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Congress Gets Failing Grades on Climate in First 100 Days

PHOTO: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Obama. Photo credit: Chaser/Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Obama. Photo credit: Chaser/Wikimedia Commons.
April 17, 2015

DENVER - Wednesday marked Mitch McConnell's 100th day as Senate majority leader, and environmental leaders are giving the lawmaker from Kentucky and the rest of the 114th Congress a failing grade. They say the $700 billion invested by the energy sector to secure an industry-friendly agenda is paying off.

Kim Stevens, campaign director for Environment Colorado, said the first 100 days have been a setback for climate action and the Environmental Protection Agency's public health protections.

"It's really a failure to Coloradans and the American people overall," she said. "They are pursuing an unpopular polluter-backed agenda to undermine the EPA."

When McConnell took over as majority leader, he promised to dismantle public-health safeguards against carbon emissions and block the Clean Power Plan, which would set the first federal limits on carbon from power plants. Current regulations protect against mercury, soot and arsenic pollution, but not carbon. Environmentalists say the combustion of fossil fuels to generate electricity is the largest single source of CO2 emissions in the nation.

Concern over climate change continues to grow in the United States. Exit polling from The New York Times in 2014 showed nearly six out of 10 voters believe it's an important issue. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 67 percent of Americans support the carbon regulations proposed by President Obama and the EPA.

Stevens said Coloradans understand the value of clean air and water and want the EPA to do its job.

"Coloradans want to see climate action," she said. "It's time for our decision makers to listen and stand up against Mitch McConnell and big polluters."

Stevens said McConnell may even be creating a rift among Republicans, as some in the party are starting to see climate change denial as less politically viable. A New York Times poll from earlier this year found that a majority of Republicans support government action to address climate change.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO