A Way to Win

The fight against climate change just got a powerful new ally: LeadingGreen. The NRDC Action Fund and the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) formed this alliance to galvanize influential leaders in business, media, and research to call for climate action in Congress. And it will help elect and support environmental champions across America.

As Juliet Eilperin wrote in the Washington Post on Monday, this is a breakthrough in the conservation movement.

LeadingGreen is the first environmental initiative to make a full-throttled commitment to building political will for climate action. The LBGT community and women’s organizations have used similar strategies to expand their reach. Now the NRDC Action Fund and LCV are strengthening our ability to advocate for cleaner air and a more stable climate.

Let’s face it: in a divided political landscape dripping with money from fossil fuel companies, we have to work hard to be heard. LeadingGreen will amplify our voices in the halls of Congress and in districts around the country. And it will help us build the environmental majority across both parties.

We launched LeadingGreen because the stakes are so high. Last month’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—the world’s top experts on climate science—confirmed once again that climate change is having sweeping effects on our communities.  I live in California, where the worst drought on record is drying up reservoirs and pushing farmers to the brink. I don’t want to leave my son and daughter to deal with even more destructive weather and costly damages.

The single most important thing we can do to combat climate change is to reduce dangerous carbon pollution from power plants—the source of 40 percent of all US carbon pollution. The Obama Administration will propose carbon limits in June. Poll after poll shows that most American voters welcome these limits, but dirty polluters and their allies in Congress are attacking them. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has already vowed to block the Environmental Protection Agency from putting carbon limits in place.

Now these obstructionists will have to contend with LeadingGreen. We will activate our advocates—clean tech entrepreneurs, Latino business owners, public health experts, media executives—who have relationships with members of Congress. Together we will deliver a coordinated message on the Hill, on the fundraising circuit, and on the campaign trail: vote for climate action, not for dirty polluters.

And we will continue to deploy our LeadingGreen strategy until our nation has addressed the climate crisis. We will encourage people to Give Green: support candidates who champion clean energy and low-carbon solutions. We will encourage them to Meet Green: connect with an active network of influential leaders working toward the same goal. And we will encourage them to Speak Green: raise their voices at the right time with the right lawmakers to promote smart climate policies.

We want to let environmental champions know that voters and donors have their back. This isn’t an easy time to be a lawmaker. They are under constant pressure to raise money in the age of Citizens United, and many have to stave off primary challenges from the right. LeadingGreen will show them there is a movement behind them—a movement to shield future generations from the threat of climate change. And with the support of the American people and the combined force of the NRDC Action Fund and LCV, we will win.

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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Climate Change is a Looming Threat: Time to Fix Our Fragile Energy Infrastructure

NBC’s new science fiction drama Revolution is set in a world that 15 years after the start of a worldwide blackout. This post-apocalyptic future shows how the lack of a preparation for a blackout led to ultimate chaos and governments collapsing. As much as I enjoy post-apocalyptic science fiction thrillers, this hits close to home. Threats to our energy infrastructure are a real concern. Back in 2003, a software bug at a control room of the FirstEnergy Corporation in Ohio caused a widespread power outage throughout parts of the Northeast and Midwest. The blackout affected an estimated 55 million people in Canada and the US. Power, water, transportation, and communications were all impacted.

Troubling news. It can happen again. This time severe weather influenced by climate change is now increasing the risk of that occurring. In 2012, for example, storm surge and high winds from Hurricane Sandy downed power lines, flooded electrical substations, and damaged several power plants and ports, according to DOE, leaving over 8 million people without power.

A recent government report by the independent Government Accountability Office presented troubling findings on how climate change can threaten the America’s core energy infrastructure. The study shows that “U.S. energy infrastructure is increasingly vulnerable to a range of climate change impacts—particularly infrastructure in areas prone to severe weather and water shortages.” They examined how it could affect our infrastructure in four main ways: (1) resource extraction and processing infrastructure, (2) fuel transportation and storage infrastructure, (3) electricity generation infrastructure, and (4) electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure.

GAO blog chart 3.23.14

Luckily, the GAO reports that measures exist to help reduce these climate-related risks. Hardening and resiliency measures would adapt the US’s energy systems to weather and climate-related impacts. Hardening measures involve physical changes that improve that stability of infrastructure, whereas resiliency measures allow energy systems to continue operating after damage and allow for a quick recovery. Whether it be sealing water-sensitive equipment or installing back-up generators, there are things that can be done.

Key federal entities can play important supporting roles that can influence private companies’ infrastructure decisions. The government can influence companies’ decision through providing information, regulatory oversight, technology research and development, and market incentives and disincentives.

A wide range of studies have shown that U.S. energy infrastructure is at risk for damage and disruptions to service due to severe weather events. The damage from this could impose large costs on the energy industry, as well as influence the local and national economies.

One thing is for sure. More can be done, and needs to be done.

Scott Brown’s Achilles Heel: Voting for Dirtier Air

Scott Brown has parked his pickup truck in New Hampshire and is considering a run for the Senate from the Granite State. The prospect has already set GOP hearts aflutter. They love the idea of their Carhartt-clad candidate giving the popular incumbent Jeanne Shaheen a run for her money.

Brown is a gifted fundraiser who will attract national attention and financial support to the race. But he also comes with an Achilles heel: a track record of voting against children’s health in favor of polluting industries.

Those votes hurt him in Massachusetts, and they will hurt him New Hampshire as well.

