Recent Posts:

First 50 Days: Nothing but the Big Polluter Agenda

Around the time the new Congress marked its first 50 days, my children’s classes were celebrating the 100th day of school. Students did a hundred math problems, read books for a hundred minutes, and brought in bags of a hundred objects like dried beans and pasta.

If Republicans in Congress marked their milestone in a similar way, they would probably write up 50 ways to gut environmental safeguards or haul in 50 miniature smokestacks.

And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be at the top of the class.

Fifty days into the new Congress, McConnell has established himself as a champion of polluting industries. McConnell devoted much of this session to supporting the Keystone XL pipeline for dirty tar sands oil and trying to block the EPA from reducing climate change emissions. These efforts get a failing grade from public health experts because they would increase pollution linked to asthma attacks, respiratory illness and cancer.

Why has the GOP leadership used the first 50 days to push pollution? Perhaps it has something to do with their super-wealthy donors. Oil, gas, and coal companies spent more than $721 million to support their candidates and interests in Congress over the past two years. McConnell raked in $608,000 from the fossil fuel industry for his 2014 campaign.

Yet while most Republican lawmakers stump for more pollution, Americans are calling for less.

A Washington Post/ABC News Poll found that fully 70 percent of Americans say the federal government should limit the amount of climate change pollution coming from power plants. Most Americans trust the EPA more than Congress when it comes to addressing pollution, according a recent poll done by the American Lung Association. And 51 percent of Kentuckians wanted McConnell to say he recognizes that human activity causes climate change—something he refused to do in the election season.

A strong majority of Americans want leaders to confront the climate crisis, but the Republican leadership has refused. They have failed utterly to offer any plan for dealing with the biggest environmental and humanitarian challenge of our time. During his campaign, McConnell promised to handcuff the EPA and stop climate action. That attracted industry dollars. But it’s not why most people voted for him. Kentuckians want to breathe clean air and shield their children from disastrous impacts from climate change.

The NRDC Action Fund also made a promise during the midterms: We vowed to hold lawmakers accountable for backing polluters over people.

Our commitment doesn’t end with the campaign cycle. We stay on the job, tracking member votes, tallying industry lobbying dollars, and letting voters know when lawmakers try to make the air dirtier or the water less safe to drink.

So when McConnell spends 50 days pushing the Big Polluter Agenda, we spread the word in Kentucky and beyond. And when Colorado’s Senator Cory Gardner votes against incentives for wind energy just months after he posed for a campaign ad in the middle of a wind farm, we let people know.

Because Washington shouldn’t be like Vegas: what happens there shouldn’t stay there. Voters should know what their lawmakers are doing. And they should expect those lawmakers to keep our kids safe from pollution.

 

Feeling the Love All Year Long

Climate Valentine

Valentine’s Day may have passed, but my kids’ haul of chocolate is still lingering. As I attempt to avoid eating just one more piece, I can’t help but think about all the love for climate action we felt over the weekend.

Our Climate Valentines: Time to Define the Relationship blog generated thousands of interactions with our followers. And many of you got in on the action and created your own #ClimateValentine poems for the planet. I was so impressed with your creativity that I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorites.

And don’t let the passing of Valentine’s Day end your love for protecting our children’s health. Continue to speak out and join us on Facebook and Twitter. Now is the time to #ActOnClimate.

My favorite #ClimateValentines

@Climatelllo: Unlike our recyclables, I never want us to be separated.

Climate Valentine 2

@dahawk7834: Some folks vote red, Others vote blue, But smart folks vote NO on more CO2

@MarkeyMemo: Republicans are red, Democrats are blue, I support #climate action, And so should you

@lauraetam: Roses are brown. There’s no water here. My hope’s for some serious climate action this year.

@adriannaq: Roses are red, oceans are blue, the earth will be better, with less CO2.

@tomasczt: Love our mother, there’s only one, #climatechange is real, undo damage done.

