NRDC Action Fund’s Weekly News Summary

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

What would the environment look like under President Trump? – The United States would withdraw support from the Paris climate agreement. The Clean Power Plan is rolled back. Central Appalachia’s mountain tops are gone thanks to mountaintop removal mining. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy are gone. “But hey, the Gold House lawn looks great.”  (Grist)

Dirty dollars in the 2016 presidential race – The fossil fuel industry has pumped more than $100 millionan unprecedented amountinto GOP presidential Super PACs. (The Guardian)

Scientists are fed up with GOP candidates – The Science Coalition hosted ‘Super Science Tuesday,’ a video compilation of scientists giving the GOP presidential candidates a message about why they should pay attention to science. (Scientific American)

Pres. Obama troubled by GOP candidates denying climate science [VIDEO] – President Obama: “But this is not just Mr. Trump—look at the statements that are being made by the other candidates. There is not a single candidate in the Republican primary that thinks we should do anything about climate change, that thinks it’s serious. Well, that’s a problem! The rest of the world looks at that and they say, how could that be?” (Yahoo News)

Experts: Trump’s plan to gut the EPA is “ridiculous” – GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz all have plans to gut the EPA. Environmental law experts say this would be “difficult to achieve” and would result in an “unraveling” of bedrock air and water protections. (The Guardian)

Environmentalists energized by SCOTUS vacancy and CPP stay – Recent obstacles to climate action have highlighted just how high the stakes are in the upcoming elections in November with so many climate policies on the line. (High Country News)

Sen. Ron Johnson wants a Scalia-like justice to end U.S. climate leadership – The senator from Wisconsin told a gathering of conservatives that a new Supreme Court justice in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia is necessary to kill the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. The NRDC Action Fund has endorsed Johnson’s Democratic opponent, former Senator Russ Feingold. (E&E News)

Obama saves Clean Water protections from GOP attack

box1President Obama today vetoed an attempt by the GOP-led Congress to gut Clean Water Rule protections for water bodies that American families rely on for fishing, swimming, and drinking water. While this bill did not pass with a veto-proof margin, the episode highlights what Americans can expect if the next president is willing to sign the anti-environment legislation that regularly passes in the Republican Congress.

The leading contenders for the GOP nomination have expressed a desire to significantly curb and even end the EPA’s ability to keep our water and air safe and clean. Last October during an appearance on FOX News Sunday, leading presidential candidate Donald Trump told host Chris Wallace that he intended to “cut” the EPA altogether.

“Environmental Protection, what they do is a disgrace. Every week they come out with new regulations. They’re making it impossible,” Trump said. “Who’s going to protect the environment?” Wallace asked. “We’ll be fine with the environment,” Trump replied. “We can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.”

But U.S. businesses increasingly back action on climate change and 80 percent of small business owners support the recent Clean Water Rule. In fact, GOP donors who understand the importance of environmental protection to the U.S. economy are growing dismayed as the party’s candidates continue to refuse to engage on the issue, according to the National Journal. “They think if we mention carbon reduction, it’s shutting down American industry. You and I know that’s not true,” said Republican donor Andy Sabin, president of the New York-based refin­ing company Sabin Metal Corporation.

GOP lawmakers have vowed to continue their efforts to undermine EPA regulations such as the Clean Water Rule, which makes it all the more important that the rest of us continue our efforts to elect pro-environment political leaders at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

NRDC Action Fund’s Weekly News Summary

Welcome to the NRDC Action Fund’s inaugural weekly news round up. As the 2016 election season heats up, we’ll share with you the news we’re reading.

