TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Lori Lodes, Climate Power 2020
RE: Harris’ Record on Climate and the Environment Makes for Good
DATE: August 11, 2020
Sen. Kamala Harris has a strong record of prioritizing action on climate and protecting the environment. As the vice president of the United States, she has pledged to continue these pro-climate efforts on the national and international stages, making fighting climate change a central issue for the administration. This is an asset for the Biden campaign as general election voters, including youth voters, Black and Latino voters, and Republican-leaning suburban women strongly support the next administration taking bold climate action, and report that they will consider a candidate’s climate agenda when voting in November, and Harris’ record contrasts sharply with Vice President Mike Pence’s record on the environment.
Harris Has A Strong Climate and Environmental Record
- As a senator, she worked with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to co-author the Climate Equity Act, which would require all environmental and climate legislation and regulations be scored for their impacts on frontline communities the same way federal infrastructure projects are currently scored.
- Throughout her career, Harris has prosecuted industries and individuals for environmental crimes, with a particular focus on environmental justice and abuses by fossil fuel companies.
- As attorney general, she joined AGs United for Clean Power, a group of state attorneys general, to investigate fossil fuel companies like Chevron and BP for fraud and support the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. She joined a 2019 brief supporting the cities of Oakland and San Francisco in a lawsuit against Big Oil companies for damages related to climate change.
- The first candidate for California’s attorney general — Democratic or Republican — to publicly oppose the repeal of AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, California’s cap-and-trade system. Harris made her opposition to Prop 23 a part of her 2010 campaign, saying, “We currently have Texas oil companies coming in to do a full-on assault on California’s environment. This is a very pressing issue. The harm that environmental crime exacts on its victims is as imminent in many situations as any other crimes we can imagine or watch on television.”
- 91% Lifetime Score from the League of Conservation Voters National Environmental Scorecard.
- Created the Environmental Justice Unit in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.
Pence Is a Climate Denier Who Doesn’t Believe in Science.
- Mike Pence denies climate science and played a leading role in opposing climate solutions. Pence called climate change a “myth” and said that the evidence was “simply not there” and as Republican Conference leader in the House, Pence hosted a mock climate change hearing where he brought climate deniers together to oppose action on climate change.
- Mike Pence’s anti-science beliefs have fueled public health crises both as governor and as vice president. As governor, Pence’s opposition to a needle exchange program was blamed for accelerating an HIV epidemic in Indiana. Pence has led Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force since February and praised Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis. To date, the administration’s handling of the crisis has cost more than 160,000 lives.
- Mike Pence effectively killed an energy efficiency program and with it 19,000 local clean energy jobs. In 2014, Mike Pence allowed SB 340 to become law without his signature, effectively terminating the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission’s “Energize Indiana” program. Over two years, Energize Indiana created 19,000 jobs and improved the energy efficiency of homes, schools, and businesses.
- Mike Pence’s cozy relationship with Big Oil polluters may have started with his family’s gas station business. Kiel Bros Oil Co, the Pence family gas station chain led by Mike Pence’s brother, Greg, racked up debt and environmental fines in the early 2000s, eventually filing for bankruptcy and leaving behind contaminated sites that left Indiana taxpayers with $21 million in cleanup costs.
- Pence has been described as a “loyal political ally” of the Koch brothers. No wonder Pence stood in front of an oil rig to brag about rolling back pollution rules to benefit the oil industry. The Trump-Pence administration has been rolling back at least 100 environmental rules and regulations.
- Mike Pence’s indifference towards the poisoning of people of color shows his environmental racism. As Governor, Pence’s administration denied an application for disaster relief for an East Chicago, IN community affected by a lead contamination crisis that resulted in 1,000 residents being displaced. Meanwhile, when lead contamination was discovered that same year in a community that is 97% white, Pence responded immediately.
General election voters think climate is a serious issue and want action to build a clean energy future.
- Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the federal government should act more aggressively to combat climate change, and almost as many say the problem is already affecting their community in some way, in a June Pew Research Center survey.
- According to a June 2020 Yale, Climate Nexus, and George Mason poll, more than 70% of voters support legislation to achieve a 100% clean economy by eliminating fossil fuels.
- An April Yale Program on Climate Change Communication survey also found that voters are 55 percent less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who opposes taking action on climate – liberal/moderate Republicans are 35 percentage points less likely to vote for a candidate opposing action.
- While Republicans led the generic ballot with GOP-leaning persuadable voters by 9 points in March, when reframed as a choice between a Democrat who “supports taking strong government action to combat climate change” and a Republican who opposes such action, the generic ballot shifts to a 20-point Democratic lead – a net 29-point shift.
- A March 2020 poll from Climate Power 2020 found that critiquing Trump’s record on climate increases Trump’s disapproval among GOP-leaning persuadable voters, and increases motivation to vote by younger voters by 12 percentage points and Hispanic voters by 9 percentage points.