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Happy Thanksgiving from the NRDC Action Fund

Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. I so need this. Even-numbered years are always grueling at the NRDC Action Fund, but this one was particularly tough. The stakes seem to grow higher every day and most of the outcomes of this year’s election weren’t what I’d hoped for. I’m looking forward to a few days off, a few days home with my family, some delicious food, and a chance to reflect on all of the things for which I am grateful.

I’d like to share with you a few of the things on my environmental gratitude list this Thanksgiving.

Re-election of Clean Energy Champions

I am thankful the voters in New Hampshire and Maine re-elected their fantastic senators, Jeanne Shaheen and Susan Collins. These two were Running Clean from the start, working for solutions to climate change, improvements in energy efficiency and investments in new technologies like offshore wind that will reduce carbon pollution. Shaheen and Collins both have track records of working to find bipartisan solutions to big problems like climate change, and I’m so glad to know they’ll be back in the Senate for six more years. They join other reelected champs, like Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Merkley, (D-OR), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

Election of New Clean Energy Champions

I am thankful the House and Senate will be welcoming some great new members in January, who are well-prepared to go toe-to-toe with the Dirty Deniers who will be in control. Michigan voters will be represented by Gary Peters in the Senate and we are eager to see what Gwen Graham of Florida and Brad Ashford of Nebraska will do in the House. Peters has been working toward climate solutions, especially with regard to clean cars, for years in the House and Graham and Ashford are a welcome change from the climate skeptics they are replacing.

Progress on the International Stage

I am thankful the world is moving forward on tackling climate change. Just two weeks ago, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly agreed to make substantial reductions in their countries’ carbon pollution. It’s been called a “watershed moment” as the world’s two largest emitters have agreed to break the deadlock that has gripped the world’s climate negotiations for years. While we need to make progress much more quickly, I’m thankful for this important step forward.

Clean Power Plan

I am thankful for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The draft plan, released in June, would reduce carbon pollution 30% below 2005 emissions by 2030. It would also save the lives of 3,500 Americans in 2020 and every year after. We can’t afford to wait, and the EPA’s work to reduce carbon pollution is galvanizing international action.

Clean Energy Getting More Affordable

I am thankful the world’s investments in clean energy are paying off. Clean energy is getting cheaper. According to a recent report from Deutsche Bank, “solar electricity is on track to be as cheap or cheaper than average electricity-bill prices in 47 U.S. states” by 2016. Even if our solar tax credits are reduced, we’ll still see “grid parity” in 36 states that year. As prices come down, the arguments for clean energy and climate action get stronger. The Dirty Deniers are running out of excuses.

You

I am thankful for you. I am thankful for all the supporters of the NRDC Action Fund. I’m thankful for the more than 23,000 people who follow our Facebook page and the 4,500 people who follow our Twitter stream. I’m thankful for every one of you who have taken action to support candidates who are Running Clean with your donations and your votes and for every one of you who have told your elected leaders that you want Action on Climate.

Now, let’s go eat some turkey.

Americans Want Action on Climate Change

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

Americans Want Action on Climate Change

NRDC Action Fund: Environmental Champions Win in MI, NH, ME

WASHINGTON (November 4, 2014) – Following is a statement by Frances Beinecke, president of the NRDC Action Fund:

“Every American has a vital stake in a healthy environment, no matter who wields the gavel in Congress. We’ll stand up for leaders who grasp that – on both sides of the aisle – and we’ll stand up to those who don’t. Our children are counting on it.”

“Whatever may have driven individual races, the American people want action on climate change. They didn’t vote to roll back foundational environmental safeguards for the sake of polluter profits. We will empower the voice of the people. We will defend clean air, safe water, healthy wildlife and fertile lands. And we’ll press for real action to protect future generations from the dangers of climate change.”

“Several senators won by running clean – including Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, Susan Collins in Maine and Senator-elect Gary Peters in Michigan. All are climate champions. Peters took on the Koch brothers and promised Michigan voters he would fight in Congress to protect the Great Lakes from climate change.”

 

 

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The NRDC Action Fund’s mission is to grow the environmental majority across America 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.

 

 

Daily Dirty Denier$

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

Daily Dirty Denier$

NRDC Action Fund to Expose #DirtyDenier$ During August Recess

WASHINGTON (July 28, 2014) – For some members of Congress casting dirty votes and accepting campaign contributions from polluters is a normal day in Washington. But, this August, as members return home to face voters, the NRDC Action Fund will expose some of them for exactly who they are: dirty deniers. Beginning August 4, the NRDC Action Fund will name “Daily Dirty Deniers” each weekday, featuring members (#DailyDenier$) who allow polluters to foul our air by casting dirty votes and accepting dirty money.

“As we approach the dog days of summer, I can only think about how hard it is to teach an old dog new tricks,” said Heather Taylor-Miesle, NRDC Action Fund Director. “With 99 days until the mid-term elections, the same old polluters and polluter allies, cue the Chamber of Commerce, Koch Brothers and Karl Rove, are running the same old attack ads, using the same old lies and scare tactics, and hoping the American public is none the wiser. We can’t let representatives and senators off the hook for voting against our best interests. So this August we are holding them accountable.”

The NRDC Action Fund will highlight 20 total members during the August recess which leads into the unofficial kickoff to election season. The “Daily Dirty Denier$” campaign is focused on bringing attention to these member Congress while they are home and trying to convince voters they have their best interests in mind. We will expose:

  • House members who have now voted almost 200 times in just this Congress to weaken or eliminate environmental protections;
  • How outside polluter money is being used to support #DirtyDenier$;
  • Why polluters lost in 2012 and why they will lose again in 2014; and
  • Support for climate action specifically among the rising American electorate.

The #DirtyDenier$ campaign will also encourage voters to hold these members accountable by spreading the message that protecting our environment isn’t just good policy, it’s good politics. The daily blog will be available beginning Monday, August 4 at www.nrdcactionfund.org and on Facebook and Twitter. To read more about the campaign and the relentless Republican assault on basic health and environmental protections visit: http://bit.ly/1zmBt99.

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The NRDC Action Fund’s mission is to grow the environmental majority across America 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.

“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.