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Governor Races: Climate Deniers Threaten The Northeast RGGI Climate Compact

By Brad Johnson on October 15, 2010 at 4:00 pm

"Governor Races: Climate Deniers Threaten The Northeast RGGI Climate Compact"

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This is Part Three of a four-part Wonk Room series examining the implications for climate and clean energy policy of the 2010 gubernatorial races. Read Part One, on heartland states, Part Two, on Tea Party candidates, or view the full governor-race compilation.

The northeastern United States remains a bastion of the clean energy economy, though global warming deniers are vying to take over leadership of the state governments.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the carbon trading program of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont, which went into effect in 2008. In 2006, Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) dropped his state out of the compact just before beginning his presidential campaign, but his Democratic successor Deval Patrick rejoined. There are governors’ races in all these states except New Jersey and Delaware.

The RGGI states “have seen tangible benefits from the program,” Stateline’s Rob Gurwitt reports. “Overall, there have been nine auctions held by RGGI since 2009, in which electric utilities and some investment firms have bought emissions allowances. And those auctions have raised some $729 million for a range of emissions-reduction and energy-efficiency programs — benefiting both homeowners and industrial users — as well as financing an occasional raid to balance a state’s general budget.”

Despite the strength of the clean-energy economy in these states, several Republican candidates are thinking of sabotaging it, driven by their ideological dislike of science, renewable energy, and the environment. In Maine, Massachusetts, and Maryland, Republican candidates have questioned their states’ renewable energy standards. Vermont stands alone, with both Democratic and Republican candidates who fully accept the scientific consensus on the threat of global warming pollution.

CONNECTICUT: Dan Malloy v. Tom Foley
MAINE: Libby Mitchell (D), Paul LePage (R), Eliot Cutler (I)
MARYLAND: Martin O’Malley v. Robert Ehrlich
MASSACHUSETTS: Deval Patrick (D), Charlie Baker (R), Tim Cahill (I)
NEW HAMPSHIRE: John Lynch v. John Stephen
NEW YORK: Andrew Cuomo v. Carl Paladino
RHODE ISLAND: Frank Caprio (D), Joseph Robitaille (R), Lincoln Chafee (I)
VERMONT: Peter Shumlin v. Brian Dubie

CONNECTICUT: Dan Malloy v. Tom Foley

538 forecast: 83 percent likelihood of Democratic pickup

Under Governor Jodi Rell (R-CT), Connecticut established a comprehensive plan for reducing greenhouse pollution in 2005. Connecticut’s renewable electricity standard was first established in 1998.

Republican candidate Tom Foley is in denial about the impacts of global warming:

Until you know what the problems are, and you’re in a reasonable time frame of their arrival, then there’s not much you could do. Until we actually experience the impact, then I’m sure there will be plenty of time to respond. [Connecticut Mirror, 10/13/10]

Foley also questioned whether Connecticut’s greenhouse gas reduction goals of 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 are “realistic,” though he “will certainly try to move us along a course that will get us to those goals.” Foley’s energy and environmental policy is a single paragraph of platitudes.

In contrast, Democratic Stamford mayor Dan Malloy has been a national leader in climate-friendly urban policy, and has a comprehensive environment, global warming, energy efficiency, and clean energy jobs agenda. “This is something I am ultimately committed to,” he told the Mirror.

MAINE: Libby Mitchell (D), Paul LePage (R), Eliot Cutler (I)

75 percent Republican pickup

Under Democratic governor John Baldacci, Maine is on track to meet its goal of reducing greenhouse pollution to 1990 levels this year. In 2006, Maine strengthened its renewable electricity standard to 40 perecent by 2017.

Waterville mayor Paul LePage, the Republican nominee, is a global warming denier:

I just don’t know how severe it is and I’m not sure how much we as human beings contribute to it. Scientists are divided on it. [Waterville Morning Sentinel, 10/5/10]

LePage also opposes Maine’s renewable energy goals, arguing wind power is too unreliable, and is open to opening Maine’s waters to offshore oil drilling.

MARYLAND: Martin O’Malley v. Robert Ehrlich

11 percent Republican pickup

In a battle of the governors, the Democratic incumbent Gov. Martin O’Malley is squaring off against former governor Robert Ehrlich, the Republican. After Ehrlich attempted to pull out of RGGI, he was compelled to sign a veto-proof bill in 2006 entering Maryland into the RGGI compact. In an extensive interview on environmental issues facing Maryland with the Baltimore Sun, Ehrlich came out as a newly infected global warming conspiracy theorist:

The skeptical side of me has increased,” Ehrlich says, since news reports last year alleging that scientists manipulated data showing that the climate is changing. [Baltimore Sun, 10/11/10]

In contrast, O’Malley is a powerful leader on climate change, passing into law legislation to cut the state’s carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2020:

For our prosperity, for our current and future generations, and for the health of our State, which is so vulnerable to rising sea levels, we must take action on climate change now – not later. Maryland can’t afford to be left behind. We must commit to taking the actions necessary to protect our environment, our economy, and our citizens.

