Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: VA-05

This is the first in what will be a continuing series by the NRDC Action Fund on the environmental stances of candidates in key races around the country.  Today, we examine Virginia’s 5th Congressional district, a district - stretching south from Charlottesville to the North Carolina border. Currently, the 5th CD is represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by Tom Perriello (D).

Where does Rep. Perriello stand on clean energy and environmental issues?   In 2009, Perriello received a 71% rating from the League of Conservation Voters.  Perriello also voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) and has "touted development of a clean energy economy as a way of creating jobs; improving energy efficiency; increasing this country’s energy supplies and sources and reducing reliance on foreign energy, which also would benefit this country’s national security; and other benefits." With regard to his ACES vote, Perriello says that he "believes there are ‘huge upsides’ in manufacturing and agriculture in a clean energy economy."  As the Union of Concerned Scientists points out, Perriello is exactly right about the agricultural sector, as "Wind, solar, and biomass energy can be harvested forever, providing farmers with a long-term source of income."  And, as California’s experience has shown, Perriello is right about the manufacturing sector as well.

Perriello does, however, favor some things that many environmentalists disagree with. For instance, Perriello says he supports an "’everything and the kitchen sink’ national energy strategy that includes an expansion of oil drilling." On the other hand, it should be noted that Perriello’s support for oil drilling comes in the context of his overall support for "using market-based solutions to create a carbon-limited economy."

The Republican candidate, Virginia State Sen. Robert Hurt, has views on energy and the environment contrast sharply with Perriello’s.  In this video, for instance, Hurt incorrectly claims that cap and trade legislation would "absolutely raise the cost of energy in this country and it will hurt individuals and it will hurt businesses."  In fact, as studies like this one show, "the Waxman-Markey climate bill makes economic sense, offering benefits worth at least twice as much as it costs, if not more."  And, as this study concludes, the climate legislation already passed by the U.S. House of Representatives "would produce an average net energy spending reduction of $354 per household and an increase of nearly 425,000 jobs" by 2030.  Finally, a recent study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration finds that the comprehensive climate and clean energy "American Power Act" being considered in the U.S. Senate would produce increases in income "almost 60 times greater than the estimated $185 annual investment** cost, exceeding $11,000 per year on average" while reducing U.S. oil imports "1.9 to 2.4 million barrels per day by 2035."

For whatever reason, Robert Hurt has ignored or discounted these studies, not to mention the overwhelming scientific evidence regarding the urgent need to act on climate change.  Thus, instead of advocating for a transformation from the dirty fuels of the past, to a prosperous economy based on energy efficiency and clean energy that will never run out, Hurt’s solution is essentially the same-old, same-old: "opening up drilling in off the coast of Virginia, something I have supported year after year." Hurt adds, "We have to include drilling all over this country in order to meet the demands for our society, the demands for our businesses."

In reality, of course, the United States contains only 3% of the world’s oil reserves and is considered by geologists to be a "mature oil province."  In common language, the meaning is simple: our oil production has long since "peaked," which means we can’t "drill our way out of it." Fortunately, we can open up tremendous opportunities for our nation through policies and investments that encourage energy efficiency – also known as "Invisible Energy" – and clean, renewable energy. For whatever reason, Robert Hurt disagrees and instead is pushing to move us backwards in this area.

In general, Sen. Hurt’s environmental record is unimpressive, with a 20% Virginia League of Conservation Voters rating in 2009 and a 38% rating in 2010.  During the 2010 Virginia General Assembly session, Hurt voted the "wrong" way  - in the view of the LCV - on HB 787, which states that "it shall be the policy of the Commonwealth to support oil and natural gas exploration, development, and production 50 miles or more off Virginia’s coast."  Hurt also voted for HB 1300, which "[p]rohibits the Air Pollution Control Board from requiring that electric generating facilities located in a nonattainment area meet NOx and SO2 compliance obligations without the purchase of allowances from in-state or out-of-state facilities."  Obviously, Robert Hurt is no friend of clean energy or the environment.

That concludes our environmental profile of the Democratic and Republican candidates running in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District this year.  We believe 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.

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Tags: NRDC Action Fund, Virginia, Tom Perriello, Clean Energy, Climate Bill, Climate change, Environment (all tags)

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