Bush’s newly released energy policy looks backwards

Standing at a Pennsylvania oil and gas company with a history of more than one hundred environmental violations, presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced an energy plan just as fraught with failures. With today’s release of the plan, Bush has cemented his place among the many contenders for the White House who are keeping their heads firmly in the sand about climate change.

Bush’s proposed energy policies ignore the realities of climate change, as well as the will of his own voter base. A late August 2015 poll showed that a majority of Republicans believe climate change is real and that humans may be contributing to it. And 72 percent of GOP voters support developing and using clean energy.

Bush barely mentions clean energy technologies in his plan. Instead, he wants to cut regulations, build the Keystone XL pipeline, encourage drilling, and generally follow the agenda of big polluters that have given so generously to his campaign.

He says he wants to create jobs, but Bush’s plan will worsen climate change – costing jobs – and will undercut the booming clean energy economy in an ill-fated attempt to prop up big polluter industries. In contrast, clean energy industries have been adding hundreds of thousands of jobs each year. One NRDC study found that the Clean Power Plan could create more than 274,000 jobs and save consumers billions on their electricity bills, yet Bush’s plan seeks to scrap the plan altogether.

Fittingly, Bush chose Rice Energy as the setting for his energy plan announcement. While Rice Energy was racking up environmental violations, Pennsylvania’s clean energy economy has been growing and providing jobs for nearly 60,000 workers at more than 4,000 businesses with a strong employment growth rate of 8.5 percent.

Gov. Bush’s policy is so completely backwards facing that it’s hard to believe Gov. Bush is serious with this proposal. America needs a leader with a vision for a clean energy future, not a throwback to the big polluter agenda that got us into this mess.

American voters overwhelmingly favor serious action to protect the planet for their kids and grandkids, so Jeb Bush and the rest of the presidential candidates will have to do a lot better than this if they’re going to convince Americans they’re focused on the future rather than stuck in the past.

NRDC Action Fund’s Ad Campaign Tells Sen. Toomey: Support the Clean Power Plan

Toomey AF digital ad

This week, the NRDC Action Fund is launching a nearly $1 million ad campaign in Pennsylvania urging Senator Pat Toomey to take a bold step on climate change by backing the Clean Power Plan.

Why focus on Sen. Toomey? He has voted to block climate action at every turn, including voting against the Clean Power Plan—America’s historic effort to limit carbon pollution from power plants.

Pennsylvanians deserve a senator who will stand up for their health, not push the big polluter agenda.  Our TV ad calls out Sen. Toomey on this vital issue. Climate change is serious in Pennsylvania – communities across Pennsylvania got hit with five heat waves this summer. The state was also soaked with nearly twice the average amount of rain in June. Hot, rainy summers are part of life in the Keystone State, but climate change is making them worse. According to a new report from Penn State, Pennsylvania will experience more destructive storms and be over 5 degrees warmer within 35 years. Experts say that means more smog, asthma attacks, property damage and bankrupt ski resorts.

Pennsylvanians know we need to tackle climate change. Seventy-two percent of Pennsylvania voters, for instance, support the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to limit climate change pollution from power plants, according to a survey from Hart Research Associates. Even in western coal-producing regions, 63 percent say the EPA should limit this dangerous pollution. And a large majority of Pennsylvania Republicans—58 percent—feels the same.

Unfortunately, so far, instead of representing his constituents’ interests, Sen. Toomey has been taking the side of dirty industries. Sen. Toomey has taken more than $1 million from polluters, and now he wants to let them keep pumping unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into our air.

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According to the League of Conservation Voter’s analysis, in 2013 Sen. Toomey opposed every single piece of environmental legislation that LCV tracked except one. This includes votes against limits on toxic air pollution from power plants, disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy, Department of Defense investments in biofuels, and safeguards against climate change. He signed on to Senator Mitch McConnell’s 2014 letter urging President Obama to withdraw the Clean Power Plan. And earlier this year, he joined 98 other senators in acknowledging that climate change is not a hoax and that humans play a role in the crisis, but he opposed an amendment stating that humans “significantly” contribute to climate change.

Meanwhile, he has failed to provide or support a single proposal for how the nation can defuse the climate threat.

Solutions exist. America has the clean energy resources we need to slash carbon pollution and shield future generations from the destructive power of climate change. The Clean Power Plan will unleash many of those solutions, and in the process, it will prevent 90,000 asthma attacks and 3,600 premature deaths a year and generate enormous energy and cost savings.

Pennsylvania will reap these benefits. The state is already home to 4,200 clean energy companies—companies have created 57,000 jobs in the state. The wind industry has invested more than $2.7 billion in the state, and the solar sector attracted more than $114 million to Pennsylvania in 2013 alone.  The Clean Power Plan will expand these opportunities. According to an NRDC analysis, Pennsylvania could see the creation of 5,100 new jobs and the state’s households and businesses will save $465 million on their electric bills in 2020 if the state takes a bold approach to reducing carbon pollution.

