May 11, 2007
A global warming bill filed by a Democratic state senator is receiving some unexpected support from a national Republican group. Republicans for Environmental Protection, a national organization that opened a Texas chapter last year, is spending $9,000 on television ads to support a global warming study bill by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin. The bill would require the state environmental commission to figure out ways businesses can reduce greenhouse gases without costing money.Watson said he had never heard of Republicans for Environmental Protection, but he welcomed its support.The ads, which feature images of wind turbines, compact fluorescent light bulbs and discussion by a Texas A&M University professor about the consequences of climate change, will be broadcast Monday through Thursday on three Austin television stations during morning and late-evening news programs.“Moving climate change forward in the biggest, reddest state shows it’s too important not to talk about,” said Jim DiPeso, the policy director for Republicans for Environmental Protection.The Texas chapter has about 200 members, and global warming and parks funding are the main issues it has been tracking, said Pam Ragon, the chapter president and a Dallas investment banker. REP makes endorsements only on the federal level, but it did not endorse any candidate for president in 2004, DiPeso said. The organization has not paid for television ads since last year, when it made a buy in Pennsylvania. Its national board includes Texan Trammell S. Crow, who is also a co-chair of the group Texas Business for Clean Air, which raised money this year to fight proposed coal-fired power plants. “There’s no reason the environment should be the partisan issue it has become,” Andy Dessler, the professor who appears in the ad, said in an interview. “If you go back 100 years, Republicans like Theodore Roosevelt were much more concerned about the environment than a Democratic steel-worker in Pittsburgh would be.”Dessler said that environmental group and government watchdog Public Citizen helped produce the advertisement. Crow, of the commercial real estate family, brought REP and Public Citizen together, DiPeso said.“Global warming is very much now a bipartisan issue,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, the head of the Austin office of Public Citizen. He pointed to the unlikely allegiance between Rep. Joe Crabb, R-Atascocita, and Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, who had introduced another global warming study bill, which died in the House Energy Resources Committee. Watson’s bill, which passed through the Senate by a vote of 28-3, now resides in the House Environmental Regulation Committee.