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Secretary Clinton’s Record

When it comes to what the American people are looking for in their next President, there is fairly broad consensus on topics of clean air, clean water, and being a good steward of our environment. For months now, we’ve been saying that a climate change denier will have a hard time winning the White House in 2016. Multiple public polls back this up. In one such poll, 53 percent of Republican voters and 87 percent of Democratic voters support the EPA’s plan to limit climate change pollution from power plants. Key voting blocs of Independent women (62 percent) and Republican women (59 percent) want the EPA to rein in the pollution that causes climate change and makes air dirtier and more dangerous to breathe.

With her announcement today that she is formally running for President, Hillary Clinton is the only candidate who’s entered the race that isn’t a climate denier. But it’s not going to be enough to simply acknowledge that climate change is real and happening. The country needs bold leadership and willingness to fight the Big Polluter Agenda and its seemingly unlimited funding.

Secretary Clinton’s campaign is brand new and we haven’t yet heard from her in detail her plans to act on climate. What we can do is look to her record:

  • She testified before Congress multiple times about a US commitment to energy efficiency, renewable energy, and reducing carbon pollution. She’s cited climate change as a threat to human security, food security, and national security.
  • From her first trip to China as Secretary of State, she placed a heavy focus on getting China to agree to deal on global warming (which later happened in 2014). In many of her overseas trips she stressed the importance of energy efficiency and investing in renewable energy.
  • Secretary Clinton ranked climate change 2nd on her list of 21st century challenges that countries are facing. She encouraged a new way of tackling challenges and cited an international climate coalition (called the Climate and Clean Air Coalition) as an example of an innovative approach.
  • As a Senator, Clinton had an 87% lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters (until it got reduced by 5 points for missing votes while on the 2008 presidential campaign trail). We hope that we can work with her on those negative votes, like on offshore oil drilling, to convince her that we need to transition off of dirty fuels.
  • Former White House advisor John Podesta, who led many of the Obama administration’s climate change efforts, has joined her presidential campaign.

At this early stage in the 2016 election, our hope is that every presidential candidate will come out strongly for action on climate change. We’re excited today that Hillary Clinton may be such a candidate. In 2014 she said, “the unprecedented action that President Obama has taken [on the Clean Power Plan] must be protected at all cost.” As a new grandmother and as the former chief foreign affairs officer of our nation, Clinton fully understands what’s at stake.

We are looking for a leader who will work tirelessly to commit to cut carbon pollution by at least 28 percent by 2025, and thereafter to achieve even greater reductions as required by sound science, and lead a transition to an economy powered by clean, renewable and efficient energy. We need someone who will demonstrate the global leadership needed to get our partners around the world to do their part to protect the well-being of the planet through strong international agreements, and defend and strengthen the fundamental safeguards that protect our air, water, lands, and wildlife.

The American electorate is ready for nothing less.

Goodbye to Two of our First Green Female Champs in the Senate

Today is the last day of women’s history month. This year, two fantastic women senators will mark the ends of their historic Senate careers. Senators Barbara Boxer and Barbara Mikulski have served a collective 70 years in Congress. In those decades, they’ve established themselves as strong environmental champions.

Barbara Mikulski

Senator Mikulski has represented Maryland in Congress since she was first elected to the House in 1976. She is now the longest-serving female member of Congress in history.

Mikulski has demonstrated a consistent commitment to environmental protection and clean energy throughout her decades in Congress. She has earned a lifetime score of 84% from the League of Conservation Voters. She’s consistently voted to act on climate change, to support clean energy and to improve and uphold bedrock environmental laws like the Clean Air Act.

Mikulski’s environmental passion has been saving the Chesapeake Bay. According to her own website, “Mikulski fights to improve the Bay’s health and looks out for the people who depend on it for their livelihoods.” A report from E&E News described Mikulski as someone who saw “the estuary as not just an ecological gem, but a driver of the region’s blue-collar economy, providing jobs for watermen and shellfish for restaurants, and drawing tourists to the state.” Mikulski has consistently worked to improve the bay’s water quality, habitats and fisheries. In a statement on her retirement, Will Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said: “It is hard to imagine how the Chesapeake Bay will survive without Sen. Mikulski. Just as her beloved oyster is a keystone species in the Bay’s ecology, Sen. Mikulski has been a political cornerstone of support for saving the Bay.”

Barbara Boxer

First elected to the House of Representatives in 1982 using the slogan “Barbara Boxer Gives a Damn”, the junior senator from California has lived up to her promise. Boxer has given a damn time and again when it comes to environmental protection. Boxer has not only earned a lifetime score of 90% from the League of Conservation Voters, she has been a leader on many of the most important issues in recent decades.

