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Simple Questions, Simple Answers for North Carolina Voters

Is Kay Hagan the Clean Choice in North Carolina? Yes.

Is climate change real? Yes.

Is Kay Hagan Running Clean? Yes.

Is Thom Tillis a Dirty Denier? Yes.

Simple questions with simple answers. Unfortunately, Thom Tillis, who is challenging incumbent Kay Hagan to represent North Carolina in the U.S. Senate, can’t get even a simple question right. Asked at a debate whether climate change is real, Tillis replied simply: “No.”

That one short word betrays Tillis’s true priorities: siding with the big polluters who fund his campaign rather than protecting his state from the damaging effects of climate change. It’s a familiar pattern to those who have observed Tillis during his time in the North Carolina Assembly. While Tillis originally voted in favor of the state’s renewable electricity standard, Tillis said he supported the effort to repeal the standard five years later. Tillis was the Speaker of the Assembly when it voted to forbid the state’s coastal commission from planning for the increased sea level rise that scientists are predicting will occur due to climate change. He voted to authorize hydraulic fracturing in the state and to allow fracking companies to keep their toxic chemical blends secret from the public. Tillis also sponsored legislation that would allow coal ash to be kept in uncapped pits that fail to protect communities from the toxic sludge.

In contrast, Hagan has been working to protect North Carolina’s environment and the public’s health for more than a decade. Hagan started her political career – and her record as an environmental champion- in the North Carolina state Senate. As a state senator, she was a cosponsor of the Clean Smokestacks Act, which required all the state’s coal-fired power plants to substantially reduce their smog and acid rain pollution. The law also eventually led to EPA’s action to reduce cross-state air pollution, a rule which is predicted to save at least 13,000 lives per year and which Hagan voted to protect when it came under attack in the Senate. She supported the state’s renewable electricity standard and earned a score of 85 percent from the Conservation Council of North Carolina from 2003 to 2007.

Since taking office in the U.S. Senate, Hagan has continued to be a Clean Air Hero. She has voted again and again in favor of reducing pollution including the carbon pollution responsible for climate change and she has earned a lifetime score of 84 percent  from LCV.

The questions are simple.

Is climate change real? Yes.

Must we act on climate? Yes.

Which candidate agrees? Senator Kay Hagan.

The Rest of the Story…

The late Paul Harvey was famous for his “rest of the story” radio shows in which he spoke to the untold portions of on-the-record history. Today, his recorded programs are still extremely popular because in the age of soundbites cut to 140 characters in length, the theme of telling the whole story sometimes get overlooked.

For example, in a recent media interview, I spoke extensively about the positive role the NRDC Action Fund and NRDC Action Fund PAC are playing to help elect environmental champions in this year’s mid-term elections. In what lasted nearly two hours, the interview took many twists and turns, including one regarding fracking moratoriums.  In the follow-up release of that interview, my answer was edited for length and didn’t include the many places where NRDC, the 501c3 sister organization of the Action Fund, is supporting fracking moratoriums. So, for clarity, as Mr. Harvey used to say, here’s “the rest of the story.”

In fact, NRDC has and does support numerous moratoria, including the existing one in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It has called for moratoria on offshore oil drilling in the Arctic, and in other highly sensitive areas off the US west and east coasts. NRDC also calls for moratoria on fracking so that the science – particularly around health impacts – can be further developed before decisions as to whether to move forward are made. Most recently, it has called for a fracking moratorium in California as well as Illinois and North Carolina. NRDC has long supported the ongoing moratorium in New York, where nearly 8 out of 10 New Yorkers support the moratorium. That includes support from different geographic, ideological and racial divides.

 

Is Scott Brown Running Clean? “Um, No.”

In our next election preview, we turn our attention to the New Hampshire. Voters in the Granite State have the opportunity to re-elect a true champion for clean energy and climate action: Jeanne Shaheen.

