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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: AZ-08

6:33 am in Uncategorized by nrdcactionfund

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

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

Tucson, Arizona has quite an environmental legacy. For 40 years it was the political base of the Udall brothers — Stewart, a U.S. Representative in the 1950s and Interior Secretary in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and Morris, a U.S. Representative for 30 years and a pioneering environmentalist. Most of Tucson, along with Arizona’s southeastern desert, make up the state’s 8th Congressional District. Politically this district leans Republican, but only slightly. John McCain carried the district in the 2008 election, and for more than 20 years moderate Republican Jim Kolbe represented the district in the U.S. House. Since Kolbe’s retirement in 2007, the 8th district has been represented by Tucson native and former state Senator Gabrielle Giffords (D). This November, Giffords is being challenged by Republican Jesse Kelly, an Iraq War veteran and “Tea Party” favorite, who won the August 24 primary in an upset victory over former State Senator Jonathan Paton.

Giffords has built on the Udall brothers’ environmental legacy, making solar energy one of her top legislative priorities, saying that she wants Arizona to be “the Silicon Valley of solar energy.” During her first three years in Congress, Giffords has voted the right way on just about every environmental issue, earning a career rating of over 90% from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV). Last June, she supported the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), our nation’s first climate bill and an important step forward in creating green jobs. Her vote for ACES was supported by many Arizona community and business leaders. In a statement following the vote, Giffords said that ACES will “help jumpstart our economy. We’ve seen that right here in Arizona, where a small but vibrant solar energy industry is taking root. Arizona can be a world leader in solar energy production and use. The American Clean Energy and Security Act will help us achieve this goal.”

Kelly’s position on clean energy and climate couldn’t be further from Giffords. He believes we should “toss cap and trade,” which he calls a “massive tax increase & jobs killer.” The truth, according to according to collaborative research by the University of Illinois, Yale University and the University of California, is that ACES could lead to as many as 1.9 new jobs nationally; 24,000 in Arizona alone. And according to experts at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the bill would cost the average household $175 a year, or less than 50 cents a day.

Kelly doesn’t just stop at attacking ACES, he also takes issue with the overwhelming evidence of global warming, calling it “junk-science.” The experts at the National Academy of Sciences, our most authoritative scientific body, strongly disagree with Kelly’s claims, saying, ”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.”

Kelly’s stance on climate is unsurprising given that he has signed Americans for Prosperity’s “No Climate Tax Pledge.” Americans for Prosperity is the big oil funded think tank behind the tea party movementwhose campaign is being supported by ultra-conservative Koch Industries.

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.

California’s Commitment to Clean Energy – Both Parties Agree

8:04 am in Uncategorized by nrdcactionfund

By Kristin Eberhard

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

Now that Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has announced her opposition on Proposition 23, this dirty energy proposition stands as the main issue that she and the Democratic candidate Jerry Brown agree on. While Whitman’s stance against Proposition 23 is good news for California, jobs and our strong clean air and health standards, it is troubling that she coupled her technical opposition while simultaneously announcing her intent to suspend AB 32 for at least a year if elected Governor. Her position sounds like she wants it both ways. Delaying AB 32 would throw a monkey wrench into the implementation of our clean energy polices, and significantly hamper the transition of the state – indeed, the nation – to a clean energy economy.

Sponsored by out-of-state oil interests, Proposition 23 would wreak havoc with implementation of AB 32, our country’s only economy-wide clean energy law, an initiative that is creating thousands of cleantech sector jobs, stimulating research in clean energy and alternative fuels, and cutting the state’s emissions of greenhouse gases. Proposition 23 would keep us addicted to dirty fuels, kill jobs and derail California’s efforts to lead the global push to a high tech, clean energy economy.

While California’s Democrats and Republicans may disagree on many points, they have come together over the years to support state leadership on one issue: clean energy. Support for strong environmental regulation and an economy founded on clean technologies and sustainable energy sources is broad-based.

