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“Denge”

In a land where East meets West and old meets new, Turkey feels like and unlike every place I have ever traveled. Like Istanbul straddles the Bosphorus, Turkey hangs in the “denge” (the Turkish word for balance) between its long-history beginning in the cradle of civilization and a modern infrastructure and growing economy.

Today’s Turkish politics demand discussions focused on both domestic and foreign policy. Unlike the United States, where candidates and voters tend to narrowly focus on national issues like jobs and the economy, Turks don’t have the luxury of separating the internal and external policies. Shared borders with Iraq, Iran and Syria lead to constant worries about economic and social stability. And after spending a day on the Syrian border with refugees, it’s no longer surprising to me that energy policy isn’t at the top of the Turks discussion list, let alone an easy subject to unpack.

But, these are the great things about traveling to a new country; opening yourself to different cultures, ways of thinking and breaking your pre-existing expectations. Like assuming energy policy would dominate every conversation in this Middle East country that is dependent on its fossil fuels from Russia. In fact, according to one political science professor I spoke with, Turkey spends nearly $55 billion a year for energy from Russia alone. Along with worries about violence in nearby border countries, Turks are also concerned about Russia’s recent actions in Ukraine and how Russian President Vladimir Putin’s standing in the world could impact fuel prices.

And while it may not be the first topic on the afternoon tea discussion agenda, energy policy and energy efficiency were engrained in my day-to-day experiences. Every hotel I stayed in required key card access to turn on the electricity in the room. This meant I couldn’t charge my iPad during the day, but it also meant that I was keenly aware of my personal energy consumption.

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Energy usage aside, no advanced energy visual was as striking as standing in Mesopotamia on the Stone Age Mountain Sanctuary archeological dig contemplating the meaning of “old” when I saw solar panels. Below me, 10th and 9th millennium BC artifacts were unearthed, but next to me stood a modern, clean, renewable energy source powering the dig.

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This would seem like the perfect dichotomy, but rather it is the quintessential struggle of the country on many fronts. How do you keep the rich traditions and history of your religion and nation, while growing your economy and positioning yourself as a leader among other Middle East nations?

Like a choose your own ending book, Turkey stands on the cusp of the choice between what some would call a total authoritarian rule or the potential of becoming a truly democratic society. With just a few weeks until their first national democratic presidential elections, Turkish voters face a clear choice. But with half the electorate under the age of 30, it’s still to be seen whether or not they will come out to vote.

With the announcement that current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will run for President, energy policy is likely to slide to the back burner, while serious allegations of mistrust of his leadership are debated by the electorate, including corruption allegations and freedom of the press. Just two weeks prior to my arrival in Istanbul, CNN reporter Ivan Watson, was detained by police on live television. And while visiting with journalists from Turkish television and newspapers, I learned of the numerous news stories they are currently prohibited by law from being reported on, including the recent situation in Iraq when ISIS militants kidnapped Turkish diplomats at their consulate in Mosul.

While nine days in a country doesn’t make me an expert, I tend to agree with Turkish Member of Parliament Aykan Erdemir, who shared with our group that what Turkey needs most right now is a government focused on a comprehensive security plan. A plan that provides security from things like climate change and cyber threats, while also providing the necessary answers for other pressing issues like housing costs and healthcare concerns.

While no democracy is perfect, the only true chance for progress in Turkey is under a fully functioning democratic government. So like every first Tuesday in November in America, this August 10, I will be closely monitoring election results, only this time it will be in anticipation of what’s next for Turkey.

 

Melissa Harrison is the Communications Director for the NRDC Action Fund. She traveled to Turkey as a Truman National Security Project partner with the Rumi Forum. This is the first blog in a series she will write about her journey.

Dimming the Light of Prosperity in Ohio

To say I’m a proud Ohioan is an understatement. I still shriek with joy when I see someone proudly displaying scarlet and grey in DC. And I never miss an opportunity to yell “O-H” to another buckeye fan, much to the chagrin of my Gator husband.

