NJ Environmental Federation Endorses Democrats for Congress, Blasts GOP

Group argues that 2012 election is critical for environment and public health

The New Jersey Environmental Federation is not showing much love for the GOP these days.

The group, one of the largest environmental organizations active in the state, yesterday endorsed Sen. Bob Menendez and Rep Frank Pallone, a couple of Democrats it has backed in the past.

The federation, long considered a key ally of the Democrats, raised eyebrows when it endorsed Republican Chris Christie for governor three years ago.

It seems to have rediscovered its roots, saving its most blistering criticism for the Republican members of Congress in a statement announcing its endorsements yesterday.

“Since January 2011, the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives has voted 297 times to weaken public health and environmental protections,’’ the group said, “This is an unprecedented effort to rollback decades of environmental policies that have made our water safer to drink and our air healthier to breathe.’’

In the statement, the group argued that rarely has an election mattered more for the environment at the federal level than the one this November. “And next year, 2013, the stakes will be just as significant at the state level right here in New Jersey,’’ the group said, referring to the gubernatorial election when Christie will seek a second term.

David Pringle, campaign director for the federation, said the statement was more focused on the federal level than on New Jersey, though he did not mute his criticism of Christie, which the organization gave poor or failing marks on a report card on environmental issues earlier this year.

“Nothing has qualitatively changed to suggest he is doing anything better than a D,’’ Pringle said when asked about the criticism of Republicans, specifically the governor.

“We’re very unhappy with Congressman [Leonard] Lance’s record lately,” he said, referring to the Republican who once enjoyed backing from environmentalists when he served in the New Jersey Legislature.

Jeff Tittel, director of the [http://newjersey.sierraclub.org|New Jersey Sierra Club], however, argued the same trend that has happened at the national level in undermining key environmental laws is occurring in New Jersey under the Christie administration.

How much the environment plays in the fall election remains to be seen. So far, however, the Sierra Club nationwide has yet to endorse a single Republican for election in Congress for the first time in history, according to Tittel.

Meanwhile, the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, released a poll of undecided voters in eight swing states, which claimed they decisively favor candidates for president and Congress who support clean air and clean energy policies over candidates who don’t.

According to the polling, 50 percent of likely voters in the eight battleground states would vote today for Barack Obama, 44 percent for Mitt Romney, with 6 percent undecided.

“What we see here is that key-state voters who are still making up their minds decisively favor candidates who support standards to reduced carbon pollution and mercury pollution,’’ said Tom Jensen, director of [link: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com Public Policy Polling], which conducted the survey.

The poll of 22,412 likely voters was conducted in Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin in mid-September.