By Anne Regan, Policy Intern
The 2014 midterm elections were known for a lot of things, among them:
- the worst voter turnout in 72 years, with just 36.3 percent of eligible voters participating, according to the New York Times;
- the Democrats facing a record-low of only 36 percent of Americans saying they have a favorable opinion of the party;
- and Tom Brokaw answering his phone on live television.
However, there is concern with the 114th Congress’ impact on the U.S. energy and environment agenda. The Obama administration has moved ahead with its Climate Action Plan, a strategy to use regulations to address global warming without action from Congress. The White House climate deal with China shows that he is still clearly in the game. But with a Republican-controlled House and Senate, and losing key urban forestry supporters like Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), what does this say about current and future environmental legislation — specifically ones that American Forests supports?
In terms of EPA carbon regulations, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), newly re-elected and on the verge of becoming Senate Majority Leader, has repeatedly said he would use riders to challenge the EPA, using this high-pressure tactic to challenge Obama through must-pass spending bills that only require a simple majority to pass.
In addition, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a climate change skeptic, is likely to lead the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and use this position to try to weaken and scrutinize the EPA and its climate change and environmental protection agenda.
As daunting as this may seem, we realize that congressional committees and subcommittees play a major role in dictating environmental legislation that could overcome these opposing players with different environmental agendas. American Forests will continue to work with these newly elected Congressional members and others on the Hill to create a more diverse group of urban and wildland forest supporters.
For instance, Rep. Rob Bishop’s (R-Utah) victory over Democratic businesswoman Donna McAleer likely guarantees he’ll succeed retiring Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, therefore acquiring greater access to push sweeping legislation that affects energy development, wildlands, recreation, conservation and rural counties. Rep. Bishop is known amongst green groups as a good listener, paying attention to their ideas for designating new protected wilderness areas and extending key conservation programs.
American Forests sees the results from this election as an opportunity to work with members such as Rep. Bishop in discussing the issues relating to forest conservation and preservation to make sure these concerns are heard. We look forward to building new relationships with a more diverse group of urban and wildland forest champions — no matter which political party may control the House and Senate.