The bipartisan opposition to Proposition 23 is not an anomaly. Clean energy in particular has long been a priority for the state’s electorate and lawmakers. In 1974, the California Energy Commission was established by the state legislature and then-Governor Ronald Reagan. Among the Commission’s early accomplishments were setting energy efficiency benchmarks for new buildings and appliances, standards which have kept California’s per capita electricity consumption flat for 30 years, saving residents billions of dollars on their energy bills.

In subsequent decades, California built on this foundation, establishing Renewable Portfolio Standards that have minimized electricity generation from fossil fuels. Bipartisan efforts also passed bills such as SB 375 in 2008, which sets regional targets to reduce global warming pollution from cars and light trucks and make community resources and energy use more sustainable. Just this year there was strong bipartisan agreement on SB 77, a bill that funds voluntary energy retrofits to residential and commercial property, providing for a projected 10,500 jobs.

And we shouldn’t forget that bipartisan support for clean energy and environmental protection is part of our national tradition. The Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Clean Water Act of 1972, two of the seminal legislative efforts on any subject in the past 30 years, could not have passed without the support of lawmakers from both parties.

AB 32 creates a stable policy environment that attracts billions of dollars in venture capital and cutting-edge businesses to the state and we need a reliable policy roadmap. We need a commitment to a clean environment and sustainable energy that transcends party lines. This is an issue that speaks to the American ethos – to the American Dream. It is about security, innovation, entrepreneurship, and leaving our children a world that is better than the one we inhabit.

AB 32 in the National Spotlight

11:30 am in Uncategorized by nrdcactionfund

By Ann Notthoff

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

As summer turns to fall and hopes for federal climate action fade, all eyes are turned to California – but not for the gubernatorial or senate races. Those are important surely, but something else has riveted the nation’s attention: Proposition 23. In the past week, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have published major news stories on this initiative, and the Times ran an editorial this week opposing its passage and highlighting its national significance. The Los Angeles Times has devoted regular coverage to Proposition 23 since it was slated for the November ballot.

Why all the hoopla? Because Proposition 23 is a bald-faced attempt by out-of-state oil refiners to quash AB 32, California’s landmark climate bill. In the four short years since it was enacted, AB 32 has sent a clear market signal that has attracted billions of dollars in investments, generated thousands of jobs and put California on the path of cutting our global warming pollution. George Shultz, the former Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan has joined with NRDC and others to co-chair the No on 23 campaign. He noted in this week’s New York Times editorial that AB 32 has created an “outburst” of venture capital investment and high tech innovation in the Golden State.

If we don’t stop Proposition 23, it will affect more than California. AB 32 is a game changer – and the same can be said of Proposition 23. They promise two very different futures. Implementation of AB 32 will continue California’s environmental legacy as a national and world leader in both the development of clean energy and combating global warming. It is a giant step forward. But if AB 32 is a great step forward, Proposition 23 is a Brobdingnagian step back. It keeps California stuck on fossil fuels, and assures laggard status in the race for the new technologies that will drive the world economy in the coming century. In the recent New York Times front page news story, Gene Karpinksi, the president of the League of Conservation Voters, called Proposition 23 “…by far the single most important ballot measure to date testing public support for… a clean energy economy.”

So as we get to crunch time (voting starts early on the west coast by absentee ballots arriving as early as October 4th), Californians will be voting for more than candidates and measures. Proposition 23 is a referendum on just who we are as a people – confident of today and the future or afraid to let go of the past. Make no mistake: regardless of how Californians vote, there will be winners and losers in the clean tech race. The New York Times editorial expressed this eloquently:

“Who wins if (AB 32) is repudiated? The Koch Brothers, maybe, but the biggest winners will be the Chinese, who already are moving briskly ahead in the clean technology race. And the losers? The people of California, surely. But the biggest loser will be the planet.”

