Environmental Groups Split in PA-8

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick has received both praise and scorn on his environmental record, causing a split among endorsements for both Fitzpatrick and his Democratic challenger Kathy Boockvar.

The Republican Rep. from Bucks County won the backing of The National Wildlife Federation and ConservAmerica thus far, each lauding Fitzpatrick’s work on the Endangered Species Act as their main reason for the endorsement. The National Wildlife Federation cited Fitzpatrick’s “willingness to break ranks” on certain issues as a key reason for their endorsement.

“This endorsement reflects our fundamental belief that protection of our natural heritage and the effort to ensure a safer and cleaner environment for this and future generations should not be partisan issues. They are deeply held mainstream values for which there need to be pro-conservation voices in both parties,” said Susan Brown, NWF Action Fund Executive Director.

ConservAmerica, a group that cites the Republican legacy of Teddy Roosevelt, also cited Fitzpatrick’s bipartisanship on energy and conservation.

“Congressman Fitzpatrick is an independent thinker who puts problem solving ahead of partisanship. During his time in the House, Mike Fitzpatrick has been interested, first and foremost, in finding solutions that work for building energy security and conserving our natural resources for everyone’s benefit,” ConservAmerica President Rob Sisson said. “He will not hesitate to work across the aisle in order to responsibly address the energy and environmental challenges our country faces.”

Other eco-groups have been less than thrilled with Fitzpatrick’s environmental voting record. PennEnvironment and Clean Water Action have endorsed Boockvar for PA-8.

PennEnvironment’s endorsement of Boockvar is a stark contrast between the groups endorsing Fitzpatrick.

“Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick has repeatedly cast votes that would threaten our environment and health. In the past year Congressman Fitzpatrick has received a disappointing 36 percent on PennEnvironment’s scorecard. Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional district needs a member of Congress who will consistently vote to protect our environment and our cornerstone environmental laws—not roll them back,” the group said in its endorsement of Boockvar.

The nation’s premier environmental group, the Sierra Club, hasn’t endorsed at all in the 8th district for the first time in several cycles. It’s unclear who would get it in any case. The Club endorsed Fitzpatrick during his 2006 campaign against Patrick Murphy, which Murphy won. When Fitzpatrick returned to challenge Murphy in 2010, the Club backed Murphy.

For fun, we asked both campaigns about Fitzpatrick’s environmental record. Here’s what they told us.

From team Fitzpatrick:

Fitzpatrick Stances on Environmental Issues

From team Boockvar:

Flip-Flopped on Cap and Trade

In 2005, Fitzpatrick co-sponsored cap-and-trade legislation that would require 20 percent of electricity sold in the U.S. to come from renewable sources by 2020.  The bill’s lead sponsor was Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA). The bill was considered by some to be the most aggressive bill limiting heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions to date. [Greenwire, 11/07/06]

Fitzpatrick in 2010: Cap-and-Trade Sends Jobs Overseas

By 2010, he had announced his opposition to cap and trade because, he claimed, it would send jobs overseas. [Washington Post, Fitzpatrick Profile, accessed 3/28/12; Morning Call, 5/08/10]

Philadelphia Inquirer: Fitzpatrick “Ought to Know Better” on Greenhouse Gas Vote

In March 2011, the Philadelphia Inquirer published an editorial condemning Fitzpatrick, Pat Meehan, and Jim Gerlach for voting for a House bill that would block the EPA from limiting GHG emissions. The bill also hampered the EPA’s ability to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

The Inquirer wrote:
They ought to know better, given the serious air-quality issues in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and the related health problems particularly for children. Pennsylvania power plants emit the second-most mercury nationwide, behind Texas. [Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/01/11].

Voted to Prevent Air Pollution Regulation Implementation

In 2011, Fitzpatrick voted to prevent air pollution regulations from going into effect. The bill would exempt what is called “nuisance dust” from regulation under the Clean Air Act. The bill defined “nuisance dust” as particulate matter “generated primarily from natural sources, unpaved roads, agricultural activities, earth moving, or other activities typically conducted in rural areas.” [Salt Lake Tribune, 12/10/11; CQ Floor Votes, 12/08/11]

Fitzpatrick even voted against a motion to ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency would continue to be allowed to regulate particulate containing cadmium, lead or asbestos released from mining activities and from demolition and renovation. [CQ Floor Votes, 12/08/11] The motion failed 166-252. [HR 1633, Vote #911, 12/08/11

Voted to Block Regulation of Dangerous Pollutants

In 2011, Fitzpatrick voted for the TRAIN Act, which blocked regulations that reduced emissions of pollutants from coal-fired power plants by the Environment Protection Agency.  The bill would have required the establishment of a committee to analyze the impact of certain EPA regulations on the economy, delaying the rules, including those on mercury emissions. [Chicago Tribune, 9/24/11; CQ Floor Votes, 9/23/11] The bill passed 249-169. [HR 2401, Vote #741, 9/23/11]

Voted Against Regulating Pollutants in Drinking-water Sources

In 2011, Fitzpatrick voted against a motion which continued the EPA’s authority to regulate pollutants in drinking-water sources. The motion stated that the legislation would not affect the EPA’s authority when it comes to regulating pollutants, including arsenic or perchlorate, into public drinking-water sources. The motion failed 188-238. [HR 2018,Vote #572, 7/13/11]

Voted to Bar the EPA from Regulating Greenhouse Gas

In 2011, Fitzpatrick voted to prohibit the EPA from addressing climate change by regulating greenhouse gases, to change the definition of air pollutant in the Clean Air Act and to keep states from addressing climate change through the regulation of greenhouse gases.