I extol the virtues of Ohio to anyone who will listen. And until a few days ago, I also had a proud clean energy story to tell about my state. While Ohio suffered through the economic downturn with the rest of the country, there was a bright light at the end of the recession tunnel: a booming clean energy economy.

Thanks to a bipartisan effort, comprehensive legislation was passed in 2008 to ensure Ohio would properly invest in clean energy and energy efficiency in order to create the jobs of tomorrow, today. The legislation has been a huge success for a once struggling state. Thousands of jobs were created, emissions were reduced creating cleaner air and water, and consumers benefited to the tune of $1 billion in energy savings.

Unfortunately, the Ohio legislature must subscribe to the idea that all good things must come to an end. Because on Wednesday they gutted these clean energy standards in an obvious payback to the utilities who pad their pockets with campaign contributions. Yes, those same utilities that didn’t even have the courage to come out of the shadows and publicly testify.

Lest you think the only opposition to this decision was us “enviro-socialist rent-seekers”, check out just a few of the other members of a broad coalition of organizations actively working to protect clean energy and energy efficiency in Ohio:

Ohio Manufacturers’ Association

Evangelical Environmental Network

Ohio Advanced Energy Economy

In fact, more than 14,000 pro-life Christians signed a petition calling on Governor Kasich to veto the bill in order to protect the health and well-being of all children. A petition, which the Governor promptly ignored when he indicated he would sign the bill into law. While we wait for the stroke of Governor Kasich’s pen, editorial boards from all across Ohio continue to plead with him to veto the bill because: “SB 310 is more than a simple freeze; the bill also will chill what have been burgeoning alternative-energy investments in a state, and during a governorship, that aims to create Ohio jobs.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/28/14)

So as the once brightly shining light at the end of a dark economic tunnel starts to dim, I worry less about my state bragging rights and more about the Ohioans who will lose their jobs, the recent college graduates who will find no reason to stay in Ohio and my friends and family who will be forced to pay higher utility bills and breathe dirtier air.

 

 

NRDC Action Fund & League of Conservation Voters Announce Creation of LeadingGreen

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday, April 14, 2014

Contact: Jeff Gohringer, 202-454-4573 or Jeff_Gohringer@lcv.org
Melissa Harrison, 202-513-6278 or mharrison@nrdc.org

NRDC Action Fund & LCV Announce Creation of LeadingGreen

New alliance will grow environmental majority across party lines

WASHINGTON, DC – League of Conservation Voters and the NRDC Action Fund announced today that they are drawing on their collective strengths to create LeadingGreen, a powerful new alliance in the environmental and political communities.

LeadingGreen will create focused, collaborative power brokers in both advocacy and elections – a team that can target exactly the right pressure points to grow the environmental majority across party lines.

It will unite top donors and influencers at the intersection of policy and politics to maximize their policy engagement and political leverage on climate change.

The alliance is comprised of three major elements:

  • deepen our grasstops advocacy to influence key members of Congress.
  • organize dynamic regional and/or national political donor summits to develop a unified strategy heading into each election cycle.
  • with NRDC Action Fund PAC support, expand LCV Action Fund’s existing GiveGreen program with a goal of raising or contributing $5 million in 2014 for environmental champions (this is separate from independent expenditure spending).

LeadingGreen will also provide regular opportunities for influential leaders to engage decision makers on issues that matter and offer opportunities for influential political donors to organize around a common agenda, prioritize major issues, educate elected leaders and thought leaders on our major issues, and get informed on the power of donating through GiveGreen to elect environmental champions.

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NRDC Action Fund Launches Campaign Urging California State Legislature to Stop Out-of- Control Fracking

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Melissa Harrison, NRDC Action Fund, 202-513-6278, mharrison@nrdc.org

Online Ad Campaign Supports Senate Bill 4 to Strengthen Fracking Protections

WASHINGTON (August 19, 2013) The NRDC Action Fund is launching an online advertising campaign today in California to solidify support for Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), legislation that provides Californians with several critical protections against out-of-control fracking.

