Greens, Don’t Let This Democrat Weaken the Climate Bill

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With a significant climate change bill on the brink of passage in the House of Representatives, I’m embarrassed to say that one of my home-state legislators, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, is proving to be a major obstacle to the bill. Peterson, a farm-region Democrat who’s long bucked the party line and common sense on issues like gun control (he hates it), ethanol (he loves it), and global warming (he says it’ll be good for farmers), is digging in his heels, using his position as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee to hold up and water down the Waxman-Markey bill.

Peterson, the Wall Street Journal reports, “wants the party’s leaders to soften the climate bill’s impact on coal-burning power plants, scale back existing regulation of ethanol, and make other changes that, if adopted, could steer huge sums of money to farmers who engage in environmentally friendly practices.”

One of the most maddening things about Peterson’s obstructionism, Chris Bowers writes on Open Left, is that major green groups aren’t calling him out on it. The League of Conservation voters, which has called itself “the national political voice of the environmental and conservation community,” in 2004 named Peterson to its “Dirty Dozen” list for having “repeatedly voted to let corporate polluters off the hook.”

Yet, Bowers writes, “there is absolutely no information on the LCV website about Collin Peterson’s obstructionist efforts,” despite a home-page call to “strengthen and pass” the climate change bill. “They have no press releases on the subject. There isn’t a single blog post mentioning either Collin Peterson or the Agriculture Committee. … why is the LCV apparently doing nothing to Collin Peterson as he is escalating his efforts to weaken the most important piece of environmental legislation in decades?”

This is where you come in. If you’re concerned about climate change and you’re sick of seeing baby steps taken where big, bold strides are needed, then contact Peterson right now. But be smart about how you do it: He’s inclined to ignore you.

“I am very interested in hearing your views on issues of importance to you,” his website proclaims. However, “Due to the large volume of U.S. mail, e-mail and faxes I receive, I am only able to accept messages from residents of the Seventh Congressional District of Minnesota.”

Well, that’s just great. The guy is a key player in the most global of all issues, and yet he pretends that his sole role in Congress is as a provincial legislator, beholden only to his constituents and no one else. (A call to his press secretary, asking for an explanation of this bizarre assertion, went unreturned.)

Here’s my suggestion: Use the phone. An e-mail is easily ignored and a fax easily thrown out. (Recycling seems like a long shot here.) If Peterson’s staff has to personally answer a flood of calls urging him to stop standing in the way of common sense, it’s going to have some sort of impact. If they ask you where you’re from, which they surely will, simply tell them that you’re a concerned resident of planet Earth.

At the risk of sounding like a blaring late-night infomercial, CALL NOW!!! Open Left reports that 9:30 a.m. Thursday is the cutoff for amendments to the legislation.

Peterson’s D.C. office number is (202) 225-2165. Do it.

UPDATE (6/24/09): Politico reports that last night, bill sponsor Rep. Henry Waxman struck a deal with Peterson in which Peterson “got every concession he was seeking,” according to Open Left’s analysis. I guess recalcitrance and provincialism have their political rewards. In my opinion, it’s still worth calling Peterson to let him know you disapprove of his obstructionist tactics and his weakening of the bill.

Sources: TreehuggerWall Street Journal, Open LeftPolitico

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