Brentin Mock

Brentin Mock is a staff writer at where he writes about civil rights and all matters of justice

Recent Articles


The Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are looking to destroy any chance for a cap-and-trade measure to reach the final text of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, as it heads to markup next Monday. Led by Rep. Joe Barton , a denier of climate change who believes reducing carbon emissions would be like "living in Nigeria," the minority gallery of Republicans are refusing to endorse anything resembling cap-and-trade. "We're not going to try to kill the bill," Barton told reporters yesterday. But only before he declared: "Cap-and-trade is dead. ... I don't think they can get it out of committee." Committee Chair Rep. Henry Waxman technically doesn't need the Republican votes to get it out of committee, which Barton knows. So as punishment, Barton threatened to have Waxman read out every word of the 650-plus-page bill to Congress if it does advance committee. As a smokescreen, Republican Rep. Bob Inglis has submitted a proposal for a carbon tax, which would...


After the House Energy and Commerce committee's April hearings on its climate and energy bill, the markup phase was delayed for weeks. Perhaps the committee was nursing the stings and pelts from skeptical Republicans and agnostic coal-state Democrats about global warming. Today, the committee finally announced a new dawn for the bill: The Committee on Energy and Commerce will meet in open markup session on Monday, May 18, 2009, at 1:00 p.m., and subsequent days as necessary, in room 2123 Rayburn House Office Building, to consider the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. We can only hope that the many members of Congress who still don't know what "cap and trade" means , or who were fooled into believing the White House opposes it, won't do even more damage. -- Brentin Mock


Has "health based" environmentalist activism become passe? The new green movement has called for concerted focus on green jobs as a way to turn economically devastated ghettos into functional neighborhoods. Activism that hopes to hold industrial facilities accountable for pollution that disproportionately impacts the health of vulnerable populations is weak and not worth the trouble, say the new environmentalists. A read of the "Justice in the Air" report would maybe change that perspective. Using data from the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory and Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators reports, researchers were able to locate where toxic air pollution from industrial facilities is strongest. They also determined the percentage of racial minorities and low-income families who live in those heavily impacted areas. To no surprise, they found that African-, Latino- and Asian-Americans suffer the worst health risks. For example, 69 percent of those whose health is impacted by ExxonMobil's...


What will newly minted Democrat Arlen Specter do for a climate bill's chances? The consensus thus far: Not much. Having a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate would be generally cool for Democrats, but energy specifically isn't a partisan issue. As Sen. Barbara Boxer said about the Specter effect, "I don't think climate change is a matter of party. It is really more a matter of region." More important is winning over the Democrats' Blue Dog Coalition, many of whom are from coal regions and remain unconvinced on the climate bill. Getting a vote from a Dem like Rep. Mike Doyle , of Pennsylvania, will be tough -- he didn't sound like he believed the U.S. could reach the renewable energy standard called for in hearings last week. A fellow Pennsylvanian, Specter has no outstanding voting record on climate, or more specifically cap and trade. He co-sponsored the weak "Low Carbon Economy Act" cap-and-trade attempt with Sen. Jeff Bingaman in 2007. And, while he believes that moving a...


Last week, Kai Wright questioned whether environmental justice was "enough" for black Americans, or should their green concerns be more rooted in jobs and economic sustainability: When policymakers systematically clump bus depots and waste treatment plants in black neighborhoods, driving up childhood asthma rates, it's a civil rights concern. When slumlords refuse to strip lead paint, they're preying upon poor families. Black people have been trained, in recent decades, to get these connections. But that largely defensive, health-based environmentalism is no longer enough—if it ever was. Wright makes a good point here: Protesting health risks in terms of racial discrimination should be done in tandem with the pursuit of stronger economic security. Problem is, this is already the point of the environmental-justice movement, and has been for years. Employing people from poor neighborhoods and communities of color in work that beautifies and improves the health of their living...