Yet instead of fostering these benefits, Sen. Toomey is aligning himself with dirty energy donors. It’s time for him to change course and stand with the people of Pennsylvania. It’s time for Sen. Toomey to support the Clean Power Plan—and the good jobs, clean air, and reduced climate risk it will deliver.

Pete Altman is the Climate Campaign Director for the NRDC Action Fund.

Toomey Votes Out of Touch with Pennsylvanians

Senator Toomey’s home in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley is only about 3 hours from Washington, DC, but judging from the senator’s voting record the past few weeks, it seems a world away. Toomey has cast one vote after another designed to block action on climate change, undermine clean energy growth, and weaken protections for air and water.

Meanwhile, back in Pennsylvania, the vast majority of residents have been calling for the exact opposite.

A full 72 percent of Pennsylvania voters, for instance, support the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to limit climate change pollution from power plants, according to a survey from Hart Research Associates. Even in western coal-producing regions, 63 percent say the EPA should limit this dangerous pollution. And a large majority of Pennsylvanian Republicans—58 percent—feels the same.

Toomey hasn’t gotten the message. The NRDC Action Fund gave him a Dirty Denier award last year for voting against every piece of environmental legislation except one in 2013. Now he is siding with the GOP leadership’s Big Polluter Agenda instead of his state’s own interests.

Perhaps it has something to do with the $445,966 Toomey has received from the oil and gas industries. Or the $865,283 he’s gotten from the conservative Club for Growth, an organization which consistently opposes climate action and where Toomey served as president from 2005 through 2009.

It’s time to bring the news home. Washington, DC is not Las Vegas, and what happens here shouldn’t stay here. People deserve to know what Toomey’s polluter-friendly votes could mean for Pennsylvania.

The nation’s leading experts report that, if we fail to reduce climate change pollution, stronger heat waves and smoggier air will pose significant threats to Pennsylvanians’ health. They also will be hit by more intense storms and floods, like those that came with Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene.

You wouldn’t know it based on Toomey’s votes when the Senate took up the GOP’s Keystone XL bill.

Climate Denial: Toomey voted to acknowledge that climate change is not a hoax and that humans play a role in the crisis, but he opposed an amendment stating that humans “significantly” contribute to climate change. That’s like refusing to say gravity “significantly” contributes to falling objects. Overwhelming evidence confirms that pollution from human activity causes climate change. To shy away from these facts in any way is to deny scientific reality. And to fail to offer any solutions is to leave Americans vulnerable to harm.

Clean Energy Blockade: More than 57,000 Pennsylvanians currently work at 4,200 clean energy businesses across the state. Yet Toomey voted down two amendments that would help solar and wind industries expand—even as he supports giving dirty fossil fuels a free pass from cleaning up their pollution.

Dirty Air: Toomey and his colleague from Pennsylvania, Democratic Senator Casey, introduced an amendment that would give power plants that burn “waste coal” a free pass on clean air safeguards. These protections reduce acid rain pollution and sulfur dioxide linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses.  Pennsylvania has 14 of these plants, and though many similar plants already meet the standards, this amendment would exempt the Keystone State’s polluters—leaving residents to breathe dirtier air.

It’s disappointing to see Casey co-sponsor this dirty amendment, especially when he is usually a champion of clean energy and climate action.

Lawmakers of both parties would be wise to refocus on building a sustainable energy future for their state. Most Pennsylvanians want to tackle climate change and clean up pollution. And those same voters will be going to the polls in 2016 when Senator Toomey is up for reelection.


DirtyDenier$ Day 14: Pat Toomey

Pat Toomey

One look at Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey’s voting record in 2013 explains why he is the winner of our next Dirty Denier$ award. He voted against every piece of environmental legislation except one. This includes votes against disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy, military investments in biofuels, clean water protections, climate change safeguards, toxic air pollution from power plants—even the confirmation Gina McCarthy as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

To top off his dirty votes, Senator Toomey’s number one campaign contributor is the conservative Club for Growth, which has donated $865,283 to him. He served as the Club’s president after leaving the House of Representatives and before winning a seat in the Senate in 2010. The Club has a history of opposing action on climate change and wrongly asserting that climate action would impose tremendous costs on the American economy. He has also received $445,966 from the oil and gas industries.

