THE LIGHTBULB

Fervor against President Trump and his push for the use of fossil fuels is fueling a fundraising surge among environmental organizations.

The green groups hope to turn that green into victories for enough Democrats in Congress that they can be a check against the president and his administration’s attempts to roll back environmental rules, as I reported yesterday.

Though many of the campaign affiliates of environmental groups groups do not yet have their final campaign spending totals tallied, the figures so far indicate that they will spend more than ever on the 2018 election:

  • The League of Conservation Voters is planning to spend $60 million to help Democrats win back Congress and statehouses nationwide, breaking a record the environmental organization set in two years ago when it spent $45 million. “It will be by far the most money we’ve ever spent,” said the group's president, Gene Karpinski. “Our supporters around the country are stepping up in a big way because what they’re seeing is the most anti-environmental president in history.”
     
  • The Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund said it will likely just about double its campaign spending from two years ago, from about $1 million to $2 million, “with the bulk of that going to targeted get-out-the-vote efforts,” spokesman Denis Dison said.
     
  • The Sierra Club does not have a final campaign spending total yet, but a spokesman for the nation’s largest environmental organization said it expects to spend around $6 million. In 2016, the Sierra Club had planned to devote $3.8 million to campaigns.  “It's not just about the millions of dollars spent," Ariel Hayes, the Sierra Club’s political director, said, "but about the millions of actions taken by our members and supporters who are volunteering on campaigns, knocking on doors, making phone calls, and engaging in any capacity.”
     
  • Likewise, the Environmental Defense Action Fund has not nailed down its campaign spending total, but through a spokesman the group said it expects “our total spending will be surpass the more than $6 million we spent in 2016.”

Yet even with more campaign cash than ever, environmental groups still may face some of the same headwinds with voters they have in years past. Historically, polls have shown that environmental issues rank much lower among voters’ concerns compared to those that affect their pocketbooks. According to a Pew Research Center survey in June, only 4 percent of respondents named the environment as their No. 1 for candidates to address. Immigration, healthcare, education, the economy, guns, jobs and taxes all scored higher.

Indeed, LCV has a history of mixed success. In 2016, only 30 percent of the $19 million it spent on congressional races in 2016 went to winning candidates. But just a year later, across-the-board victories for endorsees like Democratic Govs. Phil Murphy in New Jersey and Ralph Northam in Virginia gave the group a 96 percent success rate in all races that year.

The League of Conservation Voters hopes to buck that trend by using to district-by-district polling to hone its messaging. The group’s internal polling has found that emphasizing the health repercussions of air and water pollution, as well as the need to protect public lands, plays particularly well with suburban women, a key voting bloc in many tight House districts at the edges of cities.

Read the rest of the story here:​​

Energy and Environment
The League of Conservation Voters and other groups are donating to Democrats they believe will counter Trump’s environmental policies.
Dino Grandoni

Correction: This story originally and incorrectly referred to the Natural Resources Defense Council as the National Resources Defense Council.

The president falsely denied in a Thursday tweet that thousands of people died in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria:

The facts: A George Washington University study published last month estimated there were between 2,658 and 3,290 “excess deaths” in the six months following the storm and Puerto Rico adopted the midpoint of 2,975 as its official death toll. Trump went on to blame Democrats for trying to “make me look as bad as possible.”

Again, this is wrong: It was Puerto Rico's Republican governor who revised the death toll upward into the thousands.

— Climate conference kicks off: Wednesday saw the start of the three-day Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, from where the Energy 202 is reporting this week.

Who's here: Days after signing major renewable energy legislation, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is convening business and government leaders to share ideas about reducing their organizations' impact on climate change and encourage other cities and corporation to do the same. Among the political bigwigs expected to speak are New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Who isn't: Trump, of course, or an representative from his administration. After the president declared his intent to pull out of the Paris climate accord conference, a number of governors and mayors pledged to adhere to the international agreement's emissions-reduction targets. Over the last year, 15  states and Puerto Rico have joined California to make that promise. The conference in San Francisco is their chance to reiterate that repudiation. 

What's actually happening: Despite the state-level promises, the United States is on track to fall short of the Paris goals for 2025 set by former president Barack Obama, according to a recent assessment from the Rhodium Group.

THERMOMETER

— Hurricane Florence is barreling toward the Carolinas and is just about a day away from impact: Currently a Category 2 storm, it’s still likely to bring devastating damage and flooding to the Southeast, The Post’s Jason Samenow reports. “Landfall is expected Friday in southeast North Carolina, which may bear the storm’s brunt,” he writes. “The storm’s surge, the rise in seawater above normally dry land at the coast, could rise a story high. On top of that, a disastrous amount of rain, 20 or maybe even as many as 40 inches will fall.” As of early Thursday morning, Florence’s top winds were 110 mph, and the National Hurricane Center predicts the storm will maintain this intensity until landfall.

