Big divide on environment, clean energy in Pennsylvania’s Senate race

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) this week won Pennsylvania’s GOP Senate primary, setting up a general election matchup against incumbent Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.). Since his first year in Congress, Barletta has voted to weaken the environmental protections that keep our land, air, and water safe and clean, racking up enough anti-environment votes to earn an embarrassing lifetime score of just five percent on the League of Conservation Voters’ National Environmental Scorecard.

In 2016, Barletta voted to roll back critical protections for American waterways, and last year, he voted to repeal the Stream Protection Rule, which would have protected communities from the risks associated with toxic waste from coal mining.

Casey, on the other hand, works to protect the rivers, lakes, and streams that provide drinking water and other natural resources to communities in Pennsylvania and across the country. He is also working hard to increase transparency in the fracking industry and help reduce the risks that fracked gas poses to local communities.

File:Somerset Wind Farm.jpg

Somerset Wind Farm in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is a national leader in clean energy jobs. According to a 2017 report by Environmental Entrepreneurs, the Commonwealth is home to nearly 70,000 jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy, twice as many as in the fossil fuel industry.

By siding with a fringe group of climate change deniers, though, Barletta leaves Pennsylvanians and all American communities poorly positioned to reap the benefits of a 21st century clean energy economy and unprepared for the destructive impacts of climate change. He voted to abandon the previous administration’s air protections, including the Clean Power Plan, that would cut back on climate change-causing pollution and help create clean energy jobs. He also applauded the Trump administration’s reckless decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, ceding global leadership and making the U.S. a global pariah on climate action.

Pennsylvanians have a lot to gain from a future with common-sense environmental safeguards and ambitious plans to address climate change. Voting this November to re-elect Sen. Bob Casey is a vote for that future.


Majority want EPA’s Pruitt fired, poll finds

A new national poll finds nearly 60 percent of Americans say President Trump should fire EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt over his many ethical scandals. Just 33 percent of survey respondents approve of Pruitt’s job performance, while 43% disapprove.

The bad news for Pruitt comes on the heels of numerous reports of ethical misdeeds and investigations into wasteful spending during his tenure at the EPA, including reports of Pruitt using taxpayer funds to pay for high-priced hotel rooms, first-class flights, and upgrades to his office.

Only 11 percent who were surveyed said they were “very confident” in Pruitt’s ability to ensure the EPA is protecting their health and the health of their families. Nearly 50 percent expressed a lack of confidence in his ability to carry out the agency’s mission.

The poll, which was conducted for the NRDC Action Fund by Benenson Strategy Group, surveyed 800 likely voters April 20-24 by phone and online.


This Week: More Reasons to Fire Scott Pruitt

This week, we have even more reasons to fire Scott Pruitt. Plus, new reports add to our understanding of the dangers of offshore drilling.

Scott Pruitt’s Dirty Politics. “How the Environmental Protection Agency became the fossil-fuel industry’s best friend.” The New Yorker 

  • Our take: This must-read account of the EPA under Scott Pruitt uncovers his efforts to dismantle the agency, demoralize its staff, and help the fossil fuel industry throughout his tenure as EPA Administrator. Having him in charge of the government agency responsible for protecting human health and the environment puts all Americans in danger.
  • Take action: Tell Congress to fire Scott Pruitt

Trump Rollbacks Target Offshore Rules ‘Written With Human Blood. “Drillers seek to gain from an easing of Obama-era safety and environmental regulations that were adopted after the Deepwater Horizon disaster killed 11 people.” New York Times

  • Our take: Not only does Trump want to expand offshore drilling, but he plans to make it even more dangerous. This administration is bending over backwards to please the oil and gas industry, putting American workers, the environment, and coastal communities at risk.
  • Take action: Tell Congress to stop Trump’s dangerous offshore drilling plan
  • Read more:

The E.P.A. Says It Wants Research Transparency. Scientists See an Attack on Science. “The Environmental Protection Agency is considering a major change to the way it assesses scientific work, a move that would severely restrict the research available to it when writing environmental regulations.” New York Times

In other environmental news,

  • Most anti-environment budget cuts and proposed policy riders were left out of the much-anticipated omnibus FY18 appropriations bill passed in Congress last Thursday. For an analysis of the wins and losses for the environment in the spending bill, read this blog by NRDC’s Scott Slesinger.
  • A federal court ordered the EPA to enforce the implementation of anti-smog rules that the agency had delayed for months. The EPA was sued by 16 state attorneys general and several environmental groups, including NRDC, for its failure to carry out the 2015 Ozone Standards. This is the latest in a series of court rulings that blocked the EPA’s attempts to roll back environmental and safety regulations.
  • A win for the environment in Montana and Wyoming as a federal court rejects BLM plan to allow coal mining and oil and gas drilling on public lands.
  • FEMA’s strategic plan for the next four years does not mention climate change once. It is troubling that the agency whose mission is to “prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters” would ignore the serious risks posed by changing temperatures, rising sea levels, and more extreme weather events.