As the Chairman and now Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Boxer has led the charge to fight off attacks on lifesaving Clean Air Act protections. In 2010, Boxer helped defeat a resolution that would have overturned EPA’s scientific finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. In 2011, Boxer led the opposition to a resolution that would have overturned EPA’s regulation to control air pollution that crosses state lines. In 2012, Boxer again helped lead the opposition in stopping a resolution that sought to block EPA’s first-ever standards to control mercury and other hazardous air pollution from power plants.

In recent years Boxer has been a critical leader in stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline and working to forge solutions to comprehensively address the dangerous carbon pollution that causes climate change.

In addition, Boxer has been a champion for safe drinking water, leading efforts to reduce arsenic and lead in drinking water and to improve community right-to-know protections regarding drinking water contaminants. She has also worked tirelessly to preserve California’s precious public lands. Boxer has protected more than 1 million acres of federal public land in California as wilderness including along Northern California’s Coast in Big Sur and the Los Padres Forest. Boxer also championed legislation that converted Pinnacles National Monument and San Francisco’s Presidio into National Parks and legislation that expanded Sequoia National Park.

Looking Ahead

I know we’ll miss these two green champions when they leave the Senate at the end of the year. However, the Senate women have come a long way, thanks in large part to the leadership and example of Mikulski and Boxer. We now have a tremendous bench of women senators who will carry the torch – like recent Running Clean leaders Jeanne Shaheen and Mazie Hirono.

We’ll be looking forward to the new generation for leadership in climate action and creating a clean energy future, but we’ll be sure to look back at Mikulski and Boxer for inspiration.

Which Way Does the Wind Blow the GOP on Wind?

At the conclusion of the 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, said of the president’s victories in Iowa and Colorado that the “wind energy tax credit was an issue in both of those states.” With President Obama supporting the tax credit and Mitt Romney not only opposing the wind production tax credit (PTC) but dismissing wind energy jobs as “imaginary.” Messina believed that wind energy had been a wedge issue for voters in these critically important swing states, a factor in Obama’s victory.

Wind energy will again be a wedge issue in these political and clean energy powerhouse states in 2016. In Iowa, wind energy now exceeds 25 percent of total electricity production according to the American Wind Energy Association. According to the Iowa Wind Energy Association, more than $9.8 billion dollars of capital has been invested in Iowa’s wind farms and manufacturing facilities. Furthermore, Iowa currently ranks third for wind energy employment, supporting 6,000 to 7,000 jobs. With Iowa also serving as the first state to hold primary caucuses, the state’s wind energy industry could prove to be a factor in choosing the major parties’ eventual nominees.

The wind PTC, a performance-based incentive, has helped the US wind industry build more than 550 facilities and contributed to the price of wind power declining by 43% in recent years.  A recent study from the Department of Energy found that wind power could grow from supplying 5% of US electricity, as it does today, to supplying 35% by 2050. President Obama has called for a permanent extension of the PTC to make that clean energy future happen.

Despite the PTC’s success, many in the Republican field seems content to repeat Romney’s mistake of opposing clean energy and advocating to abolish the PTC – either immediately or in the near future. Here’s a rundown of where the current field of likely candidates stands on the issue.

Jeb Bush – This month in Iowa, Bush called for a short-term extension of the wind energy production tax credit (PTC), followed by a 3 to 5 year phase out.

Chris Christie – As governor of New Jersey, Christie signed into law incentives for offshore wind energy, including tax incentives. Christie reportedly “hasn’t clarified” his position on the federal PTC. Encouragingly, the Wall Street Journal reports that he “wouldn’t repudiate the wind tax credit.”

Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio – The trio of senators oppose extending the PTC. Most recently, Cruz and Paul voted against a nonbinding Sense of the Senate resolution on the topic. Rubio missed the vote.

Mike Huckabee – The former Arkansas governor has “danced around whether or not he supported the wind energy tax credit…” “I think it needs to be debated,” Huckabee said, adding that no government programs should be given “unquestionable life.”

Rick Perry – While Perry’s home state of Texas is home to huge amounts of wind power, Perry “sounded somewhat contrite for supporting the wind tax credit” and opposes federal incentives.

Rick Santorum – When campaigning during the 2011 primary, Santorum called for a phase out of all tax incentives for energy.

Scott Walker – Wisconsin governor Paul Walker described the PTC as having “served the purpose.” He continued that he “would support phasing that out over a period of time.”

To win in 2016, the party’s leaders should recognize what regular people already know. Polling finds overwhelming support for the wind PTC: 73 percent of registered voters support continuing the PTC, including 63 percent of registered Republicans. It’s time for the Republican presidential field to see that swing state voters want their energy clean and they want it made at home. A climate denier can’t win in 2016 – neither can a clean energy naysayer.

A Climate Christian Reflects on the Cruz Candidacy

When Senator Ted Cruz announced his presidential candidacy at Liberty University this week, he spoke in phrases intended to resonate with people like me and my family: devout Christians. I come from a long line of people who put Jesus Christ at the center of our lives, and I am raising my children to do the same. Cruz tried to appeal to these values in his speech, yet his claims rang hollow to me.

