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GOP: “We’ll Never Have Paris” – How Republican Leaders are Trying to Scuttle the Paris Climate Talks

1364025151211 (1)President Obama, along with the heads of more than 150 other nations and 40,000 delegates from 195 countries, is in Paris for the talks that start this week to reach a global agreement to address climate change. One overarching goal of the Paris talks is to set the world on a path to achieve a low-carbon future – one in which cleaner, renewable energy sources gradually replace the burning of dirtier, carbon-based fuels such as coal, oil and gas, which contribute to global warming.

The reaction of Republican leaders in Congress and the leading Republican presidential candidates has been to do everything possible to try to undermine the success of the talks.  Driven by ideology and by friends in the fossil fuel industry, the leaders of the Republican party have barreled along with their “just say no” climate approach despite poll after poll showing how out of step they are with public opinion.  New polling released this week shows that two thirds of Americans want the U.S. to be part of an agreement hammered out in Paris. That may be because clear majorities of Americans now agree that the science is settled; human activity (primarily the burning of fossil fuels) is contributing to unnatural global warming. A couple of weeks ago Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate pushed through a vote to repeal the Administration’s Clean Power Plan, which would limit carbon pollution from power plants. The House is set to vote on a similar bill as early as today.

Senators who voted to kill the Clean Power Plan acted counter to the wishes of clear majorities of Americans who support it.  What’s more, they were acting in vain; President Obama will veto the legislation, and the Republicans are not close to having the votes necessary to override the veto.  Yet Republican leaders tout the vote as a sign the U.S. will not move forward on climate.

Tellingly, three Republican senators voted against their party and in support of limits on carbon pollution. Two of them – Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois – are among the most vulnerable Senate Republicans seeking reelection in 2016. Both are likely to face Democrats with strong environmental records.

Besides those votes, there is another sign that some Republicans recognize the widening gap between their climate posture and the public’s:  the arguments being used against climate action are becoming ever more contorted. Republicans opposing climate action used to say that U.S. policy would have no impact on that of other countries. Now that the President’s forceful backing of the Clean Power Plan is clearly helping to spark more action abroad, Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are, stunningly, openly saying that other nations should not believe the U.S. will actually act. What’s the evidence they offer that the U.S. will not be good to its word?  Well, it’s the Republicans’ own hapless efforts to block action.

And in a further twist, the Republican leaders then argue that U.S. action won’t have any actual impact on the climate. How so? Because no single U.S. action by itself will be enough to matter.

So Republicans like Mitch McConnell are telling other nations not to act because Republicans will try to block U.S. action, and they’re telling Americans to oppose U.S. action because other nations won’t act.

It’s a comprehensive effort to deny and then remake reality through verbal gamesmanship. But all the word play in the world won’t change how the planet reacts to rising greenhouse gas levels, and the public is aware of that.

David Goldston is the Director of Government Affairs at the NRDC Action Fund.

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NRDC Action Fund Ads Thank Senator Kirk For Clean Power Plan Vote

kirk cra thanks ad nov 2015CHICAGO (November 25, 2015) –The NRDC Action Fund kicks off a digital ad campaign today thanking Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) for a vote against a Congressional Review Act resolution that would have repealed the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan rule to cut dangerous carbon pollution from America’s power plants.

Kirk was one of three Republicans in the Senate to vote against the resolution – a critical test vote on climate policy. The measure passed 52-46 and President Obama has promised to veto it.

“Senator Kirk went against his party with this vote, and supported a specific action to combat climate change,” said NRDC Action Fund Midwest Director Henry Henderson. “His vote to support the Clean Power Plan was important, but it does not erase other serious environmental missteps made this year when he voted against clean water. We hope Senator Kirk will continue standing up for Illinoisans and not polluters on these important environmental issues moving forward.”

Earlier this year, Senator Kirk cast the deciding vote in favor of blocking the Clean Power Plan. Since then, NRDC has been calling on Senator Kirk to support action to combat climate change, as he generally did previously in his career. Last week, Senator Kirk voted in favor of a resolution to limit the protection of water under the Clean Water Act. Separately, Senator Kirk also voted to slash funding for clean water infrastructure and to block implementation of the Clean Water Rule, which would restore clean water protections for streams, wetlands and headwaters that flow into drinking water supplies.

Polls show that Illinoisans are ready to fight climate change and advance clean energy. A recent bipartisan poll released by NRDC shows that nearly two-thirds of Illinoisans support the Clean Power Plan and 8-in-10 Illinoisans support the state plan to cut carbon pollution.

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• Further information NRDC’s Illinois climate and clean power polling can be found at

The “Bipartisan Bust” – Attack on EPA is Losing Ground in the Senate

McConnellThe headline in yesterday’s Washington Examiner reads:  “Greens: GOP support for climate rules rising.”  If you are asking yourself right now what that means, here’s the story.…

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s attack on the Clean Power Plan this week was supposed to demonstrate to the world the strong bipartisan opposition to the United States’ first ever limits on dangerous carbon pollution from power plans. His party has a majority in the Senate, but the measure passed by a not very strong majority of 52 votes—nowhere near the 67 votes needed to make it veto proof.

Even more problematic for McConnell and his polluter allies, though, is that the vote ended up showing that the Clean Power Plan actually has bipartisan support, and enough of it to ensure that it will keep moving forward.

