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Mary Mazzoni headshot

3p Weekend: Bipartisan Collaboration in the Age of Trump (Yes, It Still Happens)

By Mary Mazzoni

To characterize the early days of the Donald Trump administration as divided would be a massive understatement. A litany of controversial executive orders sparked protests, and tensions flared between political parties from Capitol Hill to kitchen tables across the country.

In a time when we seem more divided than ever before, it's easy to doubt whether bipartisan collaboration is even possible. But a few glimmers of hope crossed our newsfeeds these past six weeks, and we think they're just as noteworthy as the fire and brimstone. Let's take a closer look.

Governors urge Trump to invest in renewables

Earlier this month, the bipartisan Governors Wind and Solar Energy Coalition struck back at the Trump administration's “America First” energy plan, which makes no mention of renewable power. Led by Democratic Gov. Gina Riamondo of Rhode Island and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, the group includes eight GOP and 12 Democratic leaders.

In an open letter, the governors urged Trump to reconsider his position on clean power. They say a renewable energy boost will offer immense benefits to the rural voters who overwhelmingly supported Trump in the November election.

"The nation’s wind and solar energy resources are transforming low-income rural areas in ways not seen since the passage of the Homestead Act over 150 years ago," the governors wrote in their letter.

And they're not wrong: The wind energy industry alone paid out at least $222 million to rural landowners and farmers last year, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Infrastructure: Catalyst or stumbling block?

Some analysts positioned Trump's proposed $1 trillion infrastructure package as a rare opportunity for bipartisan collaboration. That looked more likely when word broke that the package could include renewable energy and transit investments. But other insiders said the plan may drive a rift between the Trump White House and a fiscally-conservative Republican Congress.

Fast-forward to today.

The National Governors Association met in Washington, D.C. this week. And some governors reportedly spent time compiling infrastructure wish-lists for the administration.

The meeting runs through Monday. And it's "expected to showcase rare bipartisan agreement on the need for more federal help in upgrading roads, bridges and airports," Scott Pattison, the group's executive director, told Reuters.

The meeting got governors talking about big-ticket items like high-speed rail lines and statewide broadband Internet, Ian Simpson of Reuters reported today. But they may have to wait. Multiple news outlets, including The Hill, reported that the Trump administration may put off infrastructure spending until 2018.

Cities come together around clean power

Twenty-three American cities have passed resolutions to adopt 100 percent clean power. Take a moment to think about these cities, and you likely conjure visions of patchouli-soaked millennials scooting around in bike lanes and carrying reusable shopping bags made from GMO-free hemp. But that's only part of the story.

Yes, historically-Democratic cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco make this list. But so do Republican-run cities like Greensburg, Kansas.

“The federal government is moving backward on clean energy, so the states must lead,” one long-time utility CEO told 3p contributor Leah Parks.

Massachusetts is now planning the nation's most ambitious state-wide clean power goal to date. So expect clean-energy momentum to continue at the local level, despite what's going on in Washington.

U.S. Conference of Mayors calls for bipartisan immigration reform

In the days leading up to President Trump's inauguration, the U.S. Conference of Mayors came together around immigration reform.

In an emergency resolution on Jan. 18, they asked the incoming president to "take a bipartisan approach to immigration," North Carolina public broadcasting station KQED reported.

"We see that the strength of our cities in America rests on making sure that we have pathways towards full participation and inclusion of all Americans," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, as quoted by The Hill.

Given Trump's recent immigration crackdown -- which this week he called a "military operation" -- it's clear this never came to pass.

But don't expect Republican mayors like Tom Tait of Anaheim, California, to go quietly. Citing the economic benefits immigrants bring to their cities, Tait and his cohorts have a lot riding on common-sense reform. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, a signatory to the January resolution along with Tait, has already publicly denounced the recent crackdown.

Republican and Democratic neighbors are just as likely to go solar

One might think far-left Democrats of the granola-chomping, tree-hugging persuasion would be most likely to go solar. But it turns out that's not the case.

Last month, the startup PowerScout set out to determine if residential solar crosses party lines. Researchers pulled the addresses of 1.5 million Democratic and Republican party donors in the top 20 solar states. They then analyzed their rooftops using satellite images and an image-recognition model.

“We went in with an open mind,” Kumar Dhuvur, co-founder of PowerScout, told TriplePundit's Gina-Marie Cheeseman. “We wanted to really look at the hard data.”

The results? Republican and Democratic homeowners adopt solar power at more or less the same rate. In some areas, Republicans were even more likely to have solar installed than their Democratic neighbors.

GOP elders make the case for 'climate dividends'

“On-again, off-again regulation is a poor way to protect the environment.” That's the argument presented by a group of GOP mainstays earlier this month.

That's right: Eight veterans of previous Republican administrations met with White House officials to float the idea of a revenue-neutral carbon tax. Their ranks include a former Treasury Secretary from the Ronald Reagan administration and a senior economist hailing from Dwight Eisenhower’s day.

In an op/ed in the New York Times, three of the elder statesmen said a carbon tax could “send a powerful signal to businesses and consumers to reduce their carbon footprints.”

But that's not all. Befitting of these leaders' fiscally-conservative stance, their proposal wouldn't send all that tax revenue to the federal government.

Instead, the proceeds would be returned back to the American people in the form of quarterly 'climate dividends.' Under a modest $40 per ton tax, a family of four would receive about $2,000 annually. Not too shabby.

Of course, not everyone in the environmental community was sold on the plan -- especially since it calls for a roll-back of environmental regulations, including the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, in exchange for the tax.

Image credits: 1) Flickr/DonkeyHotey; 2) Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's Office via Flickr

Mary Mazzoni headshot

Mary has reported on sustainability and social impact for over a decade and now serves as executive editor of TriplePundit. She is also the general manager of TriplePundit's Brand Studio, which has worked with dozens of organizations on sustainability storytelling, and VP of content for TriplePundit's parent company 3BL. 

Read more stories by Mary Mazzoni