Environment Wins in Democratic Landslide

WASHINGTON, DC, November 8, 2006 (ENS) - Democrats upset Republicans across the country Tuesday to win control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1994 - spelling an end to the terms of some of the legislators most disliked by conservationists.

The Democrats could also win control of the U.S. Senate, but that outcome hinges on close races in Montana and Virginia.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California will move into the Speaker's seat, becoming the first woman Speaker of the House in U.S. history. Her environmental views match those of conservationists, particularly on climate and energy issues.

Pelosi supports legislation to control global warming introduced by Democrats earlier this year. The measure would establish a market-based emissions trading system for the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.


Nancy Pelosi of California will become the first woman Speaker of the House in U.S. history. (Photo courtesy Office of the Congresswoman)
"The Safe Climate Act will harness free market forces to ensure that our nation takes the steps necessary to prevent dangerous, irreversible warming of our planet," Pelosi said in July.

Her position is opposite to that of the Bush administration and the Republican Congressional leaders who have attempted to deny and suppress evidence of climate change.

Pelosi opposes drilling for oil in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. "We should not sacrifice the Arctic coastal plain, one of America’s last truly wild places, for the sake of a small amount of oil," she said.

"Democrats are stepping forward with new ideas and new solutions," Pelosi said. "We can’t drill our way to energy independence – but we can grow our way to energy independence. America’s farmers are ready to grow energy crops that will end our dependence on oil from unstable regions."

"Today, the American people voted for change, and they voted for Democrats to take our country in a new direction. And that is exactly what we intend to do," Pelosi said.

In California's 11th Congressional District, Congressman Richard Pombo, who had used his position as chair of the House Resources Committee to weaken the Endangered Species Act, was defeated by Jerry McNerney, a wind engineering and renewable energy professional.

Heavy spending on anti-Pombo commercials by out-of-state environmental groups helped tip the balance against the seven-term incumbent Pombo.


California voters elected Democrat Jerry McNerney to replace Congressman Richard Pombo. (Photo courtesy McNerney campaign)
As McNerney outpaced Pombo, the Sierra Club declared victory. "Pombo's defeat is not just a victory for the people of California's 11th-district, said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope. "This is a moment to be savored by anyone who loves Yosemite National Park or the California coast or Giant Sequoia National Monument, places Pombo worked to mine, drill, or log."

"On the issue of energy policy in particular, America is extremely fortunate to be replacing someone who's energy priorities were dictated by Big Oil with a man who is an expert on renewable wind power and who has the vision to help our nation develop smart new energy technologies and jobs," said Pope.

The League of Conservation Voters used a radio ad to inform voters about "the $120,000 Pombo has taken from Big Oil, his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, his use of a taxpayer money to rent an RV for a family vacation, and the fact that dirty air and water are not a concern of his."

Calling him the "leading opponent of animal welfare in Congress," the Humane Society Legislative Fund launched a campaign to help defeat Pombo. The group cited Pombo's support of commercial whaling, horse slaughter, bear baiting on public lands and the use of leghold traps on National Wildlife Refuges.

But California voters rejected the costliest ballot initiative campaign in state history, defeatingProposition 87 that would have taxed state oil production to fund alternative energy research to the tune of $4 billon.

Oil companies spent close to $100 million to kill Proposition 87, saying they already pay too much in California's high corporate income tax and other taxes.

It would have established an $4 billion program to reduce petroleum consumption by 25 percent, with research and production incentives for alternative energy, alternative energy vehicles, energy efficient technologies, education and training.

oil field

Oil field in California's Kern County. California is the third-largest on-shore oil producing state. (Photo courtesy BLM)
Other conservation initiatives were approved by voters, including a $17 million Arizona bond for recreational opportunities, open spaces and parks.

In Alaska, a $3.95 million bond to protect water quality and to preserve and enhance open space and natural areas failed by a narrow margin.

Michigan turned down the shooting of mourning doves, authorized by a bill narrowly passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Jennifer Granholm last year. The new law permitted the shooting of mourning doves in Michigan for the first time since 1905.

The Committee to Keep Doves Protected successfully campaigned to overturn the bill and to restore Michigan's 100 year tradition of protecting the mourning dove, Michigan's official bird of peace.

California voters appeared likely to approve Proposition 1E, which proposes $4.1 billion in debt financing for levee repair and flood control programs to shore up the state's deteriorating levee system in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Early this morning the measure had 63 percent support.

Proposition 84, a measure seeking $5.4 billion for California flood control, water and natural resource projects, had won 52 percent of votes.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican who won an easy reelection victory, had campaigned in favor of the measures.

Elsewhere across the country, Democrats took the majority of the 36 states that elected governors, and Democrats now hold 28 governors' seats.

New York voters chose Democratic Attorney General Eliot Spitzer to replace departing Republican Governor George Pataki, whose environmental advances included the preservation of millions of acres of open space and parklands.

Massachusetts elected Deval Patrick as its first black governor to succeed incumbent Republican Governor Mitt Romney, who did not run for a second term. Patrick becomes only the second black governor ever elected from any state.

New Mexico

Wilderness on New Mexico's Otero Mesa is threatened by oil and gas exploration. (Photo by Raymond Watt courtesy New Mexico Wilderness Alliance)
Democrats were reelected in Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Wyoming, New Mexico and Tennessee, while Republicans were returned to office in Georgia, Nebraska, Connecticut and Vermont.

In Colorado, Democrat Bill Ritter defeated GOP Congressman Bob Beauprez to claim the governor's mansion.

Arkansas chose a Democrat, attorney general Mike Beebe, over Republican Asa Hutchinson, who served as one of the prosecutors during the Senate impeachment trial of Arkansas native son President Bill Clinton in 1998.

Republicans for Environmental Protection, REP, said the Republican Party must learn from its Tuesday election losses by focusing on solving national problems that concern citizens instead of catering to special interest agendas.

REP President Martha Marks said, "It's too bad that the wayward actions of party leaders tarnished Republicans as a whole and cost some of our most conscientious, responsive, and pro-environment Republican lawmakers their jobs."

"Exit polls Tuesday night showed that citizens were very upset about ethical lapses in Congress," said Marks. "The corrosive effects of catering to narrow, parochial agendas not only caused scandals, but it resulted in our party failing to lead on the urgent energy and climate challenges facing our nation."

"True conservatism does not condone greed, arrogance or waste. It requires us to be prudent, exercise restraint, and act in the long-term interest of both present and future generations," said REP Government Affairs Director David Jenkins. "That legitimate brand of conservatism would have prevailed at the polls. It is too bad that so many of our party leaders are strangers to it."