Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Environmental Victories in the 2018 Midterms

There were two under-reported environmental success stories during the 2018 midterms that are worth noting. The first is a constitutional amendment to ban oil and gas drilling in Florida's state waters and the second is the electoral victory of clean energy advocate Sean Casten in Illinois.

The fact that the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives is a major step towards holding the president and the GOP accountable. This vote was a repudiation of Trump. Exit polls confirmed that Trump was on the ballot and the results in the House indicate he did not fare well. Trump's candidates lost in vast swaths of America including in areas where Trump won decisively in 2016.

The gains in the House prompted Van Jones to call it a "rainbow wave". Many of the seats that flipped to Democrats were won by women, there were also significant increases in representation from people of color. Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland became the first Native American women elected to Congress, and Colorado's Jared Polis became the first openly gay governor. The new members of Congress can now provide the checks and balances guaranteed under the Constitution. This includes challenging the conservative, white supremacist leanings of Trump and some members of the GOP. 

Taking control of the House will be a bulwark against further environmental and climate insults. The midterms also provided two environmentally themed success stories on November 6th 2018.

Amendment 9 in Florida

Voters in Florida voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that bans oil and gas drilling in state waters. The vote will prevent oil and gas drilling within three miles of the coast in the Atlantic and 9 miles in the Gulf of Mexico. This victory takes place in the context of the Trump administration's aggressive pursuit of more offshore fossil fuel extraction.

"Floridians just protected our coastline from dirty and dangerous offshore drilling. This is great news for coastal communities and the clean, tourist-friendly beaches we depend on," said Sarah Gledhill, Florida field campaigner at the Center. "By passing Amendment 9, Floridians are sending a loud message to President Trump that we oppose his reckless plan to expand offshore drilling."

This move will protect Florida's biodiversity including endangered sea turtles, right whales and a number of sea birds.  This will also benefit local aquaculture including lucrative oyster fisheries and tourism. However, the amendment will not stop the Trump administration's bid to increase drilling in federal waters which is subject to approval next year. 

Clean energy advocate Sean Casten wins in Illinois

Democrat Sean Casten defeated his Republican climate denying opponent Peter Roskam. Sean is a respected scientist and a clean energy entrepreneur who has a proven track record of building profitable businesses that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Sean is an energy efficiency guru who has contributed to the economy and provided hundreds of clean energy jobs. Sean has demonstrated that clean air and water are compadible with profitable business.  As explained on his website, "Sean has shown that being a good steward of the world goes hand-in-glove with strengthening our economy." Perhaps most importantly Sean will make fact based decisions rather than politically motivated partisanship that is at odds with science. 

Sean supports a goal based win-win energy policy that lowers energy costs, decreases pollution, and creates jobs. He explains:

"There is no inherent trade-off between increased energy efficiency and economic gain. For decades, environmental policy discussions have been framed around the fallacy that there is conflict between the environment and the economy," Sean said. He subscribes to a regulatory model that is goal based so as to "unleash massive economic activity while simultaneously rewarding environmentally beneficial outcomes."

He wants to modernize the Clean Air Act to incentivize and reward energy efficiency and conservation. He is a champion of output-based standards as opposed to input-based standards.
He also supports a national Fossil Energy Reduction Standard and nationwide CO2 regulation, governed by three goals: (1) incentivize the most rapid possible reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; (2) given scarce resources, favor the most cost-effective greenhouse gas reductions available; and (3) encourage the construction of the capital-intensive assets needed to overhaul and modernize our energy system.

Sean would like to amend clean energy tax incentive regulations to provide investors with an option to take their tax credit as a revenue grant.  He also wants to identify and eliminate economically inefficient cross-subsidies that discourage the development of clean energy sources.  Finally he wants new energy sources to compete economically, bearing their full costs of fuel procurement, distribution, conversion, and delivery.

There is still a long way to go to address the environmental and climate nightmare that is the Trump administration and the GOP, however, these are hopeful steps in the right direction. 

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