“A Renewed Sense of Urgency”: The Climate on the Ballot in the US Midterm Elections | 2022 US Midterm Elections

VSlimate is heavily on the ballot in November, despite not being a focus of any of the campaigns. Even when it comes to voter turnout, the mood of climate voters has been a topic of conversation among political consultants for months.

“Several months ago, I was very concerned about the apathy we were seeing among young climate voters due to the inability of Democrats to even talk about the successes they have had,” said Rania Batrice, political strategist and founder of Batrice & Associates. “But I feel like there’s been a bit of a renewed sense of urgency. In Georgia, for example, early voting has just started and it’s already breaking all kinds of records.

Batrice says the fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, which overturned the Roe v. Wade precedent on abortion, is a big part of that urgency, but the Biden administration’s increased climate action this year also plays a role.

For the campaigns she is working on this midterm cycle – Beto O’Rourke for Texas Governor, John Fetterman for the Pennsylvania Senate, Charles Booker for the Kentucky Senate and Mandela Barnes for the Wisconsin Senate – Batrice says his climate advice is simple: “Meet people where they are and talk about climate in a way that relates to people’s daily lives.

Jamie Henn, co-founder of 350.org and founder of climate communications nonprofit Fossil Free Media, echoes that advice. He says progressive candidates told the right story about high gas prices — ‘They’re set by the oil and gas companies, period, not by Congress’ — but many in the Democratic Party gave in the narrative to their Republican opponents, who push a simple and false message that the price at the pump is caused by pro-environmental policies.

“The big oil companies just pulled off one of the biggest heists in American history and no one is talking about it,” Henn says, referring to the $70 billion in profits that just six oil companies have recorded in the past. course of the last 90 days. “These profits have just come out of the pockets of ordinary people. This is a major wealth transfer, and people should be as pissed off at Exxon as they were at Wall Street during the financial crisis.

Henn points out that candidates like Fetterman, who leaned on the idea of ​​accountability for fossil fuel executives, rather than a ban on fracking in Pennsylvania, hit the right note. “Even in the general election two years ago, the conventional wisdom was that you couldn’t say anything about fracking in Pennsylvania and get elected,” Henn says. Now you have Fetterman and Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is running for state governor, talking about holding fracking companies accountable for water and land poisoning. “In either case, they say we won’t shut it down immediately, but we’ll hold these guys responsible for poisoning your water. It’s a really interesting turn in Pennsylvania,” Henn added.

Races for attorneys general could also affect, and in many cases hinder, climate policy. The high-profile West Virginia v. EPA case earlier this year, which limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, for example, was brought by the prosecutor general of West Virginia with the support of the Republican Attorneys General Association (Raga). Missouri’s attorney general is leading an investigation into banks that have adopted net-zero policies, with 14 other Raga members signing on as part of a new but growing push against the government’s environmental, social and governance investment guidelines. ‘company. There are races in 31 of the 43 states with elected attorneys general this year, with close races in many battleground states for climate action, including Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan , Minnesota, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin.

In Minnesota, Democratic Attorney General challenger Keith Ellison is using the climate as a campaign argument, referring to the climate fraud case Ellison went after ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute and Koch Industries in 2020 as a “frivolous” ploy to “please one side of the political aisle.” The Texas Attorney General’s office has also long been a strong advocate for the oil and gas industry, and current state Attorney General Ken Paxton is no exception, regularly intervening on behalf of ExxonMobil in climate disputes and prosecute the Biden administration in 2021 to end the government’s use of the “social cost of carbon” as an indicator to calculate potential climate damage. That makes Paxton’s tight race against Democratic challenger Rochelle Garza one to watch.

Republican Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels, left, challenges the state’s Democratic Governor Tony Evers, who said, “Science is back.” Photo: Morry Gash/AP

Thirty-six states will elect midterm governors, and these elections could have major climate consequences within and beyond state borders. In Wisconsin, Governor Tony Evers has made climate policy a priority of his administration since his election in 2018, after which he declared, “The science is back.” To keep science in the Wisconsin governor’s mansion, Evers will have to beat Republican challenger Tim Michels, who denies the validity of climate science and blames Democrats for high gas prices. Oregon, a longtime climate leader, could see some of its recent policies reversed if Republican candidate Christine Drazan or independent Betsy Johnson is elected governor. Drazan and Johnson will take on longtime House Speaker Tina Kotek, who will continue Governor Kate Brown’s politics. In Texas, Beto O’Rourke challenges the incumbent Republican, Greg Abbott, who, in addition to regularly go fight for ExxonMobiloversaw the passing of oil-friendly laws like SB13, which prohibits the state from doing business with any company that “boycotts energy companies”, a list that includes 10 companies and 348 investment funds.

Lesser-known positions on public service commissions could also bring some interesting changes this election cycle. Two seats are open on Arizona’s Enterprise Commission, for example, and if the Democratic candidates win, clean energy advocates would hold majority power on the commission and have said they will grow the energy industry. state renewables. Louisiana’s Public Utilities Commission also has two open seats, and if two clean energy advocates win, the commission’s trajectory would change in a state that has enormous sway over the oil and gas industry as a whole.

A seat on the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) is also up for grabs, and Democrat Luke Warford hopes to unseat incumbent Republican Wayne Christian to become the first non-Republican to serve on the commission, which regulates oil and gas. gas in the state, in 25 years. Warford’s campaign focuses almost entirely on the commission’s role in the state’s power grid blackout in 2021. Although tasked with overseeing and regulating oil and gas in Texas, since the 1970s the commission is seen more as an extension of the industry than a regulator, often refusing to enforce regulations on things like methane leaks and oil spills. “By their own admission, the RRC does not track the vast majority of flaring in the state,” Sharon Wilson, a local conservationist with the nonprofit Earthworks, wrote of the commission. Last year.

The most important midterm outcome for climate may well be control of the US House of Representatives, but Batrice says climate voters shouldn’t give up hope there just yet, while Henn says those who care should focus on both the downside races and the victories progressives have won.

“If the worst-case scenario happens and the GOP gets the House, what should the strategy be? It shouldn’t be to cower and cling in the middle, it should be to tackle corruption,” he says. “Eighty-seven percent of voters want the government to crack down on big oil, and 80% of voters support the windfall tax on fossil fuel companies – I don’t know why more candidates aren’t running on the responsibility.”

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