An Environmental Nominee Conservatives Should Love

December 7th, 2011 at 12:00 am | 24 Comments |

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Rebecca Wodder, President Obama’s nominee to serve as the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks will be a topic of discussion in the business meeting of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Thursday. And many Republicans on the committee are sure to raise tough questions about her.

Wodder, the former CEO of the environmental group American Rivers, holds a number of positions that conservatives largely disagree with. But if they actually believe that frequent (and true) conservative refrain that big government damages the environment, she deserves enthusiastic support from Republicans on the committee.

In fact, she is, by far, the best nominee Obama has selected for a significant environmental job.

Insofar as she supports the Obama administration’s positions on a variety of issues–she favored the huge tax increases found in administration-backed climate change bills and supports federal regulation that might end up kneecapping efforts to develop natural gas–there’s reason enough to raise concerns.

But, the positions she holds that are most objectionable to conservatives simply echo those of the Obama administration and, whatever one thinks, are shared by a number of thoughtful, smart people. Should the administration really be expected to select nominees who oppose its positions?

The real reason Wodder is controversial, has little to do with positions she shares with almost the entire Democratic Party: rather, it’s the yeoman’s work she and the group she headed did to oppose a variety of boondoggles that spent public money to benefit a handful of powerful interests.

More than any other single environmental group, American Rivers has fought to cut back on Army Corps of Engineers water development projects, remove river-destroying dams, end subsidies to destroy wetlands, and open more wild areas for human use. (Anglers compose a large portion of American Rivers’ grass roots membership.) These activities, understandably angered lots of shippers, developers, and residents of areas that would have (or used to) benefit from government subsidies but they also jibe perfectly with the “government hurts the environment” message that conservatives embrace in public.

If the Republican Party stands wants to prove it is not simply the collection of special interests that the Democratic Party has become, its members ought to stand up in favor of Wodder’s nomination. It’s the right thing to do. The Wodder nomination needs to move forward.

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24 Comments so far ↓

  • Graychin

    A reasonable essay, until the first sentence of the last paragraph. That’s when you wandered into an alternate reality.

    • balconesfault

      Actually, this little toss-off line earlier bothered me as well:

      supports federal regulation that might end up kneecapping efforts to develop natural gas

      I’d like a little more description of that before I actually believe there’s substance to it. In general, the Democrats agenda would be a boon to the natural gas industry in America, starting with implementation of cap and trade or a carbon tax, which would drastically shift the economics of power production to favor natural gas over coal.

  • ConnerMcMaub

    Does the GOP have any notion of what they’d do if they got the Senate? Getting rid of the filibuster would be the very first thing I’m guessing.

  • balconesfault

    There is one primary reason Wodder is controversial.

    She was nominated by Obama.

    That’s all the current GOP Senate needs to be against her.

    **********************

    In other environmental news, Huntsman decides to mock the support of the Frums, Jenkins, and DiPesos who have been pushing his candidacy – as he sidled up friendly with the climate change denialist crowd:

    “[T]here is — there are questions about the validity of the science, evidenced by one university over in Scotland recently. I think the onus is on the scientific community to provide more in the way of information, to help clarify the situation.”

    • ottovbvs

      Well he is a member of a family that own one of America’s largest chemical companies.

      • balconesfault

        From what I can tell – our major chemical industries aren’t opposed to climate change legislation. They aren’t going to be lobbying for cap-and-trade … but they aren’t the drivers behind supporting the denialists the way the Kochs and ExxonMobil have been.

        What the chemical industry does want, however, is some kind of global compact that will make sure that US production isn’t undercut by production overseas, essentially exporting our carbon footprint (and manufacturing profits) abroad.

    • djenkins

      As I heard it, I believe all Huntsman said was “that there are questions” and that the onus is on the scientists to clear it up (after all, they are the experts). I did not hear him speak to the validity of the questions. It is a simple statement of fact unless he says he agrees that the science has legitimately been called into question. On many occasions he has said the opposite and used the analogy “if 90 percent of doctors told you….”

