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Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: VA-09

8:41 am in Uncategorized by nrdcactionfund

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

This is the nineteenth article in a continuing series by the NRDC Action Fund on the environmental stances of candidates in key races around the country.

From the Scotch-Irish who settled there starting in the 1760s to today’s residents, the people of southwestern Virginia are fiercely independent. The 9th Congressional District, which covers all of southern Virginia west of Roanoke, has been known as the “Fighting Ninth,” because of its raucous politics. The district was first dominated by farmers, later coal miners (though the coal industry has been in decline for more than twenty years there), and now by workers in high-tech industries. Bill Clinton carried the district twice, however George W. Bush won in 2000 and 2004 by wider margins than Clinton ever did, and John McCain won the district 59-40% in 2008.

Democrat Rick Boucher is in his 14th term representing the district in the U.S. House. Boucher’s family is steeped in southwest Virginia politics – his mother was Washington County’s Democratic Party chairwoman, and his grandfather and great-grandfather were Democratic members of the state House of Delegates. He hasn’t faced a particularly close race since his first re-election bid in 1984. This fall he will be challenged by Republican Delegate and House Majority Leader, Morgan Griffith.

During his long Congressional career, Boucher has voted as a moderate, making his greatest mark on telecommunication and technology issues. He’s been a reliable vote on clean energy and environmental issues, earning a c from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) last year. Boucher played an influential role in shaping the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), the first global warming bill ever to pass a chamber of Congress, as the leading voice for coal-state representatives on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. On the House floor during debate on ACES, Boucher said the bill:

…achieves broad reductions in greenhouse gases, enhances America’s energy security, and by placing a price on carbon dioxide emissions will unleash investments in clean energy technologies that will create millions of new jobs. These energy technologies will evolve from America’s laboratories. They will be deployed at home. They will be exported around the world. They will be the foundation for our next technology revolution…

This is a responsible measure. It is carefully balanced. It reduces greenhouse gases by 83 percent by 2050 as compared to 2005 levels. It keeps electricity rates affordable. It enables coal usage to grow as the demand for electricity increases. And it opens the door to a more secure energy future and the creation of millions of new jobs innovating, deploying and exporting to the world the new low CO2 emitting technologies that will power our energy future.”

Boucher backs up his claims in that speech with facts from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, and experts at the Environmental Protection Agency. But that hasn’t stopped Morgan Griffith from asserting, without any persuasive evidence, that ACES will “result in massive job cuts in Southwest Virginia’s coal industry while raising electricity, gasoline, and heating prices for all consumers.” Though, as someone who also says that “many scientists do not even believe [global warming] is happening,” Griffith doesn’t seem bound by the facts.

The truth, according to our top experts at the National Academy of Sciences is that “Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.” As to Griffith’s loss of jobs argument, according to collaborative research by the University of Illinois, Yale University and the University of California, ACES could lead to as many as 1.9 million new jobs nationally; 50,000 in Virginia alone.

Griffith’s misguided views on clean energy legislation and climate change become more understandable when you look at his major campaign contributors. For starters, Griffith has received $5,000 this cycle from the notorious Koch Industries, which according to Greenpeace, has "quietly funneled [$50 million] to climate-denial front groups that are working to delay policies and regulations aimed at stopping global warming." Koch also has a horrendous environmental record, including being fined $30 million for its role in 300 oil spills that resulted in more than three million gallons of crude oil leaking into ponds, lakes, streams and coastal waters. As if that’s not bad enough, Griffith also has taken $2,500 in contributions from Valero Energy, one of the Texas oil companies funding an effort to repeal California’s landmark clean energy and climate law. Finally, over the years, Griffith has accepted large donations from coal interests (e.g., the Virginia Coal Association) and from coal-fired utilities like Dominion Virginia Power. Unsurprisingly, Griffith has a poor environmental record (e.g., a measly 27% rating from the Virginia League of Conservation Voters in 2009).

The NRDC Action Fund believes that it is important for the public in general, and the voters of specific Congressional districts, be aware of this information as they weigh their choices for November.

Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: IN-09

1:01 pm in Uncategorized by nrdcactionfund

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

This is the thirteenth article in a continuing series by the NRDC Action Fund on the environmental stances of candidates in key races around the country.

