Here's my list of the five most important results for the environment and what they mean.
1. The "Takings" Initiatives fail in 3 of 4 states. These extreme libertarian initiatives, whose campaigns were bankrolled by New York real estate tycoon Howie Rich, were on the ballots in Washington, California, Idaho, and Arizona. If passed, city, county, or state governments in those states would have had to "compensate" property owners for the profits they supposedly would have made if they had been allowed to do something on their property that a regulation prohibits. I recently blogged about these initiatives, which would have threatened to bankrupt governments due to all the claims that would have been brought against them.
The results? Luckily for Washington, California, and Idaho, the initiatives failed. Unfortunately for Arizona, the initiative passed. Don't be surprised if there is an increase in unhappy neighbors and bankrupted local governments in that state. Nevada also had a similar initiative but a state supreme court decision prevented it from reaching the ballot.
2. CA-11: Jerry McNerney defeats Rep. Richard Pombo in California. Jerry McNerney, Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress and former wind energy engineer, defeated by far the worst representative the environment has ever endured, Rep. Richard Pombo, by a margin of 53-47. Tonight I told my brother only somewhat jokingly that if Democrats had lost every seat in the House except Pombo's seat, I still would have been somewhat happy. It is hard to stress enough just how anti-environment Pombo was. Grist does a good job of listing the Abramoff crony's offenses against conservation and public lands: trying to gut the Endangered Species Act, trying to sell off millions of acres of public lands to mining corporations and private developers to pay for Bush's budget deficits, trying to "sell off drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to fund transportation pork," trying to say mercury isn't harmful, and other offenses. Pombo was in a position of great power as chair of the House Resources Committee, and he had the potential to do a lot of harm. It is a HUGE victory for the environment to have him gone. See ya, Dick. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.
3. MT-Sen: Jon Tester defeats Conrad Burns. Former organic farmer and State Senate President Jon Tester has come a long way in a year, first defeating centrist Democrat John Morrison in the Montana primaries, then holding on to beat anti-environment curmudgeon extraordinaire and longtime incumbent Conrad Burns. Like Pombo, Burns is also an Abramoff crony and member of the League of Conservation Voters' "Dirty Dozen." Here's Grist's skinny:
It would be hard not to look green next to the Big Sky State's three-term GOP senator, Conrad Burns -- unabashed climate skeptic, advocate of human pesticide testing, beneficiary of $551,586 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry over the course of his career, and one of the "Dirty Dozen" members of Congress that LCV is most anxious to unseat.As they say in the Big Sky State, "Fire Burns!" Yesterday Montana voters did just that.
Burns has earned a lifetime environmental voting score of 4 percent from LCV. According to the group, he has consistently voted against increasing fuel-economy standards, repeatedly sought to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, and opposed numerous efforts to push the development of renewable energy. On the subject of global warming, the senator remarked in a recent Energy & Environment Daily interview, "[It] has been happening since the glaciers started to recede. You remember the ice age? It's been warming ever since, and there ain't anything we can do to stop it." As if that weren't enough, Burns was a leading recipient of campaign donations from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
4. PA-Sen: Bob Casey, Jr. defeats Sen. Rick Santorum. Bob Casey, Jr. soundly defeated notorious wingnut Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania's Senate race, 59-41. Yet another member of LCV's dirty dozen, Santorum let his extremist Christian delusions and campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry determine his environmental views, and they weren't pretty.
Santorum -- also a "Dirty Dozen" honoree, with a lifetime score of 10 percent from LCV and a zero score from Republicans for Environmental Protection for his voting record in 2005 -- doesn't put much truck in building a sustainable future. "Nowhere in the Bible does it say that America will be here 100 years from now," he said at a 1994 political rally. This spring, Santorum pushed for the failed GOP energy package -- ridiculed even by right-wing ideologues -- that proposed a $100 gas rebate for drivers in exchange for opening the Arctic Refuge to drilling. And yet strong fuel-economy standards don't strike Santorum as a good way to save drivers money: He has opposed efforts to increase them no less than six times. He's also opposed efforts to promote the development of renewable energy and voted against the bipartisan 2005 Sense of the Senate resolution acknowledging that global warming is a human-made problem in need of federal action.(Source: Grist)
Says LCV's senior vice president for political affairs, Tony Massaro, "Virtually every chance he gets, Sen. Santorum has voted for oil and gas interests and against the environment."
Your family may be crying, Rick, but I can assure you environmentalists are not.
5. CO-Gov: Bill Ritter defeats Bob Beauprez. I know it's only one state, but Governors are extremely important as far as environmental protection goes, especially in large, resource-rich Western states like Colorado. It is getting less coverage than the Democrats taking control of the House and Senate, but the fact that Democrats also picked up six governor seats is refreshing (even some, like Jim Doyle in Wisconsin, are centrist as far as the environment goes). It was especially refreshing in Colorado, where Denver district attorney Bill Ritter defeated Rep. Bob Beauprez, 56-41. Beauprez's environmental record is so bad that he was the first ever gubernatorial candidate put on the League of Conservation Voters' "Dirty Dozen" list.
Rep. Beauprez holds a lifetime LCV score of 5%. In Congress, his record on energy and water demonstrates just how out of touch he is with the people of Colorado. For example, Rep. Beauprez voted for the oil shale and tar sands royalty subsidy, which would reduce potential revenues available to local Colorado communities for giving the right to drill on their land. In addition, while the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission continues to monitor storm water runoff from oil and gas development due to water quality concerns, Rep. Beauprez voted to exempt some oil and gas drilling activities from the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act.Ritter is somewhat of a centrist on environmental issues, but has acknowledged the importance of mitigating climate change and developing renewable energy in Colorado.
Further, Rep. Beauprez voted to cut more than $20 million from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. He also voted to give billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to oil companies at a time of record breaking profits, and opposed sensible clean energy solutions, such as requiring new cars to go further on a gallon of gas.
I decided to focus on specific issues or races for my "Top 5." Obviously, overall I think that the Democrats taking control of Congress holds the largest potential for actually doing something to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, seriously pursue renewable energy, and protect our public lands. Being in my early 20s, it's weird to see even the potential for good environmental policy on the national level, but now that promise is there. Democrats need to get right to work on these priorities.