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Rick Scott brings abysmal environmental record to Senate race in Florida

Washington – Ahead of an expected announcement by Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) that he will challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) in the 2018 election, Kevin Curtis, executive director of the NRDC Action Fund, a national environmental organization, released the following statement:

“Governor Scott has regularly put the wishes of corporate polluters above the needs of Florida’s environment and families. He’s sided with a fringe movement of climate change deniers, defunded popular and bipartisan conservation programs, and undermined the enforcement of air, water, and climate protections. If you value Florida’s natural resources, a strong economy, and a safe future for our children, casting a vote to put Rick Scott in the Senate makes zero sense. Senator Nelson is the clear, best choice in this race.”

After the Trump administration recently included Florida in its plans to open nearly all U.S. coastlines to offshore drilling, Scott staged a press conference in the Tallahassee airport with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to claim he had spontaneously negotiated an offshore drilling exemption for the state. But e-mails later obtained by news organizations showed Scott’s and Zinke’s offices pre-planned the event as a political favor to Scott, who is damaged by his career-long support for expanded offshore drilling. In fact, no formal exemption for Florida has been granted by the Trump administration so far, and the state’s coasts remain vulnerable to expanded offshore drilling.

In contrast to Scott’s abysmal environmental record, Nelson has long fought to ban more drilling off Florida’s beaches and worked to bring justice to Gulf communities in the wake of the BP oil spill. He received a 95% voting score from the League of Conservation Voters in 2017 and has amassed a strong environmental record over his more than 30 years of public service. Nelson fights for climate action and voted against the confirmation of President Trump’s scandal-prone, science-denying EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt. The NRDC Action Fund proudly endorsed Nelson for re-election in January.

Background: Gov. Rick Scott’s Abysmal Environmental Record

Weakened and cut funding for environmental and health safeguards

Dismantled state laws aimed at fighting climate change and preventing pollution

  • In 2016, Scott signed into law weaker standards for toxic chemicals that flow into Florida’s rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. Concerned citizens and environmental groups fought the move, citing concerns about cancer-causing chemicals in drinking water and seafood.
  • In 2016, Scott signed into law HB 7007,a bill that prohibits local governments from imposing bans on Styrofoam and polystyrene products.
  • After Scott took office in 2011, he attended a private retreat hosted by climate-denying megadonors David and Charles Koch. He then oversaw the dismantling of HB 7135, a wide-ranging environmental protection bill which put Florida “among the forefront of state-level climate actions at the time.” “The laws were ‘revised piecemeal over several years, one subtle change at a time, until the intent of the bill is gutted,’ said one former state official.”

Promoted climate change denial

Maintained close ties to polluting industries

  Statements/Commentary

“Scott has bulldozed a record of environmental protection that his Republican and Democratic predecessors spent decades building. He weakened the enforcement of environmental laws and cut support for clean water, conservation and other programs. He simultaneously made it easier for the biggest polluters and private industries to degrade the state’s natural resources. While the first-term Republican attempts to transform himself into an environmentalist during his re-election campaign, his record reflects a callous disregard for the state’s natural resources and no understanding of how deeply Floridians care about their state’s beauty and treasures.”

“The governor, who started his term seven years ago by gutting state agencies that protect Florida’s environment, is presenting himself as more green than Kermit the Frog as he considers a run for U.S. Senate. Scott is now against offshore oil drilling. He’s a champion of the Everglades. He supports land conservation. He wants to save the imperiled St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and the Indian River Lagoon. He’s for those things now … but his actions early in his tenure as governor sure made it look like he was against them.”

“The Election Year Environmentalist can tout his plan all he wants — we’ve heard this story before. It’s election season and Governor Rick Scott is yet again promising he’ll deliver for our environment. Except he’s only offering a third of what he said in 2014. Floridians will be lucky to see pennies on the dollar from this failed Rick Scott promise.”

This Week: More Reasons to Fire Scott Pruitt

This week, we have even more reasons to fire Scott Pruitt. Plus, new reports add to our understanding of the dangers of offshore drilling.

Scott Pruitt’s Dirty Politics. “How the Environmental Protection Agency became the fossil-fuel industry’s best friend.” The New Yorker 

  • Our take: This must-read account of the EPA under Scott Pruitt uncovers his efforts to dismantle the agency, demoralize its staff, and help the fossil fuel industry throughout his tenure as EPA Administrator. Having him in charge of the government agency responsible for protecting human health and the environment puts all Americans in danger.
  • Take action: Tell Congress to fire Scott Pruitt

Trump Rollbacks Target Offshore Rules ‘Written With Human Blood. “Drillers seek to gain from an easing of Obama-era safety and environmental regulations that were adopted after the Deepwater Horizon disaster killed 11 people.” New York Times

  • Our take: Not only does Trump want to expand offshore drilling, but he plans to make it even more dangerous. This administration is bending over backwards to please the oil and gas industry, putting American workers, the environment, and coastal communities at risk.
  • Take action: Tell Congress to stop Trump’s dangerous offshore drilling plan
  • Read more:

