Enviro Groups Reevaluate Obama Support in 2012
Green energy groups are voicing discontent after President Obama's decision to back down on tightening ozone regulations. The abandonment comes just after Obama's call for Congress to extend Bush-era funding for highway projects, and late August's go-ahead from the State Department to construct an oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
Politico reported that this may be the last straw for environmental advocates. The outraged groups are questioning their support of the incumbent candidate in next year's election.
“I think obviously the administration has done some great things,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, the League of Conservation Voters’ senior vice president for government affairs. “But there’s also been some real disappointments, and today’s ozone announcement is at the top of the list."
With Obama's approval ratings faltering at 40% according to late August Gallup polls, the President faces the prospect of losing out in 2012. This latest slackening in a commitment to the environment is particularly distressing to a large section of his dwindling support base.
The administration had previously planned to carry out the EPA's January 2010 proposal to set ozone standards between 60 and 70 parts per billion when averaged over an eight-hour period. President Bush's adjustments in 2008 fell short of the agency's recommendations; shifting the limit from 84 to 75 ppb were labeled "not legally defensible" by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
Republicans had said increased regulation would significantly hinder any chance of economic recovery, echoing business groups' resistance to the planned tightening in standards. So Obama's sudden deviation from environmental reform comes across to some as bowing to Republican ideals. In its report Saturday, Politico quoted a statement from MoveOn Executive Director Justin Ruben:
"Many MoveOn members are wondering today how they can ever work for President Obama's reelection, or make the case for him to their neighbors, when he does something like this, after extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich, and giving in to tea party demands on the debt deal... This is a decision we'd expect from George W. Bush."
The New York Times reported similar sentiments, offering analysis by Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.
“It could play into an emerging narrative in his own party that he is caving too quickly to Republican pressure,” Dr. Leiserowitz said. “It is a dangerous narrative in your own base because it cuts down on enthusiasm and it is a narrative that his opponents will pick up on.”
Republicans in Congress have already cheered the president's backdown, according to Politico.
"This sudden admission by President Obama that ill-considered regulations do, in fact, have a negative impact upon our economy is a welcome breakthrough,” Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of its Energy and Power subcommittee, said in a statement. “With the president's change of heart on regulations, we welcome his support in having our pro-jobs and pro-growth measures signed into law.”
Discouraged as they may be, green group members have said they'll likely still vote for Obama with no better option in the running—though Politico went on to quote former Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, who helpfully reminded the administration that environment advocacy groups “can stay home. They can closet their enthusiasm. They can end their contributions to him. And that’s not what he needs to be reelected.”