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Voters Rewrite 2018 Political Playbook

This year’s decisive election results remind us that voters, not pundits or political operatives, will decide what we can accomplish in America. Voters yesterday proved we are paying attention, we are outraged and we will put a stop to the Trump administration’s attacks on our health and environment.

The Trump administration was counting on our complacency. The professional political class expected it. But voters in Virginia, New Jersey and elsewhere have them all rewriting their playbooks today.

We’ll get tired of resisting, they must think. Cynical corporate polluters assume Americans won’t notice when the president nominates a coal lobbyist to help run the EPA. They’re betting parents won’t figure out the Trump administration is trying to weaken common-sense safeguards that keep our children’s air and water safe. We’re just too busy to keep up with Big Oil’s takeover of our government, and if we start to catch on the president can always distract us with outrageous tweets, right?

Wrong.

The government isn’t Donald Trump’s, it’s ours. We’ll decide when it stops reflecting our values, and then we’ll change it.

Kevin S. Curtis is executive director of the NRDC Action Fund.

Virginia’s Golden Opportunity to Lead

Virginia’s Rappahannock River at sunrise.

On Tuesday, Virginians have an opportunity to reject the Trump administration’s reckless and destructive environmental agenda. Showing up to vote has rarely, if ever, been more important.

Reversing the damage caused by the Trump administration’s unraveling of common-sense health and environmental safeguards won’t be easy, but doing so is urgent and essential to protecting Americans’ quality of life.

Since January, President Trump and his congressional allies have declared war on our health and environment. Trump has abandoned the Paris Climate Agreement, rescinded the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, ditched fuel efficiency upgrades in cars and trucks, allowed more toxic chemicals in our food, water and consumer products, and moved to expose our most treasured publicly owned lands to exploitation by dirty energy corporations.

For Virginians, this could mean more air and water pollution. More bad air quality days. More childhood asthma attacks. More risk for coastal communities. And fewer opportunities to lead the country into the clean energy economy of the 21st century.

But here’s the good news for Virginians: their leaders have a plan. Thanks to Governor Terry McAuliffe’s (D) actions to defy President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, Virginia could become a major player in the fight against carbon pollution and climate change.

And with that investment comes economic opportunity for Virginia, unlocking the potential for growth that clean energy brings. Solar energy jobs in Virginia grew 65% last year, and that growth will only continue now that Virginia has a forward-thinking plan to limit carbon pollution from power plants.

Virginia voters have the chance to build on this new progress and choose a governor who will reject President Trump’s agenda and prioritize their health, safety and future—Democrat Ralph Northam. The alternative, Republican Ed Gillespie, casts doubt on the causes of climate change and supports Trump’s plan to weaken environmental enforcement, all to benefit polluting corporations’ bottom lines at the expense of our kids’ health.

Virginia voters should seize this golden opportunity to lead the nation to a safer and more prosperous future.

Kevin S. Curtis is the executive director of the NRDC Action Fund.

Senator Rubio: Loyal To Oil, Or Florida’s Beaches?

Congress is on the brink of turning Florida’s vital beaches and ocean economy into a sacrifice zone for private oil companies. Unless Florida’s delegation and Senator Rubio, in particular, stand up against attempts to hide expanded offshore drilling in the federal budget and tax bill that is moving through the Senate and House this month.

That is why this week Voces Verdes launched an ad campaign calling on Senator Rubio to fight for Florida’s future.

The entire premise of using the budget process to expose our vibrant beaches and local communities to the hazards and harms of drilling can’t be justified any way you slice it. Drilling won’t balance a $1.5 trillion dollar budget bill. It won’t boost Florida’s economy. Quite the opposite.

Oil drilling leads to oil spills that harm businesses and coastal communities, which are essential to Florida’s economic and environmental health. For example, in 2012, the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster caused $700 million in lost recreational use and $250 million in commercial fishing losses.

As I wrote here, in Florida’s currently protected Eastern Gulf or anywhere in the region poses a direct risk to Florida’s fishing, ocean tourism, and related industries that employ over 383,300 Floridians and contribute over $18 billion to the state’s annual GDP.

More drilling will also mean more government handouts to some of the wealthiest private companies in the world, a direct hit to Florida taxpayers—adding insult to injury considering this is all supposed to be about a budget bill.

Further, all this is unfolding against the backdrop of national disasters that are already stretching federal coffers and should take priority over further padding industry profits.

Florida and Houston are still struggling to recover from hurricane damage, while Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands face a long road towards rebuilding their lives. People in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico, still don’t have basic services like clean drinking water and electricity. Leaving millions facing an uncertain future. As a mother, I cannot help but think of the parents who have to face their children this holiday season without a home, under tarps, worried if their water is safe to drink and if they’ll have enough food.

