An Endangered Species on the Ballot in Maine

Here at the NRDC Action Fund, we focus primarily on clean energy and climate change. But there are a host of other issues that are important to us too including clean air, clean water and protecting endangered species. Today’s post will highlight a severely endangered species: the Republican candidate who is Running Clean.

The habitat in the state of Maine seems to be perfectly suited for the species, as evidenced by the state’s senior senator, Susan Collins. Collins, who is running for reelection this year, has a long and strong record of support for environmental protection, land conservation and clean energy. Her record is the strongest of any Republican currently serving in Congress.

Collins, who was first elected in 1996, has consistently supported increased energy efficiency, a renewable electricity standard, and tax incentives for clean energy. Currently, Collins is especially focused on developing deepwater offshore wind energy. On clean air, Collins has voted to uphold EPA standards to reduce soot and mercury pollution from power plants (though she did fall short of “Clean Air Hero” status in 2012 due to her championing of an amendment that would have blocked standards designed to reduce mercury pollution from industrial boilers and incinerators.

Collins accepts the science of climate change and supports action, having called it “the most significant environmental challenge facing our planet.” Collins voted for the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act in 2008, has previously called herself a supporter of cap-and-trade and most recently sponsored a “cap and dividend” bill with Sen. Maria Cantwell.

It is true that Collins’ opponent, Shenna Bellows, should also be commended for her strong stances on environmental issues. However, Collins represents the environmental movements best hope to expand the tent of supporters.  It will be difficult to advance meaningful environmental policy ideas if our priorities continue to be partisan.

If Maine voters are looking not just to elect someone who can make a difference for their state’s environment, but also to make a difference nationally in protecting an “endangered species”, they should remember that Susan Collins is running clean.

Is LePage Ready to Run Clean?

Paul LePage, the governor of Maine, doesn’t seem to get it when it comes to climate change. Despite Maine voters’ clear support for reducing carbon pollution and acting to address climate change, LePage reliably blocks action and denies the gravity of the climate challenge.

LePage’s latest dumbfounding bit of denial was to focus on what he believes is the positive side of climate change. Speaking at a conference, he said,

“Everybody looks at the negative effects of global warming, but with the ice melting, the Northern Passage has opened up. So maybe, instead of being at the end of the pipeline, we’re now at the beginning of a new pipeline.”

While I am certainly a glass-half-full person, climate change is hardly an appropriate place for a nonchalant focus on one person’s perception of a silver lining. In Maine, warmer waters, ocean acidification and extreme weather are threatening clam populations and sea birds. Sea level rise and extreme weather events threaten the state’s coastline. LePage’s certainty on the upside of global warming is also interesting considering his previous comments that climate change is a “hoax” and a “scam” with the science unsettled. If the impacts of a warming world are so apparent in one instance, why not in the others?

I can only hope that LePage’s clumsy climate comments are a sign that he is joining the vast majority of Americans in accepting the truth of climate change science. Certainly many in his own political party, including 61% of non-Tea Party Republicans, accept the science. Perhaps LePage’s shift from denier to opportunist is a sign that he’s understanding his constituents’ views better. After all, polling conducted for the NRDC Action Fund found that 83% of Mainers wanted a reduction in industrial carbon pollution.

We will soon have a chance to see what Mainers think of LePage’s views (and actions) when it comes to addressing climate change and promoting (or obstructing) clean energy. LePage is up for reelection in November 2014 and will face off against Rep. Mike Michaud, a strong supporter of clean energy and climate action. In contrast to his opponent, Michaud says “Any potential benefit of allowing climate change to continue unaddressed is far outweighed by the danger of our failure to act.”

Michaud’s gotten the message that running clean works. Will LePage?

 

NRDC ACTION FUND THANKS SENATORS COLLINS AND SNOWE FOR PROTECTING KIDS FROM MERCURY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

July 2, 2012

Five-Figure Television Ad Buy Highlights Senators’ Vote to Stand Up to Polluters

WASHINGTON, D.C. –The NRDC Action Fund today launched a five-figure TV ad campaign in Maine to commend Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, the state’s two senators, for voting on June 20, against a proposal to repeal historic public health protections against mercury pollution from power plants.

“Thanks to the leadership of Senators Collins and Snowe, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard, an essential clean air standard, remains intact,” said Heather Taylor-Miesle, NRDC Action Fund Director. “Families and children across Maine can literally breathe a sigh of relief because Senators Collins and Snowe protected public health while standing up to dirty polluters. ”

The ad reflects the feelings of millions of families, as well as, public interest advocates across the country who opposed Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe’s use of an obscure Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution (S.J. Res 37) to try to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s finalized Mercury and Air Toxics Standard. Stopping this attempt to weaken public health standards will save thousands of American lives annually and will prevent these dangerous industrial air pollutants from endangering families and children in Maine.

According to the EPA, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard will save as many as 11,000 lives, prevent as many as 130,000 asthma attacks among children, and prevent as many as 4,700 heart attacks each year. And, according to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, mercury levels in Maine fish, loons, and eagles are among the highest in North America.  

The ad campaign, sponsored by the NRDC Action Fund, will run in Portland and Bangor from July 2 until July 6, 2012. See the ads here: http://youtu.be/2jbvtbdLr4s 

CONTACT: Melissa Harrison (NRDC Action Fund), 202-486-1905, mharrison@nrdc.org; Keven Kennedy, 202-276-3159, keven@kevenkennedy.com

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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.

Snowe’s Retirement A Blow to Bipartisanship, Environmental Protection

Along with the rest of Washington I was shocked to hear Maine Senator Olympia Snowe’s announcement that she would not seek a fourth term. While many progressive voices cheered the announcement and the likely pickup of the seat for Democrats, I found myself saddened. Snowe’s departure will leave a gaping hole in the Senate and in the environmental movement where moderate voices once stood.

Snowe has been one of the few Republicans remaining in Washington who was willing to go against the Tea Party and Republican party leaders and vote for the environment, opposing offshore drilling, protecting clean air, and supporting action on climate change.

Snowe cited “polarization” in Washington as a reason for her departure. It’s easy to see what she means. Today, in general, Republicans in Congress seem to oppose environmental protection while Democrats support it. It wasn’t always like this. A Republican, President Richard Nixon, established the EPA. The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 passed the House in a vote of 401 to 25 .

This new polarization doesn’t reflect our country. Just today we see a new poll that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that climate change is real. Yet, we can’t get near that level of support for action in either the House or Senate. Seventy-five percent of Americans want EPA to set air pollution standards. Yet, Snowe was one of only six Republicans to vote to protect EPA’s Good Neighbor Rule.

While Snowe may be replaced with someone even more consistently pro-environment, our joy will be bittersweet. We know that the key to a sustainable environmental majority is strong, bipartisan support for clean air, clean energy and our other issues. The loss of Olympia Snowe moves us further from that goal.

Photo credit: Miles Grant