. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Nevada has the "nation's best solar power potential."
Question 6 could force Nevada to realize some of that potential. If it passes, the renewable portfolio standard would gradually step up each year to 50 percent by 2030.
Last year the Nevada legislature passed a bill (Assembly Bill 206) that would have upped the renewable portfolio standard to 40 percent by 2030, but it was vetoed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.
In Arizona the current renewable portfolio standard is a more modest 15 percent by 2025. In 2016 renewables provided 12 percent of net generation in the state, about half of which came from hydroelectric power at Glen Canyon and Hoover dams on the Colorado River. Solar made up only 5 percent.
"Arizonans are going to actually vote on having the ability to tap a resource that they have an abundance of, which is the sun," says Art Terrazas, who leads Vote Solar Action Fund's efforts in Arizona.
The state is second only to Nevada in solar potential.
Both ballot initiatives are being bankrolled by billionaire and climate activist Tom Steyer's NextGen Climate Action. The group has raised $2 million for the effort in Nevada, where opposition has been slim. However, in Arizona, NextGen has raised $8 million and its opposition, Pinnacle West Capital Corporation, which owns the state's largest utility, has raised $11 million.
"There has been a history of utilities in the state wanting to maintain the status quo," says Terrazas.
Among other western states, California and Hawaii currently lead clean energy efforts. Both have committed to get 100 percent of electricity generation from renewables by 2045. Oregon's standard is 50 percent by 2040 for larger utilities, and Washington's is 15 percent by 2020. Neither Utah nor Idaho has renewable portfolio standards.
Solar energy is an issue that draws big public support and is beginning to bridge the divide between red and blue voters, says Holland.
"Voters over and over are seeing that clean energy is increasingly cheaper than sources of energy like coal and want to make sure that their states aren't left behind," he said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Michael Svoboda
The enduring pandemic will make conventional forms of travel difficult if not impossible this summer. As a result, many will consider virtual alternatives for their vacations, including one of the oldest forms of virtual reality – books.
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By Julia Conley
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By Beth Ann Mayer
Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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