NRDC Action Fund’s Weekly News Summary

This is what the NRDC Action Fund has been reading this week:

Paul Ryan announces proposals that seek to find common ground with Donald Trump. Photo: EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo

Paul Ryan announces proposals that seek to find common ground with Donald Trump. Photo: EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo

#NeverTrump Will stark differences on the issue of climate change between the candidates unify the electorate against Trump? (The Hill)

Paul Ryan vs. the planet – House Speaker Paul Ryan released a plan to roll back Obama’s signature reforms including the Clean Power Plan. Ryan’s plan is an attempt to find common ground between the GOP and the country’s Climate-Denier-in-Chief, Donald Trump. (Washington Post)

How Clinton won California — With last-minute endorsements, including from the NRDC Action Fund, Hillary won the California primary by a 13-point margin. (Washington Post)

Supreme Court rejects challenge to Obama air pollution rule, again – In a big win for the Obama administration (and American families), the Supreme Court refused to hear yet another request from states to overturn the EPA’s 2012 mercury rule. (The Hill)

Transportation is now America’s biggest climate problem – For the first time in over 35 years, America’s cars, trucks, and planes emit more carbon dioxide than its power plants do. (Vox)

The world nears peak fossil fuels for electricity – As renewable energy becomes cheaper and cheaper, global demand for fossil fuel electricity production will continue to fall. What happens when our cars go electric, too? (Bloomberg)

Obama Urges Confidence, Fearlessness in Facing Climate Change

Obama in Alaska

President Barack Obama tours the Kenai Fjords National Park during his visit to Alaska on September 1, 2015, as part of an effort to highlight the importance of combating climate change.

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama mapped out a future for our nation that prioritizes climate action. He called for marshalling American ingenuity to expand the clean energy economy and make the world safer for the next generation. “A sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids… is within our reach,” he said, but progress is not inevitable. It’s the result of the choices we make.

Americans face a major choice this November. Elections are some of the most important decisions we make, and this cycle will determine our country’s response to climate change for years to come.

Will we elect a president who ignores the climate threat and sides with polluting industries? Or will we elect a president who confronts climate change and puts our nation on a road to cleaner air, lower energy bills and more vibrant communities?

Tuesday night revealed the stark contrast before us.

When Governor Nikki Haley gave the GOP rebuttal to President Obama’s address, she didn’t once mention climate change. She didn’t say a single word about the threat that made 2015 the hottest year on record and contributed to extreme weather events like the winter floods which pummeled Midwestern communities, left more than 25 dead and caused an estimated $1 billion in damages.

Given the position of the Republican presidential candidates, silence, while irresponsible, is almost a relief.  Some of the Republican presidential contenders still question the science of climate change, and they oppose the concrete steps President Obama has taken to address it.  Indeed, none of the leading Republican presidential candidates has offered a positive agenda for addressing climate change or preserving the environment.

Senator Ted Cruz denounces climate science and has said people who recognize climate change are “the equivalent of the flat-Earthers.” Donald Trump told Fox News that the Paris climate talks were “ridiculous” and that “I think [global warming] is a big scam for a lot of people to make a lot of money.” Senator Marco Rubio has relied on the “I’m not a scientist” line and opposes any effort to address climate change.

And when Governor Chris Christie was asked whether he would have attended the Paris climate if he were president, he simply responded: “Hell no!”

President Obama revealed how far afield these GOP attitudes are in his Tuesday night address: “Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it.  You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.”

It is the American people who will determine if our nation can move forward with climate action. President Obama has ushered in important progress, from increasing fuel efficiency in cars to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 to setting national limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

More work needs to be done, but the President’s actions thus far confirm why elections matter. The steps President Obama has taken reflect promises he made on the campaign trail. He ran on climate action, people held him to it, and he delivered.

While the public is cynical about this, the best indicator of what a President will do is what he’s said on the campaign trail.  If one of the Republicans now running for President wins the White House, we will see a US president work to reverse the Clean Power Plan, try to renege on the Paris climate agreement, subsidize polluting energy companies, and turn his back on the millions of Americans suffering from extreme drought, flooding and fires. All the Democratic candidates, in contrast, have vowed to ensure America continues to lead on climate action, clean energy and resilient communities.

This is the choice before us.  It would be hard to exaggerate what’s at stake.

In his address on Tuesday, President Obama asked, “Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear… Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, what we stand for, and the incredible things we can do together?” The November election will indicate which path America will take.