Spotlight: American Crossroads

7:06 am in Uncategorized by nrdcactionfund

By Matt Howes

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

American Crossroads is spending millions of dollars to attack clean energy reforms and the people who support them.

The motivation behind their attacks isn’t hard to find: According to Salon Magazine, American Crossroads “is getting a staggering amount of support from billionaires, several of whom made their fortune in the energy industry and live in Texas.” For example, 91% of the group’s $2.6 million in August fundraising came from just three billionaires.

One of the billionaires is Trevor Rees-Jones, an independent oil investor and founder and former chair of Chief Oil, who contributed $1 million to American Crossroads in August. Chief Oil has an abysmal environmental record, cited for 78 violations by Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection in just the first 6 months of 2010, “more than any other Marcellus shale driller in the state and with the highest ratio of violations at 3.5 per well.”

Another billionaire contributor to American Crossroads is Robert Rowling, whose fortune stems mainly from the oil business (through Tana Oil and Gas, now part of Texaco). Robert Rowling’s TRT Holdings is involved with oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico through Tana Exploration Company LLC. In 2006, Tana was fined $165,000 after a gas/condensate leak on one of its wells occurred (after safety valves were improperly bypassed).

With donors like this, it isn’t too surprising that one of American Crossroad’s priorities is blocking any legislation that places a price on carbon emissions or meaningfully addresses the very real problems of climate change.

Unfortunately, they are spreading their misleading message across the country, including going “on television with commercials in Nevada, Colorado, Missouri and Ohio and the affiliated Crossroads GPS has been running ads in Nevada, Colorado, Missouri, Kentucky, California and Pennsylvania.”

More reading:
*FactCheck.org page on American Crossroads
*OpenSecrets blog on American Crossroads
*Salon: Billionaires give 91 percent of funds for Rove-tied group

Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: NM-02

1:35 pm in Uncategorized by nrdcactionfund

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

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

New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District covers the southern part of the state, including Little Texas (as the southeast is known), Hatch Valley and Las Cruces (the state’s 2nd largest city). The 2nd Congressional District is a diverse region, nearly 50% Hispanic, which relies on oil, mining and agriculture. Democrat Harry Teague, a former oil executive himself, has represented the district in the U.S. House since 2008. In November, Teague will face former Congressman Steve Pearce, who in 2008 left the House after three terms to run unsuccessfully for the Senate.

Energy and climate legislation is front and center in this race. In his campaign announcement, Pearce even cited Teague’s vote 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” – as triggering his decision to run. Pearce also claimed (falsely) that Teague “embraced a reckless set of policies that directly jeopardize our economy and threatens future generations.” Specifically, Pearce argued that ACES will “hit families with as much as $1,500 a year in higher energy costs,” and “destroy jobs in New Mexico’s clean energy sector.”

Since Pearce didn’t say where he got those numbers, it’s tough to address them directly, but independent analyses of ACES indicate that such claims are way off. For instance, the nonpartisan experts at the Congressional Budget Office calculated the cost of ACES at $175 per household; and collaborative research by the by the University of Illinois, Yale University and the University of California showed that ACES would create as many as 1.9 million new jobs over the next ten years.

Pearce’s anti-environmental streak is nothing new. During his previous stint in Congress, he earned an abysmal 3% rating from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV). In comparison, Teague received an 86% rating during his first year in Congress.

On global warming, Pearce believes that the science is “crap” (a direct quote), that “climate scientists should be questioned more thoroughly because of the stolen e-mails,” and that “[i]f they don’t believe it, why should the rest of us be penalized in our standard of living for something that can’t be validated?” In fact, there is overwhelming, “undeniable” evidence that anthropogenic global warming is not only taking place, but is accelerating. As to the so-called “climategate,” this supposed “scandal” has been thoroughly refuted. Even if Steve Pearce doesn’t “believe” it has.

