Cory Gardner’s Wind Hypocrisy

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Do you remember the worst words your mom could say to you when you were a kid? I do. She’d look down at you and her eyes would be devoid of anger. In its place would be a kind of sad pity as she said, “I’m disappointed in you.” Well, Sen. Cory Gardner, I’m disappointed in you.

I keep looking at this image from Sen. Cory Gardner’s campaign ad of him in the middle of a wind farm claiming that he supports the next generation and suggesting that he’ll support clean energy. And then I think about how he voted this week. This week the Senate is considering its very first order of business – S.1. And the first chance Sen. Gardner had to do the right thing, he failed.

The picture above shows a guy who looks like he supports wind energy. And, while he definitely wasn’t the Running Clean candidate in his Senate contest, the picture seems to speak for itself. Why would you trot around a wind farm if you don’t support wind?

Yet, twice in the past 24 hours Cory Gardner has voted against wind energy. Last night he voted against a nonbonding sense of the Senate resolution offered by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a conservative Democrat from the fossil fuel-heavy state of North Dakota. The Heitkamp amendment would have done nothing more than express the viewpoint that wind energy tax incentives should be extended. Today he voted against an amendment from Sen. Tom Udall to create a national clean energy standard, which would have given wind energy a huge boost without requiring taxpayers to pay a dime.

Gardner has tried to justify his anti-wind vote on the Heitkamp amendment. He argues that extending the wind tax incentive should be paid-for, should be part of a larger overhaul of the tax code and should include a plan to phase-out the incentive. While Gardner’s concerns might be valid questions to address in the context of an actual bill that would have the force of law, they are a bit overblown on a simple sense of the Senate resolution. Don’t you think a supporter of wind energy could set aside these details in order to vote on the “sense” that the incentives should be extended? Even Sen. Heitkamp, a supporter of plenty of fossil fuels, managed to do it. Why can’t Gardner?

Even after these anti-wind votes, Gardner still likes to claim he’s pro-wind. He must know that being pro-wind is good politics because the public supports clean energy. But his claims are nothing but wind. He just voted to undermine wind development, and he can’t deny that.

I don’t know how his mom feels, but I, for one, am disappointed.

 

Running Clean or Running Scared?

A batch of Senate amendments this week revealed the awkward maneuvering going on within the Republican Party on climate change. After months of some GOP lawmakers holding fast to denial and some demurring “I’m not a scientist,” a handful of Senate Republicans voted to forthrightly acknowledge that human activity is driving climate change.

But the Senate Republican membership as a whole still stuck to a dispiriting mix of denial and obfuscation.  And perhaps worst of all, even most of those Senators who voted to acknowledge the existence of man-made climate change, simply shifted from the know-nothing category to the do-nothing one.

Neither position will help our nation deal with this crisis. And neither will resonate with the vast majority of Americans who say in poll after poll they want leaders to address climate change and reduce the carbon pollution that drives it.

So what happened in the Senate?  One amendment, offered by climate champion Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) put the Senate on record, by a vote of 98-1, saying that climate change was not a “hoax.” The amendment passed almost unanimously because it was interpreted as just saying the climate is changing – not why.  The real test for deniers was the amendment put forward by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) stating that human activity “significantly” contributes to climate change.

The former amendment is the equivalent of saying cigarettes release smoke. The latter recognizes that cigarettes cause lung cancer—and gets us headed toward solving a devastating problem.

There is overwhelming scientific consensus that pollution from human activity causes climate change. To stand on the side of fact and reality, lawmakers must recognize the link between pollution and climate disruption.

Republicans who flirt with references to a changing climate but refuse to acknowledge the human role in that change can’t shake off the label of climate denier—or flat Earther or ostrich with head in the sand.

The Schatz amendment failed 50-49, but five Republicans demonstrated leadership by voting for it: Senators Collins (ME), Kirk (IL), Ayotte (NH), Graham (SC), and Alexander (TN).