The digital campaign includes banner ads targeted in the following publications: Capitol Weekly, Capitol Morning Report, Sacramento Bee, Rough and Tumble, Cal Buzz and Rear Clear Politics. The ads will run from August 19 through September 15. The banner ads show a home with a gas rig in its backyard and link to an action page for Californians to email their state legislators to ask them to support of SB 4. Text includes:

 

My community—my right to know

Say YES to SB 4 to stop out-of-control fracking in our backyards.

 Act now to protect our backyards

California is FAILING to protect people from fracking.

Tell your assembly member to vote yes on SB 4.

STOP out-of-control fracking

Fracking is happening in California now.

Together we can start protecting our communities.

Urge your assembly member to vote YES on SB 4.

“The provisions in SB 4 are urgently needed to start protecting families and communities from fracking that is already happening in California,” said Heather Taylor-Miesle, NRDC Action Fund Director. “The oil fracking boom is presenting new challenges to out-of-date state oil and gas regulations. Californians are already beginning to face impacts to our water, air, and infrastructure. We need our legislators to stand up and support SB 4 to better inform and protect us and our children. And while we urge them to do the right thing, we are also calling on Governor Brown to impose a moratorium on fracking so that we can fully evaluate the risks associated with this heavy industrial activity.”

In the absence of state or federal laws, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the c3 affiliate of the NRDC Action Fund, has been leading community-level work in California. While the fight for a moratorium in the state continues, immediate protections are urgently needed, as companies are already fracking in California communities and looking to expand across the Monterey oil shale formation, which spans much of the state. SB 4 addresses several of the most urgent threats that fracking poses to public health and the environment—including ensuring the public’s right to know about fracking in their communities and throughout the state—providing a solid foundation to build upon.

SB 4 has already passed the California Senate and now sits in the California State Assembly awaiting a hearing before the appropriations committee and then final floor votes in both houses. If enacted the legislation will:

  • Require notification of fracking and other well stimulation activities to the state and to neighboring property owners and tenants;
  • Require the disclosure of chemicals used in fracking and other well stimulation activities;
  • Create a new permitting process for fracking and other well stimulation activities;
  • Require an independent scientific study to evaluate the risks and potential hazards that fracking and other well stimulation treatments pose to natural resources as well as public, occupational, and environmental health and safety;
  • Require operators to conduct baseline water testing and have a groundwater monitoring plan and wastewater disposal plan in place before fracking or well stimulation activities may commence;
  • Require operators to identify any seismic faults within or near the fracture zone of the fracking or well stimulation activity;
  • Require state agencies to enter into agreements clearly delineating respective authority, responsibility, and notification and reporting requirements associated with fracking and other well stimulation activities; and
  • Require the state oil and gas agency, to adopt fracking regulations that include these requirements and more on or before January 1, 2015.

A June poll by the Los Angeles Times and the University of Southern California found that more than seven in 10 voters say they want fracking more heavily regulated or banned outright. In addition, recent public opinion research in California by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) shows a majority of Californians support implementing stronger fracking protections. According to the PPIC polling data, “As state legislators debate stricter regulations on fracking—already under way in California—51 percent oppose increased use of the drilling method used to extract oil and natural gas (35% favor it, 14% don’t know).” When asked whether they favor or oppose stricter regulation of fracking, 50 percent say they are in favor. Among those who favor increased use of fracking, 62 percent also favor stricter regulation.

