Environmental Groups Back Obama as Campaign Donations Trail

President Barack Obama won endorsements today from environmental advocacy groups including the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters even as some of their members are holding back financial support.

The organizations saw progress in the Obama administration’s efforts to address environmental issues, from increasing fuel efficiency for automobiles to cutting down on mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants to supporting solar and wind energy, Michael Brune, executive director of the San Francisco-based Sierra Club, said in a conference call.

“We found very, very high enthusiasm for the president” among local activists, Brune said.

So far that hasn’t translated into the same level of financial backing for Obama’s re-election bid, in which he’s likely to face Republican Mitt Romney in the November contest, that he had four years ago.

Through Feb. 29 employees of environmental groups or their spouses gave Obama’s re-election campaign $132,791, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group that tracks campaign contributions. Through the same time period in 2008 they gave his campaign $300,353, the center’s data show.

Environmental activists have been critical of the administration on several issues, including the president’s September decision to quash stricter ozone standards by the Environmental Protection Agency, abandoning cap- and-trade legislation, and renewing offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico after last year’s oil spill.

Today’s announcement is the earliest that the Sierra Club has ever endorsed a presidential candidate, according to Sierra Club spokeswoman Maggie Kao. In 2004, the more than 1.4 million member club endorsed Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in May, and in 2008 it endorsed Obama in June, after the Democratic primary race was settled.