The bill changed the definition of air pollutant to exclude greenhouse gas as it pertained to climate change (though greenhouse gases could be regulated for reasons other than climate change). It also repealed previous EPA regulations on stationary sources of greenhouse gases and barred the EPA from issuing any new regulations on stationary sources of greenhouse gases. Automobile emission standards were exempt from this bill. [CQ House Action Report, 4/04/11]

7 Responses

  1. It’s hedging bets, Susan, and you know it.

    There’s no other way to construe it – Sierra Club believes Fitzpatrick is going to win and/or is okay with enough of his stances, and doesn’t want to run the risk of backing someone who won’t win.

    It’s kind of a loss for the D candidate – as she’s not viewed as credible enough to win the seat. The D candidate is almost always the Sierra Club endorsement-getter (eight D’s in PA alone this year versus 0 R’s). Three weeks out, it doesn’t seem like enough momentum is with her.

  2. I didn’t say it was a default endorsement for him. I said it should be construed as one, particularly by people such as you and myself.

    Given your response I’m going to say you are particularly bitter about their lack of an endorsement for your candidate and are trying to rationalize it somehow.

  3. Sierra not endorsing either candidate is by no means a default endorsement of Fitzpatrick. It is an indictment of him for all his flip flopping. He cannot be trusted.

  4. Congressman Fitzpatrick a champion of endangered species Hold on not so fast!

    Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick Was honored for his co-sponsorship last year of a legislative amendment to defend the Endangered Species Act against a bill that would have blocked the addition of imperiled plants and animals to the threatened and endangered species lists. Fitzpatrick helped secure House passage on July 27, 2011 of his amendment to remove the harmful language from appropriations legislation to fund the Interior Department.

    I appreciate his actions with this particular legislation, but want concerned with his other votes regarding species protection.
    Yet in recent votes, Congressman Fitzpatrick voted to strip protections from endangered species. Here are two examples of his recent actions.
    H.R. 1837, the deceptively named “San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act,” passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives on Leap Day 2012 with a floor vote of 246 to 175.
    According to major environmental groups this bill Harms Endangered Species – H.R. 1837 would eliminate science-based protections for salmon and other endangered species that are required under both California law and the Endangered Species Act, instead substituting measures crafted as part of a short-term deal reached in 1994–in a vastly different ecological and scientific environment. The State of California has been on record since 2009, under both Republican and Democratic Administrations, opposing riders and legislation to weaken, suspend, or overturn the Endangered Species Act in the Bay-Delta.
    Congressman Fitzpatrick Voted in favor of passage1

    In addition, H.R. 4089 would amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act to allow the importation of two classes of polar bear trophies taken in sport hunts in Canada.
    First, it would allow import of polar bear trophies taken in Canada before February 18, 1997, regardless of whether the polar bear was taken from an approved or unapproved population.
    Second, H.R. 4089 would allow import of polar bear trophies taken in Canada and only from bears hunted from approved populations before the May 2008 Endangered Species Act listing took effect. In practice, it would treat trophy hunters who killed their bears before the ESA listing took effect as though the listing had never taken effect.
    This bill encourages hunters to continue killing protected species in other countries, store the trophies in warehouses, and simply wait for their allies in Congress to get them a waiver on the imports. It sets a dangerous precedent, and encourages more killing of threatened species and protected marine mammals, which flies in the face of the ESA and MMPA.
    Congressman Fitzpatrick Voted in favor of passage

    I met with with Representative Fitzpatrick in July 2011 regarding protection of endangered species. While in this meeting, he stated said he has “a deep respect” for the Endangered Species Act “for what it has accomplished. Hundreds of species have been saved.” He also stated the environment is not a partisan issue. I will have strong support from Republicans and Democrats in my efforts to preserve and protect the Endangered Species Act
    But with his recent votes regarding other legislation taking swipes at endangered species we are now concerned that either he doesn’t realize that other legislation while not directly attacking the endangered species act still chisel away the protections in the act and further weaken protection of threatened and endangered species. When one talks about protecting endangered species one must also protect them from tangential attacks, and so far, Congressman Fitzpatrick isn’t doing that.

  5. It may be wise to perceive this issue within a larger context.

    Fitz is benefitting both from his strong independent record and the surge in support for Romney, for this will probably be a particularly partisan competition; this may explain why KB isn’t receiving tons of support from DC.

    Both bode well for the R’s, particularly noting corroborative data from FL/VA….

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