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The NRDC Action Fund’s mission is to rebuild the environmental majority to achieve the passage of legislation that jump-starts the clean energy economy, reduces pollution, and sustains vibrant communities for all Americans. Now is the time for leadership and action from our elected officials — our current goal is a comprehensive clean energy policy that will repower our economy and fuel our future. www.nrdcactionfund.org

Note to reporters/editors: The NRDC Action Fund is an affiliated but separate organization from the Natural Resources Defense Council. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, the NRDC Action Fund engages in various advocacy and political activities for which the Natural Resources Defense Council, a 501(c)(3) organization, faces certain legal limitations or restrictions. News and information released by the NRDC Action Fund needs to be identified as from the “NRDC Action Fund.” The “Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund” is incorrect. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the NRDC Action Fund can not be used interchangeably.  Also please note that the word “National” does not appear in Natural Resources Defense Council.

 

NRDC Action Fund Launches Campaign Warning Congressional Climate Deniers: Don’t Poison our Children’s Future

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Melissa Harrison, NRDC Action Fund, 202-513-6278/614-203-2616, mharrison@nrdc.org

Online Ad Campaign Supports President Obama’s Climate & Clean Air Plan

WASHINGTON (July 30, 2013) The NRDC Action Fund is launching an online advertising campaign today to galvanize opposition to any efforts to derail President Obama’s climate and clean air plan.

The digital campaign will include a 30-second ad, which can be viewed at: http://bit.ly/17NwAI0  and reads, “If every Senator threatening to vote against the President’s clean air and climate plan knew what it was like to be a child suffering a severe asthma attack, maybe they’d think twice.  After all, it’s kind of hard to do anything with a nebulizer wrapped around your face.  When we protect the air from carbon pollution, we protect children’s lives.”

The campaign also includes banner ads on websites including the WashingtonPost.com and Politico.com that will run from July 30 through August 2. The banner ads portray children wearing breathing respirators with the text, “The Cost of Climate Change…Tell the U.S. Senate: Don’t Poison Our Children’s Future.”

“Despite the scientific facts, the impacts on children and families across America, and the growing support for taking action to address climate change, the denier extremists are in full swing as they head back to their districts for the August recess,” said Heather Taylor-Miesle, NRDC Action Fund Director. “Unfortunately, these deniers remain out of step with their constituents, and particularly young people from both major parties, who believe we have an obligation to protect future generations from climate change. Our online campaign is designed to put Congress on notice that their constituents are watching. We will hold them accountable if they try to block the president’s plan– a common-sense, practical proposal that has the public’s support.”

Many in the U.S. Senate have been positioning proposals and amendments to stop EPA from taking action to reduce carbon pollution. Behind-the-scenes maneuvers reached a peak this week in the course of negotiations over the bipartisan energy efficiency bill introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), which many now expect to see final votes on in September. Their bill attracted climate change deniers who are seeking to hijack a widely supported bill to push their political agenda.

Recent public opinion research by Democratic and Republican aligned firms has shown strong support for cutting the carbon pollution from power plants that fuels climate change and extreme weather, diminishes air quality and threatens health.  Sixty-five percent of Americans support setting limits on the dangerous carbon pollution from power plants, including 49% of Republicans and 84% of Democrats and 56% of independents, according to a July 2013 national survey conducted by Hart Research and Chesapeake Beach Consulting for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

A separate poll by Benenson Strategy Group and GS Strategy Group found that “young voters of both parties want to see action on climate change and want leaders willing to take steps to address that threat… widespread and intense support translates into a willingness to punish legislators who stand in the way of the President’s plan… and to support those who back it.”

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The goal of the NRDC Action Fund is to grow the environmental majority across America. The Action Fund is growing power in the places that always matter around the country, so that together we can protect public health and the environment. www.nrdcactionfund.org

Note to reporters/editors: The NRDC Action Fund is an affiliated but separate organization from the Natural Resources Defense Council. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, the NRDC Action Fund engages in various advocacy and political activities for which the Natural Resources Defense Council, a 501(c)(3) organization, faces certain legal limitations or restrictions. News and information released by the NRDC Action Fund needs to be identified as from the “NRDC Action Fund.” The “Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund” is incorrect. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the NRDC Action Fund cannot be used interchangeably.  Also please note that the word “National” does not appear in Natural Resources Defense Council.