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Rep. Upton attacks strawmen

8:40 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Rep. Upton has been heavily criticized for catering to special interests (especially to those donors who have made substantial contributions to his campaign).   It’s also been shown that he is using bad information, misleading his constituents, and flip flopping on his previous positions.

Instead of addressing this criticism head on and providing leadership on policies that would help his constituents, he’s written an emotional OpEd that accuses environmental groups of being “divisive, shrill, disingenuous and inaccurate”.   Notably, he chooses to use unnamed sources (“Some claim….”) in his criticism instead of citing credible sources.

Sadly, he also continues to say that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would bring  ”100,000 jobs” even though he’s yet to cite his source, and the State Department estimates are dramatically lower. And he also fails to mention that the existing Keystone pipeline has already had 12 spills or leaks in the past year.

In his OpEd, Upton tries to label environmental groups as “special interests” even though these groups are working to protect the health of children against his unprecedented assaults on the Clean Air Act.  Given that the majority of his constituents oppose his efforts, I guess you could say that we’re all specially interested in him doing the right thing.

Ignorance Rages at CPAC

9:13 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

The annual Conservative Political Action Conference is taking place this week. Billed as the largest gathering of conservatives in the nation, it is known for giving participants a chance to kick the tires of potential presidential candidates.

This year is no exception. The list of confirmed speakers reads like a primary ballot for 2012 or 2016, including Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, John Thune, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Johnson, John Barasso, and Rick Santorum.

When I read through these names, I realized that every single likely candidate in the early GOP field is claiming to believe that climate change does not exist or opposes doing anything about it. Climate denying has become a litmus test to the far right wing of the Republican Party – what a sad commentary when there is a tacit requirement for someone to REJECT SCIENCE in order to even be in the running to win the nomination.

Take Senator John Thune of South Dakota. When asked his view on climate science, he said, “I guess the answer to the question is I’m not sure. I think there’s a real mix of data on that.” Representative Ron Johnson of Wisconsin goes farther. He claims that record spikes in temperature are the result of “sunspot activity” – an idea that scientists have checked and explicitly rejected.
And that’s just two CPAC speakers. The entire conference seems dedicated to walking America backwards.

Most of the conference speakers decried the comprehensive clean energy and climate bill that Congress abandoned last year. It would have unleashed technological innovation and generated nearly 2 million jobs. Representative Michelle Bachman urged the people of Minnesota to be “armed and dangerous over this issue.” And most of them have spoken out against the EPA’s efforts to make our air safer by reducing carbon pollution. Newt Gingrich wants to abolish the agency altogether, while his fellow CPAC speaker Senator Barasso introduced a bill that would, in effect, prevent states and every federal agency from doing anything at all based on concern about climate change. That goes even further than Senator Jim Inhofe’s bill that would block EPA from limiting carbon dioxide emissions. Inhofe – who infamously called climate change a “hoax” – has been joined in his effort by Representative Fred Upton of Michigan, the former moderate who chairs the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.

This position may generate applause lines at CPAC, but it is out of step with what Americans want. According to a new poll done by Opinion Research Corporation for NRDC, almost two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) say “the EPA needs to do more to hold polluters accountable and protect the air and water.”

The folks at CPAC fail to see how cleaner air and climate solutions will take America into the future. Instead of embracing sustainable energy resources, they prefer burning black rocks like we’ve done since the 19th century. Instead of putting American companies at the forefront of the 21st century global marketplace, they prefer to keep us addicted to ever diminishing supplies of oil.

This U-turn into the past will put America in a dangerous position. Over the past 12 months, we have witnessed devastating floods in Pakistan that further destabilized an already precarious nation, we have watched Russia endure a punishing drought that economist Paul Krugman linked to both climate change and rising food prices, and we have seen Australians battle a flood that submerged an area the size of Germany and France combined. We can’t tie any single weather occurrence to climate change, but scientists have repeatedly stated that more severe weather events are a hallmark of what human beings are doing to the climate.

CPAC speakers like to pretend climate change doesn’t exist, but what the facts on the ground reveal are impossible to ignore. And the GOP can continue to build its house of cards on a bunch of deniers, but most Americans want to build a safer, more sustainable future.

This blog was originally posted in NRDC’s Action Fund blog, The Mark Up.

You Can Do Better, Senator Brown

10:01 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

I learned last week that Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is floating the idea of stopping EPA’s work to reduce carbon dioxide pollution for at least one year.

To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. I have known and admired Senator Sherrod Brown for years, and I respect his track record on defending the environment.

Sherrod’s consideration of undermining the EPA’s ability to keep our air free from pollution doesn’t jibe with his past positions or with what’s good for Ohio’s economy and for its residents’ health.

And it certainly doesn’t match up with what I know of Sherrod Brown’s leadership.

