The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Energy 202: Which 2020 hopeful got the highest score from environmentalists last year? All of them.

with Paulina Firozi


Democratic voters will have to decide among a slate of White House hopefuls tripping over themselves to commit to tackling climate change and other environmental issues.

But which Democratic senator had the best environmental voting record in Congress last year? The answer: all of them.

Each senator who has announced their candidacy for president received perfect scores in an annual voting scorecard kept by the League of Conservation Voters.

The six declared 2020 candidatesin the Senate — Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — always aligned with positions the environmental organization deemed “pro-environment.”

So too did a handful of Senate Democrats thought to be considering a run for president, including Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

Most Senate Democrats had high environmental scores from the group in the years leading up to 2018.

But across-the-board perfect scores among the slate of presidential candidates is a sign they are shoring up their environmental bona fides as they face a Democratic electorate increasingly energized by President Trump’s rollback of environmental rules and his pullout from the Paris climate accord.

It was only five years ago that, for example, Brown and Booker had a score 80 percent or that Gillibrand had a score of 60 percent — meaning they took the environmental group's favored positions in most but not all votes.

The 2018 scores are also a sign there may not be much daylight — yet — between the party’s perceived moderates (like Klobuchar) and progressives (like Warren), at least when it comes to environmental issues.

Notably, all six declared candidates in the Senate have co-sponsored the Green New Deal resolution from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) calling for the United States to drive net greenhouse gas emissions to zero.

The League of Conservation Voters, which was instrumental in fundraising for Democrats in the 2018 election, tracked senators’ votes on 14 measures last year.   

The pro-environment positions listed in its scorecard, shared with The Washington Post ahead of its expected publication on Wednesday, include votes against a number of President Trump’s nominees, such as acting Environmental Protection Agency head Andrew Wheeler, who once worked as a coal lobbyist, and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who often ruled against Obama-era environmental regulations while serving on an appellate court. Both of those nominees were ultimately confirmed by the GOP-controlled Senate.

They also include votes against slashing $16 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund and exempting the shipping industry from certain water pollution requirements meant to stop the spread of invasive species. Neither of those measures succeeded. 


—  "I’m here to tell you that is absolutely not true": The Environmental Protection Agency's Susan Bodine defended the Trump administration’s approach to enforcing environmental law while testifying before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. In response to questions about figures showing penalties for polluters and facility inspections have seen a marked drop, Bodine, the Environmental Protection Agency's chief enforcement official, said the numbers “do not tell the full story of the agency’s efforts to crack down on polluters,” The Post’s Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin report. “Some are judging our work on a narrow set of parameters and then drawing the conclusion that EPA is somehow soft on environmental violators, that the EPA doesn’t care about compliance with the law,” Bodine said. “I’m here to tell you that is absolutely not true.”

Democrats grilled Bodine about why the numbers had dropped — “Why is the EPA sitting on the sidelines?" Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) asked — while committee Republicans argued the numbers alone don’t explain all of the agency’s efforts to comply with federal standards.

— Major public lands package passes House: The biggest public lands bill in a decade was approved by the House in a 363-to-62 vote on Wednesday. The Senate has already passed the bipartisan measure and,  according to The Post's Toluse Olorunnipa, Trump is expected to sign it. The bill would create more than 1.3 million acres of wilderness out West, add three national park units and expand eight others.

— Some Democrats will reportedly vote “present” on Green New Deal: Many if not all Senate Democrats are reportedly planning to vote “present” when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) calls a vote on the resolution, E&E News reports. Environmental activist group Sunrise Movement, which is backing the plan, said it doesn’t plan to push back against Democrats who vote that way. The group’s co-founder Evan Weber called the vote a “sham,” adding, “I think it's perfectly reasonable and respectful for Senate Democrats to call it out for what it is, and if voting present is how they want to do that, by all means go for it.”

When will that vote be? McConnell said the resolution will be brought up in the Senate before the August recess.

— Dianne Feinstein says she’s “reworking” her own draft climate change resolution: The California Senate Democrat, whose own climate resolution was criticized as an effort to obstruct the Green New Deal, told E&E News that "it's a work in progress. She added, "I think most people who have looked at this realize that we're not doing enough, that the climate is warming much faster than we are taking those actions to prevent carbon from getting into the atmosphere.” Feinstein released the draft after her exchange with youth climate activists who petitioned her to support the Green New Deal went viral online.