Although Ehrlich’s campaign website praises the state’s renewable electricity standard for creating a “skilled workforce of clean energy employees,” he now “questions the technical feasibility of getting 20 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources.” Ehrlich instead promotes building new nuclear power plants with taxpayer support.

Unlike Ehrlich, O’Malley stands behind the state’s renewable electricity standard.

MASSACHUSETTS: Deval Patrick (D), Charlie Baker (R), Tim Cahill (I)

25 percent Republican pickup

Millionaire health insurance executive Charlie Baker, the Republican challenger to incumbent governor Deval Patrick, has staked out skeptical positions both on the science of climate change and on green economic policies. When asked to address the existence of man-made global warming in February, Baker refused to admit its reality:

I’m not saying I believe in it. I’m not saying I don’t. You’re asking me to take a position on something I don’t know enough about. I absolutely am not smart enough to believe that I know the answer to that question.

By August, Baker conceded that man-made pollution is “partially” to blame. Baker has also indicated his willingness to pull out of RGGI:

I’m willing to participate as long as it doesn’t cost Massachusetts jobs and money. I don’t know if I’m against it or not. I view that as something that needs to be reviewed.

Baker has also bashed Patrick’s support for cleantech investment, and opposes the Cape Wind project. Independent candidate Tim Cahill shares Baker’s views on global warming and clean energy policy.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: John Lynch v. John Stephen

5 percent Republican pickup

Republican John Stephen’s candidacy is supported by Koch’s Americans for Prosperity, who have been running attack ads against incumbent Democratic governor John Lynch. Lynch, who signed the Renewable Energy Act in 2007 to get New Hampshire to 25 percent renewable electricity by 2025 and HB 1314 in 2008 to implement RGGI, is strongly favored to win.

NEW YORK: Andrew Cuomo v. Carl Paladino

Zero percent Republican pickup

Republican candidate Carl Paladino is a raging global warming denier:

Since then, Mr. Paladino, with the help of the Republican consultant Roger J. Stone Jr., has fashioned a campaign around anger (“I’m mad as hell,” his slogan reads), far-right conservatism (he calls global warming a “farce”) and reform in Albany (he frequently talks of “cleaning out the dirty trash”). [New York Times, 8/31/10]

Paladino also wants to immediately greenlight the fracking of New York’s Marcellus Shale deposit, mocking concerns about the hazards of drilling by saying “we’ve studied this to death.” Other than promising to rescind “onerous” environmental rules, this appears to be his entire energy policy.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) has been a climate leader, calling on the SEC to issue climate risk disclosure rules, and compelling energy companies to begin disclosing their exposure. “I believe global warming and climate change are real threats to our planet,” Cuomo has said.

RHODE ISLAND: Frank Caprio v. Joseph Robitaille v. Lincoln Chafee

56% Democratic pickup, 35% Independent pickup

The Rhode Island gubernatorial race is a toss-up between Democratic state treasurer Frank Caprio and independent (and former Republican U.S. senator) Lincoln Chafee, with Republican candidate Joseph Robitaille a distant third. Robitaille “artfully avoided putting forward his position on climate science” during a recent debate on environmental issues. In contrast, Caprio “spoke about the need for state-level incentives for clean energy development” and Chafee called for more funding for and enforcement by the Department of Environmental Management.

As treasurer, Caprio has been a climate leader, calling on the SEC to issue climate risk disclosure rules. Like Caprio, Chafee has a strong record on the environment, clean energy, and fighting global warming pollution. Caprio has a comprehensive clean energy plan that includes strengthening the state’s renewable energy standard.

VERMONT: Peter Shumlin v. Brian Dubie

72 percent Democratic pickup

Befitting its nickname, Vermont is one of the greenest states in the nation. In 2005, Gov. Jim Douglas (R-VT) joined RGGI and enacted a renewable energy standard. However, in 2007, Douglas vetoed H.520, “a comprehensive climate-change bill that would have greatly expanded” the state’s efficiency program to cover all fuels, not just electricity.

Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie (R-VT), after avoiding a stand on climate science for years, recognized the reality this June:

I believe that scientific data clearly show that climate change is real and, as a result of human behavior, the world is getting warmer. Carbon emissions are playing a large role in the warming of our planet. We have to stop burning fossil fuels, which emit carbon into our environment. [Vermont League of Conservation Voters, 6/18/10]

“We need a governor who believes that climate change is real every year, not just in an election year,” charged state Sen. Peter Shumlin (D-VT), the frontrunner in the race. “Governors should be right the first time. I worked hard to pass what Al Gore called the ‘toughest climate-change bill in the nation,’ only to have the Douglas-Dubie administration veto it.”

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