    • Stewardship

      Are you serious? Mocking? Did you watch the entire Heritage speech and Q&A? Huntsman was so obviously speaking to the leaked emails that have fueled the spurious Climategate 2 episode. Even as a person who believes the science and thinks we need to act now on climate security, I have questions for the idiots who committed those comments to paper (or in this case, emails that never go disappear.). Scientists aren’t politicians, and they aren’t public relations experts…and it’s obvious they didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express the night before they authored some of those missives.

      Huntsman’s bottom line was until the rest of the world (ie China, India) get fully on board, it would be economic suicide for the US to unilaterally try to tackle climate issues on its own. Regarding the ‘mocking’, he simply meant those scientists shot themselves in the feet and now have some serious explaining to do. They’ve moved their own efforts back several years now.

      • LFC

        “Regarding the ‘mocking’, he simply meant those scientists shot themselves in the feet and now have some serious explaining to do. They’ve moved their own efforts back several years now.”

        Now have some serious explaining to do? Are we referring to the email incidents which were heavily investigated by multiple groups who all found no wrongdoing? These groups included:

        House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee (Britain)
        Independent Science Assessment Panel (Britain)
        U.S. Commerce Department’s Inspector General
        Independent Muir Russell Panel (Britain)
        U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Report
        Pennsylvania State University (U.S.)
        National Science Foundation

        Here’s a money quote about the “scandal” which shows the only people required to produce some explanation are the liars who started the scandal and the moron who repeated it:

        In a statement issued on 29 July 2010, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said the petitions were based “on selectively edited, out-of-context data and a manufactured controversy” and provided “no evidence to undermine our determination. Excess greenhouse gases are a threat to our health and welfare.”

      • balconesfault

        Regarding the ‘mocking’, he simply meant those scientists shot themselves in the feet and now have some serious explaining to do. They’ve moved their own efforts back several years now.

        And that’s the best we can expect in terms of leadership from Huntsman on this issue, I fear.

        He will bully the scientific community to do some serious explaining every time the think tanks can throw another monkey wrench their way. That is what America needs, now more than ever.

  • ottovbvs

    “But if they actually believe that frequent (and true) conservative refrain that big government damages the environment, ”

    Like to give us a couple of examples Mr Lehrer? I’m not always the worlds greatest fan of the CoE but generally speaking I’d have said criticism of them far more frequently comes from Democrats than Republicans.

    • balconesfault

      Well, the Dems are more likely to criticize when a massive dam, channelization, etc project is being engineered and built.

      Republicans are more likely to criticize when the Corps of Engineers blocks some developer from filling in a wetland.

  • djenkins

    I agree with Eli that Wodder is one of Obama’s best nominees. I would quibble a bit with his description of her position on fracking as potentially “kneecapping” development. First, the position Wodder is nominated for will not really deal with fracking. Second, it is ultimately in the natural gas industry’s best interest to have strong standards that protect ground and surface water and preserve the GHG advantages that gas has over coal. The only thing that could kneecap gas development is a lot of tainted water that turns public opinion against gas.

    Under Wodder’s leadership American Rivers had a good record of working equally well with Democrats and Republicans. If her nomination is controversial, then every nomination is controversial. Presidents should be able to appoint reasonable and qualified people without it turning into a partisan mud fight.

    • balconesfault

      If her nomination is controversial, then every nomination is controversial.

      Come on man – I know you’ve been paying better attention than that the last 2+ years.

      Every nomination Obama has made HAS been controversial.

  • Secessionist

    …[Rebecca Wodder] favored the huge tax increases found in administration-backed climate change bills.

    An immediately disqualifying stance. No need for further investigation. The GOP should obstruct this appointment if they can.

    The one area where the GOP continues to perform very well is in the area of environmental and climate policy. The GOP has a done a pretty decent job blocking and impeding the Global Warming agenda. Granted, they have done so to protect the financial interests of Big Energy rather than because they care about the imposition of outrageous taxes on ordinary people; however, the right thing is often done for the wrong reasons.

    While everyone supports reasonable environmental protections, the 2011 GOP is the only force standing in the way of unreasonable fanatics who seek to micromanage every aspect of life in the name of “sustainability.”

    • MSheridan

      “An immediately disqualifying stance. No need for further investigation. The GOP should obstruct this appointment if they can.