The Northeast is known as the tailpipe of our country, because so much of the nation’s pollution filters through the region. This takes a heavy toll on kids. The childhood asthma rate in New England tops 10 percent—one of the highest in the country.

Pollution from power plants, vehicles, and heavy industry is a leading contributor to asthma, heart attacks, and cancer. So is climate change, since hotter temperatures increase the amount of smog in the air. Last July, for instance, officials warned that scorching heat in New England was making air pollution worse and increasing the risk of asthma attacks and heart problems.

Yet when Brown represented Massachusetts in the Senate, he voted for an extreme proposal that would have prevented the Environmental Protection Agency from reducing carbon pollution from power plants. The League of Women Voters ran ads in Massachusetts taking him to task for the vote and linking climate change to increased asthma in children. Polls from before and after the accountability ads showed his popularity ratings drop; voters did not like their lawmaker choosing polluters over their kids’ health.

Brown was unbowed. He supported a Senate budget bill that was called “the worst anti-environmental bill EVER” for its crippling cuts to the EPA and the Department of Energy’s clean energy programs and for its dozens of harmful environmental riders.

Plenty of GOP lawmakers in the Congress have worse records than Brown’s. Yet he is now running against a proven champion of clean air, clean energy, and climate action. Senator Shaheen has earned a score of 100 percent from the League of Conservation Voters for 2013, and a lifetime score of 95 percent. She voted for strong standards for mercury and other air toxins, reductions in cross-state air pollution from power plants, and for firm limits on climate change pollution. She has also sponsored bipartisan legislation to expand energy efficiency—the cleanest and cheapest form of energy we have.

People in New Hampshire –and around the nation—value leaders who stand up for public health and climate action. More than two-thirds of voters in several battleground states say the EPA should limit carbon pollution from power plants, according to a new poll conducted by Harstad Strategic Research, Inc. for the NRDC Action Fund. This includes 53 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of Independents, and 87 percent of Democrats.

Those are powerful numbers, and they don’t bode well for a carpetbagger who is 10 points down and comes with a history of voting in favor of polluters. Brown might consider putting his pickup in reverse and heading back to Massachusetts.

Red, Blue, and Purple States Agree: Limit Carbon Pollution

Conventional wisdom can be a funny thing, especially in politics. It’s often based on anecdote rather than fact. Take the politics of climate, for instance.  The fossil fuel industry, backed by the Koch brothers, have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into defeating environmental champions.  That kind of cash can be scary to an incumbent and can make an issue, like addressing climate change, seem like the third rail of politics.  Never mind that they had a similar win rate in the last election to the 1990 Patriots football team (1-15-0). Never mind that we can now see how climate change is affecting the world around us each day.  Now, with critical mid-terms approaching, some GOP strategists are trying to say that Republicans will benefit in midterm elections if they go on record opposing efforts to clean up our air and protect future generations from climate change.

They are wrong.

Here’s what’s at the center of this scare tactic: The Environmental Protection Agency is gearing up to set limits on carbon pollution from power plants in June. These plants kick out 40 percent of carbon emissions in our country, and yet Republicans leaders are already trying to block the agency from finally cleaning them up. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is actually attempting to force the Senate to vote on (using a maneuver that has no legal basis) to block the carbon limits before they are even proposed.

The fact is, voters want these plants to clean up their carbon pollution. Senators should take notice. More than two-thirds of voters in several battleground states say the EPA should limit carbon pollution from power plants, according to a new poll conducted by Harstad Strategic Research, Inc. for the NRDC Action Fund. This includes 53 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of Independents, and 87 percent of Democrats.

When we commissioned this poll a few weeks ago, some thought we were taking a chance – putting it mildly – by hiring a well-known candidate pollster and encouraging him to ask the hard questions.  We didn’t see it as a risky move because we know that voters have consistently supported clean energy and climate action in countless surveys, and in the 2012 election.

Some thought we were a little crazy when we asked them to focus on the toughest Senate battleground states, places where environmental issues don’t usually take a front seat in politics like, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, North Carolina, Iowa, Michigan, Virginia, Colorado, and New Hampshire. Most of them run purple if not red. Yet even within more conservative communities, people support reducing dangerous carbon pollution by wide margins.

Harstad 1

Earlier this week I briefed several Senators on the results, and some were especially struck by what the numbers say about women voters. Pundits are already calling 2014 the “Year of the Woman”. Women are running in several high-profile races and issues associated with the women electorate are in the headlines every day. Republicans are trying to lure women back after alienating them so thoroughly in 2012 and so the female vote could decide several elections.

Now all candidates have yet another thing to add to their list of issues women care about: supporting limits on dangerous carbon pollution. Women understand (by a margin of 72 percent to 19 percent) that we have a moral obligation to future generations to make the air safer to breathe and the climate more stable. That begins with holding power plants accountable for the carbon they pump into our skies.

Yet this new poll confirms that climate change isn’t just important to women. Male voters (by a margin of 61 percent to 35 percent) want to reduce carbon pollution. Republicans (by a margin of 53 percent to 39 percent) and Democrats (by a margin of 87 percent to 8 percent) want to reduce carbon pollution. And Northerners (by a margin of 69 percent to 25 percent) and Southerners (by a margin of 64 percent to 28 percent) want to do reduce carbon pollution.

Bottom line: climate is shaping up to be one of those issues that defies conventional wisdom. Voters support doing the right thing on climate. Candidates would do well to pay attention.

View Additional Harstad Polling Results: Harstad NRDC AF 2014
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