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Doug Ose Was Dirty Then, Dirty Now; Bera is Running Clean (CA-07)

The campaign to represent California’s 7th House District is a clear contest between old and new. The incumbent is a freshman who is looking ahead to innovative, clean energy sources of the future. The challenger is a former congressman from a previous generation whose views on climate change and fossil energy are almost as old as the fuels themselves.

The incumbent, Dr. Ami Bera, is a physician by training. With his background in science, he understands the facts about climate change. Bera strongly supports government action to address the climate challenge. Bera has said that “Creating a clean energy future would generate millions of jobs, help our economy, and improve our lives. We can lead the way if we recognize the intersection of environmental sustainability, economic growth, national security and public health.”

Bera’s votes echo his rhetoric. He has earned a 93 percent score from the League of Conservation Voters for his first term in office. He consistently voted in favor of climate action, against taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil, and in favor of protecting bedrock environmental laws like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. Bera has also sponsored legislation to promote public-private partnerships to increase energy efficiency.

In contrast to Bera’s forward-looking approach, Doug Ose is stuck in the past. As a congressman from 1999 to 2005, Ose was already on the wrong side of history with his support for dirty energy and his votes against environmental protection. During his three congressional terms, Ose earned a pitiful 12 percent lifetime LCV score. He voted to increase offshore and Arctic drilling and opposed legislation to reduce smog pollution and increase energy efficiency and vehicle fuel economy.

Today his positions are even harder to understand as the climate science has strengthened and the need to act has grown more urgent. Ose is a #DirtyDenier$ who has said of climate change, “I am skeptical because of the science being sketchy.” He opposes government action to address the problem. Those who follow this blog regularly won’t be surprised to learn that Ose has received more than $50,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry over the course of his career.

Voters in California’s 7th district are looking ahead to a bright, clean energy future. Only Dr. Ami Bera is Running Clean to lead them there.


California’s Water Bond (Proposition 1) is Good Policy and Good Politics

When it comes to this year’s drought in California, no corner of the State has been spared, just look at this latest info graphic from the Los Angeles Times.  As people here and throughout the west takes steps to cope with exceptionally dry conditions, we wonder whether this is the “new normal” that we will need to adapt to as part of a changing climate.

Weather and climate are equal opportunity impacts to our lives and livelihoods – blue counties, red counties, young, old, urban, rural, north, south – you name it, water and access to it, affects us all.  That’s why it’s such an encouraging sign that so many Californians have come together to support Prop 1 which makes funds available for more communities for more local water projects to help make more regions more drought resistant in the future.  Reducing our water dependence on the SF Bay Delta helps make all the corners of California more self-sufficient, not just the democratic corners or the republican corners, but all corners.  That’s why working together for Prop 1 is good politics for all of us.

When NRDC and the NRDC Action Fund can forge agreement with diverse interests such as the Farm Bureau, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Fresno Irrigation District, among others, that’s a powerful signal that a workable compromise has been reached.  Prop 1 invests in safe drinking water, environmental restoration and water conservation projects.  It includes money for storage, above and underground projects are eligible.  Prop 1 represents the kind of tough, but fair negotiation that voters here in California and across the country keep telling pollsters that they want more of in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

Now California voters have a chance to vote Yes on Prop 1 on November 4th.  Working together can work.

What the Heck Happened to the Republican Party? (And What it Means for the Environment)

I was talking to some of my friends about the upcoming election and what it could mean for the politics of the environment.  We discussed the prospect of a Republican takeover of the Senate and whether it would make any difference.  Which path would they go down?  Would a Republican Senate push a package of extreme anti-environmental policies; or would GOP control of both chambers of Congress force them to share in governance and strike bi-partisan agreements?

It was October of 1994.  The Republicans won control of Congress the next month.  Strangely enough they ended up going down both paths at once, extremism and cooperation.  The cooperation produced real legislative successes while the extremist measures actually helped rehabilitate an embattled Democratic president.  These are still the two choices available for Republican leaders.

It was a different time twenty years ago.  There was an activist conservative base pushing its agenda in the party, but there were also pragmatic Republican conservatives capable of working with the Democratic leadership in Congress and the White House.  And there were moderates in the Republican party interested in working with others to get things done.

What the heck happened to the party since?

In the last two decades the face of the Republican Party in the Senate has been entirely redrawn, not only to be more conservative, but also to be more explicitly anti-environmental.  The wrong lesson from history for the current leadership would be what Michael Gerson has called the mistake of the mid-term mandate.  However, the hard right turn in the party’s environmental politics will make it difficult for them not to leap further in that direction.

But first, let’s consider what happened to the Republican leadership in 1995.  For starters, the Congressional Republican leadership joined together to launch some of the most vicious attacks on environmental policy ever.  These were based mainly on the Gingrich-Dole regulatory reform sections of the Contract with America, which would have turned back a generation of progress on clean air and water.  After passing the House, the bill was stopped in the Senate with the help of a bloc of five Republican moderates that offered a more reasonable reform alternative.  And yes, opposition to the more extreme Senate version helped lift President Clinton’s ratings and eventually defeat Bob Dole.