He’s certainly continued to make the Club and his polluter donors happy.  Senator Toomey has earned a lifetime score of just 9 percent from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and was named to their Dirty Dozen in 2010. In naming him to the Dirty Dozen, LCV cited his support for “dangerous oil drilling off of America’s coasts as well as in Lake Erie” and “his staunch opposition to comprehensive energy and climate legislation that creates jobs, reduces pollution and increases our national security a key part of his campaign.” It’s not just his voting record and campaign contributions from dirty polluters which show he’s a dirty denier, he’s said it himself. When running for Senate in 2010, Toomey said that the notion that humans are causing global warming is “very much disputed.”

Our advice: Get the facts, Senator Toomey. The science behind global warming isn’t in doubt. Get up to speed and start taking action. Otherwise, you might find your constituents taking action to elect someone who will.


Rep. Altmire: Your Pants Are Officially On Fire

Pennsylvania Congressman Jason Altmire is learning a hard lesson this week: When you vote repeatedly for bills that will mean more illness and death for your constituents, you have to expect to “own” those votes.

And make no mistake about it, Rep. Altmire has repeatedly voted to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from protecting public health and Pennsylvania families from dangerous mercury pollution and smog. (HR2250, House Vote 791, 10/13/11; HR2681, House Vote 764, 10/6/11; HR2401, House Vote 741, 9/23/11; HR1, House Vote 86, 2/17/11).

That’s why the League of Conservation Voters and the NRDC Action Fund is running this TV spotin Rep. Altmire’s congressional District.

In his defense … well, it isn’t much of a defense, really. So, let’s let Rep. Altmire speak for himself and then look at the facts in each case.

Altmire complains that “Once again, a Washington, D.C.-based special interest group has come into western Pennsylvania…”

Funny, Altmire doesn’t seem to have any problem with Washington, D.C. when it comes to fat-cat campaign contributions from energy and other industries. In fact, an analysis of his contributors reveals that his four biggest donors have Washington, D.C. addresses and five out of his top ten donors are based in Washington, DC.

Altmire says: “When I travel around Western Pennsylvania to discuss the factors holding back our economic recovery, onerous EPA regulations are at the top of the list.”

We say: Not so much. According to polling conducted by several different business groups, regulations are NOT on the top of the list:

  • The Small Business Majority (SBM) recently released a report, “Small Business Owners Believe National Standards Supporting Energy Innovation Will Increase Prosperity for Small Firms,” which found only 13 percent of small business owners believe regulation is the biggest problem facing their businesses.
  • McClatchy/Tribune News Services recently surveyed a random sample of small business owners nationwide and found Big Business rhetoric over regulation to be completely overblown. Under the headline “Regulations, taxes aren’t killing small business, owners say”, McClatchy/Tribune News reported that “McClatchy reached out to owners of small businesses, many of them mom-and-pop operations, to find out whether they indeed were being choked by regulation, whether uncertainty over taxes affected their hiring plans and whether the health care overhaul was helping or hurting their business. Their response was surprising. None of the business owners complained about regulation in their particular industries, and most seemed to welcome it.”
  • The National Federation of Small Business (NFIB) polls reveal that only 14 percent of their members consider regulations the “single most important problem” their business faces.
  • Even the U.S. Chamber’s own survey of small business shows small business owners do not name regulations as a major cause holding back job growth. Only 8% of Chamber members say that “Too much regulation” is the greatest obstacle to hiring new employees.

Altmire says: “I represent 700,000 residents of Western Pennsylvania and live here myself, along with my family,” said Altmire. “To imply that I would support any legislation that would promote an unhealthy environment and pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink is preposterous.”

It is preposterous to think that any Member of Congress would do such a thing. The only problem here is that’s exactly what Rep. Altimire did.

Here are the facts:

  • One of his anti-EPA votes repeals a clean air standard estimated to save as many as 2,900 lives per year in Pennsylvania alone.
  • Another Altmire vote would allow out-of-state power plants to continue dumping smog and soot pollution into the air would harm the 260,000 asthmatic kids in Pennsylvania, including the 32,500 kids in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler and Lawrence Counties – not to mention the more than 120,000 asthmatic adults in those counties.
  • And as our ad mentions, nearly one in ten women of child-bearing age in the region have blood mercury levels high enough to pose a risk to a developing baby.

Altmire says: “These regulations would dramatically raise our electricity rates and make it impossible for local energy producers to compete economically and to continue employing thousands of western Pennsylvania workers.”

Nonsense. Exelon and Constellation Energy, both major power producers with coal and fossil-fuel plants in Pennsylvania, support the stronger standards. In fact, a group of power companies subject to stronger EPA standards said of them: “these air regulations will not impact rates dramatically. Rather, the capital investments related to these regulations will create needed jobs and will yield many hundreds of billions of dollars in annual health benefits.”

Given that none of Rep Altmire’s rationales for stripping away health protections from his own constituents holds up to scrutiny, constituents can fairly ask the question: why is Representative Altmire protecting polluters, instead of our kids and families?