Environmental group’s $1M attack ad targets Sen. Mark Kirk

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WASHINGTON — The Natural Resources Defense Council is spending $1 million on a television ad, starting Tuesday, attacking Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., for a vote he made allowing states to opt out of federal rules dealing with power plants and the environment.

The ad, which blisters Kirk for “protecting polluters,” is the latest blast from environmental groups that want to keep pressure on Kirk as he faces what is likely going to be a tough re-election battle in 2016.

The spot will run through July 17 on Chicago broadcast and cable markets. It targets female voters who may be considered especially persuadable when it comes to claims that Kirk is weak on the environment. The cable buy includes HGTV, Lifetime, the Food Network and OWN, all with programming aimed at women.

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At issue is a June vote Kirk made in the Senate Appropriations Committee, which was debating a giant piece of legislation: the $30 billion fiscal 2016 spending for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department.

Kirk, a member of the panel, had a provision in the Interior spending measure he was championing — a ban on sewage dumping into the Great Lakes by 2035. Kirk has worked on protecting Lake Michigan since he was a member of the House.

The sewage ban is one of his signature issues.

Nonetheless, Kirk was a key vote against an amendment by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., which would have taken out of the EPA bill the provision letting states opt out of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. Udall would have prevailed if Kirk sided with him.

Environmental groups said the plan, a crucial element in dealing with climate change, would be weakened if all states did not participate.

Henry Henderson, the NRDC’s Midwest Program director, told the Chicago Sun-Times the group is sending the $1 million message to Kirk because “we anticipate a series of votes attacking the clean power plan which is the only viable opportunity to address climate change presently before Americans.”

Earlier, Kirk was hit on the same committee vote by the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club.

Kevin Artl, Kirk’s campaign manager said, “Sen. Kirk’s most recent clean water legislation creates a strict new ban on sewage dumping in the Great Lakes, including a $100,000 per day fine on polluters that would fund the construction of new treatment plants. The simple truth is that Sen. Kirk is responsible for the most aggressive measure ever taken to protect the Great Lakes.”

Kirk could not have been expected to vote against his own “landmark Great Lakes protection language,” Artl said.

To that point, Henderson said, Kirk could have supported the Udall measure and still have voted for the underlying legislation that included his Great Lakes sewage ban language.

As he heads into the 2016 campaign, environmental groups will be keeping a close eye on Kirk.

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