5 Ways the Midterms Will Shape the Clean Energy and Climate Future

Now that Labor Day is behind us, the campaign season is about to heat up in earnest. Candidates, strategists, and pundits will vie for the spotlight from now until November 4. Yet try as they might, midterms never garner as much attention as presidential cycles.

This year’s election, though, matters more than most.

The outcome of the 2014 races could have a major impact on the air we breathe, the health of our families, and the intensity of the climate change outside our doors.

Victory could come for candidates who take millions of dollars for fossil fuel companies and ignore the climate threat—I call these folks the Dirty Denier$. Or environmental champions will triumph and expand clean energy and climate action to protect our health and create jobs.

The choices we make in the voting booth always carry weight, but they have even greater heft in a year when control of the Senate is up for grabs, when GOP leaders have promised to roll back decades-worth of public health and environmental safeguards, and when the threat of climate change grows more severe.

Here are five forces that could shape the outcome of the 2014 midterm.

Climate Denial Is Alive and Well in the GOP

Two weeks ago, Scott Brown was asked if “the theory of man-made climate change has been scientifically proven.” His reply: “Uh, no.” Yet when Brown was campaigning for Senator from Massachusetts in 2012, he said, “I absolutely believe that climate change is real and I believe there’s a combination between man-made and natural.” Now that he is running in New Hampshire, he backpedalled. Brown isn’t alone. Across the nation, Republicans either deny the existence of human-caused climate change or feign ignorance because they aren’t trained scientists. If these lawmakers gain a majority, they will try at every turn to stop the Obama Administration from fulfilling the President’s Climate Action Plan.

McConnell Would Use a Majority to Dismantle Safeguards

Since 2010, GOP lawmakers in the House have voted several hundred times to undermine public health and environmental protections. They haven’t just gone after measures associated with President Obama. They’ve dug deep and torn into the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and other bedrock laws that have held firm for four decades. The only thing stopping these radical bills from becoming law? A lack of support in the Senate. But Senator Mitch McConnell says if he wins a majority, he will launch his own attack, using bills and policy riders to strip away protections that keep our water clean and our air safe to breathe. He will also wage an assault on every effort to shield our communities from climate change. And he’s willing to even shut down the government to implement his radical agenda.

Fossil Fuel Companies Are Looking for Better Results

Oil and gas companies and their allies have spent more than $31 million on this election already. They favor lawmakers who put industry concerns before the public interest. Senator Marco Rubio, Representative Fred Upton, Senator Mitch McConnell and other Dirty Denier$ have accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars each from the fossil fuel industry. They have also voted for oil and gas subsidies and tried to prevent the EPA from finalizing limits on climate change pollution from power plants—the nation’s largest source of carbon emissions. But industry investments don’t always pay off. The US Chamber of Commerce, known for its climate denial and fossil-fuel friendly policies, spent more than $32 million in the 2012 election but achieved less than 7 percent of desired outcomes.

Smart Candidates Are Running Clean

It turns out voters prefer leaders who stand up to polluters. In the 2012 cycle, candidates who supported clean energy and climate action won up and down the ticket, even in contested purple states. Recent polling shows that sentiment is growing.  More than two-thirds of voters in 11 battleground states say the EPA should limit carbon pollution from power plants, according to a March poll done by Harstad Strategic Research for the NRDC Action Fund. The poll was conducted in red and purple states, and still 53 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of independents and 87 percent of Democrats supported carbon limits. Many 2014 candidates—including Michigan’s Gary Peters, Colorado’s Mark Udall, and New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen—have recognized that running for office on a platform of protecting the environment, promoting clean sources of energy, and curbing climate change is a proven winner.

Environmental Champions Could Make Climate History

President Obama has called on the EPA to do the single most important thing the US can to fight climate change right now: limit carbon pollution from power plants. These plants kick out 40 percent of all carbon emissions in the country, and cleaning them up will help us defuse the climate threat. An environmental majority in Congress will help the EPA realize this goal. It would also help expand renewable power and strengthen environmental safeguards.  Lawmakers could point to these accomplishments and say: this is when America began combating climate change and building the clean energy future.

 

 

#DirtyDenier$ Day 12: Rob Portman

Rob Portman

Despite his easy smile, when it comes to energy and climate, Sen. Rob Portman is a conflicted man.

On the one hand, he’s a cosponsor of a bipartisan Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill. It would help people waste less energy by promoting energy efficiency measures for homes and businesses. It would move us toward cleaner sources of energy, clean energy technologies and help promote clean energy jobs.

On the other hand, Portman is a climate change denier who has fought efforts to address this growing environmental challenge. On climate change, Portman has said:  “When you analyze all the data, there is a warming trend according to science. But the jury is out on the degree of how much is manmade.” That’s not what scientists say; it’s Portman who’s trying to create a hung jury.

Portman’s record shows a pattern of anti-environment stances promoted by GOP leadership. He backed a measure to permanently block the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing any standards to limit greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.  He also voted to strip $60 million worth of funding for advanced biofuels in the Department of Defense budget, even with military installations in Ohio tasked with developing alternative fuels.

Furthermore, Portman’s a sponsor of the egregious Regulatory Accountability Act, which would make it next to impossible for the federal government to issue any new protections for the public, including those for health, safety and the environment.  Practically speaking, Portman’s support of this bill tells Ohioans to trust Congress with protecting vital necessities like their drinking water, rather than experts at the Environmental Protection Agency. I don’t know about you, but I know who I would trust before handing my child a glass of tap water.