— Ivanka Trump puts down Green New Deal: In a recent interview, the president’s oldest daughter dismissed the jobs guarantee included in the Green New Deal, saying Americans don’t want jobs handed to them. “I don’t think most Americans, in their heart, want to be given something," she said in the interview set to air on Fox News on Sunday. "People want to work for what they get. So I think that this idea of a guaranteed minimum is not something most people want."

Critics were quick to point out the real estate heiress is someone who has been repeatedly "given" a job by her father, The Post’s Eugene Scott writes, adding that some “pointed to a double standard and suggested Trump’s comments should spark a broader conversation about wealth and privilege.”

Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer on Feb. 26 said Senate Democrats would introduce a bill to defund a reported new White House climate panel. (Video: The Washington Post)

— Schumer calls for defunding Trump’s "fake climate panel": Following the report from The Post that the Trump administration is planning to create an ad hoc group of federal scientists to counter government climate conclusions, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he has his own plan. “I'm announcing that if the Trump administration moves forward with this fake climate panel, we'll be introducing legislation to defund it,” he said on the Senate floor. “It is long past time for President Trump and Republican leaders to admit that climate change is real, that human activity contributes to it and Congress must take action.”

— Video shows EPA security shoving reporter out of headquarters: In a video obtained by E&E News, a security tape shows footage of a May 2018 event at the EPA’s headquarters where a security guard pushed a reporter out of the building. Associated Press reporter Ellen Knickmeyer was trying to cover then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s summit on the agency’s plans to address chemicals found in drinking water, but was not on a list of invited journalists. She is seen giving guards an ID badge, talking to the guards and near the end of the video, “a guard points toward the door while talking to Knickmeyer. The guard then gets very close to Knickmeyer, keeps talking to her and pushes her out of the building, with both of the guard's hands on the reporter's shoulders.”


— News out of NOAA: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has named Neil Jacobs as its acting head, replacing retired Rear Adm. Timothy Gallaudet, The Post’s Jason Samenow reports. It also announced it will delay the launch of its “next generation” weather forecasting model that was scheduled for March. The launch was “postponed because of ‘two issues’ found during testing. Its forecasts for snow depth were ‘unrealistically high’ and the model exhibited ‘a cold bias in the lower atmosphere,’” Samenow writes, citing a Weather Service memo. “The two actions are unrelated but call new attention to key challenges facing the agency: its forecasting and its leadership,” he adds. Trump’s official pick to lead the agency, Barry Myers, has not been confirmed by the Senate.


— Judge orders Elon Musk to respond to SEC: A federal judge ordered the Tesla chief executive to respond to the Securities and Exchange Commission by March 11 to explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court for violating a settlement deal. The order comes one day after the SEC accused Musk of violating an agreement to get preapproval for potentially market-moving statements, The Post’s Renae Merle reports.

Musk pushes back: “Something is broken with SEC oversight,” Musk tweeted the day after the SEC filing. It’s the latest in the feud between Musk and the SEC, months after the Tesla CEO settled a lawsuit for allegedly lying to investors when he tweeted about “funding secured” to take Tesla private.

— Fiat Chrysler expands in Michigan: The automaker is planning to invest $4.5 billion toward expanded manufacturing in Michigan, a plan that will add 6,500 jobs in the state as the company is also laying off 1,370 workers at a plant in Illinois, the Wall Street Journal reports. “The company’s moves come even as U.S. auto sales are cooling after more than a half-decade of robust growth, and as rival auto makers are trimming their sails to ride out a downturn while also investing in new technologies, such as electric and self-driving cars,” per the report. Trump tweeted praising the plan Wednesday morning:



  • The House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Environment holds a hearing on the impacts of climate change on oceans and coasts.
  • The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy holds a hearing on clean energy infrastructure.
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing on the  Significant Emissions with Innovative Technologies Act and carbon capture.
  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts the U.S. launch of the 2019 BP Energy Outlook.

Coming Up

  • The EPA is scheduled to hold public hearings on the WOTUS rule on Wednesday and Thursday.
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on the IEA’s World Energy Outlook on Thursday.
  • The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change holds a hearing on the Paris climate agreement on Thursday.

— Winds strong enough to push ice onto land: Forceful winds moved ice on the surface of a frozen lake over a retaining wall at the Niagara River near Lake Erie in Ontario.

High winds moved ice over a retaining wall at the Niagara River near Lake Erie in Ontario, Canada, Feb 25. (Video: Anthony LaMonte via ViralHog)