What happened when the time came to vote?  As the New York Times reported:

“Three moderate Republicans, two up for re-election next year, Senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, as well as Senator Susan Collins of Maine, broke from their party to vote against the resolutions and back the environmental regulations.”

What explains the loss of Republican momentum in the attacks on the EPA? E&E News explained the actions of Senators Ayotte and Collins this way:

“Of the three Republicans who voted to keep the plan in place, Ayotte and Kirk are part of a recently formed Republican working group on environment and energy issues.

“Ayotte, who is in a tough re-election battle with New Hampshire Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, last month publicly announced that she was in favor of the Clean Power Plan. Kirk, though, was the target of an aggressive campaign by environmentalists after reports surfaced that he was planning to vote in favor of the resolutions. He is also vulnerable next year.

“After the vote, Collins touted Maine’s actions to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. She said she was concerned that global warming was adding to pollution-linked asthma issues and a higher incidence of lime disease as ticks’ habitats shift to the north.”

The backstory on Senator Kirk is even more interesting.  According to the National Journal, “Kirk is one of many moderate Republicans facing a tough reelection (National Journal’s Charlie Cook has rated the race a tossup).”  And as Energy Guardian explained:

“Kirk, who faces a tough re-election challenge from Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth, took fire from environmentalists in June for a vote against the power plant carbon limits in an EPA and Interior appropriations bill. Groups had charged Kirk with casting the “deciding vote” for language that would have blocked funding for the rules.”

(NRDC, by the way, was one of those groups that held Senator Kirk accountable last summer.)

An aide for Senator Kirk elaborated to Politico:

“‘Senator Kirk today voted to improve air quality and reduce rising childhood asthma rates,’ a Kirk spokeswoman said in a statement explaining the senator’s vote. ‘With our diverse energy portfolio, Illinois is already leading the way in energy efficiency and is well positioned to balance the needs of the environment and the economy.'”

So, the next time you hear someone saying there is bipartisan sentiment in the U.S. Senate to roll back the EPA Clean Power Plan, please set that person straight.  What’s growing is the bipartisan support for the Clean Power Plan. And that’s not speculation or any political tea-leaf reading.

The votes prove it.

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With This Congress, a GOP President Could Damage Environment

trump bushThroughout four Republican debates and plenty of campaign coverage, GOP presidential candidates have said little about how they would tackle climate change or protect the environment. Yet voters concerned about clean air, clean water and climate stability need only look to Congress to see what a Republican presidency could mean for public health and environmental protection.

Since gaining a majority, GOP lawmakers have tried to eviscerate the bedrock environmental laws that have protected America’s air, water and health for decades. The public doesn’t support these efforts. And the veto pen has killed any serious threats that have made it through the entire Congress. But proposing and passing dirty bills sends a powerful message (including to super PACs—many funded by polluting industries) that if a Republican is in the White House environmental laws will be gutted.

The Republican-led attacks in Congress have intensified as primary season nears. The Senate just passed a resolution that would kill the new Clean Water Rule, which restores protections for America’s streams, lakes and wetlands. That was followed by a vote this week on a resolution to wipe out the Clean Power Plan. And tensions are mounting over policy riders to funding bills that limit the federal government’s ability to safeguard against reckless fracking and conservation measures for endangered species.

Republicans will lose all of these battles. President Obama has promised to veto their anti-environmental bills and Republicans don’t have the votes to override those vetoes. Though they may slip a few riders through, their assault appears destined to fail this year—as it has in the past.

Yet many bills undercutting public health and environmental protections have garnered nearly 100 percent support from Republican lawmakers and less than 5 percent from Democrats. While some were blocked in the Senate, many of those bills would have become law if Obama had lost.

None of the leading Republican presidential candidates have offered a positive agenda for preserving the environment. Instead, they have embraced the party’s conservative hostility to any form of regulation—including those that keep pollution out of the air we breathe and the water we drink. When asked about the EPA, Donald Trump said simply, “What they do is a disgrace.” Even supposed “moderates” such as Jeb Bush and Chris Christie oppose the Clean Power Plan.

And yet, this return to darker, dirtier days is not what the vast majority of Americans want.

Voters of both parties want to provide their families with clean air and water, public lands to explore and home towns safe from extreme floods, drought and other hallmarks of climate change.

A full 94 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Republicans favor the Clean Water Rule protections for headwater streams and wetlands, according to a survey from Hart Research Associates. And 90 percent of Americans back the Endangered Species Act, according to a recent poll, and support stretches across the political spectrum.

Meanwhile, poll after poll after poll shows the vast majority of Americans want leaders to tackle climate change. And most Republican voters support clean energy. Seven in 10 conservative voters in early primary states want the next president to have a clean energy plan, and three-quarters of those voters want their state to submit a plan to comply with the Clean Power Plan, according to a survey by American Viewpoint.

The current GOP initiatives in Congress would block the very protections most voters support. But they would make life easier for polluting industries. Oil, gas and coal interests have spent billions of dollars in the past few years to elect and influence ideological lawmakers who will eviscerate our nation’s safeguards and halt climate action.

Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail are letting polluting companies know what they can expect from future GOP leadership. Americans should take note and vote for their own public interest—not dirty polluters.

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