Despite Environmental Endorsements, Sen. Susan Collins Has Spotty Record on Confronting Climate Change

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 26 Mar 2014 22:32:00 GMT

Collins adSen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), facing reelection this year in a strongly Democratic state, has garnered the support of national environmental organizations despite a conflicted record on climate policy. In September 2013, the League of Conservation Voters launched an ad campaign praising Collins’ “environmental leadership.” A new advertisement from the Environmental Defense Fund and Moms Clean Air Force praises Collins for “confronting climate change” in marked contrast to the majority of her Republican colleagues. The organizations have not formally endorsed a candidate in the rate.

The EDF ad cites Collins’ vote on “S. Amdt 359 to SCon Res 8, Roll Call #76, 3/22/13.” That day Collins broke with the Republican caucus to vote against an amendment introduced by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) prohibiting further greenhouse gas regulations for the purposes of addressing climate change.

She cast a similar vote on April 6, 2011, when she broke the Republican ranks to vote against the McConnell amendment prohibiting EPA regulation of greenhouse gases.

On December 11, 2009, Collins and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) introduced climate legislation (S. 2877) in competition with Kerry-Boxer (S. 1733), the Senate version of the Waxman-Markey bill. Cantwell-Collins offered a simpler cap-and-trade system and weaker emissions targets than Kerry-Boxer.

However, a broader review of her voting record finds that Collins repeatedly acted to help Republicans prevent the passage of climate legislation during the Obama presidency and to weaken executive action on climate rules:

  • On April 1, 2009, Collins allied with Republicans and conservative Democrats in key votes to preserve the ability of Republicans to filibuster climate legislation during Obama’s first term. She voted against non-filibusterable budget reconciliation for green economy legislation, if “the Senate finds that public health, the economy and national security of the United States are jeopardized by inaction on global warming” (Roll Call Vote #125). She then voted to prohibit the use of reconciliation in the Senate for climate change legislation involving a cap and trade system (Roll Call #126. She voted for Sen. Kit Bond’s amendment establishing a point of order against climate change or similar legislation that would increase federal revenues (Roll Call #142).

    These votes arguably made the future demise of climate legislation in the Senate inevitable, in contrast to health care legislation, which became law through the reconciliation process despite unified Republican opposition.

  • On April 6, 2011, Collins voted for Rockefeller’s bill to delay greenhouse-gas regulations for two years (Roll Call #53).
  • On March 21 and 22, 2013, Collins voted for Sen. Roy Blunt’s amendment to create a point of order against legislation that would create a federal tax or fee on carbon emissions (Roll Call #59) and against Sen. Whitehouse’s amendment that would support the creation of a carbon fee (Roll Call #58).

Moreover, Collins has been a consistent supporter of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, voting that “that no additional safety or environmental analysis of the pipeline was necessary” in 2012 (Roll Call #34) and in 2013 (Roll Call #61). Collins is also “the only member of Maine’s congressional delegation that has not called upon the State Department to do a full environmental review” of the possibility of the Portland Montreal Pipeline being used to carry tar sands crude, as the Canadian government opens the route from Alberta to Quebec for the carbon-intensive fossil fuel.

Although Collins has expressed a desire for “limiting the worst effects of climate change,” when the opportunity has come to display true climate leadership, she has supported her caucus instead more often than not.

Podesta Rebukes Environmentalists For Criticizing Obama's "All of the Above" Support For Fossil-Fuel Extraction

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 17 Jan 2014 20:10:00 GMT

Obama’s new top climate adviser rebuked environmental leaders who challenged the president to dump his “all of the above” energy strategy as incompatible with needed climate action. In a letter obtained by the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin, John Podesta questioned why the climate advocates criticized the president for his support of increased fossil-fuel extraction.

Making reference to Obama’s “bold Climate Action Plan” announced in June 2013, Podesta cited “significant decreases in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions” despite “opposition to key components of the plan” from Republicans in the House and Senate. Podesta noted that the plan “commits to additional steps to cut the emissions of carbon pollution, prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to combat global climate change,” claiming that the “breadth of the plan makes it impossible to detail those steps in this letter.”

Podesta’s only reference to President Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy of increased fossil-fuel extraction came in his criticism of the environmentalists:

Given this context, I was surprised that you chose to send your January 16 letter to President Obama. The President has been leading the transition,[sic] to low-carbon energy sources, and understands the need to consider a balanced approach to all forms of energy development, including oil and gas production.

Podesta did not reply to the environmentalists’ mention of the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline, which he has previously criticized. Upon taking the White House job, Podesta said he would not weigh in on the decision of whether the construction of the pipeline would be in the national interest, a determination to be made by the State Department and President Obama.

