by Mark Schlosberg
Editor’s Note: A version of this article originally appeared on the website of Food & Water Action (our affiliated organization).
It’s easy to feel discouraged with the House of Representatives controlled by hard right-wingers. But federal legislation is only one avenue for change.
This year, Food & Water Watch is working at the state level toward big policies with national impact. Building on our years of work with communities on the ground, we’re growing grassroots power. Because of that work, 2023 could be a banner year, with or without federal legislation.
From New York, to Iowa, to Oregon and beyond, here’s how we’re moving the needle on food, water, and climate.
How State Wins Ripple into National Action
Though the national stage gets much attention, we’ve seen how state victories can be just as impactful. For instance, back in 2011, we called for a ban on fracking, despite its popular support and reputation as a “bridge fuel” among many environmental organizations.
Some said fighting for a ban was politically naive, but we didn’t listen. With grassroots partners in New York, we built a powerful coalition and successfully banned fracking in the state. That helped change the conversation, and the environmental community has now reached a consensus against fracking.
We’ve seen this happen with other issues as well, from banning arsenic in chicken feed in Maryland, to stopping water privatization in California and Illinois. These state-level efforts laid the groundwork for nationwide change.
Now, we’re building on this history of influential state wins in our current campaigns.
Fighting Factory Farms With Statewide Bans
For years, we’ve worked to stop the factory farms that dominate our food system, threaten our climate, and pollute our communities.
In Oregon, a moratorium on factory farms is now in sight. We have a new governor, more champions in the state legislature, and more organizations joining our efforts. This year, we’re doubling down on on-the-ground organizing, helping Oregonians to engage their representatives and communities in this fight.
A statewide factory farm moratorium in Oregon — the first in the country — would advance efforts against factory farms nationwide. Moreover, it would help us fight factory farm gas, a greenwashed marketing ploy propping up both dirty energy and factory farms. That’s why we’re dedicating more research, national volunteers, and funding for key tactics.
Protecting Our Water by Going After Its Worst Abusers
Across the U.S., millions lack access to affordable clean water at the tap — but not because there’s no water. We face a crisis of underinvestment in water infrastructure, coupled with policies that put big agriculture and fossil fuel corporations before our human right to water.
Nowhere is this crisis more extreme than in California, where over a million people lack reliable access to clean water. In 2023, we’re ramping up our campaign for water justice in the Golden State. That includes fighting for a moratorium on fossil fuel permits, factory farms, tree nuts, and alfalfa. These industries guzzle tons of water, even when the wells of nearby residents run dry.
With upcoming research and new volunteer efforts, we can pressure Governor Newsom to protect our communities and climate. Last year, we successfully moved Newsom to embrace protection zones between oil drilling and homes and schools. This campaign, led by environmental justice groups, shows that big changes in California are possible.
Now, we’re growing our efforts to stop new drilling permits. A statewide moratorium on new drilling in California would be the first of its kind, setting a powerful national precedent.
Stopping Fracked Gas in Its Tracks
The science is clear: we need to move off fossil fuels as quickly as possible. That means ending policy that benefits dirty energy companies, as well as investing big in clean energy.
So in New York, we’re working to ban gas hookups in new construction. We already won a gas ban in New York City; now, the state ban is just within reach, with support from Governor Hochul and more than 80 state legislators.
At the same time, we’re pushing for the Build Public Renewable Act, which would allow New York’s largest public utility to build new renewable energy projects.
Not only are we targeting fossil fuels in buildings — we’re working against fracking operations, fossil fuel power plants, and pipelines in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California.
Moreover, we’re fighting Big Oil’s latest schemes to protect its dying industry. High on our radar: carbon capture and storage. In Iowa, we’re fighting plans for three carbon pipelines that will threaten public health and mask more pollution and emissions.
We’ve spent years on the ground in Iowa, helping to build a powerful bipartisan movement against these pipelines. In 2023, we’re advancing efforts to pass legislation that will stop pipeline companies from wrenching land from families and farmers.
Iowans aren’t the only ones threatened with Big Oil’s climate scams — hydrogen power buildouts, factory farm gas facilities, and more loom over communities across the country. A victory in Iowa will drive efforts nationwide to stop harmful industry boondoggles.
2023 Will Be Our Year — With Your Help
In the face of congressional inaction, we know we must use every strategy we have to protect our food, water, and climate. We’ve seen how state-level organizing can drive huge national changes. So in 2023, we’re doubling down on everything from blocking fossil fuel permits to protecting our water; ending factory farms to exposing carbon capture and other greenwashing grifts.
But we can’t do it without you. Every campaign starts at the grassroots, with communities pitching in whatever they can — time, expertise, resources. With your help, we’ll secure the wins we need to secure a livable future for all.
Help us win these fights and the many more ahead!