When it does hit, forecasters warn Florence could “shift to low gear and then meander unpredictably along the coast, sucking energy from the warm ocean as it pounds coastal communities,” The Post’s Kristine Phillips, Sarah Kaplan, Mark Berman and Joel Achenbach report.

People in Florence’s path could be without electricity for weeks. Duke Energy estimated up to 3 million people in the Carolinas could lose power because of the storm. There are also 16 nuclear reactors in the region that, with the one closest to landfall being prepared to shutdown, per Samenow.

After forecasts showed Florence shifting toward the southwest, Georgia’s governor declared a state of emergency for all 159 counties in order to mobilize resources ahead of the storm. Gov. Nathan Deal’s (R) declaration cited the storm’s trajectory changes, per the Associated Press, as well as the “influx of evacuees coming to Georgia from the Carolinas.”

— If you’re in the Washington region, the latest forecasts suggest the storm will have little impact here: “We do not expect significant rain, more than showers, or strong winds through Sunday, because the storm is tracking so far south of us,” Samenow reports. “But next week, the storm may return north and deliver an uncertain amount of rain between Monday and Wednesday. When the storm probably makes landfall in southeast North Carolina on Friday, the most we’ll probably see are some showers and a bit of a breeze. The heaviest and most numerous showers are likely to fall in our far southern areas (toward Fredericksburg), but even there, we don’t expect it to amount to enough to cause flooding or significant disruption.”

Meanwhile, here’s a city-by-city forecast for what some of the more than 15 million people under storm watches and warnings can expect from the storm’s impact. Samenow notes to bear in mind that forecasts are ever-changing.

“We’ll handle it. We’re ready”: Trump has approved disaster declarations for the Carolinas and Virginia.  In a video message Wednesday morning, the president urged residents to get out of Florence’s way. “Don’t play games with it,” he said. “The storm will come. It will go. We want everybody to be safe... We love you all. We want you safe. Get out of the storm’s way. Listen to your local representatives."

— Trump administration insists FEMA money didn't go to ICE: The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday pushed back after Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) shared documents indicating the Trump administration diverted $10 million from FEMA’s budget toward U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Department officials explained the money was “transferred from the department’s unspent operational accounts for training, office supplies and headquarters costs” and “cannot be spent on disaster response,” the Associated Press reports.

Department spokesman Tyler Houlton criticized a "sorry attempt to push a false agenda" at a critical time:

Meanwhile: FEMA administrator William “Brock” Long is the target of an investigation by Homeland Security’s inspector general into “whether he misused government vehicles during his commutes to North Carolina from Washington,” Politico reports. “The actions by Long, the U.S. government’s lead disaster official as the country braces for Hurricane Florence, have been called into question by the inspector general over whether taxpayers have inappropriately footed the bill for his travel, an issue that has tripped up a number of current and former top Trump administration officials.”

In other Florence-related news:

  • Florence will be another test for the Trump administration. “It is the first big storm of 2018. FEMA and state and local officials have had days to prepare, and the agency has positioned considerable supplies and personnel in the areas most likely to be affected,” the New York Times reports. “Two months before the midterm elections, President Trump has put himself front and center in the government’s response, suggesting that the White House will be fully invested in providing the necessary resources.”
     
  • Thousands of homes in Florence’s path don’t have flood insurance, as fewer homeowners in the Carolinas have floor insurance than five years ago, the Wall Street Journal reports. “The widespread lack of flood insurance and low savings balances across much of the U.S. population will force hundreds of thousands of homeowners to seek federal disaster assistance in the form of grants and loans,” per the report. 
     
  • Six years ago, North Carolina passed a law to prevent policymakers and developers from using climate science to plan for rising sea levels on the coast, HuffPost reports. Now, the state is bracing for a devastating hit from Florence, made worse by a life-threatening storm surge. “And the rise in sea levels, experts say, is making the storm surge worse,” per the report.
     
  • Florence could impact a struggling Virginia pipeline project: Crews are working to reinforce construction areas around the Mountain Valley Pipeline ahead of heavy rains from the impending storm, The Post’s Gregory S. Schneider reports, noting the project already faced an abnormally wet summer. “The situation places a spotlight on the unusually demanding environment being crossed by the Mountain Valley Pipeline, ” Schneider writes. “Work had resumed on the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Southwest Virginia at the end of last month after a federal agency lifted a moratorium…. Now, though, the company leading the effort said all work has stopped again and resources are being diverted to shore up construction zones against flooding and possible wind damage.”

