Representative Ed Markey will soon have a new title: United States Senator. In Tuesday’s special election to replace current Secretary of State John Kerry, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly backed the longtime congressman over private equity investor Republican Gabriel Gomez.
Throughout his 37 years in Congress, Markey has fought for an array of clean energy and environmental protection measures, including co-authoring historic climate change legislation with Rep. Henry Waxman that passed the House of Representatives in 2009.
Climate change was a pillar of Markey’s campaign for Senate, prompting the National Journal to deem him the “first real ‘climate candidate.’”
In his acceptance speech, Markey emphasized his commitment to prioritizing environmental issues in the Senate, telling supporters, “I want to lead the effort to launch a clean energy revolution in our country.”
In a June 12 debate between the two candidates, Markey’s opponent referred to himself as a “green Republican.” However, Gomez refused to identify any specific energy or climate-related proposals other than building the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which he repeatedly touted as a job-creator, pathway to lower energy costs and, alarmingly, “environmentally friendly.”
Gomez also said that most efforts to combat climate change are “not rational” and refused to comment on his own extensive fossil fuel holdings.
Markey has long been a vocal foe of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and reiterated his opposition throughout the campaign. He also advocated for ending tax breaks for fossil fuel companies, a focus throughout his time in the House, and establishing the U.S. as a leader in clean energy.
When Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in 2007, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi chartered a new committee, U.S. House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, and selected Markey to head it up. Over the next four years, Markey went head-to-head with Ranking Member Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), a long-time climate disinformer who says that the science of man-made global warming is an “international conspiracy.”
When Republicans took back the House in 2010, they shut down the committee. Markey, however, remained undeterred in his quest to educate the public about the realities of climate change, fend off relentless attacks from his Republican colleagues, and hold fossil fuel companies responsible for their destructive practices.
Seizing the opportunity to elect a dedicated advocate to the Senate, clean energy and environmental groups lined up to support Markey’s bid. As Politico reports, the majority of the $2.6 million Markey received from the energy sector came from independent expenditures by environmental groups, with the League of Conservation Voters alone spending more than $1.6 million supporting Markey or opposing Gomez.
Markey also received a substantial boost from the NextGen Committee, a super PAC backed by billionaire climate change activist Tom Steyer — member of the Center for American Progress’ board of directors — which spent more than $853,000. The remainder of the outside spending came from campaigns by the Sierra Club Political Committee, the 350.org Action Fund and Environmental Majority.
Markey’s unwavering commitment to combating climate change, taking on fossil fuel companies, and advancing clean, renewable energy alternatives will be a critical voice for action on a national scale. Despite the Senate’s failure to pass the Waxman-Markey climate and clean energy bill in 2009, and the overwhelming wave of climate denial throughout Congress, Markey’s mission is unchanged: “I want to go to the Senate to make sure we pass meaningful climate change legislation.”
On the heels of President Obama’s landmark climate address and plan to regulate carbon pollution from power plants through the Environmental Protection Agency, the Senate faces a crucial battle to confirm Gina McCarty to head the EPA. And while comprehensive legislation to address climate change would be dead on the water in Congress, key measures such as the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill and MLP Parity Act could have a measurable impact on cutting emissions and advancing the transition to a clean energy economy.