A shovel loads haulers with coal at Cloud Peak Energy’s Antelope Mine north of Douglas, Wyoming. (AP Photo/Casper Star-Tribune, Ryan Dorgan)

Millennials Support Climate Action: “80% of millennials surveyed say the United States should transition to mostly clean or renewable energy by 2030, a goal that would surely require the leadership of the next president. By more than 2 to 1, millennials say the government should invest more heavily in buses and rail.” (USA Today)

Western Voters and Public Lands: “Against an uptick in anti-public lands rhetoric from militant extremists, a new Colorado College State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll released today revealed strong public support for efforts to protect and maintain national public lands. 58 percent of respondents oppose giving state governments control over national public lands, and 60 percent of respondents oppose selling significant holdings of public lands like national forests to reduce the budget deficit.” (Colorado College)

Republicans Want Action on Climate Change: “There’s evidence that conservative views on climate are evolving. According to a recent poll commissioned by a top GOP donor and conducted by three respected Republican pollsters, a majority of Republicans — including 54 percent of self-identified conservatives — not only believe in human-induced climate change, but would support a carbon tax if the money were rebated or paired with an accompanying tax cut.” (Washington Post)

President Obama’s State of the Union: “He called for stepping up investment in communities hurt by the decline of fossil fuels, alluding to plans announced last year to expand jobs and training in coal states. “Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future?—?especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels,” Obama said. He said his administration also would push to “change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet.” (Washington Post)

Rubio Greenwashing His Message: “Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio told a crowd of voters in New Hampshire Tuesday that he wants the United States to lead the world in renewable energy. It’s a surprising statement from a lawmaker who has been criticized as a climate change doubter, but Rubio’s argument for more renewable energy was an economic one.” (Washington Examiner)

Rubio Washing Green Off His Message: “Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) presidential campaign fought charges Wednesday that he once endorsed a cap-and-trade system to fight climate change. Earlier in the day, a video from 2008 resurfaced that shows Rubio, then Speaker of Florida’s House, discussing a potential cap-and-trade or tax system for carbon dioxide emissions in the state.” (The Hill)

Keep It in the Ground: “The Obama administration announced on Friday a halt to new coal mining leases on public lands as it considers an overhaul of the program that could lead to increased costs for energy companies and a slowdown in extraction, according to an administration official. The move would represent a significant setback for the coal industry, effectively freezing new coal production on federal lands and sending a signal to energy markets that could turn investors away from an already flailing industry.” (New York Times)

GOP Debate on Climate: “Here’s everything said about climate change at the GOP debate: Surprise! That was a trick. The Republican presidential candidates didn’t say anything about climate change at Thursday night’s debate. The closest moment came when Ohio Gov. John Kasich mentioned America’s need for energy independence.” (Grist)

Note to Coal Friendly Democrats: Opposing Carbon Limits Won’t Win You Any Friends

If you only read the newspaper headlines the last two days, you would think the sky is falling because a few Democrats in coal states said they opposed carbon pollution standards.

But like Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story.

Leaders from across the nation have heralded the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed limits on carbon pollution from power plants. Lawmakers, business executives, doctors, Latino organizations, and environmental groups welcome this breakthrough in the effort to protect public health and fight climate change.

More typical responses included Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) who said he supports the EPA’s carbon limits because “climate change is threatening Colorado’s special way of life.” And previously Representative Gary Peters (D-MI), challenged his opponent Terri Lynn Land for failing to recognize how climate change is threatening the Great Lakes.

It was only a small group of Democratic candidates for Congress who didn’t get the memo. Sadly, those few outweighed the many in the news coverage.

For example, Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV) called the safeguards “disastrous.” And Alison Lundergan Grimes, running for Senate against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “When I am in the U.S. Senate, I will fiercely oppose the President’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry because protecting our jobs will be my number one priority.”

But this midterm election was never about West Virginia and Kentucky. These Democrats were never on the side of President Obama’s climate action plan. And these states will not make or break the ultimate control of the Senate next year. The swing states where control will be decided, like New Hampshire, Michigan, Iowa and Colorado, have Democratic candidates who support reducing carbon pollution.

Ultimately candidates who run away from public health and climate protections will find themselves isolated from their own voters. And it will make the Senate more vulnerable to Republican takeover.

Clean air and climate champions have the advantage now.

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.

