By RL Miller for Climate Hawks
You’d think it was big news: Climate peacock Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) became the first Republican Senator to support President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, per a local news story. She’s been called the Senate’s most surprising environmentalist for a couple of votes last January.
On Thursday she and three fellow Republican senators set up an Energy and Environment Working Group – all of its members profess concern that President Obama’s policies hurt jobs. For this, the cautious Environmental Defense Fund is rewarding her with a five-figure ad buy.
But is she really being bold?
A US Senator told me that Ayotte has been afraid to say anything on climate for two years – too afraid of the fossil fuel industry/tea party to speak out in favor of climate action and too afraid of public ridicule to speak out against climate science.
Back in 2010, she went not-a-scientist: “I don’t think the evidence (of human impact on climate) is conclusive.”
On the Climate Hawks Vote scorecard measuring leadership on climate change, she’s scored -6 in the 112th Congress, -4 in the 113th Congress, and +1 in the 114th Congress (scores from -100 to +100).
For example, in the 113th Congress, she:
- voted for the Keystone XL pipeline but fretted about the Montreal-Portland pipeline
- issued a couple of press releases on S. 1191, an energy efficiency bill
- praised a cross-state air pollution ruling
- co-sponsored a mixed bag of anti-climate and pro-energy efficiency bills
- and promised to carefully review the Clean Power Plan.
That’s all she did on climate for two years.
The 114th Congress is a similar story: while whispering vague statements of support for the notion of doing something, someday, on climate, she also cosponsored two different Keystone XL bills.
Some climate folk think that Republican action on climate is necessary, and that one pro-climate Republican is worth ten pro-climate Democrats. So they get unnaturally excited over Republicans like Ayotte. What they seem to have missed: Ayotte only supported the Clean Power Plan three days after her Senate opponent, Democratic NH Gov. Maggie Hassan, wrote a letter urging Ayotte to support it.
Bold, or something.
Ayotte is now a full-feathered member of the Climate Peacock Caucus – those who say they want to do something on climate, some day, as long as it’s not a cap and trade plan. Or a treaty with other nations. Or a carbon tax. Or job-killing regulations. Or anything meaningful.
Climate Hawks Vote only supports politicians whose public statements show that they’ll show bold leadership on climate change. I don’t yet know if Hassan deserves our endorsement. I do know that we won’t be lifting a talon to help out Kelly Ayotte.