As if all this isn’t bad enough, Pearce stands with the radically conservative Americans for Prosperity in opposing climate legislation. As The New Yorker magazine explained in a recent expose, this industry front group was founded in 2004 by David Koch. David and his brother Charles, as you may know, are the nefarious, oil billionaires who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting their hard-line brand of libertarianism. In addition to eliminating all taxes, one of the Koch’s top priorities has been undermining environmental regulations. In fact, as The New Yorker points out, “from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change." The sad truth is that Steve Pearce is exactly the type of candidate the Koch’s would be proud to support.

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-15

8:56 am in Uncategorized by nrdcactionfund

This is the sixth 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 15th Congressional District, which includes downtown Columbus and parts of neighboring Franklin, Madison and Union counties. Columbus is home to the Ohio State University and has the highest proportion of young professionals, aged 25-34, of any city in the country. In 2008, Mary Jo Kilroy became the first Democrat elected in the district since 1982, when she narrowly (by less than 2,500 votes) defeated Republican Steve Stivers. Kilroy and Stivers will be matched up again this fall.

Since coming to Washington, Rep. Kilroy has consistently voted for environmental protections and moving America to a clean energy economy. In her first year in the House, she received a perfect 100% rating from the League of Conservation Voters, which means she voted the right way on every environmental vote. This includes voting for the historic American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), the first climate bill to ever pass in a chamber of Congress. In a statement following the vote, Kilroy said “The clean energy economy is the future of our country and of central Ohio…We are seeing the consequences of not investing in the next big idea with our auto industry. [ACES] secures Ohio’s strong position to make the solar panels and wind turbines that will power our nation in the very near future. It will also benefit Ohio’s agricultural sector, which can provide the plant material needed for the bio mass products that boost energy production.” She added, “This bill puts the central consumers first and insulates them from shifts in prices. For less than a trip to the movie theater, Americans are going to create 1.7 million (jobs), end the stranglehold foreign countries have on energy and work to save our planet.”

In sharp contrast, Steve Stivers falsely calls cap and trade a “job killer” that will lead to higher electricity bills for Ohio families. In reality, strong clean energy and climate legislation would create a net of 1.9 million jobs, according to in-depth 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. And, as analysis by the experts in the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office shows, the effect of ACES on electricity bills will be, as Rep. Kilroy said, less than going to the movies once a month.

Stivers doesn’t just stop at opposing clean energy and climate legislation, he also “disagree[s]” with the statement, “Man-made global warming is a scientific fact and immediate action to lower CO2 emissions is necessary to prevent an environmental catastrophe.” And, if denying the unassailable science behind climate change wasn’t enough, Stivers also opposes our right to hold the government accountable in court for protecting our public health and environment.

Stivers’ strong anti-environmental views are not so surprising when you consider the sources of his campaign cash, such as oil and coal services giant Koch Industries, Murray Energy and Rep. Joe Barton’s Texas Freedom PAC. What’s wrong with these companies and PACs?

Koch Industries is privately owned by Charles and David Koch, who, according to Greenpeace, have “quietly funneled [$50 million] to climate-denial front groups that are working to delay policies and regulations aimed at stopping global warming.” Robert Murray, the head of Murray Energy, is an outspoken climate denier, who said in testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works committee that global warming is “one of the biggest con jobs in the history of the Republic.” Murray continued to criticize the legacy of Rachel Carson, saying that “She and her environmental followers killed millions of human beings around the World with the ban on DDT.” Murray concluded by claiming that climate change legislation will “result in no environmental benefit.” Finally, the Texas Freedom PAC is headed by Joe Barton, who infamously apologized to BP, and who also called the BP escrow fund that will pay businesses that lost money because of the Gulf disaster a “$20 billion shakedown.”

These are a few of Stivers’ big donors, all major polluters or supporters of major polluters, which makes you wonder what they think they’re getting for their large donations to the Steve Stivers for Congress campaign.

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.