In an effort to give Republicans wiggle room, Senator Hoeven (R-ND) offered an identical amendment that struck the world “significantly” from the text on human activity causing climate change.

The Hoeven amendment does not acknowledge what the science actually says.  The scientific consensus is that the changes we’re seeing in our climate cannot be explained without including human activity, and cannot be addressed without limiting carbon pollution.  The Hoeven amendment was a way to make it look like Republicans accepted the science without actually having them do so.  This simply combines denial with cowardice.  At least figures like Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) are open about their beliefs.

Support for the Hoeven amendment seemed strong enough that Hoeven himself panicked and voted no, apparently fearing that denialism is so strong in some quarters that even his tepid amendment would lead some Republicans to turn against the underlying bill which forces approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. In the end, the amendment failed 59-40, but fifteen Republicans supported it—seven of whom are up for reelection in 2016, some in purple states.

It’s no wonder Republicans eyeing the next election are rethinking their climate positions. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that two-thirds of voters support the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. This support reaches into purple and red states: a survey conducted by Harstad Strategic Research reported that 53 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of Independents, and 87 percent of Democrats say the EPA should limit carbon pollution.

Mitt Romney’s team may be reading the same polls. As he considers a third run for president, Romney described himself this week as “one of those Republicans” who believe that humans contribute to climate change and the U.S. make show “real leadership” on the issue. Romney knows he needs moderate votes to win the White House, and 62 percent of moderate Republicans view climate change as a serious threat, according to new analysis from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

Having a few more Republican Senators on-the-record accepting climate change science is, sadly, a notable development. So is more Republicans tacitly acknowledging that forthright denialism is bad politics.  But they can’t stop there. They have to offer a plan for solving it. Right now the GOP Leadership in Congress has not only vowed to block the Obama Administration’s climate action at every turn, they have failed entirely to present their own blueprint for reducing carbon pollution. Their do-nothing position is the hoax that needs revealing.

Meet the Two House Members-elect Who Took Down Dirty Deniers

In less than a month, we’ll be swearing in the 114th Congress. In too many ways, it isn’t the Congress I wanted. Too many Dirty Denier$ won their races last month and too many clean energy champions will be home in their districts instead of fighting for action on climate change in Washington. However, a strong group of champions will continue to fight for the policies that Americans support. These champs will also have some enthusiastic and committed new members joining the cause. Today I want to tell you about two of these new members who are especially notable because they defeated true Dirty Denier$ opponents on Election Day.

Gwen Graham

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Gwen Graham will be heading to Washington to represent Florida’s 2nd District. This panhandle district includes miles of Gulf coastline and Graham’s cites a childhood “exploring our beautiful natural treasures” in the region as the root of her commitment to environmental protection.

Graham began her career as a private sector attorney focusing on energy and environmental law. As a candidate, her views on climate change contrasted sharply with her opponent. Incumbent Steve Southerland was a climate denier, while Graham unequivocally embraced the science, saying, “I agree with the overwhelming majority of scientists that say we should be concerned about the possible effects of climate change.”

Graham’s father, Bob Graham, was a strong supporter of environmental protection, kick-staring efforts to protect the Everglades as governor ad earning an 81 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters for his time in the U.S. Senate. I agree with Gwen that “conservation shouldn’t be a partisan issue” and hope she will continue her father’s legacy of advancing common-sense policies that protect the environment.

Brad Ashford

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Brad Ashford will be representing Nebraska’s 2nd District, which encompasses the state’s capital, Omaha. Ashford, an attorney and state legislator, is expected to offer far greater support for environmental protection and clean energy than the member he’s replacing, Lee Terry.

Terry is a climate denier, who doubted “the true impact of man” on the world’s climate. Terry earned an abominable 9 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters for his consistent votes to undermine bedrock environmental laws, continue subsidies for Big Oil, and to stop climate action. Terry has also been one of the leading proponents of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that would travel through Nebraska, threatening the state’s water supply and agricultural industries.