Shaheen has a strong and long record on clean energy, climate change and environmental protection. (Heck, her last name even rhymes with “clean.”) When she served as governor, Shaheen signed legislation to reduce four pollutants from power plants, including carbon. It was the first legislation carbon reduction of its kind in the country. In the Senate, Shaheen has consistently voted the right way on the environment. She has a 95% lifetime record from the League of Conservation Voters, having voted against oil company subsidies, in favor of climate action, in favor of clean energy investment and in favor of clean air at every opportunity. In addition, Shaheen has particularly focused her efforts on energy efficiency, sponsoring bipartisan efficiency legislation with Ohio Republican Rob Portman, that could produce a net of $100 billion in energy savings for consumers and create more than 190,000 jobs. Despite bipartisan support for the efficiency measure, it was held hostage by DirtyDenier$ demanding votes to add controversial fossil energy measures to the bill.

The challenger in this matchup, Scott Brown, should be familiar to you if you followed our #DirtyDenier$ series during Congress’s August recess. Brown was featured on Day 6, when we told you about his record during his time as a senator from Massachusetts. Despite his reputation as something of a moderate, Brown turned out to be extreme on the environment, voting to protect subsidies for oil companies and to weaken offshore drilling protections while receiving big bucks from those same oil companies.

Shortly after we profiled him, Brown dug himself into an even deeper denier hole. In late August, Brown was asked whether man-made climate change had been scientifically proven. His answer? “Um, no.”  Brown appears to have realized that New Hampshire voters don’t want to elect a denier. After polling found that 48 percent of voters would be less likely to vote for a climate denier, Brown stated that he now believes the causes of climate change to be “a combination of manmade and natural.”

While he may have walked back from the worst of his denial, it’s clear that Scott Brown remains the same spineless individual he’s been since his first election. Both his “principles” and his principal state of residence are up for grabs. In contrast, New Hampshire voters can elect someone who has stood up strongly and consistently in favor of clean energy. She knows her heart and she knows her home. Only Jeanne Shaheen is running clean.

Climate Change Emerging as Hot Topic in Key Senate Races

The issue of climate change has emerged in nearly every Senate race this election season. Candidates are discussing it, debate moderators are asking about it, and journalists are covering it. Why? Because the vast majority of voters say they are concerned about climate change and want leaders to address it.

That’s good news for lawmakers like Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) and Representative Gary Peters (D-MI) who support expanding clean energy and other solutions to reduce global warming pollution.

But it is daunting for the entire slate of Republican candidates who deny the existence of climate change or feign ignorance about climate science. Their polluter friends and wealthy donors don’t want America to tackle this challenge.

The dirty deniers may have money in their coffers. But the climate champions have people on their side. This reality is giving rise to a new maxim: If a lot of people vote, the Koch brothers lose—and Americans win cleaner air and a more stable climate.

Political operatives on both sides have grasped what this means for voter turnout.

In Alaska, for instance, Democratic Party volunteers are boarding bush planes and crossing mountain ranges to encourage more people to vote for Senator Mark Begich. Their outreach is part of a broader Democratic push to win 10 battleground states through one of the most concerted get-out-the-vote efforts on record.

Tea Party supporters, meanwhile, are taking a decidedly different approach.

In North Carolina, the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity has been caught distributing hundreds of thousands of voter registration forms that were invalid and erroneous and would actually get in the way of people casting a ballot.

The group has been tied to similar voter suppression efforts in the past few years in Wisconsin, Virginia, and West Virginia. As the New Republic points out, these efforts go hand-in-hand with new voter identification laws that make it even harder for people to cast a ballot in several states.

Americans for Prosperity is entitled to oppose climate action. After all, disagreeing about how to tackle major issues is part of the democratic process. But interfering with citizens’ ability to vote is not. If the Tea Party want to win, they have to mobilize more people to support their candidates.

That isn’t always easy for them, as the 2012 election demonstrated. Polluters and their allies spent hundreds of millions of dollars to elect pro-polluter, anti-safeguard candidates, yet nearly all their candidates lost.

One of Karl Rove’s Super PACs spent almost $105 million to support or defeat various candidates but was successful in less than 2 percent of its races. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, known for its climate denial and fossil-fuel friendly policies, spent more than $32 million in campaigns but achieved less than 7 percent of its desired outcomes.

Meanwhile, voters favored clean energy and climate champions up and down the ticket. Something similar could happen this year. If people who care about climate change show up—the majority of voters—than the candidates who want to build a safer, more sustainable future will win.

 

 

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