— A year later, failure at all levels: As Florence barrels toward the East Coast, the president's remarks and warnings from officials have also been a stark reminder of the long-lasting impact of last year's catastrophic storms. In Puerto Rico, residents say they still struggle with seeing basic needs met nearly a year after Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory. A new Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll found 83 percent of people reported “either major damage to their homes, losing power for more than three months, employment setbacks or worsening health problems, among other effects of the storm,” The Post’s Scott Clement, Katie Zezima and Emily Guskin report. “Puerto Ricans say the lackluster response to the hurricane, which ravaged the island in September 2017, was due to a failure of government at all levels, from the president down to municipal authorities. Eighty percent of Puerto Ricans rate Trump’s response to Maria negatively.”

More from The Post’s series of stories based on the new poll:

  • Fifty percent of Puerto Ricans say people in their households have had trouble getting enough water to drink, with 2 in 10 saying they have had to drink water from a natural source such as a stream or river. By the summer, 53 percent were worried about water quality where they live, per The Post’s Samantha Schmidt.'
  • Schmidt and The Post’s Arelis R. Hernandez report from Naguabo, Puerto Rico where Maria’s aftermath is still crippling. "It is one of the numerous places in Puerto Rico where recovery has barely begun and routines are far from recognizable," they write.  Across the islands, the poll found “25 percent of Puerto Ricans say their daily lives are still disrupted a year after Maria. Some 39 percent of residents here say their lives are largely back to normal, while 36 percent say their lives are almost back to normal.”
  • The Post's series published one day after the president touted the response in Puerto Rico as an "incredible, unsung success." Meanwhile, the Post’s Josh Dawsey reports it’s a “frequent tactic of the president — elevate a widely perceived failure or mistake and defend it as a great triumph while attacking his critics. His detractors say it is shameless and sometimes comical gaslighting; supporters say he is just a master marketer who uses hyperbole and always shows strength.”

And in Texas, a dim light at the end of the tunnel: For children in Texas whose lives were upended by Hurricane Harvey last year, there is a small glimmer of hope as some schools were rebuilt after the storm – even if lives, and homes, were not. “With another monster storm, Hurricane Florence, swirling in the Atlantic Ocean, the plight of schoolchildren in Texas illustrates the enduring consequences wrought by major hurricanes,” The Post’s Kristine Phillips reports. “Nearly 69,000 students from Houston and surrounding counties displaced by Harvey were still not back in their homes in May, the end of the last school year, according to the Texas Education Agency. Some drifted between shelters or the homes of relatives and family friends. Others hunkered down in motels, trailer parks, campgrounds, cars.”

POWER PLAYS

— Pruitt is gone, but news about his spending at the EPA is not: Former administrator Scott Pruitt faced mounting financial concerns while at the EPA, including from legal fees, The Post’s Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis and Josh Dawsey report. According to financial disclosure forms released Wednesday, Pruitt, who made $189,600 at the EPA, had between  $115,000 and $300,000 in legal fees. “The form does not specify what the legal work was for: as Pruitt’s spending and management practices came under increasing scrutiny starting last fall he eventually hired private attorneys to represent him and established a legal-defense fund,” they write.

As for Pruitt’s next gig: Billionaire coal executive Joseph W. Craft III, has been considering whether to hire Pruitt, who’s been looking for a private sector job. Eilperin, Dennis and Dawsey note Pruitt is barred from engaging in “lobbying activities” for five years under an executive order, and worked on several policies at the EPA that had an impact for Craft, chief executive of the Tulsa-based Alliance Resource Partners.

— Oil-for-parks bill makes progress: The House Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to vote Thursday on bipartisan legislation to direct money from oil production on federal land and offshore toward national parks and public land, The Hill reports. The bill, introduced by chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), would direct half of revenue from energy production into an account for the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Education.

OIL CHECK

— Saudi America: The Energy Information Administration estimates the United States overtook Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s top oil producer earlier this year, Bloomberg News reports. The EIA said oil production surpassed Russia in June and August and Saudi Arabia in February and “expects U.S. oil output to continue to exceed Russian and Saudi production for the rest of 2018 and in 2019,” per the report.

DAYBOOK

Today

  • The House Science, Space and Technology subcommittees on oversight and on the environment hold a joint hearing on “Examining the Underlying Science and Impacts of Glider Truck Regulations."
  • The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee holds a hearing on emerging transportation technologies.
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on U.S. LNG in meeting European energy demand.
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing on nuclear technology.
  • The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on the environment holds a hearing on the air quality impacts of wildfires.
EXTRA MILEAGE

 — A monstrosity, even from space: NASA posted a video of Florence from a space station’s view, calling it “stark and sobering," per The Post's Reis Thebault.