Yet, even as we face billions of dollars worth of disaster relief costs that will ultimately come out of taxpayers’ wallets, some in Congress want to burden the public with the costs and risks of offshore oil drilling.

Fortunately, there is time for Florida’s elected leaders to stop this train before it runs roughshod over Florida.

During the course of the next two weeks, the Senate will vote on which path to take: Giving away our precious coastlines along the Atlantic and Eastern Gulf to oil companies so that they can set up their oil platforms just a few miles from our beaches—the same beaches where we play and make memories with our families. Or, cut government waste and relieve taxpayers from the burden of century-old handouts to the oil companies, while preserving Florida’s coastline.

Tell Senator Rubio, and all elected officials, to be loyal to our coasts and communities, not loyal to oil.

Adrianna Quintero is Director of Partner Engagement for the NRDC Action Fund.

Donald Trump vs. the Pursuit of Happiness

To stop President Trump’s and his congressional allies’ assault on human health and the environment, return to America’s founding principles.

President Trump and his allies in Congress are pursuing a dangerous agenda that would unravel popular, common-sense protections for clean air, clean water and a stable climate. They think political divisions in our country will allow them to succeed without opposition.

We can stop them, though, if we focus on our founding principles and the values that unite us as Americans. We believe in “certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We believe that an American denied a fair shot is an American robbed of these fundamental rights. We believe in the American Dream.

But the Trump presidency poses an existential threat to those values, to our health and our safety.

Mr. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency moved last week to repeal the Clean Power Plan, America’s best tool to fight climate change and reduce tens of thousands of asthma attacks caused by dangerous coal-fired power plants. In prepared remarks Mr. Trump was scheduled to deliver recently at the White House to 300 industry representatives, he bragged about weakening the very protections Americans have come to rely on to stay safe and healthy.

The president went so far as to tell the National Manufacturers’ Association his administration has been “cutting regulations at a pace that has never even been thought of before” to “bring back our great American Dream.”

Bring it back for whom, though, Mr. President?

Mr. Trump’s government is attempting to end and defund initiatives that fight asthma-inducing power plant pollution and protect our drinking water. He has moved to expose more of our coastal communities and workers to the dangers of offshore drilling, less than a decade after BP’s Deepwater Horizon blowout killed 11 and spoiled the Gulf coast. And by directing the federal government to ignore climate change, Trump has exposed the most vulnerable among us to its crippling impacts, including, scientists say, the supercharged nature of recent hurricanes that have devastated Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida.

The aim of Trump’s actions is disturbingly clear: to reward a wealthy few in corporate board rooms at the expense of American families’ health and safety. President Trump does not stand for the American Dream; he is sabotaging it.

America’s health and environmental laws exist to protect our lives, liberties and happiness. They help safeguard the American Dream–our collective belief that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can create for yourself and your family a better life, free from dirty air, deadly water, unsafe food or needlessly dangerous work conditions.

That’s why nearly 50 years ago Congress passed transformative laws that cut the toxic pollution spewing from smokestacks and tailpipes, limited the waste and raw sewage dumped in our waterways, and cleaned up carcinogenic hotspots created by irresponsible dirty industries.

When Republican President Richard Nixon established the EPA in 1970 to implement these popular new laws, he and most Americans recognized them as necessary to our prosperity. Between 1970 and 2011, air pollution dropped 68 percent while GDP grew 212 percent. Our economy thrived, and America’s environmental and health protections were the envy of the world.

Until now.

Today in America, 6.2 million children suffer from asthma. Half a million children between 1 and 5 experience toxic levels of lead that prevent them from reaching their full potential (black children are twice as likely to be exposed). And millions of the most vulnerable among us–women, children, minorities, and the elderly–continue to disproportionately suffer from the devastating impacts of climate change like extreme weather and heat waves.

By abandoning America’s Clean Power Plan and other everyday safeguards, President Trump’s administration will cause more pain and suffering. Each time a child suffers a preventable asthma attack in school, we betray our national heritage, built on shared values of equality of opportunity and the individual freedom to reach one’s full potential.

We can do better, and we know how. Mr. Trump may sit in the Oval Office, but we, the people, can limit his power to undermine our health and safety by speaking out and voting our values–next month in Virginia and next year nationwide.

Americans believe our students should have the freedom to succeed in school without being hurt by water fountains with toxic levels of lead. We believe we should clean up smokestacks and landfills that are frequently near low-income communities. We believe in an America that says yes to clean energy that creates jobs, cuts pollution and saves families money on energy bills, not one that allows large corporations to condemn our neighborhoods to decades of disease.

Above all, we believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–for all Americans–and we will fight in the halls of Congress and at the ballot box for those whose inalienable rights are violated by this administration’s recklessness. It’s time we reclaim the American Dream, for all of us.

Kevin S. Curtis is executive director of the NRDC Action Fund.

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