PWIR: EPA Showdown in the Senate

A weekly update on environmental policy happenings from Ryan Werder, Political Director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (Twitter: @rjwerder)

Don’t think that just because Congress is in recess, they weren’t working. In fact, as they go back to Washington this week, many of the cries they heard over the past week from their constituents will be echoing through both their heads and throughout the Capitol rotunda.

Since those of us here at Michigan LCV were not on recess, there is still plenty to include in this week’sPolitical Week in Review:

  • Warning sirens for Michigan Senators’ votes on crucial EPA amendments
  • The results of Rep. Upton’s listening sessions
  • Bernero’s belated surge in the polls
  • Some exciting facts on clean energy job creation in Michigan

Red Flags on Levin and Stabenow

In Washington right now, there is no higher priority for the environment than protecting the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas, as opposed to letting politicians set the limits (which simply won’t happen in this Congress, anyway). Unfortunately, Michigan’s usually reliable Senators need a strong reminder to vote the right way on this issue.

Right off the bat, I should note that voters in Michigan (in both parties) greatly prefer non-partisan EPA scientists doing the important research and regulation on carbon, as opposed to politicians in Congress. If you haven’t seen the latest LCV polling on the issue, you can find it in an easily understandable format as a brief slideshow or as a more detailed memo.

Right now, there are three amendments in the US Senate that would handcuff or hamper the EPA. The first is an amendment by Senate Minority Leader McConnell that is the Senate version of Representative Upton’s terrible House bill (remove EPA greenhouse gas authority, permanently). The second one is an amendment by Senator Rockefeller, from coal-heavy West Virginia, resurrecting his idea of a two-year delay of EPA authority. Just because one of these two is less awful, doesn’t mean it isn’t still awful. The third is an attempt by Senator Reid and Senator Baucus to create enough holes in the bill to placate some wavering Democrats.

If Senator Stabenow decides to vote for one these amendments — which is entirely possible, and even probable — it could be the tipping point for their successful passage. This is bad news.

Clean energy advocates and businesses were a crucial part of Senator Stabenow’s last reelection, so she has a big decision to make here. Taking that support for granted in the coming election — should she vote the wrong way — would be a risky bet. The impact on both votes and fundraising from her traditional allies in the conservation and environmental communities could take a serious hit.

Although Senator Levin isn’t up for reelection in 2012, he needs to hear your voice, too.

Upton heard us, but will he listen to us?

This past week, Representative Upton held his three-day, eighteen-stop listening tour in his district. As noted last week, that kind of openness is certainly appreciated, but now we are hoping that Representative Upton got as much out of it as we did.

At nearly every stop along his tour, Representative Upton’s own constituents stood up to ask him why he was seeking to attack the EPA’s important role in protecting our health and our children’s health from major pollution sources. Please check out a full report from our sister organization’s on-the-ground organizer who followed the tour step-by-step (Michigan LCV Education Fund).

Reliving November

One of the trendiest polls to cite this past week was the report that said if the gubernatorial election was held again now, in March of 2011, Rick Snyder would lose to Virg Bernero. I have to say that I’m dubious about the real world truth of that result.

True, Snyder’s budget did manage to anger nearly everyone in Michigan in one way or another (including us). Even so, the biggest red flag is that despite the projected election results for a March 2011 vote (Snyder 45%, Bernero 47%), 41% of those polled were self-identified Democrats as opposed to the only 28% self-identified Republicans. With one of the polls most striking findings being the increasingly polarized view of Snyder among partisans, the Snyder/Bernero question suddenly makes more sense. The major takeaway here for me, then, is not a fictional gubernatorial redo, but that the bitter divide in the state that Snyder promised to bridge is, sadly, growing.

In case you missed it…

Last week, the Environmental Law and Policy Center released their study of Michigan’s solar and wind energy supply chain. Fun fact: There are 121 solar energy companies and 120 wind power companies in Michigan. More fun fact: Michigan leads the nation in clean energy patents. Most fun fact: Those companies account for over 10,000 jobs right here in Michigan.

Until next week,

Ryan Werder, Political Director

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