This political season, it seems as if someone says or does something outrageous pretty much every day, often before breakfast. Amid all the noise and rancor and (according to polls) the general unlikability of both of the main candidates for president, apathy is understandable. But for those of us who care about conservation issues, it would also be a mistake. Not only do Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump differ substantially on this score, there are a host of down-ballot races that matter as well. Fortunately, lots of candidates stand out as environmental champions. We’ve put together a guide to a few who have demonstrated through both their votes and their professional lives a deep personal and professional commitment to protecting the outdoor places we love.
Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
Background: Has represented Maryland’s 8th district in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2003. Environmental concerns include stopping drilling the Chesapeake Bay and fighting climate change.
Outdoor Highlights: Authored the law that banned drilling in parts of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, cosponsored the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act, introduced the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act, and helped lead support in Congress for the Clean Power Plan and the Green Climate Fund.
Voting Concerns: Has voted to delay flood insurance reform, which would help prevent destruction of floodplains.
Statement: “Marylanders can count on Chris Van Hollen to be a champion for the environment. It’s something he believes in deeply, and he’ll continue to be a tireless advocate for sound, effective, and science-based solutions as Maryland’s next U.S. Senator.”
Deborah Ross (D-NC)
Background: A former member of the North Carolina General Assembly and N.C. House of Representatives. Environmental concerns include supporting clean energy, opposing fracking, addressing climate change, and protecting N.C.’s land, air, and water.
Outdoor Highlights: Opposed state legislation to roll back years of energy conservation work and supported legislation preventing manufacturers from deceiving customers about the biodegradability of their products. As an attorney, Ross worked with renewable energy companies to get certified by the Utilities Commission, and advocated for light rail and commuter rail.
Voting Concerns: Voted to establish a committee tasked with lifting “burdensome” regulations, some of which arguably protected the environment.
Statement: “Our mountains and coasts are not just national treasures, they are a part of North Carolina’s vital tourism industry. To protect these national treasures and bolster our tourism economy, we need to slow the harmful effects of climate change. The best ways to do this are to invest in renewable energy and clean technology.”
Kathleen McGinty (D-PA)
Background: Former Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection. Environmental concerns include investing in clean energy and fighting climate change.
Outdoor Highlights: Worked with then-Senator Al Gore to reauthorize the Clean Air Act, helped make Pennsylvania a leader in solar and wind energy, helped stop new drilling in state parks and forests, and supported important new efforts to protect Pennsylvanians from methane leaks.
Voting Concerns: Unclear—has never served as a legislator.
Statement: “Climate change presents a serious global threat to our health, economic well-being and national security. In the Senate, I will lead the way to a healthier and safer environment by working to pass commonsense climate protections with investments in energy efficiency and clean energy.”
U.S. House of Representatives
Frederica Wilson (D-FL)
Background: Member of the House since 2011. Environmental priorities include restoring the Everglades, opposing offshore drilling, slowing climate change, and enforcing the Endangered Species Act.
Outdoor Highlights: Voted to support the Clean Power Plan and clean energy intiatives.
Voting Concerns: Has voted for bills that undermine flood insurance reform and against bills that would reduce funding for nuclear energy and fossil fuel research.
Statement: “I pledge to promote efforts to address both natural and man-made changes occurring in the climate and initiatives like solar and wind power that will protect the environment and create jobs.”
Anthony Brown (D-MD)
Background: Served as Lieutenant Governor of Maryland from 2007 to 2015, and previously served two four-year terms in the Maryland House of Delegates. Environmental priorities include curbing the effects of climate change, protecting Maryland’s natural resources, and ensuring the quality of our air, water, and land for future generations.
Outdoor Highlights: Helped pass the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013, supported Maryland’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, assisted efforts to source more of the state’s energy from solar facilities, and supported upgrading wastewater treatment plants to help protect the Chesapeake Bay.
Voting Concerns: Has not served as a legislator at the federal level.