What I couldn’t get past in the speech was the knowledge that his words don’t match his actions in Washington where he seems to relish creating division on everything from the budget to climate change. He constantly creates fights and fails to prioritize any kind of common ground or service.

While churches across the nation are actively trying to irradiate malaria, or end human trafficking, or address climate change – my church is a proud supporter of the Imagine No Malaria campaign—Cruz is bent on grinding the government to a halt and dismantling policies that help people rather than creating them.

I don’t expect to share Cruz’s views, but I do believe a self-proclaimed Christian candidate should take positive action to improve people’s lives. Cruz seems more interested in being the troublemaker-in-chief than building the city on the hill.

Just look at his nay saying on climate change.

Cruz recently said the “snow and ice” in New Hampshire were evidence that climate change is not happening and the earth is not warming. The facts show otherwise: the 10 hottest years on record have all come since 1998.
Some conservative churches don’t recognize the climate crisis, yet many Christian groups—from the Evangelical Environmental Network to the Southern Baptist Convention to the Roman Catholic Church—understand that climate change is a threat to millions of people, especially the most vulnerable among us.

One of my heroes, Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, does a great job of explaining what’s at stake. Hayhoe is a climate scientist at Texas Tech in Lubbock and an evangelical. She infuses her Christian values into descriptions of the mechanics of climate change: “When I look at the information we get from the planet, I look it as God’s creation speaking to us. And this case, there is no question that God’s creation is telling us that it is running a fever,” she says.

Cruz ignores these facts. That could hurt him with the two-thirds of Americans who believe world leaders have a moral obligation to address climate change, according to a recent Reuters poll. And it could hurt him with the 50 percent of Republican voters who agree the federal government should reduce climate change pollution, according to an AP survey.

There is almost no chance Cruz can secure the GOP nomination. But he could become a folk hero. He could position himself as a more powerful Sarah Palin who rallies the base and pulls the party over to his divisive ways. This is a troubling prospect for all of us who want to serve others and protect creation. In other words, the majority of Americans.

Rick Perry, Still A Denier

Rick Perry is back and this time he’s in it to win it. Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Perry left behind the bumbling Tea Party conservative of 2012 and did his best to appear a reasonable, professorial moderate on environmental issues. Yet, even this more polished Perry continued to flub the truth about environmental protection.

Remembering 2012

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Perry is attempting to shed the skin of his last presidential campaign In case you’ve forgotten, let me remind you of the crowning moment of Perry’s 2012 run. During a debate, Perry intended to name three cabinet-level agencies that his administration would eliminate. There was only one problem: Perry couldn’t remember that he wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy. Oops.

Perry seems to be remaking himself this time around. Not only is his face now bespectacled, but he’s pretending he’s made an about-face on climate denial.

A Denier Can’t Win

It seems Perry has gotten the memo that a climate denier can’t win the White House in 2016. Polling shows that too many Americans are concerned about climate change to give the highest office in the land to someone who ignores this threat to our health, economy, and security.

According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News survey, a full 57 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Independents, and 79 percent of Democrats support limiting climate change pollution from power plants. Closer to home, a Yale poll found that 70 percent of Texans believe in climate change and a majority believe government should be doing more about global warming.

Voters are looking for a leader who will confront the big challenges, not deny their existence.

During the last campaign, Perry said about climate change: “The science is – is not settled on this.”  He went on that “just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact. Galileo got outvoted for a spell.”

Perry’s Change of Emphasis

At CPAC, Perry de-emphasized his denial and instead “explained how Texas managed to reduce pollution during an economic boom.” He argued that Texas added people and jobs while reducing nitrous oxide, ozone and carbon pollution through “thoughtful and incentive-based regulations.” He made the similar statements about pollution reduction in his farewell speech to the Texas legislature.

The good people at Factcheck.org have already demolished the content of Perry’s claims, pointing out that he “exaggerates the Texas reduction in nitrogen oxide”, omits pollution from certain sources, and mischaracterized the policies that led to the reductions. In fact, Perry “ignores” two of the biggest drivers of recent pollution reduction in Texas: “the contribution of federal policy to wind energy and the shift away from a manufacturing-based economy.”

While Perry got his facts wrong about the reasons for and statistics behind Texas’s pollution reductions, there is at least one area where he’s got it right: a growing economy and pollution reduction absolutely do go hand in hand. This chart shows that from 1990 through 2008, U.S. Gross Domestic Product increased by more than 64 percent while the six most common air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act decreased 41 percent.

As the 2016 election season warms up, we’ll be sure to keep an eye on Perry and the other candidates hoping to win the White House. A denier can’t win. A candidate who offers climate solutions will.