      I’ve seen that at least occasionally you are capable of defending your point of view and every now and again I even find it persuasive–usually when your populism intersects my liberalism or when you are speaking of national security overreach. So I’m curious to see whether and how you will argue Ms. Wodder’s opinions on political matters completely outside the purview of the position are relevant. The Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks does not make tax policy. He or she oversees and coordinates policy decisions for the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Whether Rebecca Wodder were a strong proponent of a flat tax or a fan of 50′s style progressive taxes, in what way could it conceivably matter to this appointment?

      • Secessionist

        My response is that the opinions at issue are not *completely* outside the purview of the position. The opinions were not about a flat tax, 50s-era progressive taxation or the Laffer curve; they were about tax proposals related to the administration’s broader environmental agenda, and the Interior Department and its sub-departments exercise authority over matters where environmental positions are relevant. In sum, I think you make a fair point but have a flawed premise there.

        • MSheridan

          Let us say that we were speaking of another candidate altogether who, for whatever reason, had opposed the “huge [sic] tax increases found in administration-backed climate change bills” and therefore had passed that ideological bar for your approval. If those particular bills passed and became the law of the land, then that candidate would, if appointed and confirmed, have the responsibility to decide how some of that money might be spent. However, he or she would not have the moral or legal obligation or power to refuse the money or declare that it not be collected.

          I can see how a candidate’s expressed position on raising or lowering taxes could and sometimes should be determinative in voters’ minds when electing legislators who actually make those decisions. When it comes to confirming the appointment of people who do not make such decisions, I think it irrelevant.

    • sweatyb

      While everyone supports reasonable environmental protections

      sure, everyone, with widely varying interpretations of the word “reasonable”.

    • LFC

      The one area where the GOP continues to perform very well is in the area of environmental and climate policy.

      By “perform very well” I assume you mean “have consistently ignored or lied about settled science, and voted based upon ignorance and what their corporate donors told them to do.” I can’t imagine another metric that anybody in touch with reality could use to justify the GOP performance.

      • Secessionist

        You appear to believe your own talking points. Everyone who is skeptical about the climate change agenda is not ignorant, a liar, a corporate lackey or out of touch with reality. When it comes to being out of touch with reality, the exact reverse is actually true in many cases.

        On the one hand, people who share your views are unhappy that more people don’t appreciate the urgency of the climate agenda. On the other hand, those same people have abandoned reasoned discourse.

        Instead of forcefully and persistently making their case, they use smears such as “ignorant,” “liar” and “denier,” and they use them against anyone and everyone who asks questions or expresses skepticism. In fact, they don’t even admit the possibility of skepticism or principled dissent. If you don’t agree with them, you are a denier who doesn’t believe in science.

        If you think this approach is going to convince anyone who does not already agree with you, I’d say you are not dealing with reality.

  • think4yourself

    Eli, I know others commented on this line – “If the Republican Party stands wants to prove it is not simply the collection of special interests that the Democratic Party has become”

    But I felt I had to as well. Can you please provide evidence that (a) The Democratic party has become a party of special interests and (b) that the GOP is not already a party of special interests?

    Are there members of the Dems political class who are only about special interests? Of course. Does that represent the entire party or the majority of the party? Only if you argue that party ideals = special interests. Do interest groups such as Emily’s list and the NAACP have influence over the Democratic Party? Absolutely. Does that mean that the party is controlled by those groups. I don’t think so.

    How about the GOP? I would argue that GOP is more controlled by special interests than the Dems. For example, regarding environmental protection. The GOP political class are marching practically in lockstep (Newt’s now denied ad with Nancy Pelosi notwithstanding) that the proponderance of scientific evidence is wrong, and that there is no economic value in “green jobs”. The GOP marches almost in lockstep that there should be virtually no limits on 2nd Amendment rights (sure, you can carry your gun into the bar, or the school, or the church, or around the President!). Who carries more sway over their respective party, the NAACP over the Dems or NRA over the GOP?

    My real question is why take a nice opinion piece (why the GOP should support this nominee) and mess it up with comments like that, “kneecapping”, etc.?

    Of course I suspect that Ms. Wodder won’t get any GOP support lest those Senators wish to be primaried by their supporters and the special interests that control them.