Big changes for political texting, and carbon-capture in the infrastructure bill

Good morning,

I have two new stories to share today:

The first, published in In These Times, looks at the latest in the politics of carbon-capture utilization and storage. Readers of my work know I’ve been interested in the politics around organized labor and climate change for a few years, and a new bill introduced last month in Congress that’s backed by Biden would go a long way to building out the U.S.’s carbon capture storage infrastructure, at least putting it on par with other countries that have taken similar steps. There remain left-wing opponents of the idea, but notably they’ve been fairly silent on this bill so far, compared to protests they’ve mounted in the past, even most recently in September of 2020. I reached out to a bunch of them for this story. You can read more about the legislation and labor’s support for it here.

I subscribe to a good weekly climate newsletter at The Atlantic written by their reporter Robinson Meyer. I think his writing from this week (linked here) was particularly interesting and gets at something I think a lot about with respect to coalitional climate politics and labor.

The second story is in The Intercept and focuses on some little-known changes coming down the pipe soon by mobile carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile, that will affect all businesses, advocacy groups and political campaigns that want to text you. It’s slightly complicated, because it involves telecomm regulations and rules, but the short of it is that political groups, unlike businesses, have been able to text voters without getting affirmative opt-in consent. (If CVS or your airline wants to text you, you have to check a box on their website and proactively tell them that’s OK.) The FCC affirmed last summer that political groups are distinct from the laws that govern telemarketers and autodialers, but AT&T, T-Mobile (and probably soon Verizon) are implementing new rules that would treat them as all the same.

The rules would impose new fees on all groups that want to send texts, would assign so-called “trust ratings” to groups that impact how many texts a group can send, and would require opt-in consent from everyone. Like with debates roiling around with Facebook and Twitter, it speaks to the ability of tech companies to be able to regulate public communication outside of the realm of government. I looked at protests being mounted by progressive coalitions to slow the mobile carrier’s roll, but conservative groups, wary of Big Tech discrimination, are also concerned by the murky, surely costly, and potentially dramatically consequential changes coming to their organizing. It’s a tough fight, because people do find spam texts annoying, and mobile carriers claim they are just responding to user frustration. You can read that story here.

If there are any freelance media workers reading this newsletter, and either have contributed to The Intercept in the past or might be interested in pitching them in the future — I’m co-hosting a workshop next week with the Freelance Solidarity Project about our statement of principles that we organized last year and how to get the most of out of them.

We’ll also be discussing potential next steps for organizing so if you want to come to that and learn more, it’s at 6:30 PM ET on 4/28. You can sign up here!

I know there’s a ton of outlets and new Substacks all competing for your attention and resources these days. While my newsletter is certainly more modest in ambition than many of these publications, I just want to say thank you again for being here. Your support—both financial and just reading, engaging, sharing—makes my freelance strategy (reporting for the public via outlets that can provide professional editing, illustrations, distribution etc) possible. So thank you.

Share Rachel's Notebook