Undo New Carbon Rules? No Way.

Now that the government shutdown is over (for now) and debt default avoided (for now), the Tea Party extremists in Congress will likely get back to their more typical day jobs of denying climate change and trying to undermine environmental protection. In the midst of the shutdown we told you on our Facebook page  about legislation introduced by Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia that would, if enacted, undo recently proposed rules to limit carbon pollution at new coal-fired power plants.

CRA blog fb pic 10.22.13

The resolution, H.J. 64, was introduced pursuant to the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The CRA allows for Congress to formally “disapprove” of major rules issued by executive agencies. Passage of a CRA resolution results in the rule not going into effect and prevents the agency from ever promulgating a substantially similar rule again. Keep in mind, agencies issue rules pursuant to the laws previously passed by Congress. And realize that McKinley’s legislative weapon of choice may only disapprove final rules, not mere proposed rules like the one released by EPA for public input.  But setting aside this obvious defect, if the McKinley resolution were to succeed, EPA’s hands would be tied in implementing a key part of the Clean Air Act’s direction to limit the harm of a dangerous air pollutant (carbon) because EPA would be prohibited from issuing a similar rule to limit carbon coming from new power plants.

While McKinley may be getting support from his coal industry supporters, it’s important for fans of a stable climate to keep in mind that this bill has little support outside of the extreme Tea Party wing of Congress and those with vested interests in building new, dirty coal plants. Here are a few reminders for representatives who might be considering sponsoring the McKinley resolution:

Americans of all political stripes want to ACT on climate. The most recent polling finds that 87 percent of Americans support some EPA action on climate change, including 78 percent of Republicans and 94 percent of Democrats.

  1. Doomed to fail. Congress has considered CRA resolutions that attempted to undermine climate action and the Clean Air Act recently. Each time a majority of senators has rejected these dangerous attempts to harm public health.
  2. President Obama cares about climate change. “Today, for the sake of our children, and the health and safety of all Americans, I’m directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants, and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.” President Obama uttered these words in his June speech on climate change. The President has the authority to veto a CRA resolution. There is no way President Obama would participate in undermining something he explicitly directed EPA to do.

It’s time for Congress to get to work, solving the real problems that face this country. They should stop wasting time on efforts that are both unpopular and unlikely to succeed. The question for you, dear readers, is whether your representatives know how you feel on this issue.



Ready to Join the Fight

In the bustle of journeying to Georgetown University with a dozen NRDC staff and interns on Tuesday, June 25, I wanted to imprint on my mind each moment leading up to President Obama’s climate change policy address.  It was a historic day for environmentalists, children, quiet moments, and hand towels.  That sweltering afternoon, the United States president acknowledged his authority and seized the opportunity to make lasting and long-awaited progress on energy and environmental policy.  With other members of the Climate Action Coalition (CAC), we lined the streets to affirm the president’s position and drum up noise from passersby and attendees.

Having carefully followed the announcement’s news coverage over the preceding days, I expected throngs of raucous representatives from environmental organizations, brandishing supportive placards and rallying enthusiasm for action on climate change.  I also anticipated a strong showing against the coming announcement.  But if there were any “climate change deniers” or others fearing the economic ramifications of the plan, they didn’t make themselves known.

Instead, upon entering the Georgetown campus we were met by demonstrators demanding the Obama administration reject the Keystone XL pipeline proposal.  Dissatisfied with compromising when it comes to environmental health, the demonstrators were appreciative of Obama’s anticipated investment in cleaner energy and direction of the EPA to restrict carbon pollution.  But they wanted him to go further.

These demonstrators later joined the NRDC, the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, and other environmental groups as we cheered Obama’s leadership.  We united at the dignitaries’ entrance, chanting our message – “Hey, Barack! Let me hear that climate talk!” – and even got a smile and wave from Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.

Obama’s speech reflected bold leadership and common sense strategies to both slow the threats of climate change and prepare for its impacts.  It also showed the pragmatism required to enable future progress on limiting carbon emissions and cleaning up our air and waters, ensuring above all that we protect Americans’ health.

