Scott Walker is killing it with Republicans. The Wisconsin governor is one of his party's rising stars—thanks to his ongoing and largely successful war against his state's labor unions, a fight that culminated Monday with the signing of a controversial "right-to-work" bill.
Now (for the moment, anyway), he's a leading contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. At the Conservative Political Action Conference a couple weeks ago, he polled a close second to three-time winner Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), beating the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush by a significant margin.
It probably won't surprise you to learn that none of the prospective GOP presidential candidates are exactly champions of the environment. Probably the least bad is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who at least acknowledges that climate change is real and caused by human activity. Walker just might be the worst. He hasn't said much about the science of global warming. (In the video above, you can watch him tell a little kid that his solution to the problem will center on keeping campsites clean, or something.) But his track record of actively undermining pro-environment programs and policies while supporting the fossil fuel industry is arguably lengthier and more substantive than that of his likely rivals.
"He really has gone after every single piece of environmental protection: Land, air, water—he's left no stone unturned," said Kerry Schumann, executive director of the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters. "It's hard to imagine anyone has done worse."
Here's a rundown of Walker's inglorious history of anti-environmentalism.
Attacking Obama's climate agenda: Walker is a key figure in the GOP's battle against President Barack Obama's flagship climate policy—the proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules that are designed to reduce the carbon footprint of the nation's electricity sector 30 percent by 2030. The rules will likely require states to retrofit or shutter some of their coal-fired power plants. That could be a big deal in Wisconsin, which gets 62 percent of its power from coal.
In a letter to the EPA in December, Walker said the plan would be "a blow to Wisconsin residents and business owners." He cited an analysis from his state's Public Service Commission that predicted household electric bills would skyrocket. They won't, necessarily, since the state has a lot of options—including boosting renewables and energy efficiency—that it could use to meet its EPA carbon target without jeopardizing the power grid. But rather than preparing for the new rules, Walker seems bent on stonewalling them. In January he announced that his new attorney general was already preparing a lawsuit against the EPA, a move that was lauded by the Wisconsin director of the Koch Brothers-backed group Americans for Prosperity. Walker has also signed a pledge, devised by Americans for Prosperity, that he will oppose any legislation relating to climate change—presumably a cap-and-trade plan or a carbon tax—that would result in a "net increase in government revenue."
Indeed, Walker has close ties to Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who made a fortune in fossil fuels and who for years poured money into groups that cast doubt on the science of climate change. They own paper factories and a network of gasoline supply terminals in Wisconsin, and they have an interest in the state's trove of "frac sand" (more on that below). Koch Industries gave $43,000 to Walker's 2010 election campaign, and just after he took office, the Kochs doubled their lobbying force in Madison. In 2011 and 2012, David Koch and Americans for Prosperity spent $11 million backing Walker's agenda and his successful effort to avoid being recalled.
Turning off clean energy: As much as he apparently supports fossil fuel development, Walker has taken steps to put the brakes on clean energy. Last month, he released a budget proposal that would drain $8.1 million from a leading renewable energy research center in the state. That same budget, however, would pump $250,000 into a study on the potential health impacts of wind turbines. (Wind energy opponents have long suggested that inaudible sound waves from turbines can cause insomnia, anxiety, and other disorders, although independent research has repeatedly found these claims are more connected to NIMBYism than legitimate medical concerns.) Walker's budget would also cut $4 million in state subsidies for municipal recycling programs. That, at least, is an improvement over his first budget as governor, which proposed to eliminate recycling subsidies altogether.
Master image of Walker: Andy Manis/AP