Trump’s Anti-Environment Budget Highlights the Stakes this November

Budgets reflect values, and President Trump’s values are out of step with the majority of Americans who want a healthier, safer and more prosperous future. Come November, though, the American people will have an opportunity to send representatives to Washington who reflect their values, not Mr. Trump’s.

Americans want budgets that prioritize clean energy development that’s growing jobs and helping to fight climate change. We want agencies that are able to enforce our clean air and water laws and maintain strong safeguards for public health. We want our government to work for the people, not polluters.

President Trump’s newly-released budget does just the opposite, dishing out giveaways to the fossil fuel industry and gutting protections for our health. It is so laughably backwards that a bipartisan group of senators is poised to reject his radical plan. But they need our support. The pro-environment Senate firewall isn’t a sure thing. It’s at risk in this November’s congressional elections, so it’s up to voters to speak out and send to Congress leaders who pledge to stop President Trump’s assault on our health and environment.

Mr. Trump’s budget proposes crippling funding cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. But most Americans know a crippled EPA means more pollution in our air and water. While this Senate has the votes to reject those funding levels outright, a Senate with fewer environmental supporters could approve devastating cuts to environmental enforcement that would set us back for decades.

But dramatic EPA cuts are not the only serious problem with the Trump budget.

The president also calls for expanding cheap leases for oil and gas drilling on public lands, along nearly all our coastlines and on lands set aside to protect endangered wildlife. These giveaways will destroy pristine places, harm our health, and lock us in to decades of dirty and expensive fossil fuels and heat-trapping carbon pollution.

Finding new ways to harness and store energy from the sun and wind is helping America create jobs and healthier communities, but Mr. Trump’s proposed cuts at the Department of Energy would gut vital clean energy research. Turning our backs on the promise of a clean energy economy only makes sense to oil and coal barons and, apparently, their friends in the Trump administration. Our representatives in Washington should help our communities embrace the future, not cling to the past.

Economic progress depends on healthy communities. And the American economy stands to benefit enormously from the clean energy revolution now underway. A federal budget that undermines our progress and shackles us to outdated energy tragically misunderstands this country’s spirit and fortitude, not to mention our hopes and dreams for our kids and generations to come.

American families need a Congress that rejects backward-looking proposals designed to enrich the president’s well-connected dirty energy friends. We deserve a Congress that takes seriously the dangers of a warming planet to our health, economy, and national security.

The 2018 congressional elections give us all an opportunity to reject the president’s anti-environment agenda by voting for leaders who will look to the future and look out for us.

Kevin Curtis is Executive Director of the NRDC Action Fund.


Poll: Illinois Dems favor strong pro-environment candidate for governor

A new poll commissioned by the NRDC Action Fund finds Illinois Democratic primary voters strongly prefer gubernatorial candidates who are willing to stake out an aggressive pro-environment platform.

According to research conducted by Global Strategy Group in January, Democratic primary voters favor making Illinois a national leader in renewable energy and will dramatically shift their support to candidates who embrace this agenda.

After hearing a simulated debate with positive and negative messages for both sides, 93 percent of respondents statewide supported using state funds to develop job skills and provide entrepreneurial support for people in low-income communities who want to work in the renewable energy sector. Oversamples conducted among downstate primary voters show a nearly identical 91% support for this proposal.

The vast majority of Illinois Democrats also want limits on heat-trapping carbon pollution, with 82% in favor of curbing power plant emissions that contribute to climate change.

When asked if they’d be more or less likely to support candidates who promote these policies, more than 50% of all voters, regardless of their current candidate preference, said they’d be more likely to vote for the environmental champion.

The race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination remains fluid, but it’s clear from these results that candidates can break away from the pack by adopting a strong pro-environment and pro-climate platform.

Read a summary of the poll here, as well as top-lines and other key findings.