Under Podesta’s direction, the Center for American Progress offered divergent views on Obama’s “all of the above” policy:
  • Center for American Progress Director of Climate Strategy Daniel Weiss testified in 2012 and in 2013 in support of Obama’s “all of the above” strategy.
  • Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Joseph Romm, editor of Climate Progress, bluntly said in 2012 that the “all-of-the-above energy strategy” is what defines Obama’s “failed presidency.” He later excoriated Obama’s “big wet kiss to oil and gas.”

The text of the letter, typos included, is below:

THE WHITE HOUSE
WASHINGTON

January 17, 2014

TO:

Wm. Robert Irvin, American Rivers, President and CEO
Robert Wendelgass, Clean Water Action, President
Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders of Wildlife, President and CEO
Trip Van Noppen, Earthjustice, President
Maura Cowley, Energy Action Coalition, Executive Director
Margie Alt, Environment America, Executive Director
Fred Krupp, Environmental Defense Fund, President
Eric Pica, Friends of the Earth, President
Gene Karpinski, League of Conservation Voters, President
David Yarnold, National Audubon Society, President and CEO
Larry J. Schweiger, National Wildlife Federation, President & CEO
John Echohawk, Native American Rights Fund, Executive Director
Frances Beinecke, Natural Resources Defense Council, President
Andrew Sharpless, Oceana, Chief Executive Officer
Catherine Thomasson, MD, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Executive Director
John Seager, Population Connection, President
Michael Brune, Sierra Club, Executive Director
Sandy Newman, Voices for Progress, President

I am writing in response to your January 16 letter to President Obama regarding climate change. President Obama understands that climate change poses a significant threat to our environment, to public health and to our economy. He believes it is imperative that we act to address these threats, and that doing so provides an opportunity for the United States to lead in the development and deployment of clean energy technologies needed to reduce emissions. For these reasons, the President has taken steps to address the climate change challenge throughout the last five years, including a issuing a bold Climate Action Plan in June of 2013.

The Climate Action Plan builds on major progress during the President’s first term, including: historic fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for light-duty vehicles that will cut 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide pollution, cut oil consumption by 12 billion barrels of oil, and save consumer $1.7 trillion over the lifetime of the program; energy efficiency standards for appliances that will cut pollution and save consumers and businesses hundreds of billions of dollars in the coming decades; historic support for renewable energy that has helped to drive down technology costs and more than doubled generation of electricity from wind and solar. These steps by the Obama Administration have contributed to significant decreases in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions; 2012 emissions of carbon dioxide were at their lowest level the lowest [sic] in nearly twenty years.

The Climate Action Plan outlined by President Obama in a historic speech at Georgetown in June of 2013 builds on these measures, and commits to additional steps to cut the emissions of carbon pollution, prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to combat global climate change. The breadth of the plan makes it impossible to detail those steps in this letter, but key commitments to continue to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions include establishing the first-ever carbon pollution standards for power plants, a multi-sector strategy to reduce methane emissions, action to limit the use of HFCs and promote the use of more climate-friendly alternatives, additional DOE energy efficiency standards, and additional fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for heavy duty vehicles.

We have made significant progress in implementing the plan in the last seven months, and I attach for your review a recent report that details this work. However, significant work lies ahead in meeting the commitments outlined in the Climate Action Plan. In addition, opposition to key components of the plan remains. Last week, the White House had to fight off anti-environmental Appropriations riders, including ones that would have prevented the EPA from implementing regulations to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, and would have prevented the Administration from moving forward with Tier 3 vehicle and fuel standards. On the day your letter arrived, the Senate Minority Leader filed a Congressional Review Act resolution to overturn rules to regulate CO2 emissions from new power plants.

Given this context, I was surprised that you chose to send your January 16 letter to President Obama. The President has been leading the transition,[sic] to low-carbon energy sources, and understands the need to consider a balanced approach to all forms of energy development, including oil and gas production.

With respect to meeting the threats posed by a rapidly changing climate, implementation of the Climate Action Plan must and will remain the focus of our efforts. In the meantime, we will continue to welcome your advice, based on your very long experience on how to convince the American public of the need and opportunity to transform dirty energy systems to ones that are cleaner and more efficient.

Sincerely,

John D. Podesta

Enviro Coalition Letter Calls on Obama to Drop 'All of the Above' Strategy for 'Carbon-Reducing Clean Energy' Strategy

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 17 Jan 2014 04:49:00 GMT

In a letter sent to President Barack Obama on Thursday, the leaders of the nation’s top environmental organizations aggressively criticized his “all of the above” energy strategy. The 16 groups, ranging from environmental justice organizations such as the Native American Rights Fund to the corporate-friendly Environmental Defense Fund and the progressive advocacy group Voices for Progress, praised the president’s “goal of cutting carbon pollution” but sharply rebuked the White House’s support for expanded fossil-fuel extraction:
An “all of the above” strategy is a compromise that future generations can’t afford. It fails to prioritize clean energy and solutions that have already begun to replace fossil fuels, revitalize American industry, and save Americans money. It increases environmental injustice while it locks in the extraction of fossil fuels that will inevitably lead to a catastrophic climate future. It threatens our health, our homes, our most sensitive public lands, our oceans and our most precious wild places. Such a policy accelerates development of fuel sources that can negate the important progress you’ve already made on lowering U.S. carbon pollution, and it undermines U.S. credibility in the international community.