I first met Senator Brown when he was in the House and I worked for another member of the Ohio delegation. Both members served on the Energy and Commerce Committee. During the long committee hearings, members often left to attend other events, but Hill staffers had to stick around to listen. Staffers aren’t allowed to speak at committee meetings—only members can—so when we would hear witnesses making inaccurate statements or exaggerating the facts, we felt powerless to correct the record.

That was until we realized we could turn to Sherrod Brown. He was one of the few members who would sit through the bulk of hearings, and we could always trust him to correct the record when the speaker was off the mark, we could count on him to challenge falsehoods—especially when it came to environmental issues.

More recently, Senator Brown has been a supporter of clean energy—something that has been very good for Ohio. In fact, Ohio is the best in the Midwest when it comes to green job growth. Toledo and Cleveland have led the way by transforming struggling auto-parts factories into manufacturing centers of solar panels, wind turbines, and advanced batteries.

These opportunities led Senator Brown to play an active roll drafting comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation that would have cut global warming pollution and brought as much as $5.6 billion in investment revenue and 67,000 new jobs to Ohio.

Unfortunately, that legislation never made it to the floor. So why would Brown want to put put on hold the only chance we have right now for cutting carbon dioxide pollution? The only thing likely to be different a year from now is that one more year of pollutants will be in our air and businesses will have suffered through another year of renewed uncertainty about the standards they will have to meet.

And EPA has not put in place some Draconian plan. All that’s being required is that new plants, or plants undergoing major changes install the latest, affordable equipment. Why would we want new plants to be dirtier than they have to be?

We shouldn’t stop work already underway to clean up our air and tackle climate change while we wait for Congress to get its act together. And Congressional “delays” tend to be extended year after year. Before we know it, America will be four or five years further behind in confronting the worst environmental, economic, and national security challenge of our time.

That isn’t something the Brown I know would want. And it’s not something the people of Ohio should want. Ohio has one of the best clean energy stories to tell in the nation. Confronting climate change and shifting to more sustainable energy will bring more jobs to your state and make the hard-working families of Ohio healthier.

When your children are sick, you don’t stop giving them the medicine they need because a better product might be available someday. Heck, you don’t even wait for your kids to GET SICK if you can take pre-emptive action to avoid it.

Sherrod Brown can stand up for the health and welfare of Ohio’s families by working WITH the EPA to make sure implementation of the Clean Air Act is successful in bringing standards up-to-date to protect public health and drive innovation. That is the leadership we need.

This blog was originally posted on the NRDC Action Fund blog, The Markup.

Why Young People Must Call Congress About Climate – Repeatedly

9:42 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

I grew up in the rural parts of Kentucky and Pennsylvania, two relatively conservative areas. Most of my friends and family are tried-and-true Republicans so it was assumed that I would follow suit. When I started working for a Democratic Congressman in college, one very prominent male figure in my family explained the oddity with a shrug (channeling Churchill) saying "If you are a Republican when you are in college, you have no heart. But if you are a Democrat when you are older, you have no mind."

This weekend, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said that kind of thinking could get the G.O.P. in trouble with young people. Indeed, he said one of the central reasons he is reaching across the aisle on clean energy and climate legislation is that he thinks the G.O.P. needs to do a better job of connecting with young voters.

"I have been to enough college campuses to know if you are 30 or younger this climate issue is not a debate. It’s a value," Graham said. "From a Republican point of view, we should buy into it and embrace it and not belittle them."

Graham is right on the money: Young people know their future is at stake and this is NOT a partisan issue. On the contrary, if America continues to ignore global warming, this generation will pay the price in the form of a disrupted climate, drought, and increased national security threats not to mention all the refugees who will need help. But if we confront this crisis, young people and old will reap the benefits of more clean energy jobs and robust economic growth.

Anyone who wants to see on-the-ground changes has to translate their climate values into climate action.

Politicians talk about values, but they respond to voters’ actions. Young voters, these are two ways you can take action. Here are three things to keep in mind about the way politics works:

1. Young Voters Need to Stay in the Game to Be Taken Seriously
There is often a sense among lawmakers that youthful causes don’t need to be taken seriously because youth voters don’t tend to vote with a lot of regularity. Many don’t think that a dedication to climate change issues translates into electoral activity.

If you don’t want to get the brush-off from lawmakers, you need to make it clear that our pleas for clean energy and self-reliance are not a passing fad; it is what will shape your voting patterns for years to come. You have to call Senators to say that you support a clean energy and climate bill. You need to turn out for primary elections to show that climate change is a mobilizing issue. And come November in order to prove that you cannot be dismissed by leaders who ignore climate change and your generation’s future – you must vote for the candidates who support clean energy and climate legislation

2. Contacting Your Senator’s Office Really Does Work
I have done everything on Capitol Hill from opening mail to working on legislation, and I am here to tell you that yes, intense, coordinated outbursts of citizen action really do make a difference.