Obama utilized his executive powers to make a monumental shift in United States’ economic and environmental values, expanding the clean energy economy and ending the era of power plants’ free reign when it comes to carbon pollution.  The administration increased by 60% the “Social Cost of Carbon” (SCC) used to perform cost/benefit analyses of proposed EPA and other federal agency policies, and increased the energy efficiency standards of appliances.  In his speech, Obama acknowledged the fossil fuel divestment movement and encouraged citizens to push for progress at the local level.  “Speak up for the facts,” he said.  Obama is forging ahead on climate action, understanding that voters value the environment and the wellbeing of their children, as do a growing number of U.S. Congressmen and women.  The president wants policy decisions made based on sound science, just like the majority of Americans.

Fractures in the support of Obama’s plan were tangible at the rally.  Some environmentalists were cautious in their reaction to the president’s ambiguity on the Keystone XL decision (which has both environmentalists and oil companies claiming victory), and are eager for more aggressive carbon reduction goals. The President’s emphasis on natural gas production raises questions about how fracking regulation will be affected.

But even so, the unity of environmentalists was clear and strong in support of the immensely progressive step Obama has taken to face the climate challenge.  We demonstrators came together, wielding signs touting clean air, renewable energy, and action on climate.  Combatting climate change, Obama says, is a moral concern and an economically wise issue.  His announcement is a refreshing reminder of eco-conscious voices’ rising volume.  Now is the time to see Obama’s vision through, and expand it.  I can’t wait to join this fight.

*Kerry Nix is a summer intern with NRDC and the NRDC Action Fund. She is a student at Wesleyan University.

This is When America Got Serious About Confronting Climate Change


President Obama laid out a climate action plan on Tuesday that will dramatically reduce global warming pollution and expand the clean energy economy. The plan is strong and concrete and will deliver lasting benefits to the American people. It is the kind of breakthrough that presidential legacies are built upon. In years to come, people will point to Obama’s plan and say: this is when America got serious about confronting climate change.

The American people will welcome this display of leadership. Voters support the climate solutions President Obama has proposed in his plan—from expanding wind and solar energy to calling on power plants to clean up their pollution. They know these measures are good for our health, our communities, and our economy.

We see it in last year’s election results, when voters overwhelmingly favored candidates who support clean energy, clean air, and public health safeguards. And we see it in poll after poll.

A Stanford University poll, for instance, found that 82 percent of Americans think the country should prepare for climate change. A Georgetown survey released yesterday reported that 87 percent of Americans–including 78 percent of Republicans–support the Environmental Protection Agency taking action to reduce carbon pollution.  And a Gallup poll said that 76 percent of Americans think the U.S. should generate more solar power and 71 percent called for more wind.

These voters know that clean energy is creating new jobs and helping make the air safer to breathe. And they also know climate change is becoming a bigger threat to our families and communities. It’s already making its presence known in the form of extreme drought, storms, and fires into our communities. More than 500 homes were burned to the ground in the fires around Colorado Springs this month. More than 305,000 homes in New York were damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Nobody wants this kind of expense and heartbreak to descend on their town.

And that’s why more Americans have been calling for climate action. When the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for new power plants, the agency received more than 3 million comments in favor of the standards—more than the EPA had received on any other issue in its history.

And yet in the coming weeks, carbon polluters and their allies in Congress will try to discount this groundswell of support. Oil and gas companies want to keep their stranglehold on America’s energy system, and they donate heavily to political campaigns and like to throw their weight around. They are going to try scare folks into thinking that stabilizing our climate and growing the renewable energy sector is somehow bad for America. We have to stand strong and spread the truth.

If the polluters say cutting carbon pollution from power plants will raise the cost of electricity, tell them NRDC concluded that people could actually save hundreds of dollars on their utility bills. If they say confronting climate change will hurt the economy, point out that more than 120,000 Americans work in the solar industry, and more than 150,000 people work building parts for and assembling clean cars. And if they say climate change isn’t a real threat, remind them of the 123 people who died from last July’s record-breaking heat or the farmers who got $12 billion in insurance payments for crop damage after last year’s record-breaking drought.

Telling these truths and telling our lawmakers we support action will help ensure our nation follows through on President’ Obama’s climate plan. But we can’t do it alone. The president must build on the leadership he demonstrated on Tuesday and repeat over and over again why climate action is good for our nation.

The NRDC Action Fund has looked at the results of several recent elections, and we found that candidates who frame the clean energy and climate debate first—before their opponents—and don’t back away from their position not only become trusted leaders on energy issues but they also win over voters.

The lesson is clear: President Obama can dominate the debate about his climate plan and lead America into a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.

 Let’s keep the fight going, ask your senators to join in: