My Turn: If Ayotte cares about climate, she’ll end obstruction

For the Monitor
Thursday, March 17, 2016
Granite Staters care deeply about the environment, so it’s no surprise that Sen. Kelly Ayotte says she shares our concerns. Ayotte claims to understand the urgency of climate change. But to understand where she actually stands, we have to look beyond political posturing to see if Ayotte takes actions consistent with her campaign efforts. And, by that measure, Ayotte has fallen far short.

Here in New Hampshire, the impacts of climate change are already being felt. Asthma and Lyme disease rates are on the rise. Shorter winters are hurting our ski industry and our wildlife. Natural disasters, which have increased by 70 percent in the past 15 years, will happen even more frequently, putting families in harm’s way and at risk of displacement.

The Clean Power Plan proposed by President Obama to address climate change would significantly reduce carbon emissions from the power industry. Before Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing, the Supreme Court ruled to stay the Clean Power Plan, putting a pause on the plan’s Environmental Protection Agency regulations. The case now sits in limbo in an ideologically split court, which will effectively delay the implementation of the Clean Power Plan for as long as there is no new justice confirmed to the court.

Ayotte has promised to stand with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and refuse to accept or even meet with President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. So although Sen. Ayotte says she supports the Clean Power Plan, her stand on the Supreme Court nominee closes the door on meaningful federal action to address climate change and she knows it.

Sen. Ayotte’s politics come at the expense of the average Granite Stater. She would deliberately delay the nominating process for political gain. Climate change cannot continue to take a back seat to politics – and someone who represents New Hampshire voters in Washington should act in our interests, not her own. Ayotte is letting down the majority of Americans, including the 72 percent of Republicans who want action on climate.

Failing to implement the Clean Power Plan will mean more carbon pollution, which will have catastrophic effects on our economy, our environment, our health and our national security. Ayotte is not merely failing to fulfill her constitutional obligations – she also stands stubbornly in the way of progress on the most important issue we face as a planet.

The Constitution calls on Ayotte and every other senator to fulfill their constitutional duty by taking part in the Supreme Court nomination and confirmation process. Ayotte has decided to play politics by following Mitch McConnell rather than choosing to lead. In doing so, she is letting down the people of New Hampshire. Her obstructionist actions speak far louder than any empty environmental rhetoric.

(Alice Chamberlin of Warner served as former governor John Lynch’s assistant on environment and energy, and in the Clinton administration as commissioner to the International Joint Commission, United States and Canada.)