@ConservationCo: Roses are red, fossil fuels are stupid, this Valentines Day #renewables are our Cupid!

 

 

Climate Valentines: Time to Define the Relationship

February 14th is the day when Americans celebrate love with cards, flowers and chocolate. At my house, the kids are busy making paper hearts and cranking out scores of cards for their friends. Their handiwork inspired me to create a Valentine for members of Congress who need to have “the talk.”

Until just a few weeks ago, Republicans in Congress had largely denied or ignored the urgent need to act on climate change. Things have started to shift ever so slightly in the past few weeks: suddenly #DirtyDenier$ are getting real.

Maybe a climate cupid shot his arrows through the halls of the Senate, but at the end of last month, 53 GOP senators passed an amendment acknowledging the climate is changing, 15 approved an amendment saying humans have something to do with those changes, and 5 endorsed one saying human activity “significantly” contributes to climate change.

What do these votes mean? Is the GOP reconsidering its monogamous relationship with fossil fuel companies? Are they asking for an “open relationship” with the Koch Brothers? Is the GOP interested in seeing other voters?

It’s time for the talk: the “DTR” conversation that defines the relationship. That’s how we’ll know if the GOP is ready for that ultimate public declaration of love: the relationship status change on Facebook.

Voters are ready for a commitment. Two thirds of Americans favor the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to address climate change by limiting carbon pollution from power plants, according to a November survey by Harstad Strategic Research.

A New York Times/Stanford poll released last week found that a full 54 percent of Hispanics—that increasingly popular voting bloc—say climate change is extremely or very important to them personally, and 63 favor the federal government taking broad steps to address this crisis.

As Republican leaders try to define their relationship with climate change in advance of the 2016 election, the “it’s complicated” status will no longer suffice with the majority of voters.

GOP candidates who want to win in the next cycle have to get serious. It’s not enough to recognize that the climate is changing. They need to do something about it. They need to offer an action plan for confronting the biggest public health and environmental threat of our time. They need to put a ring on it.

My wish for this Valentine’s Day is for #DirtyDenier$ to truly define their relationship with climate change. And that they begin by ending their love affair with dirty polluters. Here’s what I would put on my Valentine:

Roses are red, the climate is hot. #RunningClean is cool, but #DirtyDenier$ are not.

Ok, so the makers of Sweethearts candies might not be hiring me anytime soon and the puns in the blog post may be a bit much. But my heart is in the right place: I truly hope the Republican Party will decide to act on our generations’ biggest challenge.

 

Toomey Votes Out of Touch with Pennsylvanians

Senator Toomey’s home in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley is only about 3 hours from Washington, DC, but judging from the senator’s voting record the past few weeks, it seems a world away. Toomey has cast one vote after another designed to block action on climate change, undermine clean energy growth, and weaken protections for air and water.

Meanwhile, back in Pennsylvania, the vast majority of residents have been calling for the exact opposite.

A full 72 percent of Pennsylvania voters, for instance, support the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to limit climate change pollution from power plants, according to a survey from Hart Research Associates. Even in western coal-producing regions, 63 percent say the EPA should limit this dangerous pollution. And a large majority of Pennsylvanian Republicans—58 percent—feels the same.

Toomey hasn’t gotten the message. The NRDC Action Fund gave him a Dirty Denier award last year for voting against every piece of environmental legislation except one in 2013. Now he is siding with the GOP leadership’s Big Polluter Agenda instead of his state’s own interests.

Perhaps it has something to do with the $445,966 Toomey has received from the oil and gas industries. Or the $865,283 he’s gotten from the conservative Club for Growth, an organization which consistently opposes climate action and where Toomey served as president from 2005 through 2009.

It’s time to bring the news home. Washington, DC is not Las Vegas, and what happens here shouldn’t stay here. People deserve to know what Toomey’s polluter-friendly votes could mean for Pennsylvania.