Today, we examine Indiana’s 9th Congressional District, covering the southeastern and south-central portions of the state, and including Bloomington and the Indiana suburbs of Louisville, Kentucky. The district is heavily rural and agricultural, birthplace of singer John Mellancamp, famous for his song “Small Town.” The district also includes larger, urban areas, with employers such as Indiana University, General Electric, Hoosier Energy and Otis Elevator. Since January 2007, the 9th Congressional District has been represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by Democrat Baron Hill. This year, Hill is being challenged by Republican Todd Young, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and the Deputy Prosecutor in Orange County.

On clean energy and environmental issues, Rep. Hill has a strong record. In 2009, for instance, Hill received a solid, 86% rating from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and a 93% rating from Environment America. Hill voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), an extraordinarily important piece of environmental legislation which the New York Times described as “the first time either house of Congress had approved a bill meant to curb the heat-trapping gases scientists have linked to climate change.” At the time of his “aye” vote, Hill stated that he was “proud of both [his] support for and work done on the [legislation].” Hill added that he worked with “other like-minded Members…to get the electricity sector 90% of their allowances for free.” Finally, Hill pointed out his efforts to ensure that “manufacturing industries will be compensated for their cost of compliance with these new standards.”

In sharp contrast, Todd Young pledges to “vote against cap and trade bills that will raise our energy bills.” Young falsely attacks Rep. Hill, claiming that Hill “wants to raise your energy bill $1,800 a year.” Young also wrongly claims that ACES would “dramatically raise the cost of electricity and gasoline for all Americans, kill jobs in Indiana and have no appreciable effect on climate change.”

In fact, as an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded in June 2009, “the net economy-wide cost of the [greenhouse gases] cap-and-trade program would be about $22 billion—or about $175 per household.” That’s just one-tenth of the cost figure Todd Young is falsely putting out there. In addition, that $175 estimate doesn’t even include “the potential benefits associated with any changes in the climate that would be avoided as a result of the legislation.” Those benefits could end up being enormous, especially given the potential impact of more severe weather on American agriculture. Finally, as a study by the University of Illinois, Yale University and the University of California concluded, a bill with strong energy efficiency incentives would create a net of 1.9 million jobs. Those are the facts, contrary to whatever Todd Young is claiming.

The NRDC Action Fund believes that it is important for the public in general, and the voters of specific Congressional districts, be aware of this information as they weigh their choices for November.

Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: PA-11

10:21 am in Uncategorized by nrdcactionfund

Originally posted on The Mark Up.

This is the seventh in a continuing series by the NRDC Action Fund on the environmental stances of candidates in key races around the country.

Northeast Pennsylvania’s 11th Congressional District, including Scranton, Wilkes-Barres and the Poconos resorts, flourished in the 19th century after the discovery of anthracite coal – the highest carbon type of coal available. Coal mining drove development in the region until the 1940s, when demand shifted to cheaper alternatives like oil and natural gas. Today, coal mines are more of a tourist attraction than an economic driver, and Scranton is best known as the setting for NBC’s The Office.

For the past 25 years, the 11th district has been represented in the U.S. House by Democrat Paul Kanjorski. Throughout his time in Congress, Rep. Kanjorski has typically voted the right way on environmental issues. Last year, for example, he received a perfect score from the League of Conservation Votes, which means that he voted for the environment at every opportunity. This includes voting for the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), the first climate bill to pass a chamber in Congress. After the vote he said, “We need to begin the process of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, creating clean energy jobs in America, and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”

In November, Kanjorski will be challenged for the third time by Republican Lou Barletta, the mayor of Hazleton. The Cook Report ranks this race as a "Tossup." Barletta gained notoriety in 2006 when, as Hazleton’s mayor, he passed one of the nation’s most sweeping anti-immigration laws. He’s had little to say about environmental issues, however, during his multiple Congressional runs, and what he has said is less than encouraging. He wrongly claims that ACES will “stifl[e] the economic recovery and jeopardiz[e] millions of jobs.” The truth is quite the opposite. According to in-depth modeling built on collaborative research by the University of Illinois, Yale University and the University of California, ACES has the potential to boost GDP by more than $100 billion, and create 1.9 million jobs.

