Sam Ross-Brown

Sam Ross-Brown is a graduate student in urban planning and development at the University of Southern California. Previously, he served as The American Prospect's associate editor. 

Recent Articles

Tea Partiers and Progressives Unite Against 'Deceptive' Florida Ballot Initiative

A bipartisan "green tea" group is fighting for solar in Florida.

(Photo: AP/The Tampa Bay Times/Chris Zuppa)
An unlikely alliance of Tea Party conservatives and progressive climate advocates has come together to fight a controversial solar energy ballot initiative in Florida. Launched in 2015, the so-called “green tea” coalition that includes the Christian Coalition and the Sierra Club, are standing firm against a measure that would enshrine Florida’s anti-solar policies in the state constitution. The coalition views the amendment as a power grab by the state’s largest utility companies that could cripple the state’s nascent solar industry and undermine consumers’ ability to tap into Florida’s vast solar energy potential. The Florida Right to Solar Energy Choice Initiative , which heads to voters in November, would give residents “the right to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use.” The measure, known as “Amendment 1,” also mandates that “consumers who do not...

One Student's Fight for Clean Air in Baltimore

For her work against the proposed Fairfield incinerator in South Baltimore, Destiny Watford has been awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. 

Goldman Environmental Prize
Four years ago, Baltimore high school senior Destiny Watford was alarmed to learn that a waste-to-energy incinerator would soon be built in her neighborhood. The Fairfield incinerator, which was planned for a 90-acre site less than a mile from the Benjamin Franklin High School that the 17-year-old attended, was set to emit 240 pounds of mercury and 1,000 pounds of lead into the air every year. Growing up in Baltimore’s heavily industrialized Curtis Bay neighborhood, Watford had seen the dangers that pollution posed for her community. “I know a lot of people with asthma and lung disease,” Watford told The American Prospect . “The deaths related to air pollution in Baltimore City are higher than the homicide rate.” Watford swung into action. She cofounded Free Your Voice, a student group that began gathering testimonies and signatures from local residents who did not want to see another industrial project in their neighborhood. First, the students convinced...

Michigan Energy Policy Overhaul Pits Power Companies Against Solar Advocates

A proposal, pushed by the state's utility companies, to reduce payments to solar consumers could scare off people who are considering investing in solar energy.

(Photo: AP/David Eggert)
The battle between Michigan electric utility companies and renewable-energy advocates over a proposed state energy policy overhaul could deal a severe blow to the state’s small but growing solar-power sector. The regulatory overhaul, which mirrors changes being considered in states nationwide, would slash payments for solar consumers who sell excess energy back to utility companies while also significantly weakening the state’s clean-energy mandates. With federal energy policymaking at a standstill, this controversy once again puts Michigan at the center of the nationwide debate over state-level climate policy. Michigan’s two largest electrical utilities have pushed for these changes in a new comprehensive energy bill. DTE Energy and Consumers Energy have together spent more than $3 million over the past year on a massive media and lobbying campaign featuring media buys, campaign contributions to state lawmakers, and lobbying by industry representatives in Lansing...

Beyond Flint: How Local Governments Ignore Federal Water Standards

Underfunded and under attack, the EPA has failed to enforce water testing and treatment rules. 

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
The many lawsuits and federal probes triggered by the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, allege that city and state officials failed to meet federal water testing and treatment standards. But Flint is hardly the only American city with water testing problems. Although the 40-year-old Safe Drinking Water Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate public drinking water, agency enforcement has been lax. Underfunded and under pressure from GOP critics and utility industry lobbyists, the EPA has failed to put its latest water testing and treatment standards into enforceable regulations. As a result, cities and states have been left largely to police themselves, and many have ignored federal guidelines while the EPA looked the other way. Local compliance and EPA oversight are so slack, in fact, that by some estimates nearly 100 million Americans in cities all over the country could be drinking unsafe water. “Do I expect more Flints to happen? I think it...

Will Washington Pass Nation's First State-Level Carbon Tax?

After years of gridlock on climate action, Washington state could soon pioneer the nation's first tax on greenhouse gas emissions. 

Steve Bloom/The Olympian via AP
With Congress unable to pass meaningful regulations on climate, Washington state may be poised to approve the nation’s first-ever carbon tax, in what environmental advocates say could become a national model. But first, advocates will have to get past a formidable obstacle: the fossil-fuel industry. In mid-January after a nine-month signature-gathering campaign, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman sent state lawmakers a ballot initiative that would attach a $15-per-ton tax on carbon emissions (which adds up to about 25 cents on a gallon of gas). The levy would gradually rise over the next 40 years. If the measure, dubbed Initiative 732, becomes law, Washington state would join California and a handful of Northeastern states as a national leader in carving out a path to reduce fossil-fuel emissions. Many climate scientists , economists , and world leaders agree that pricing carbon is a critical step to avert the worst impacts of climate change. But to get it on the books,...