U.S. environmental groups say they see states taking more aggressive action than the federal government on environment issues and are stepping up donations to gubernatorial campaigns this autumn.
NEW YORK -- U.S. environmental groups say they see states taking more aggressive action than the federal government on environment issues and are stepping up donations to gubernatorial campaigns this autumn.
Whether it's California's Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who is running for re-election or Eliot Spitzer, running for New York governor, or candidates in states in between, Washington-based environment groups the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club are backing candidates they think will take tough action on renewable energy and emissions of mercury and greenhouse gases.
Many state leaders, such as Pennsylvania's Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, have required their states to get a large chunk of their power from renewable resources such as wind and water.
With governors, "you don't have the type of congressional leaders who have worked the beck and call of Big Oil that have bottled up aggressive energy legislation," Tony Massaro, political director for the League of Conservation Voters, said in a telephone interview. "So (governors) have the ability to do things without those guys getting in the way."
The group's national office, which is giving to gubernatorial candidates for the first time this year, is donating about 10 percent of its $7 million overall campaign donation budget to state races, said Massaro.
Schwarzenegger, a Republican, last month enacted legislation creating the first U.S. mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions, while California and New York have also taken the lead on lowering emissions of heat-trapping gases from automobiles. Democrat Spitzer, New York's state attorney general, has sued the federal government on mercury emissions.
On global warming, "there's been essentially no federal action during the Bush administration," said Mike Bocian, a pollster at Democracy Corps, a group spearheaded by James Carville, a former campaign adviser for former President Clinton.
At the same time, he said, about 20 states have required that some of their electricity must be generated from sources such as wind and water, which slash emissions.
President Bush pulled the United States out of the 160-nation Kyoto Protocol and favors voluntary means of reducing greenhouse emissions.
The national Sierra Club is boosting its donations to gubernatorial and state legislature candidates to about one third of its overall $4 million campaign gift budget this year.
"Our states are the laboratories of democracy and good public policy," said Cathy Duvall, the Sierra Club's national political director. "We are seeing how they are meeting their energy needs and grow their economies and protecting their environment all at the same time."
The Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters are giving the bulk of their donations to tight races in the U.S. heartland. The Sierra Club is focusing on Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan where candidates and incumbent governors have strong renewable energy programs, said Duvall.