Barletta has also been a steadfast proponent of offshore drilling and dirty fuels, like liquid coal. And, after the BP blowout, he posted on his blog that “[a] leaking oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico does not justify the sinking of billions of dollars in a cap-and-tax scheme…” Actually, putting a price on carbon pollution is critical toward breaking our dependence on oil. We need to recognize that it is because we have not engaged in a serious effort to reduce our oil use that we’ve been forced to pursue petroleum products in sensitive areas like the Gulf’s deep waters. Whoever wins this race needs to help lead eastern PA into a new energy future.

The NRDC Action Fund believes that it is important for the public in general, and the voters of specific Congressional districts, be aware of this information as they weigh their choices for November.

Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: OH-01

9:15 am in Uncategorized by nrdcactionfund

This is the third article in a continuing series by the NRDC Action Fund on the environmental stances of candidates in key races around the country.

Today, we examine Ohio’s 1st Congressional District, which encompasses Cincinnati and parts of nearby suburbs. Cincinnati is home to the Reds, but in the House it’s represented by the self-described "raging moderate," Democrat Steve Driehaus. A longtime member of the Ohio legislature, in 2008, Driehaus won election to the House seat his father unsuccessfully sought 40 years ago. This November he is being challenged by former Republican Congressman Steve Chabot, whom Driehaus unseated in 2008 despite being outspent by nearly $1 million.

When a district is home to the company that makes products like "Mr. Clean," one would hope that its Congressional representative would champion clean energy. Rep. Driehaus has been a reliable environmental champion. In his first year in Congress, he received a perfect score from the League of Conservation Voters, meaning that he cast a pro-environmental vote at every opportunity. Most notably, Driehaus voted for the historic American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), the first global warming bill to ever pass a chamber of Congress. After the vote, Driehaus said, “Ohio has the resources and workforce to be at the cutting edge as we move our nation toward a clean energy economy, and [ACES] will promote investments that will bring the potential of clean energy development into our community…This bill will help us end our addiction to imported oil, which threatens our security and sends too much American money overseas. I’m proud to stand with my colleagues today to do the right thing for the future of America’s economy and security.”

In sharp contrast, in 2008 — Chabot’s last year in Congress — the League of Conservation Voters gave him a bottom-of-the-barrel 8% rating on environmental issues. Chabot earned his low rating by voting against renewable energy, against removing oil and gas exploration subsidies, against keeping a moratorium on offshore oil drilling, against raising fuel economy standards for vehicles, against prohibiting oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and against implementing the Kyoto Protocol. In short, Steve Chabot voted against the environment at pretty much every opportunity.

Chabot’s position hasn’t changed since leaving Congress. On the campaign trail, he’s said that he “strongly oppose[s] cap and trade,” citing fuzzy math claiming that it will "cost the average American family an additional $1,770 a year in higher energy costs.” The truth, according to the experts in the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), is that the net economy-wide cost of the cap-and-trade program would be about $175 per household" — or one-tenth of what Steve Chabot is claiming.

Furthermore, the CBO’s estimate doesn’t include the benefits of reducing global warming, such as mitigating the record-setting heat and drought conditions we’re already seeing around the world.

And just as important, Chabot is ignoring the positive job impact of passing ACES, which would create an estimated 1.9 million jobs, according to a study by the University of Illinois, Yale University and the University of California.” In Ohio, this would mean 61,000 new good-paying jobs created over the next ten years.

Chabot doesn’t just oppose legislation to move to clean energy, he mocks the unassailable science demonstrating global warming. On his blog, Chabot claims that the absence of hurricanes hitting the United States in 2009 represented an “inconvenient truth” to “environmental alarmists” on global warming. And he promotes conspiracy theories, such as “climategate” — a non-scandal pushed by climate change deniers and fossil fuel interests, now completely debunked.

Chabot’s fiercely anti-environmental views are not so surprising when you consider the sources of his campaign cash – Rep. Joe Barton’s Texas Freedom PAC ($6,000) and oil and coal services giant Koch Industries ($5,000), for instance. Rep. Barton is one of big oil’s best friends in Congress. You may remember his recent apology to BP when it set aside money to pay small businesses that have lost money because of the Gulf disaster. And Koch Industries is notorious for having “quietly funneled [$50 million] to climate-denial front groups that are working to delay policies and regulations aimed at stopping global warming is no joking matter.”

The NRDC Action Fund believes that it is important for the public in general, and the voters of specific Congressional districts, be aware of this information as they weigh their choices for November.