Mark Udall: Clean Before Clean was Cool

It looks like 2014 may be the year that politicians and pundits finally catch on to what we’ve been saying for years: Running Clean makes smart political sense and candidates from both parties should be supporting clean energy. But in the Colorado Senate race, there’s one candidate who has been supporting clean energy since before it was cool: Senator Mark Udall. Looking at Udall’s record, it’s clear that he is truly committed to clean because it’s the right thing to do, not just because it’s politically expedient.

Udall has a strong and consistent record on clean energy, climate change and environmental protection that spans more than a decade as a federal legislator. Udall has been a champion for renewable energy, serving as the lead sponsor of House bills to create a national renewable electricity standard, co-chairing the 2004 effort to create a state renewable energy standard (RES) through referendum in Colorado and currently co-chairing the Senate Renewable Energy and Efficiency Caucus. Udall has led efforts to create wilderness in Colorado, to provide tax incentives for clean energy, to improve air and water quality, and to improve national security by reducing the military’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Udall’s opponent, Congressman Cory Gardner, is trying to reap the benefits of voters’ support for clean energy without actually supporting clean energy. Gardner filmed one of his ads in the middle of a wind farm and claimed that he “co-wrote the law to launch our state’s green energy industry.” Unfortunately for Gardner, that law was repealed five years later and wasn’t credited with creating a single clean energy job.

The truth is that Gardner is a #DirtyDenier$.  He has denied the human contribution to climate change, he has voted to deny EPA’s scientific finding that carbon pollution is a threat to human health, and he has repeatedly voted to protect taxpayer subsidies for oil companies while voting to eliminate them for clean energy pioneers. He’s also voted against just about anything else that might improve the environment from ocean health to clean water to clean air.

With that record, it should come as no surprise that the oil and gas industry are the largest contributors to his campaign’s bank account. In just four years in Congress, Gardner has raised $695,000 from the oil and gas industry and the oil billionaire Koch Brothers are showing their appreciation for his dirty voting record by investing millions in their own advertising campaigns designed to prop up Gardner.

When Colorado voters go to the polls in November, they’d be wise to remember which candidate’s record matches his rhetoric. There’s only one clean candidate in this race, and that’s incumbent senator Mark Udall.

Want more election coverage? Visit www.nrdcactionfund.org for weekly updates on key races featuring environmental champions. 

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.

 

 

Hobby Lobby, Climate Change, and the GOP’s Women Problem

More than 200 women brought their children to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to urge lawmakers to clean up the air pollution that causes climate change. The event was called a “Play-in for Climate Action”—you can’t expect all those kids to stay still for a traditional “sit-in”—and included a press conference with Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Around the same time, GOP lawmakers in the House were busy drafting a bill that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from doing the very thing those mothers want: clean up carbon pollution from power plants so their children have a better future.

Welcome to the latest battle in the Tea Party’s war on women. This conflict isn’t getting as much attention as the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, but it could play a significant role in who wins and loses the midterm elections.

Republican and Democratic candidates have already worked the Hobby Lobby case into stump speeches, fundraising appeals, and attack ads. Yet few people will vote on the Hobby Lobby ruling alone. Most voters cast ballots based on a cluster of issues that matter most to them.

One negative story about a Tea Party position that hurts women would not turn the midterm tide. But these days, the stories are mounting. GOP candidates are alienating women voters on a host of issues, from reproductive health to equal pay to climate change.

When did climate change become a women’s issue? When women made it clear they care deeply about it. Women in battleground states understand (by a margin of 72 percent to 19 percent) that we have a moral obligation to future generations to make the air safer to breathe and the climate more stable. Climate change increases smog and contributes to asthma attacks and other respiratory problems. If we don’t act now, the next generation will pay a steep price, and most women want children to inherit a brighter future, not one plagued by unchecked climate hazards.

And yet nearly every single Republican candidate running for office in the past few years—from the presidential level on down—has ignored, denied, or belittled the threat of climate change.  Right now, GOP leaders are attacking the EPA’s new “Clean Power Plan.” This plan would unleash wind and solar power, boost energy and cost savings, and finally hold power plants accountable for the enormous amounts of carbon pollution they spew into our air.

Blocking this kind of climate action isn’t just bad policy; it’s bad politics.

Women are one of the emerging voting blocs that will matter most in this election, along with Latinos and young people. Many female voters are likely to view Tea Party stance on climate change as yet another position that turns them off.

Republicans can’t afford that. In the 2012 presidential race, women favored the Democratic ticket by 11 percentage points.  Unmarried women voted for President Obama over Governor Romney by 67 percent. Those single women, it turns out, could be the soccer moms of this election—top Democratic strategists are already trying to appeal to them.

Some Republicans may be listening to what women want. Over the past few months, GOP leaders have hedged their climate bets; they have moved from outright denial to modest demurral. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Governor Rick Scott (R-FL), and Presidential hopeful Marco Rubio (R-FL) have all said they don’t have the scientific background to assess the risks of climate change. This hardly constitutes a bold approach to a matter of national security, but it does suggest some Republicans realize that climate denunciation is a losing position.

Candidates who stand for climate action, meanwhile, can cast themselves as champions of clean air, public health, good jobs, and a brighter future for our children—a set of issues that appeal to many women voters.

 

 

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.

 

 

It’s a Fact.

I just finished watching State of the Union.  President Obama gave his laundry list to Congress and then reminded lawmakers that if they can’t get their act together, he will move forward without them to make progress.

If you are an environmentalist who watched the speech, you undoubtedly found things you liked and disliked, but we can all embrace the President’s direct aim at climate deniers.

Check out his language from the 2010 State of the Union:

“I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.”

Tonight’s statement was much more direct:

“Climate change is a fact.”

We couldn’t agree more. Now is the time for candidates to follow President Obama’s lead by being direct in our need to address climate change.

Extensive polling shows voters all across America are ready to act on climate by reducing carbon pollution. And candidates who chose to “run clean” in 2012 not only won, but laid out a roadmap for why it’s not just good policy, but good politics.

We have a moral obligation to act so we can leave the world a better place for our children and our children’s children.

The debate is over.

“And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”

President Obama, 2014 State of the Union Address