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Federal workers plunge into Potomac for climate action

environment climate changeA day after President Trump temporarily ended the longest-ever government shutdown, federal workers joined hundreds of regional activists to jump into the Potomac River in the name of climate action.

This year’s annual “Keep Winter Cold” Polar Bear Plunge — which took place just south of Washington, DC — celebrated statewide climate progress in Maryland, DC, and Virginia, where local leaders are moving forward as the federal government backtracks. The plungers also celebrated recent landmark victories, including the rejection of a fracked-gas pipeline underneath the Potomac River, and the passage of the Clean Energy DC Act, which is the strongest legislative mandate on climate change in the country.

“It’s hard to believe that just one day after the embarrassing and harmful federal shutdown ended, we’re here to celebrate progress,” said Mike Tidwell, Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “On the state level, we’re stronger than ever on climate policy.  We’ve passed the strongest climate bill in the country in DC, two blocks from the White House. We’ve protected the Potomac River from TransCanada’s proposed fracked-gas pipeline. Now it’s time to celebrate.”

People of all generations — including a score of federal workers — plunged into the icy cold depths of the Potomac as part of the 14th Annual “Keep Winter Cold” Polar Bear Plunge. This fun event raises awareness about climate change and raises funds to support the Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s regional campaigns for clean energy solutions.

“As one of the many furloughed federal employees in the DMV, I have had nothing but time,” said Danny Schaible, furloughed worker with the National Park Service. “If jumping in the Potomac can help CCAN raise funds to help our region lead the way in the climate change fight, then SIGN ME UP!”

U.S. Representative Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10) stated: “Climate change is a serious threat, and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network is serious about solving it. Why else would so many people choose to run into an icy river in January? We must all jump into our own icy rivers and go beyond our comfort zone to fight for the policies we need.”

This year’s plunge came just weeks after Maryland Governor Larry Hogan voted to reject a permit necessary for the fracked-gas pipeline known as the “Potomac Pipeline.” The vote followed two years of intense opposition to the pipeline from grassroots groups statewide, as well as a growing list of legislators. Hogan announced barely a year ago that he wanted to significantly “kick-start” more consumption of fracked gas in the state, including construction of more pipelines. But environmentalists hope his dramatic and surprising vote signaled a change in state policy on this issue.

Maryland State Delegate Lorig Charkoudian (D-20) stated: “It inspires me to see hundreds of people jumping into the icy cold Potomac River, all in the name of climate action. As a plunger myself, I know it takes strong actions to achieve strong solutions. These are the people I’m proud to work alongside with now as an elected official, to represent as we pass strong climate policies in the Maryland like the Clean Energy Jobs Act.”

It also took place one week after DC Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the “Clean Energy DC Act,” which mandates 100 percent of the city’s electricity to come from clean renewable power by the year 2032. The law also creates groundbreaking energy efficiency standards, raises money to weatherize low-income homes, provides major incentives for electric cars, and much more. All told, it represents the strongest legislative mandate of its kind of any state in America.

Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr., President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus, stated:  “As the Trump Administration refuses to act, local organizers and activists at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network are making climate action a reality and paving the way for others to follow. With their help, DC recently signed into law the strongest climate legislation in the country, which addresses what science tells us and provides a just-transition off fossil fuels to take the district to 100% clean energy by 2032. CCAN’s ability to make things happen and light the path for others to follow in order to solve the climate crisis shows why they are considered the the strongest regional climate organization in the world.”

Demand for strong climate action in Maryland is at its peak after recent scientific studies and scandalous climate policy retreats by the Trump Administration. A recent report from his own administration — the National Climate Assessment — painted an alarming picture of current and future economic and humanitarian harm to Americans unless the US and nations worldwide transition off of fossil fuels very quickly.  And a recent United Nations report from scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that over the next ten years, the world must dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions through clean energy — or face potentially catastrophic impacts such as destructive storms, sea-level rise, and negative impacts on global agriculture.

Alexandra DySard, Environmental and Partnership Manager at MOM’s Organic Market, stated: “At MOM’s Organic Market, we believe that climate change is the biggest issue facing us all, and not just something to talk about on Earth Day. We’re proud to partner with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network to support the Polar Bear Plunge. Our climate can’t wait.”

“We’re plunging into the Potomac River alongside hundreds of activists to send a strong message to our leaders,” said Miranda Dotson and Hannah Klaus, Senior Members of Fossil Free American University. “We are demanding climate justice from our politicians, our universities, our banks, and ourselves.”

“It may be crazy to jump into the frigid Potomac in January, but what’s even crazier is our lack of real progress on climate change,” said Gary Skulnik, CEO of Neighborhood Sun. “This is an urgent, ever-increasing threat, and we have practical solutions like community solar and more we can do right now.”