People who work on the Hill have to juggle a bazillion issues at once. It isn’t easy keeping up-to-date on every single topic, but when voters flood an office with their opinions, Members and their staff stand up and take notice. When I was on the hill it meant I had to do the research and really engage with an issue in order to respond.

3. Repetition is Key
Maybe you have already emailed your Senator in support of a clean energy and climate bill, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it again. Indeed, if you want your action to count, you have to amplify it – repeat it.

So much of politics is about repetition: lawmakers are dealing with so many high-priority issues at once. You have to keep the repetition going in order to break through the noise. I think of it as the slow clap in a stadium. It starts with one person, but slowly the loud, rhythmic pattern catches on and more people join in. After a while, the sound is impossible to ignore.

Now, you know why you should take action. Here are two ways that the NRDC Action Fund is helping you to make your voices heard on clean energy and climate solutions:

The NRDC Action Fund has partnered with Headcount to launch a new website targeting young music lovers. The Musicforaction.org site makes it easy for people to email President Obama, Members of Congress, and local newspaper editors in support of clean energy and climate legislation. Visitors receive free "Best of Bonnaroo" downloads for visiting the site.

NRDC is also joining in a 72-hour call-in campaign with our partners over at Clean Energy Works, in which we are urging all people–but especially young people–to call their Senators’ offices in support of the bill. All they have to do is call 1-877-973-7693 to make their voices heard. So, call now!

Maybe our voices won’t break through to a particular today because he or she is too caught up with health care or financial regulation or some other issue, but if we keep calling back and emailing over and over again, they will start to hear the chorus for climate action. Now is the moment to add your voice to the mix – be young and take action.

Brown’s Win and the Climate Vote

5:19 pm in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

As we all drink our morning coffee and digest what this latest change-up means for the Senate, let me be the first to say – I continue to be hopeful that the Senate will take action on climate change.

The signs of momentum for a clean energy and climate bill outweigh any signs that come from the Massachusetts special election.

Take, for example, that this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reiterated that he wants to pass the bill this spring, and that the bill has the tri-partisan support of Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman.

In a little more than 6 weeks, 1221 businesses have called for strong action on climate via American Businesses for Clean Energy.

Not to mention the fact that President Obama spent 15 hours at the negotiating table in Copenhagen drafting an international climate accord with his own pen because he believes so deeply in the need to confront climate change. Top it off with the fact that Americans are frustrated with the continuing high jobless rate. The clean energy and climate bill, meanwhile, will create nearly 2 million additional jobs.

That’s the national picture. Now let’s look at what Brown himself might do on climate. In fact, like his constituents, Brown has said he believes we need to address climate change.

While it’s true that Martha Coakley was a more reliable vote in favor of a bill and it’s true that Brown has ties to the conservative tea party movement, I am not counting Brown out.

Most of Brown’s tea party supporters are out-of-staters, eager to push their agenda in whatever campaign they can. But now that the election is over, those folks will return home, and Brown will be left with the people who elected him — Massachusetts citizens who have said in poll after poll that they want clean energy and climate legislation to pass.

Brown has a choice to make. He can choose to serve the interests of those tea baggers who live elsewhere or he can choose to represent the people of Massachusetts. I hope he decides to follow the example of fellow Northeastern Senators Snowe and Collins, leaders who walk the tightrope between the conservative Republican leadership and their environmentally-minded constituents.

He opposes, however, most of the mechanisms currently on the table for accomplishing that goal. This seems to be the new GOP equivalent of having your cake and eating it too. (Senator Murkowski is especially good at playing both sides of this game). But it’s significant that these Republicans want to position themselves as proponents of fighting climate change – it means they and all their well-heeled advisors have concluded that time is on our side. They don’t think they can just deny that the problem exists or claim that nothing needs to be done about it. We have to capitalize on their sense that the future lies with a greener economy, even if they seem to be doing their best to stave off that future for the time being.

I hope Brown doesn’t use his fence-sitting to justify further delay. For if there was one thing the Massachusetts election showed is that voters want change, and they want it now.

People have grown impatient with their leaders. They don’t give them much time to realize their campaign promises anymore. President Obama took office just one year ago, but people have already moved on to the next person screaming for change. Brown knows this: he adopted Obama’s rhetoric from 2008 and ran as the change candidate.

It’s true that democracy can be painfully slow. The average bill takes Congress several sessions to pass and the major bills can take decades.

But several issues are ripe for action. They have had more than enough time to mature, and voters are begging for resolution. Americans want lawmakers to ensure the fat cats on Wall Street become better neighbors, to bring health care to those less fortunate, and to create jobs and economic opportunity by tapping into the global clean energy marketplace.

This is the kind of change voters want to see, and Brown has a chance to be part of the action. If, on his first day in office, he decides not to repeat the Mantra of No but instead to actually get some work done, he could be a game-changer on climate.

Our door is open, Senator-elect Brown, if that is the path you choose. Help us draft a bill that will protect the environment and get the economy back on track.