You might think it's a no brainer for environmental groups with similar goals to band together and cooperate politically—and it is—but that doesn't mean it usually happens. Even though they're fighting the good fight together, for the most part, they'd usually choose to do it alone.
One spokesperson for a prominent environmental group, who asked to not be identified, said, "It's a really competitive arena. Sometimes we don't even talk —let alone cooperate."
That's why today's joint endorsement of Barack Obama by four of the biggest environmental groups in the nation—the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, Clean Water Action and Environment America—came as such a surprise. What's more, for all but one of the groups, this is by far the earliest any of them have ever publicly gotten involved in a race.
"Four years ago we had hope, now we have evidence, that Barack Obama is the right choice for the environment," said Margie Alt, Executive Director of Environment America. Obama being the "right decision" is certainly influenced by these groups' opinion of the GOP's candidate choice.
"In my 20 years of working with Clean Water Action, I have never seen a Presidential race in which the choice was so stark," said Robert Wendelgass, President and CEO of Clean Water Action. "We strongly reject Mr. Romney's false claims that protections for our water and our health are 'job killers.' On the contrary, most Americans understand that strong environmental protections are essential ingredients for both healthy communities and a healthy economy."
In the past, these groups—which collectively represent more than four million Americans—have urged the Obama Administration to do more, and have been highly critical of his "gung-ho" approach towards fracking for natural gas, with very little environmental regulation.
But Wednesday's endorsement clearly marked the beginning of the 2012 re-election campaign, as the groups stopped lamenting what more could have been done, and started highlighting concrete environmental victories.
Alt praised Obama for raising fuel-efficiency standards for cars not once, but twice in his first term, and enthusiastically said that the new rules on soot, smog and mercury pollution from power plants were "strong new standards that will save 46,000 lives annually."
Obama's investment in, and commitment to, renewable energy, which has doubled the nation's production from wind and solar, was also cheered as a glimpse of America's clean-energy future.
Wendelgass said that Obama had taken strong steps to protect the nation's waterways even in the face of an "incredibly hostile House of Representatives."
He pointed to the EPA's expected upcoming new guidelines that will restore protection for small streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act, reversing decisions mades during the Bush administration that have affected the drinking-water supply of 117 million Americans.
Wendelgass also praised the great strides made on cleaning up the ailing Chesapeake Bay, and even on the issue of hydraulic fracking, where the Administration and these groups usually butt heads. He pointed out that on Tuesday the EPA issued new rules to reduce air pollution from oil and gas operations and is investigating the use of diesel fuel in fracking.
Perhaps just as important as what Obama has accomplished, according to his newest political cheerleaders, is what he has prevented from happening, above all else, his decision to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline.
The groups declined to comment on just how much money and manpower they would be throwing behind Obama, but they all agreed that after this endorsement, they would begin mobilizing on the airways, online, and on the ground.
"There is still so much that needs to be done," Alt said "In Obama's second term we need to see a continued commitment to wind and solar, real action to combat the climate change crisis and progress to protect our waterways and special places."