Ashford, though he signed a letter indicating support for Keystone, also voted to authorize a study of the environmental impacts of the pipeline. He has also pledged to support incentives for clean energy sources like wind and solar power. That’s already head and shoulders above the Dirty Denier$ he’s replacing.

Welcome

I’m looking forward to welcoming these new members of congress to Washington in the new year. We’ll be watching and urging them to live up to our high hopes that they will govern as they ran – by Running Clean.

Running Clean Draws Support from Swing Voters

With 48 hours to go before the midterm elections, you’re probably a bit tired of seeing competing poll results. Head-to-head matchups between candidates have varied this entire election cycle, but one item we’ve been tracking has remained consistent—voters want action on climate change.

In February, the NRDC Action Fund released our first polling of the 2014 cycle. It was conducted in 11 battleground states and showed that voters across the political spectrum were ready for the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce dangerous carbon pollution. Now, eight months later, we released another poll, this time in five swing states that produced nearly the exact same results.

The poll found that:

  • Climate and energy are playing a role in the public discourse in these states’ senate races: nearly 40 percent of voters have heard about candidate positions on climate change, and majorities have heard their views on energy.
  • Republican candidates’ extreme positions are costing them support among key blocs of swing voters. By margins of 20 to 22 percentage points, independents, women and younger voters describe themselves as less likely to vote for their Republican candidate after learning of his or her views on energy, the environment and climate change.
  • Pro-climate positions are highly popular with voters. Sixty-eight percent of voters feel more favorably toward candidates who support clean energy and 54 percent have a more favorable impression of candidates who believe the government should take action on climate change.

Consistency is key. It clearly shows that even after polluters have spent millions of dollars to defeat candidates who are running clean, they have been unable to change voter’s attitudes.

No matter who comes out victorious on election night, all the winners would be wise to remember that voters want those heading to Congress to put in place policies that ensure cleaner air and less carbon pollution. It’s also a good reminder for all the would-be presidential candidates, that voters will not elect a climate denier to the White House in 2016.

A presentation of the results is available here: http://bit.ly/100D1ce

 

Brownley Running Clean and Green on California Coast

Her name may have “brown” in it, but Julia Brownley’s record is pure green. Brownley is the incumbent representing California’s 26th district in the US House of Representatives. As a member of Congress and previously as a member of the California state assembly, Brownley has established a long track record of Running Clean, voting clean and leading the charge on action to protect the environment.

Julia Brownley

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From her perch as a member of both the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC) and the Safe Climate Caucus, Representative Brownley has established herself as one of the leaders in Congress when it comes to taking action to address climate change. Brownley supports comprehensive action on climate change and has said:

For our economic security and our environmental security and the future of our country, I believe we must address climate change by investing in innovation regarding conservation, renewable energies of the future, and reducing the levels of pollution released by human activity.

Brownley has earned a 93 percent score from the League of Conservation Voters and previously earned a 99 percent score from California LCV for her votes in the state assembly.

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In contrast to Brownley’s consistent and strong support, her opponent, Jeff Gorell, has a mixed record. We’ll give credit where due: Gorell is not a climate denier. He believes that “human activity affects climate change” and has stated support for “incentives to expand the use of clean energy technologies”. However, Gorell’s bad votes outweigh his good ones. He’s earned a disappointing score of just 26 percent from CLCV for his votes in the state legislature, where he has taken anti-environment votes on fracking, smart growth, cleaning up diesel vehicles, and to undermine the environmental review process for a large solar project. Gorell misunderstand’s the nature of EPA’s Clean Power Plan, calling it a “Draconian cap-and-trade law” and erroneously claiming that it will “put hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work”. He needs to do his homework because the Clean Power Plan gives states flexibility to reduce carbon pollution from power plants in their state and could actually create clean energy jobs.  Brownley gets this and had been a consistent advocate for clean air.

For Ventura County voters looking to protect their coastal community from the effects of climate change, it’s clear that Brown(ley) is the green choice. She’s running clean.