Minnesota Reps. taking heat for moves to block EPA


Environmental groups are going after Minnesota members of Congress who have voted to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas pollution. A recent poll shows that votes by Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann and Chip Cravaack aren’t popular in their districts, and Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat, is getting attacked from both sides – the GOP says his stance against EPA regulation is “wishy washy,” while interest groups say he’s siding with foreign oil producers.

In late February, the U.S. House voted to bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gasses as air pollution in an amendment to the government spending bill. That bill would be valid for the rest of 2011. Voting for the ban were Republican Reps. Erik Paulsen, John Kline, Bachmann and Cravaack who were joined by DFLer Peterson.

Peterson has backed up his opposition to the EPA Thursday by signing on to a bill that would permanently bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.

The Truman National Security Project (TNSP), a national security nonprofit that views dependence on foreign oil to be a national security concern, criticized Peterson in an email to the Minnesota Independent. The group has created a campaign called Operation Free: Secure America with Clean Energy.

“Representative Peterson has said we need to rein in the EPA, but what really needs to be reined in is this Congress’s addiction to oil,” wrote TNSP press secretary Laura Britton. “In light of the unanimous agreement of our military and security leadership that oil money funds terrorism and puts our troops in unnecessary danger, we are surprised and disappointed in Peterson’s decision to support this shortsighted proposal. We urge Peterson to stand up with our veterans, military leaders, and security experts in defending the EPA’s efforts to protect America through clean energy policies.”

Peterson also took heat from the Republican Party of Minnesota which called him “wish washy.”

“Collin Peterson once again proves that Minnesota deserves better leadership than he can offer,” GOP chair Tony Sutton said in a statement on Thursday. “After voting for the job killing cap and trade bill in 2009, Peterson now says ‘the EPA needs to be reined in’ and blocked from reducing the gases that are blamed for global warming. Minnesota deserves more than a wishy washy leader who is unwilling to take a firm stand. There is no telling how long Peterson will stand against the EPA before he changes his mind again.”

Shortly after the vote to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases in the continuing resolution, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) commissioned a poll by Public Policy Poling that found voters in Bachmann’s and Cravaack’s districts opposed that vote.

In the 6th Congressional District, 64 percent of voters said they opposed Bachmann’s late-February vote to “block the EPA from limiting carbon dioxide pollution.” That sample included 60 percent of independents and 35 percent of Republicans opposing the vote. The poll also found that 69 percent of voters wanted the EPA to “reduce carbon pollution without delay,” with 65 percent of independents and 47 percent of Republicans agreeing.

“Americans are clearly persuaded that their health needs should take priority over the profits of polluters” said Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling. “Political affiliation doesn’t appear to count for much when constituents are asked whether their representatives in Congress should be siding with the public’s health or the political clout of polluters.”

The poll also found that 73 percent – including a majority of Republicans – think “EPA scientists, not Congress, should decide what pollution limits are needed” and 78 percent agreed that the United States should be “protect(ing) the air we breathe and the water we drink with safeguards that hold corporate polluters accountable for the pollution they release into our environment.”

The poll was conducted from February 18 to 19 and had a sample size of 956 with a margin of error of 3.2 percent.

“The message is as clear here as clean air: People in Rep. Bachmann’s district want Rep. Bachmann to let the EPA do its job instead of putting the profit-driven agenda of big polluters ahead of the health of their children,” said Samantha Chadwick of Environment Minnesota.

In Cravaack’s district, the poll showed similar numbers: 67 percent of voters, which included 58 percent of independents and 36 percent of Republicans, opposed efforts to “block the EPA from limiting carbon dioxide pollution.”

In the poll, 73 percent of voters said they thought that “EPA scientists, not Congress, should decide what pollution limits are needed.” That included 53 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of Independents.

The poll has a sample size of 1,022 and a margin of error of 3.1 percent.