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

Originally posted on The MarkUp. This is the fourteenth article in a continuing series by the NRDC Action Fund on the environmental stances of candidates in key races around the country.

After the Gold Rush, but before Hollywood and the Silicon Valley, California’s Central Valley became one of the most prosperous agricultural areas in the world. Recent water shortages have challenged this legacy; however, fruit, vegetable and particularly cotton, remain the driving force in the region’s economy. The Central Valley may be undergoing a demographic shift of late, but it’s not due to agriculture’s decline – it’s because high home prices in the Bay Area are driving middle-income workers to Tracy and Stockton. The 11th Congressional District, which includes much of this area as well as some Bay Area suburbs and areas further south, is historically conservative. And, while the region remains the most Republican part of the Bay Area that is not saying very much. Currently, Democrat Jerry McNerney represents the 11th district in the U.S. House.

Rep. McNerney came into office in 2006 after defeating arch anti-environment Republican Richard Pombo. At the time, Pombo was a seven-term incumbent with a daunting campaign war-chest, and the number one target of the environmental community.  As chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, Pombo spearheaded unsuccessful efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act, drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve and to lift the ban on offshore oil drilling. In stark contrast, McNerney was a renewable energy consultant and entrepreneur who made clean energy the signature issue of his campaign. Environmental groups, like Defenders of Wildlife, campaigned fervently on McNerney’s behalf, and his election over Pombo remains one of our community’s signature victories of the past decade.

Not surprisingly given this background, McNerney has been a champion for the environment during his first two terms in Congress. According to the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) he has rarely missed an opportunity to take the environmental vote on key issues, scoring a 93% in the last session of Congress. In endorsing his current reelection bid, LCV President Gene Karpinski said that McNerney “has been an invaluable leader in championing clean energy jobs and protecting our natural treasures… As a wind energy engineer and father of an Air Force veteran, Congressman McNerney knows from experience how important clean energy is to our economy and our national security.”  

Unlike Rep. McNerney, who voted in favor of the historic American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) – the first climate bill to pass a chamber of Congress – his opponent this November, David Harmer, thinks, “global warming is more a religion than a science.” And in April, Harmer told a tea party rally, absurdly, that climate legislation would enable the government to regulate every time they exhale. With Harmer misrepresenting both the unassailable science of global warming and reasonable solutions like ACES, you have to wonder if he’d be another Pombo if he ever got to Congress.

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.