Election Update: How did wolves, elephants and manatees do?
Check out Environmental Action’s post-election look at the changing political dynamics around some key issues across the country.
The votes haven’t yet been entirely counted. But the consequences for wolves, elephants, manatees and everyone affected by climate change are as clear as they’re ever going to be.
Here are three takeaways from the results:
1. Endangered species should rest a little easier, but not until January.
Once the new Congress is seated in January, attempts to dramatically weaken the Endangered Species Act, authorize wolf hunts on federal lands, and reduce national parks and monuments will be much less likely to get anywhere. However, there are reports of a last gasp push to pass those proposals in the lame duck session of the next two months.1
New, more environmentally-friendly governors in New Mexico and Nevada could also mean that fewer states will be pushing for wolf hunts and increased mining on federal lands. Fish in the Great Lakes will likely be better protected by new governors in Illinois and Wisconsin.
However, manatees and others threatened by the human-fed toxic algae blooms on Florida’s coasts are in for a period of uncertainty. At last report, the state’s governor race is too close to call and headed for a recount. Both of the candidates made campaign promises to stop the problem. But one candidate’s voting record while in Congress raises doubts about whether he’ll follow through.2
Finally, Donald Trump is still president and has shown no sign of changing his attitude towards the environment. Come January, the leaders of the EPA, Interior Department, and other agencies that deal with the environment will likely be the same, in spirit if not in body. So, the threats they’ve posed to wolves, elephants, giraffes and other wildlife haven’t changed.
2. Wildlife and special places will have a new set of innovative champions with power.
The U.S. House and many state legislatures will welcome the largest number of new environment-prioritizing members in a long time. That bodes well for the future. Among them are:
- Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (TX-7), whose campaign emphasized climate change solutions after her Houston-area district was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey last year.
- Sean Casten (IL-6), a scientist and clean energy entrepreneur, who founded a company that recycles energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
- Dean Phillips (MN-3), a former gelato entrepreneur and non-profit hospital executive, whose campaign called for action on climate change, increased production of renewable energy, and energy efficiency.
In the next few years, they’ll not only be voting the green way. They’ll also develop and build bipartisan support for out-of-the-box environmental laws that can win big in 2021 and beyond.
3. It’s hard to pass bold anti-climate change ballot measures, especially when utilities and fossil fuel companies oppose them, even in the most pro-environment states.
The Bad News
A set of innovative measures designed to reduce the production and use of fossil fuels went down to defeat in Colorado (drilling restrictions), Arizona (50% renewable energy by 2030), and Washington state (carbon fee). The one thing each measure had in common was record-setting amounts of money spent to defeat them, by a few utility, oil and gas companies.3,4,5
Reasons for Hope
On the other hand, Nevada passed a renewable energy measure identical to Arizona’s. The difference was that the Nevada proposal faced little public opposition.
Other bright spots were in Florida and California, where voters supported upholding existing policies. In the Sunshine State, a ban on offshore oil and gas drilling was upheld by a 67%-33% margin. In California, a proposal to repeal the recent increase of the state’s gasoline tax was defeated.
How You Can Help
Now that Election Day has finally passed, it’s important to remember that elections are just one of many ways that our environment is protected or not.
The names and beliefs of some of the decision-makers will now change. But the need to voice your opinion the other 364 days of the year, to let your representatives and corporate leaders know the facts, is as important as ever.
- Find ways to help on our Environmental Action center page.
- Follow Environmental Action on Facebook.
- Follow Environmental Action on Twitter.
1. Miranda Green, “Republicans accelerate efforts to overhaul Endangered Species Act,” The Hill, September 30, 2018.
2. Steven Lemongello, “Florida governor’s race faces recount as Senate race gets even tighter,” Orlando Sentinel, November 8, 2018.
3. John Aguilar, “Prop 112 fails as voters say no to larger setbacks for oil and gas,” The Denver Post, November 6, 2018.
4. Ryan Randazzo, “Clean-energy ballot measure Prop. 127 now the most expensive in Arizona history,” Arizona Republic, October 16, 2018.
5. Hal Bernton, “Washington state voters reject carbon-fee initiative,” The Seattle Times, November 6, 2018.