2009 OVERVIEWThe 2009 National Environmental Scorecard illustrates the extent to which the Obama administration and the 111th Congress began to move our nation towards a new energy future that will reinvigorate our economy, create jobs, make America more energy independent and protect the planet from global warming pollution.
As we have often said, elections have consequences. The individuals whom we elect to Congress determine the laws that govern our air, land, and water. So in addition to working to enact policies that safeguard the environment, invest in clean energy and protect public health, LCV works to elect pro-environment candidates who will help implement such policies.
Much of the success of the first session of the 111th Congress, including passage of comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation in the House of Representatives, is due to the results of the 2008 election. Aside from electing a strong environmental champion in President Barack Obama, pro-environment majorities in both chambers of Congress were strengthened. Consider that each of the six new senators endorsed by LCV in 2008 earned a perfect 100% in 2009. In sharp contrast, the six senators they replaced had an average lifetime score of 23%. In the House, the 22 LCV-endorsed members of the class of 2008 earned an average score of 90% in 2009, whereas the members they replaced had an average lifetime score of 34%.
In the most sweeping accomplishment - not just of 2009 but perhaps in a generation - the House passed the landmark American Clean Energy and Security Act in June by a vote of 219-212. This vote marked the first time that comprehensive global warming and clean energy legislation passed either chamber of Congress. The House-passed bill, while not perfect, would reduce global warming pollution by 17% by 2020 and 83% by 2050 and includes complementary clean energy measures to help meet those emissions reductions.
As we said when the bill was on the House floor, "this legislation has the power to transform America. The stakes could not be higher; a safer, healthier planet and a new energy economy hang in the balance, and it's imperative that members of Congress be on the right side of history." Given the scope, magnitude and urgency of addressing the climate crisis and building a clean energy economy, we have taken the extraordinary step of double scoring the House vote on final passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act.
We would have strongly preferred to have had the opportunity to score both the House bill and a final conference report, but unfortunately the full Senate has yet to vote on comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. In fact, on the heels of the House vote, Big Oil and other special interests launched an unprecedented smear campaign - spending millions to block energy reform and protect their corporate profits. Fortunately, in the fall of 2009, the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee passed a comprehensive bill, and Senators John Kerry (DMA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) undertook a tripartisan effort to pass a bill in 2010. Prior to passage of the historic House bill, though, Congress had already begun to make great progress as the Obama administration worked with both chambers to enact the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The legislation included the single largest investment in clean energy in history - more than $80 billion for energy efficiency, renewable energy, public transit, high-speed rail and clean energy jobs.
The administration built on this early success by sending Congress a budget that would further lead the way toward a clean energy economy, most notably by assuming revenues from putting a price on global warming pollution. Although Congress did not include these revenues in its budget, it did include much-needed funding for environmental and energy programs. This renewed emphasis on environmental funding continued with the FY 2010 Interior- Environment appropriations bill. In the fall, Congress passed and President Obama signed into law a bill that included a 17% increase in funding, much of which will go towards bringing about a new energy future. While the Senate did not act on a comprehensive bill, senators did cast other key votes on energy and global warming, including one on the connection between global warming and national security. Both chambers also rejected amendments to defund key administration staff leading the development of energy and global warming policy. In addition to making progress on clean energy and global warming, the first session of the 111th Congress also made important strides on other key issues, perhaps most notably on public lands. Both the House and Senate passed an Omnibus Public Lands bill to protect more than 2 million acres of pristine lands across the country. The House made additional progress on other key issues included in the 2009 Scorecard, such as water quantity and quality, forest management, offshore drilling, wildlife conservation at home and abroad, chemical security and population.
The majority of the 11 Senate and 13 House votes included in the 2009 Scorecard reflect progress on a range of energy, environmental, and public health issues. This Scorecard clearly demonstrates a down payment on the change that voters sought in 2008. It also reveals that there is far more work to be done. The good news is that the solutions that will revive our economy, improve our national security, and protect our planet are one and the same. The biggest single step that Congress can take in 2010 is to finish the excellent work started in the House by swiftly passing a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill. As the second session of the 111th Congress gets underway, the League of Conservation Voters' top priority is to work with Congress to do just that.