President Obama boards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House. (Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty…)
WASHINGTON -- The Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, Environment America and Clean Water Action have jointly endorsed President Obama in his reelection bid, signaling steps that the Democratic base is taking to rouse its members now that the general-election race has begun for all practical purposes.
The announcement Wednesday is the earliest any of the groups have issued a presidential endorsement, with the exception of the League of Conservation Voters' 2004 backing of Sen. John Kerry against President George W. Bush. It also marks the first time the groups have jointly endorsed a candidate, a move that could make for a louder collective voice as Democrats begin to tune in to the presidential race.
Over the last three years, members of the environmental community, including the four groups endorsing Obama, have had an often contentious relationship with the administration. They have praised what they consider important steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to boost cleaner air and water, such as rules to hike vehicle fuel efficiency and to curtail mercury emissions from power plants. But they have slammed the administration for inaction in other areas, such as its decision last year to halt the development of a long-awaited rule to reduce smog.
Nonetheless, in a matchup between Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, the groups said the contrast for environmentalists was clear. Romney has called the Environmental Protection Agency "out of control." He has walked back his earlier position that climate change is occurring and that human activity is the prime factor, asserting now that "we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet."
"Elections are about choices -- and for those who care about building a clean energy economy and confronting the climate crisis, the choice is clear: President Obama is a clean energy champion and Mitt Romney is a climate denier,” LCV President Gene Karpinski said. “While President Obama has fought to put Americans in control of our energy future, Mitt Romney and his Big Oil buddies would take us back to the failed dirty energy policies of the past.”
The groups said that they planned to help the Obama campaign through get-out-the-vote efforts, commercials and social media.
“There’s a lot at stake in this year’s election,” said League of Conservation Voters spokesman Mike Palamuso. Given the sharp differences between the two candidates, “we felt it was important to beginning mobilizing our members and communicating with voters now,” he said.
In a statement, the Romney campaign dismissed the endorsements as a non-event. “It is no surprise that liberal environmental groups support President Obama's agenda of shutting down energy sources, driving up energy prices, and shoveling billions of taxpayer dollars to their favorite green projects,” said Andrea Saul, a Romney spokeswoman. “Governor Romney is focused on earning support across the country from Americans who are committed to protecting the environment while promoting instead of stifling economic growth.”
The Obama campaign embraced the groups' support. "We're honored to have the support of the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, and Clean Water Action and Environment America, and we look forward to working with them throughout the campaign," said Jim Messina, manager of the Obama campaign. "President Obama is fighting for an economy that's built to last, and that's why he's investing in clean energy and responsibly developing our natural resources in a way that creates good jobs here in America, protects the environment and reduces our dependence on foreign oil."