The nation’s leading experts report that, if we fail to reduce climate change pollution, stronger heat waves and smoggier air will pose significant threats to Pennsylvanians’ health. They also will be hit by more intense storms and floods, like those that came with Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene.

You wouldn’t know it based on Toomey’s votes when the Senate took up the GOP’s Keystone XL bill.

Climate Denial: Toomey voted to acknowledge that climate change is not a hoax and that humans play a role in the crisis, but he opposed an amendment stating that humans “significantly” contribute to climate change. That’s like refusing to say gravity “significantly” contributes to falling objects. Overwhelming evidence confirms that pollution from human activity causes climate change. To shy away from these facts in any way is to deny scientific reality. And to fail to offer any solutions is to leave Americans vulnerable to harm.

Clean Energy Blockade: More than 57,000 Pennsylvanians currently work at 4,200 clean energy businesses across the state. Yet Toomey voted down two amendments that would help solar and wind industries expand—even as he supports giving dirty fossil fuels a free pass from cleaning up their pollution.

Dirty Air: Toomey and his colleague from Pennsylvania, Democratic Senator Casey, introduced an amendment that would give power plants that burn “waste coal” a free pass on clean air safeguards. These protections reduce acid rain pollution and sulfur dioxide linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses.  Pennsylvania has 14 of these plants, and though many similar plants already meet the standards, this amendment would exempt the Keystone State’s polluters—leaving residents to breathe dirtier air.

It’s disappointing to see Casey co-sponsor this dirty amendment, especially when he is usually a champion of clean energy and climate action.

Lawmakers of both parties would be wise to refocus on building a sustainable energy future for their state. Most Pennsylvanians want to tackle climate change and clean up pollution. And those same voters will be going to the polls in 2016 when Senator Toomey is up for reelection.

 

Cory Gardner’s Wind Hypocrisy

Gardner photo copy

Do you remember the worst words your mom could say to you when you were a kid? I do. She’d look down at you and her eyes would be devoid of anger. In its place would be a kind of sad pity as she said, “I’m disappointed in you.” Well, Sen. Cory Gardner, I’m disappointed in you.

I keep looking at this image from Sen. Cory Gardner’s campaign ad of him in the middle of a wind farm claiming that he supports the next generation and suggesting that he’ll support clean energy. And then I think about how he voted this week. This week the Senate is considering its very first order of business – S.1. And the first chance Sen. Gardner had to do the right thing, he failed.

The picture above shows a guy who looks like he supports wind energy. And, while he definitely wasn’t the Running Clean candidate in his Senate contest, the picture seems to speak for itself. Why would you trot around a wind farm if you don’t support wind?

Yet, twice in the past 24 hours Cory Gardner has voted against wind energy. Last night he voted against a nonbonding sense of the Senate resolution offered by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a conservative Democrat from the fossil fuel-heavy state of North Dakota. The Heitkamp amendment would have done nothing more than express the viewpoint that wind energy tax incentives should be extended. Today he voted against an amendment from Sen. Tom Udall to create a national clean energy standard, which would have given wind energy a huge boost without requiring taxpayers to pay a dime.

Gardner has tried to justify his anti-wind vote on the Heitkamp amendment. He argues that extending the wind tax incentive should be paid-for, should be part of a larger overhaul of the tax code and should include a plan to phase-out the incentive. While Gardner’s concerns might be valid questions to address in the context of an actual bill that would have the force of law, they are a bit overblown on a simple sense of the Senate resolution. Don’t you think a supporter of wind energy could set aside these details in order to vote on the “sense” that the incentives should be extended? Even Sen. Heitkamp, a supporter of plenty of fossil fuels, managed to do it. Why can’t Gardner?

Even after these anti-wind votes, Gardner still likes to claim he’s pro-wind. He must know that being pro-wind is good politics because the public supports clean energy. But his claims are nothing but wind. He just voted to undermine wind development, and he can’t deny that.

I don’t know how his mom feels, but I, for one, am disappointed.