Statement: “We need leaders who will focus on accountability and expand the environmental coalition, leaders who understand that environmental preservation and job creation are not mutually exclusive. We need leaders who believe that investments in a healthy and sustainable environment is a moral imperative.”
Alma Adams (D-NC)
Background: Appointed to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1994 and won a special election for North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District in 2014. Environmental priorities include strong drinking water standards, protecting endangered species, protecting public lands, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and supporting clean energy.
Outdoor Highlights: Helped push for federal policies to combat climate change, voted against attacks on the Clean Power Plan, and fought for N.C. legislation that would have funded loans for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
Voting Concerns: Voted for a bill that would have prohibited states from being able to require labeling of genetically modified organisms in food as well as rolled back other state laws to promote accurate food labeling.
Statement: “Environmental issues tend to have the greatest impact on poor and minority communities, so that’s why it’s important that we never stop fighting to combat climate change, curb pollution, invest in renewable energy, and promote sustainable development solutions.”
Donald McEachin (D-VA)
Background: Served in the Virginia House of Delegates 1996–2002 and 2006–2008, and in the Virginia Senate since 2008. Environmental priorities include reducing carbon emissions, investing in green energy technologies, and addressing public health threats from pollution.
Outdoor Highlights: Co-founded the bipartisan Virginia Environment and Renewable Energy Caucus, which focuses on advancing green policies in the state legislature; sought to enroll Virginia in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and to create a mandatory statewide renewable energy standard.
Voting Concerns: Minimal. The Virginia League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has given him a score of 100 percent in recent years.
Statement: “The next generation deserves to inherit a greener, more sustainable world. That work begins with strict limits on carbon emissions, which will radically re-shape our environment if left unchecked. We should also work to protect fragile ecosystems, preserve open spaces, and responsibly manage natural resources.”
Steve Santarsiero (D-PA)
Background: Has served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since 2009. Environmental priorities include promoting renewable energy, investing in green jobs, and opposing oil and gas extraction on public lands.
Outdoor Highlights: Introduced legislation to put Pennsylvania on course for a 50 percent reduction in global warming pollution by 2030. This bill would put the state among those helping to deliver on the global climate goals agreed to in the Paris climate agreement reached last December.
Voting Concerns: Minimal. The Pennsylvania LCV gave him a score of 100 percent on its 2013-2014 scorecard.
Statement: “I’m proud to stand… in the fight to protect our air and water and battle catastrophic climate change. In Congress, I’ll continue the work I’ve started in the State House and push to grow a new renewable energy economy in Pennsylvania-—to protect our planet and put people back to work.”
North Carolina General Assembly
Susan Fisher (D)
Background: Has been a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives since 2004. Environmental priorities include clean energy, farmland preservation, and curtailing mountaintop removal coal mining.
Outdoor Highlights: Voted to continue growing North Carolina’s renewable energy sector and voted against the “Polluter Protection Act,” which eliminated air quality monitors and allows companies to “self-report” environmental damage. Sponsored the Appalachian Mountains Preservation Act, which would prohibit electric public utilities that operate coal-fired generating units in North Carolina from purchasing or using coal extracted with mountaintop removal mining.
Voting Concerns: None.
Statement: “I support strong environmental legislation for the sake of public health, the health of North Carolina ecosystems, and our children’s future. I will continue to support legislation that promotes clean air, water, and soil. We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, and we need to work together to make sure it remains beautiful for generations to come.”
Terry Van Duyn (D)
Background: Was appointed to the North Carolina Senate in 2014 to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Sen. Martin L. Nesbitt, and won election to a full term in November 2014. Environmental priorities include clean water and renewable energy.
Outdoor Highlights: Has introduced several bills promoting renewable energy and opposed the recent bill allowing fracking in North Carolina.
Voting Concerns: None; she has a perfect lifetime score from the North Carolina LCV.
Statement: “Water is one of our most precious resources and protecting it is one of the most urgent environmental issues we face. One of the first votes I cast was to vote against the recent fracking law. I voted against this law because it serves as a huge boon to energy corporations at the expense of safe drinking water for our families.”