During his Senate career, Portman has received $385,000 from oil and gas interests and $346,000 from political action committees known as leadership PACs set up by colleagues in Congress who support Republican candidates.

Our advice: Senator Portman should show some independence from the GOP leadership’s agenda to derail any federal action to reduce climate change. Ohioans deserve Portman to protect their health and represent their best interests, not dirty polluters.

#DirtyDenier$ Day 7: Congressman Leonard Lance

Leonard Lance

When it comes to environmental protections and addressing climate change, Congressman Leonard Lance is, in the words of Lewis Carroll, getting “curiouser and curiouser.”

Lance once had a respectable environmental record.  Not so long ago, in 2009, the New Jersey 7th District lawmaker helped pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act, a bill that would have limited carbon pollution from power plants. Back then, Lance earned a 71 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters for supporting key environmental measures, placing him squarely in the moderate wing of the GOP, which has since has gone the way of the dodo.

And Congressman Lance? Nowadays, he’s become a consistent supporter of the GOP leadership’s far-right agenda to weaken public health safeguards for our air, land, water and climate, and that’s why he’s landed on the Daily Dirty Denier$ list.

Lance backed a bill to block the Environmental Protection Agency from using the Clean Air Act to limit power plant carbon pollution, a bill empowering other agencies to stop EPA action on climate, a bill making it next to impossible to create any new public safeguards in any area, and he opposed a bill affirming the scientific findings of climate change.

He voted for amendments by House GOP colleagues Reps. Murphy, Lankford, and McKinley disavowing the costs of climate change.

The new (but certainly not improved) Rep. Lance isn’t shy about his conservative makeover. He’s backed the major budget plans proposed by GOP Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan that would drastically cut environmental protections. Not surprisingly his League of Conservation Voters rating plummeted to 21 percent in 2013 and will be kept low by his anti-environment votes this year.

Among his major campaign donors has been the Every Republican is Crucial PAC, a political action committee headed by the right-wing former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Our advice: Lance should get back in line with his district, and the majority in the nation, by favoring strong federal environmental safeguards and taking action against the growing threat of climate change.

 

#DirtyDenier$ Day 5: Congressman John M. Shimkus

John Shimkus

Why is Congressman John Shimkus smiling? Maybe it’s because over the course of his career he has raised more than $500,000 from the oil and gas industry. These dirty polluters account for one of the top five industries contributing to his campaign war chest.

It’s not just dirty money that earns Congressman Shimkus today’s Dirty Denier award, it’s his opposition to reducing dangerous carbon pollution. With the ink barely dry on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, he issued the following statement: “Without a doubt, this new front in the War on Coal will raise electricity rates – especially in the Midwest – and cost hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs nationwide. This rule will be all pain and no gain for American energy consumers and job seekers.”

As a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and chairman of its subcommittee on environment and the economy, Shimkus is helping lead the legislative agenda of polluters. He has co-sponsored bills to expand drilling and legislation supported by FredomWorks that would allow coal companies to dump pollution into our water. No wonder he has a lifetime score of 7 percent with the League of Conservation Voters.

On top of the dirty votes, Shimkus also has a number of unscientific thoughts on climate change. Here’s one statement: “When we breathe in, we breathe oxygen. When we breathe out, we breathe out carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is not a toxic emittent.” And another: If we decrease the use of carbon dioxide are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere?”

Our advice: We wished Shimkus cared enough to dump his dirty votes and campaign contributions and unscientific theories in favor of protecting the whole earth.

#DirtyDenier$ Day 4: Congressman Cory Gardner

Cory Gardner

Why is Congressman Cory Gardner smiling? Maybe it’s because in just four years in Congress, he has raised $695,000 from dirty polluters from the oil and gas industry, who happen to be the largest source of his contributions. In addition, the oil billionaire Koch Brothers have already spent several million dollars, separate from Gardner’s own campaign operation, trying to help him unseat climate champion Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO). This includes  $1 million in March to buy television ads; a portion of a $1.1 million ad buy in April, plus two more ad buys totaling $550,000 in May.

It’s not hard to figure out why the Koch brothers would want Gardner in the Senate. In 2012, he was the lead sponsor in the House of a bill that was a total giveaway to oil and gas companies. He has repeatedly voted to protect taxpayer subsidies for highly profitable oil companies. And Gardner is leading the charge trying to make sure government doesn’t act on climate change.

Gardner’s dirty votes and fossil-fueled campaign chest easily place him on the Daily Dirty Denier$ list. Don’t believe us? Here’s what he has to say about climate change, “I don’t believe humans are causing that change to the extent that’s been in the news.” To top it all off he voted to deny the EPA’s scientific findings that industrial carbon pollution threatens the health and well-being of Americans.

Gardner’s dirty denier ways landed him on the League of Conservation Voters Dirty Dozen list and are totally out of step with Colorado voters.  In fact our battleground polling, which included Colorado, showed that 69 percent of voters in those states favor an EPA plan to address climate change that aims to reduce dangerous carbon pollution.

Our advice: now is the time for Gardner to get in step with Colorado voters and support action on climate change. It would also be refreshing if he stopped raking in cash from the Koch brothers and their polluter allies.