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Elections Usher in Divided Congress, Environment, Energy Issues Remain
WASHINGTON, DC, November 3, 2010 (ENS) - Some environmental measures fared better than Democratic candidates in Tuesday's election. California voters defeated Proposition 23, deciding by a decisive margin of 61.3 percent to keep the state's greenhouse gas reduction law, the Global Warming Solutions Act, AB32, the strongest clean energy law in the nation.

Nationally, Republicans seized control of the House and shaved the Democrats' advantage in the Senate, although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada was re-elected, beating Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle.

Election returns this morning show the Republicans have so far gained 60 seats in the House. With 11 elections not yet called, the GOP has 239 seats and the Democrats have 185.

At a White House news conference today President Barack Obama gestures his hope that Democrats and Republicans can work together. (Photo courtesy The White House)

In the Senate, Democrats hold 51 seats and the Republicans have 46 with three elections not yet called.

President Barack Obama, who now must share government with a Republican-controlled House for the balance of his term, told reporters in a news conference this morning that he takes responsibility for the Democrats' losses.

"It feels bad," said the President, but he calmly said he would look for areas of agreement with Republicans to create jobs and help heal the economy. "When I took office, the economy was in freefall," Obama said. "Now we have had nine consecutive quarters of private sector job growth."

But Obama acknowledged the economy is still "in neutral" and he pledged to sit down sometime within the next few weeks with House and Senate majority and minority leaders to seek mutually acceptable solutions.

Obama said in the absence of any hope of getting an energy and climate bill passed in the Senate to match the bill passed by the House in 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will continue to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases. "The EPA wants help from the Congress," he said, but pointed out that the agency is under a court order to deal with greenhouse gas emissions as a pollutant.

While President Obama defended his clean energy and environment agenda as one of the best ways to create jobs in the United States and keep the country competitive on world markets, environment means something different to Republican Congressman John Boehner of Ohio who will replace Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.

"It's pretty clear the American people want us to do something about cutting spending here in Washington and helping to create an environment where we get jobs back in our country," Boehner said today. "We've got a big job ahead of us."

"Last night, the President was kind enough to call me," said Boehner. "We discussed working together on the American people's priorities: creating jobs and cutting spending. We hope that he will continue to be willing to work with us on those priorities."

Republican Congressman John Boehner will be Speaker of the House. (Photo courtesy Office of the Congressman)
Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi retained her seat but not her position as Speaker. (Photo courtesy Office of the Congresswoman)

Republicans for Environmental Protection, REP, a national grassroots organization of stewardship-minded Republicans, said, "Divided government will give Republicans in Congress a chance to move beyond the extreme and partisan rhetoric of this campaign season and show they can work constructively towards real solutions to our energy security and environmental challenges. It is our hope that they will do so; otherwise, their gains will be short-lived."

REP President Rob Sisson said, "Now that Republicans and Democrats will share control of the 112th Congress, both parties will have to work together in good faith to restore the country's economy, strengthen national security, and protect America's natural heritage and quality of life. We urge that Republicans lead the way forward with pragmatic ideas based on the traditional conservative ethic of stewardship."

"Good stewardship of our natural resources, like good stewardship of our financial resources, is central to true conservatism," Sisson said.

David Jenkins, REP vice president for government and political affairs, said, "Republicans can build a lasting majority if they govern pragmatically, avoid extremist posturing, and work in good faith across the aisle to get things done for the American people. Voters will be watching closely."

The Union of Concerned Scientists says regardless of the election results, climate change is still with us.

"This election changed the political reality in Washington, but it didn't change the scientific reality of global warming," said UCS President Kevin Knobloch. "Congress still has a duty to move our country forward on clean energy and climate change. The scientific community stands ready to defend its colleagues against possible attacks from newly empowered members of Congress."
Voters in Des Moines, Iowa, November 2, 2010 (Photo by Phil Roeder)

"Given the incontrovertible evidence that human activities are radically altering the climate," the Union of Concerned Scientists recommends that the incoming 112th Congress set aside the provocative oratory and focus on reality.

"Harassing climate scientists, confusing the public about the state of climate science, or attempting to block public health-based EPA rules would be counterproductive," said the scientists' organization.

"Instead," said the UCS, "the new Congress should embrace an energy policy that would expand renewable energy production, increase energy efficiency in every sector of the economy, and improve public health by reducing pollution."

At the Natural Resources Defense Council, Peter Lehner says voters supported clean energy choices where they could.

"There is no mandate for GOP climate positions in this election. Quite the contrary: a series of recent polls shows that a commanding majority of the public continues to support clean energy and climate legislation," Lehner blogged today.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, conducted October 13-18 among 2,251 adults reached on landlines and cell phones, finds that 32 percent say global warming is a very serious problem while 31 percent think it is somewhat serious. A year ago, 35 percent described global warming as a very serious problem and 30 percent said it was somewhat serious.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.



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