This week yet another poll confirmed the depth of support. A Washington Post-ABC News survey found that 70 percent of Americans want the federal government to limit climate change pollution from power plants, including 57 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Independents, and 79 percent of Democrats. The poll asked voters if they would support carbon limits even if electricity costs rise—NRDC analysis shows people’s monthly bills will likely go down—and 51 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of Independents, and 71 percent of Democrats said yes.

This majority support held firm even in coal-heavy states, and yet some Democrats running in these places are still trying to distance themselves from carbon limits. Perhaps they think the coal industry will miraculously embrace them. Or at least stop spending millions of dollars to attack them. But the truth is: the coal industry will never anoint them. The industry has long-since picked its pet candidates, and it won’t switch affections just because someone says a few coal-friendly comments on carbon limits.

Some candidates have noticed the ground shifted in the past few years. Opponents will continue to make the claim that climate action spells trouble at the ballot box. But as extreme weather began destroying people’s homes and livelihoods, voters started to care about climate change.

In 2008, young voters people helped carry President Obama to victory, in part because of his commitment to tackling the climate crisis. In 2012, the Koch brothers and their allies spent more than $270 million in TV ads in the last two months of the campaign alone, yet clean energy and climate candidates won up and down the ticket. The Koch brothers had a 5 percent win rate last cycle, while the environmental community had an almost 100 percent win rate. For an industry highly focused on its return on investment, they don’t have much to show their investors when it comes to the electoral politics of climate change. The big money is not always the smarter money.

This kind of support for climate action can help Democrats carve a path to victory and a Senate majority. But candidates who speak for the coal industry may find themselves on a lonely road.



Let the Light Shine In

When it comes to the potential of solar energy, the Obama administration continues to see the light and follow it with conviction. This stands in stark contrast to the Koch brothers’ use of the American Legislative Exchange Council as a front to push for removal of critical renewable energy standards on the state level, despite the enormous public popularity of and business support for renewable energy.

This month, the White House hosted a Solar Summit—a special event focused on highlighting the continued development of solar energy in the U.S. Along with honoring individuals across the country who are helping to drive domestic solar deployment, The Obama administration took the event as an opportunity to announce new steps to expand the use of solar energy in American homes, businesses, and schools, and to call for new commitments from the private sector and non-profit organizations to support solar deployment and jobs.

Since President Obama took office in 2008, unprecedented investments in research, development, and deployment of solar technologies have seen solar prices markedly decrease and the solar market rapidly grow. These developments have driven enormous growth in the solar industry, with more than 140,000 American jobs up and down the solar supply chain, 50,000 of which have come into existence since 2010. This Solar Summit and the announcements made in connection with it demonstrate the continuation of this Administration’s historic commitment to developing clean sources of energy.

While the summit was valuable in promoting recent successes, the announcements made surrounding the event are particularly exciting because they promise continued growth of domestic solar power. Our country has no doubt made great strides in expanding our investment in and use of solar energy under the Obama administration thus far, but there still remains plenty of room for an increased commitment by Congress to renewable energy development through the extension of the Production Tax Credit for example.

Skeptics argue that solar energy still amounts to a relatively minor portion of our national energy needs. However, such a picture is misleading, as it does not reflect the present popularity and enormous future potential of renewable energy. Keep in mind that renewable energy sources accounted for over 50 percent of new domestic electricity generation capacity in 2012 and over 40 percent of the same in 2013, with solar power leading the way for renewable sources that year. Although the rate of adoption of renewable energy is restricted by the lingering of fossil fuel-fired power plants—with their permits stretching decades—far past their heyday, the future is now for renewable energy and energy efficiency when policy makers decide what energy resources they should invest in next.

But not only are the climatic and economic reasons for increased investment in domestic solar energy persuasive—it is by all accounts a shrewd political move as well. Poll after poll demonstrates that Americans of all political stripes and all ages support greater emphasis on producing domestic solar power. With that in mind, it’s quite clear that policymakers across the political spectrum and at all levels of government—from local to federal—would  do well to join the President in his support of solar power.