Reliable and Renewable Future
A reliable and renewable future means Nebraska is leading the nation in the production of clean and renewable energy, ensuring that generations to come are free from dirty fuels and live in a world with a stable climate and clean air.
We rely on energy to function every day. We use electricity to heat and cool our homes, to turn on the light to read our books, and to make our appliances work. Whether we use public transportation or drive our own cars; we use energy to get to work, to go to the grocery store and to visit our families. Unfortunately, the bulk of this energy is generated by the burning of fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas.
Burning fossil fuels for energy costs us more than what we pay at the pump or to cover our electricity bills. A consensus of scientists agree that fossil fuel emissions will catastrophically alter our world’s climate if left unchecked, creating a world defined by extremes and incalculable risk. The particulate matter released by burning fossil fuels creates a shockingly long list of health problems, such as asthma, heart disease and lung cancer, and is responsible for an estimated 2 million premature deaths every year.
Continuing our reliance on oil, coal, and natural gas for the bulk of our energy needs is a losing proposition. We need to transition to a clean energy future in which we decrease our energy consumption and obtain the energy we need from sources that don’t harm our friends and family. We need stability from our energy sources, not the unpredictability that comes from dependence on fossil fuels. This unpredictability comes in the form of price fluctuations in oil and natural gas, while the price we pay for coal has risen approximately 60% over the last decade.
Power plants are the largest U.S. source of greenhouse gas pollution, followed by vehicle emissions. In 2012, over 50% of the nation’s electricity came from fossil fuels, with 37% coming from coal. Nebraska is nearly double the national average, with over 70% of our electricity generated by coal. This reliance on coal is the direct result of a lack in political will to allow Nebraska to reach its potential. We can lead the nation in generation of electricity from renewable resources: our state ranks 4th in the nation in wind and 13th in solar potential.
Water Quality and Supply
Water gives life to our state and to our world. But this valuable resource is often wasted, mismanaged, and threatened. As water scarcity becomes an increasingly critical problem, working to ensure Nebraska’s valuable water resources are conserved and protected is essential.
Water is essential to the quality of life of all Nebraskans. Nebraska’s people and communities literally can’t live without it. It’s this resource that has helped Nebraskans claim our identity as the “Cornhusker State”, enabling the growth of a $17 billion agricultural industry that is dependent on abundant, reliable and clean water. Nebraska’s environmental heritage and natural beauty are inextricably linked to its rivers, streams, lakes and aquifer.
Nebraskans are fortunate because we sit on top of one of the world’s largest freshwater aquifers and rivers and streams cross our state. But our fresh water faces many threats. Farmers have had to drill irrigation wells deeper as the Ogallala Aquifer faces depletion, and drought has stressed the state for nearly two years. In 2012, 96% of the state was in extreme drought, costing the state billions of dollars and prompting water use restrictions.
Beneath Nebraska are two natural gas reservoirs, bringing the threat of hydraulic fracturing with them. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is commonly known, is a dangerous drilling method used to extract natural gas from the earth. Across the country, natural gas fracking has attracted widespread attention as surrounding communities have been subjected to drinking and groundwater contamination.
The basic principles governing the Nebraska League of Conservation Voters’ water policy positions are sustainability and equity.
Sustainability ensures a secure, safe and ample water supply for all components of our dynamic ecosystem. Ensuring a sustainable water supply for future generations means conserving the water supply we have by reducing consumption and protecting it from toxic chemicals and waste. Through conservation and efficiency Nebraska can save enormous amounts of water. This water can stretch our current supplies and delay, even eliminate, the need for potentially harmful and expensive water projects.
Equity entails ensuring every single Nebraskan has access to clean, safe drinking water.
Nebraska has some of the most fertile soil in the world. A state with an agricultural identity, much of the land in Nebraska has been passed down from generation to generation. Nebraskans have a deep commitment to the stewardship of this land; but greater conservation measures need to be taken in order to ensure the future viability of the state’s flagship agricultural heritage and preservation of its beautiful landscapes.
Overtaxing or improperly managing the land can result in exacerbated damage from extreme weather and devastation of the plants and animals necessary for a healthy, stable ecosystems. Land that has been stripped of its topsoil and vegetation is not as resistant to drought or flooding. As climate change increases the frequency of these events, conservation measures to make the land more resilient will be critical.
There are more acres of wetlands in Nebraska than in any surrounding state. These wetlands are important hubs of biodiversity and wildlife that need to be conserved. Nebraskans love the great outdoors. Hunting and fishing are part of the state’s culture, and land stewardship is critical to ensuring that these beloved activities can be enjoyed by many generations to come. Without clean water, wetlands, woodlands or prairie, these outdoor activities would not be worthwhile. Land stewardship ensures that water is not contaminated by runoff from the land, and that habitat for wildlife is preserved.
NLCV will work to ensure that our communities grow and prosper while protecting the quality of Nebraska’s natural resources for future generations.
To accomplish the goal of sustainable communities; local leaders, elected officials, and Nebraskans from all walks of life must come together to create a state that fosters economic development and green jobs and buildings while creating healthy communities and protecting open spaces and rural landscapes. Sustainable communities are driven by the principles of environmental justice, and promote the tenets of conservation: reduce, reuse and recycle.
Healthy neighborhoods mean that residents have ready access to fresh, healthy and affordable food. Currently, many Nebraskans lack this access, especially lower-income Nebraskans and students. The lack of access in these “food deserts” contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Nebraska has a swell of local producers looking for stable markets to buy their produce, creating there a prime opportunity to develop a local food infrastructure.
Underlying the steps toward achieving sustainable communities is the principle of environmental justice. Environmental justice is achieved when all have equal protection from environmental hazards and equal access to the decision making processes surrounding environmental issues. Advocates for environmental justice point to the overwhelming evidence that minority and poor communities face a disproportionate burden of environmental risks, and simultaneously reap fewer benefits of environmental laws than other populations. A frequently-cited example of environmental injustice is that stationary toxic and polluting sites are concentrated in areas where large numbers of poor and minorities live, contributing to higher rates of chronic health problems such as asthma and cancer; a prime example of this is the negative impact the North Omaha coal plant has on the surrounding community.
Good governance with respect to the environment requires that decisions are made and implemented using legitimate, transparent, responsive, participatory and equitable processes to achieve effective policies that protect Nebraska’s natural resources and heritage for future generations.
For NLCV good government refers to the way in which elected officials exercise their political authority to successfully protect the environment. Due to hyper-partisanship and lobbying by the extractive industries, environmental issues have become divisive in national politics, when in fact these are issues that affect every single person on the planet. Fortunately, this partisanship has not divided the Nebraska electorate on issues affecting NLCV policy goals. Poll after poll demonstrates that Nebraskans care about clean air and water, and conserving our natural resources for future generations. Galvanizing and maintaining unity and impetus among the electorate, for conservation and the protection of our natural resources, will be a priority.
NLCV, as a membership supported voter organization, will work to protect the ability of citizens to fully participate in the political process and make their voices heard. Therefore, issues that impact that ability, such as voting rights, clean elections, and other good government measures, are of interest to NLCV.