The E.P.A. Says It Wants Research Transparency. Scientists See an Attack on Science. “The Environmental Protection Agency is considering a major change to the way it assesses scientific work, a move that would severely restrict the research available to it when writing environmental regulations.” New York Times

In other environmental news,

  • Most anti-environment budget cuts and proposed policy riders were left out of the much-anticipated omnibus FY18 appropriations bill passed in Congress last Thursday. For an analysis of the wins and losses for the environment in the spending bill, read this blog by NRDC’s Scott Slesinger.
  • A federal court ordered the EPA to enforce the implementation of anti-smog rules that the agency had delayed for months. The EPA was sued by 16 state attorneys general and several environmental groups, including NRDC, for its failure to carry out the 2015 Ozone Standards. This is the latest in a series of court rulings that blocked the EPA’s attempts to roll back environmental and safety regulations.
  • A win for the environment in Montana and Wyoming as a federal court rejects BLM plan to allow coal mining and oil and gas drilling on public lands.
  • FEMA’s strategic plan for the next four years does not mention climate change once. It is troubling that the agency whose mission is to “prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters” would ignore the serious risks posed by changing temperatures, rising sea levels, and more extreme weather events.

Major Environmental Groups Endorse Sen. Sherrod Brown for Re-Election

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Action Fund and the NRDC Action Fund, two leading national environmental groups, announced today their endorsements of Senator Sherrod Brown for re-election to the U.S. Senate from Ohio.

“Senator Brown is a fighter for all Ohioans, leading efforts to create clean energy jobs and protect our air and water,” said LCV Action Fund Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld. “He has been a strong advocate for creating manufacturing jobs in the clean energy industry and protecting the Great Lakes, both critical issues in the state of Ohio. His leadership in the Senate is more critical than ever, and we are proud to endorse Senator Brown as he runs for re-election.”

“Ohio families need a fighter like Senator Brown to stand up for clean water, clean air and a clean energy future,” said Kevin Curtis, Executive Director of the NRDC Action Fund. “His tireless efforts in support of Ohio’s future and quality of life have earned him this endorsement and the support of voters in November.  We’re proud to stand with him in his work to protect the Great Lakes and bring clean energy jobs to Ohio.”

“From protecting Lake Erie from toxic algae, to defending our children’s ability to breathe by supporting smart policies to address air pollution, Ohioans are lucky to have an environmental champion like Sen. Sherrod Brown,” said Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund President Heather Taylor-Miesle. “His vocal, bold leadership helps our state move in the right direction.”

“The work of organizations and activists helping to preserve Ohio’s natural resources and defend clean water and clean air is more important than ever,” said Senator Brown. “From protecting the Great Lakes from invasive species and toxic algal blooms to promoting a clean energy future, I am lucky to have the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund and the NRDC Action Fund as partners in this fight. I’m proud to earn their endorsements, and look forward to continuing our work to defend our environment for future generations.”

Having served in public office for almost four decades, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown has been a steadfast champion of the environment throughout his career.  In 2006, he won election to the U.S. Senate, and has made revitalizing manufacturing in Ohio by leading in the clean energy economy a pillar of his record.  Senator Brown has also taken a leadership role protecting the Great Lakes. He has earned an impressive 93% lifetime score on LCV’s National Environmental Scorecard.

Brown is featured on GiveGreen.com, a project of LCV Victory Fund and NextGen America, supported by the NRDC Action Fund PAC. GiveGreen.com is the only website devoted exclusively to raising money for environmental champions running for office. Last cycle, the GiveGreen program raised more contributions to candidates than ever before—over $8.3 million for state and federal candidates.

Ad campaign calls out House members for Arctic Refuge vote

The NRDC Action Fund today launched a six-figure ad campaign naming four Republican members of Congress who voted in December to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. The ads, which will run in both digital and print media, call out Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.), Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), and Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) for their votes on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which contained the Arctic drilling provision.

“Drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is reckless, and it will cause irreversible damage to one of the last best places on Earth,” said Kevin Curtis, executive director of the NRDC Action Fund. “With their votes, these representatives have handed oil companies a long-sought prize, but they’ve turned their backs on vulnerable Arctic wildlife and the indigenous communities who begged Congress not to spoil their sacred lands.”

“The devastating, climate-change-fueled storms, fires, droughts, and floods are already here,” Curtis added. “Voting for more climate-wrecking carbon pollution to pay for huge tax cuts for the wealthy saddles our kids with an unconscionable debt. Elected officials who voted for this tax scam will hear about it from their constituents this year.”

The NRDC Action Fund-sponsored ads hold Reps. Costello, Fitzpatrick, Meehan, and Paulsen, to account for opening the Arctic Refuge to drilling. The members represent suburban districts outside Philadelphia and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

In the weeks leading up to the bill’s passage, the NRDC Action Fund and other environmental organizations drove millions of supporters to speak out against the bill. Most Americans opposed the legislation.

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