By contrast, even while this political knockdown, drag-out fight dragged on, Senate Republicans were busy working with President Clinton to get two bi-partisan environmental bills signed into law: the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 and the reauthorization of the Safe Drinking Water Act.  Republicans such as Senator Kempthorne, a conservative but pragmatic legislator from Idaho, were critical to the success of these bills.  This was the last time in nearly two decades that a Congress has improved a major environmental health statute through reauthorization.

So, does history offer hope that in the next Congress there will be a group of reasonable Republicans in the Senate who has learned the right lesson from history and will block extremist proposals while seeking bi-partisan progress on the environment?  Not much.

Let’s look at the potential line up now compared to then.  In 1990 as in 2014, there were 45 Republicans in the Senate (or independents who caucused with them).  However, in 1990 there were also 13 Republicans who could be considered moderates on the environment, i.e. someone who voted for the environment at least half the time as measured by the LCV scorecard.  Now there is only one, Susan Collins (see chart below).  On a percentage basis the situation in the House is no better.  The Congressional Republican moderate on the environment is all but extinct.

But the story doesn’t end there.  Moderate Republicans are not only nearly extinct but now Democrats occupy ten of the thirteen seats previously held by Republican moderates.  And all of these Democrats have better voting records on the environment than their predecessors.  Interestingly, as part of the party’s shift to the right, the two Republicans seats from 1990 still in GOP hands have occupants who voted less reliably for the environment than their predecessor, including Senator Collins.  (Note: Senator Specter became a Democrat in 2009.)

1990 Republican Senators with an LCV Score greater than or equal to 50, And Who Held That Same Seat in 2013

LCV Table3 copy

Ten Senate seats are a lot to concede to the opposition party in the pursuit of an extremist agenda.  The lesson the Republicans should instead take from history is that the party, by moving itself out of the mainstream of the public’s support on environmental issues, has put Republican candidates at a political disadvantage.  Even if the party ekes out a Senate majority in a week, it will be harder to hold it in 2016 when numerous Republican senators from blue states are up for re-election.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to look at the incoming Republican leadership and see who except for Collins might make this case to their party.  The GOP should rethink its approach on the environment and seek constructive solutions for the sake of the planet.  But if not for that reason, then it should really do so for its own sake.

Polluters Try to Make Something Out of Nothing

Climate change polluters don’t have a lot to work with this election season. Since the vast majority of American voters have repeatedly said they support limiting the carbon pollution from power plants, fossil fuel companies and their allies are left trying to make even the weakest numbers sound good.

This week the Partnership for a Better Energy Future—a mining, manufacturing, and agricultural coalition that includes frequent climate deniers like the US Chamber of Commerce—released a survey claiming that 47 percent of voters in oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to reduce carbon pollution.

As if less-than-a-half was something to trumpet.

These results stand in sharp contrast to nearly every independent poll conducted this year.

  • An ABC/Washington Post survey found that 7 in 10 Americans view climate change as a serious problem and support federal action to reduce greenhouse gases.
  • A poll conducted for NBC News/The Wall Street Journal reported that two-thirds of American residents support the EPA’s plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.
  • A Bloomberg News poll even found that 62 percent of Americans were willing to pay more for energy if it mean reducing carbon pollution.
  • And a survey done by Yale University said voters are three times more likely to vote against a candidate who opposes government action to address climate change.

NRDC Action Fund got similar results when we commissioned Harstad Strategic Research to poll voters in 11 swing states with close Senate races, including Georgia, Louisiana, and Arkansas. More than two-thirds of those surveyed said the EPA should limit carbon pollution from power plants. That includes 53 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of independents and 87 percent of Democrats.

Most Americans recognize that cleaning up dangerous pollution is good for their families and the economy. But that doesn’t stop dirty industries from trying to hold on to their loopholes and giveaways.

The so-called Partnership for a Better Energy Future paid to poll voters in purple states—many of them coal-heavy—and even then, they couldn’t muster a majority. It’s like a punch line. They even tried to stack the deck by posing the kind of technical questions that tend to make respondents more inclined to say no, yet they had little to show for it.

In Iowa, for instance, the survey claimed that 45 percent of Iowa residents were less likely to vote for a candidate who supports the EPA’s plan to reduce carbon pollution. Yet a recent survey from lowa Interfaith Power & Light, meanwhile, found that 75 percent of Iowans were more likely to support a candidate who promotes clean renewable energy. Iowa, after all, gets 27 percent of its energy from wind power and has more than 43,000 Iowans working in the clean economy.

The EPA’s plan to reduce carbon pollution will bring the benefits of clean energy—including good-paying jobs, safer air, and greater climate stability—to more communities. That’s why so many Americans support it and that’s why smart candidates are running on clean energy and climate action. Even the polluters’ own polling shows that the numbers favor climate champions.

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