The groups made special note of Obama’s announcement in June that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would be judged for the “net effects” of its “impact on climate.” The Keystone XL pipeline is incompatible with the 2°ree;C warming limit to which Obama has committed the United States, but the administration may attempt to use a different, high-emissions scenario as the baseline against which to judge the pipeline’s “net effects.”

The environmentalists concluded with the recommendation that the White House’s “all of the above” strategy be replaced with a “carbon-reducing clean energy” strategy:
We believe that a climate impact lens should be applied to all decisions regarding new fossil fuel development, and urge that a “carbon-reducing clean energy” strategy rather than an “all of the above” strategy become the operative paradigm for your administration’s energy decisions.

The full text of the letter is below.

American Rivers * Clean Water Action * Defenders of Wildlife * Earthjustice *
Energy Action Coalition * Environment America * Environmental Defense Fund *
Friends of the Earth * League of Conservation Voters * National Audubon Society *
National Wildlife Federation * Native American Rights Fund *
Natural Resources Defense Council * Oceana * Physicians for Social Responsibility *
Population Connection * Sierra Club * Voices for Progress

January 16, 2014

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D. C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We applaud the actions you have taken to reduce economy-wide carbon pollution and your commitment last June “to take bold action to reduce carbon pollution” and “lead the world in a coordinated assault on climate change.” We look forward to continuing to work with you to achieve these goals.

In that speech, you referenced that in the past you had put forward an “all of the above” energy strategy, yet noted that we cannot just drill our way out of our energy and climate challenge. We believe that continued reliance on an “all of the above” energy strategy would be fundamentally at odds with your goal of cutting carbon pollution and would undermine our nation’s capacity to respond to the threat of climate disruption. With record-high atmospheric carbon concentrations and the rising threat of extreme heat, drought, wildfires and super storms, America’s energy policies must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, not simply reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

We understand that the U.S. cannot immediately end its use of fossil fuels and we also appreciate the advantages of being more energy independent. But an “all of the above” approach that places virtually no limits on whether, when, where or how fossil fuels are extracted ignores the impacts of carbon-intense fuels and is wrong for America’s future. America requires an ambitious energy vision that reduces consumption of these fuels in order to meet the scale of the climate crisis.

An “all of the above” strategy is a compromise that future generations can’t afford. It fails to prioritize clean energy and solutions that have already begun to replace fossil fuels, revitalize American industry, and save Americans money. It increases environmental injustice while it locks in the extraction of fossil fuels that will inevitably lead to a catastrophic climate future. It threatens our health, our homes, our most sensitive public lands, our oceans and our most precious wild places. Such a policy accelerates development of fuel sources that can negate the important progress you’ve already made on lowering U.S. carbon pollution, and it undermines U.S. credibility in the international community.

Mr. President, we were very heartened by your commitment that the climate impacts of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would be “absolutely critical” to the decision and that it would be contrary to the “national interest” to approve a project that would “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” We believe that a climate impact lens should be applied to all decisions regarding new fossil fuel development, and urge that a “carbon-reducing clean energy” strategy rather than an “all of the above” strategy become the operative paradigm for your administration’s energy decisions.

In the coming months your administration will be making key decisions regarding fossil fuel development — including the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking on public lands, and drilling in the Arctic ocean — that will either set us on a path to achieve the clean energy future we all envision or will significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. We urge you to make climate impacts and emission increases critical considerations in each of these decisions.

Mr. President, we applaud you for your commitment to tackle the climate crisis and to build an economy powered by energy that is clean, safe, secure, and sustainable.

Sincerely,

Wm. Robert Irvin
President and CEO
American Rivers

Robert Wendelgass
President
Clean Water Action

Jamie Rappaport Clark
President and CEO
Defenders of Wildlife

Trip Van Noppen
President
Earthjustice

Maura Cowley
Executive Director
Energy Action Coalition

Margie Alt
Executive Director
Environment America

Fred Krupp
President
Environmental Defense Fund

Eric Pica
President
Friends of the Earth

John Seager
President
Population Connection
Gene Karpinski
President
League of Conservation Voters

David Yarnold
President and CEO
National Audubon Society

Larry J. Schweiger
President & CEO
National Wildlife Federation

John Echohawk
Executive Director
Native American Rights Fund

Frances Beinecke
President
Natural Resources Defense Council

Andrew Sharpless
Chief Executive Officer
Oceana

Catherine Thomasson, MD
Executive Director
Physicians for Social Responsibility

Michael Brune
Executive Director
Sierra Club

Sandy Newman
President
Voices for Progress