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Voting record of John McCain’s successor aligns with Trump’s anti-environment policies

Jon Kyl received an 8 percent lifetime score from League of Conservation Voters.

Former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), right, has been selected by Arizona's governor to fill the Senate seat held by the late Sen. John McCain. CREDIT: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), right, has been selected by Arizona's governor to fill the Senate seat held by the late Sen. John McCain. CREDIT: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), chosen by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) on Tuesday to fill the seat of the late Sen. John McCain (R), had a dismal environmental record during his three terms in the U.S. Senate.

Kyl, who is scheduled to be sworn in on Wednesday, received an 8 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), a score that reflected his propensity to vote against legislation that would provide basic protections to the environment and human health. In 2006, Kyl was ranked by National Journal as the fourth-most conservative U.S. senator.

Kyl’s opposition to the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions and other types of air pollution and his support for the oil and gas industry, including offshore drilling, fall in line with the Trump administration’s record over the past 20 months.

Since his retirement from the Senate in 2013, Kyl has worked as a lobbyist for Covington & Burling LLP where he has represented companies and trade associations in a variety of industries. Earlier this year, Kyl registered to lobby for mining company Freeport-McMoRan to get copper on a list of minerals deemed “critical to the economic and national security of the United States.”

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With such a list, the Trump administration can then take steps to reduce imports, which would boost domestic production and financially benefit companies mining for these minerals in the United States. Copper did not make it onto the final list of minerals issued by the Department of the Interior.

Freeport McMoRan paid $20,000 to Covington & Burling for the help in the first quarter this year, the Arizona Daily Star reported Wednesday.

Kyl was also picked to guide Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh through the ins and outs of the Senate leading up to this week’s confirmation hearing. He arranged for Kavanaugh to be questioned at mock confirmation hearings.

Kyl has indicated he would consider staying in the seat until 2020, when a special election will be held to fill McCain’s unexpired term. He is expected to be sworn in as senator this week.

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Environmental groups in Arizona criticized Ducey’s decision to appoint Kyl to fill McCain’s position. The governor “has let down every Arizonan who wishes to breathe clean air and drink clean water,” Laura Dent, executive director of Chispa Arizona, said Tuesday in a statement. Chispa Arizona is the Arizona state program of the LCV.

In 2011, Kyl voted for a resolution expressing disapproval of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which reduces smog and soot-forming pollution that is emitted from power plants. The rule is estimated to save up to 34,000 lives and prevent 400,000 asthma attacks and 15,000 heart attacks per year. Later that year, the Senate voted to reject the resolution.

Kyl also voted in 2012 in favor of a resolution of disapproval sponsored by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) that would void the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS) rule for power plants. The Senate rejected Inhofe’s resolution.

In comparison, McCain received a slightly better lifetime score — 20 percent — than Kyl for his Senate votes on environmental issues. In 2003, McCain joined Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat at the time, to craft a market-based approach to reducing carbon emissions.

In a 55-43 vote, the McCain-Lieberman cap-and-trade legislation failed. Two years later, the legislation failed again in a 60-38 vote. During his run for the presidency in 2008, McCain called for a less ambitious form of cap-and-trade legislation.

“McCain never renounced his belief in climate science or the need for action, but after he lost the presidency, he never resumed his role as a leader in the drive for climate legislation,” Inside Climate News reported last week.

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As a senator, Kyl focused on water issues affecting the western United States. Given his knowledge of these issues, Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy in 2014 named its new water center after Kyl using a $1 million gift from the Morrison family, who live in Gilbert, Arizona, and made their wealth from farming and land development.

While Kyl has focused on water access issues in Arizona and other western states, he was a strong advocate of the oil and gas industry, a sector that uses huge amounts of water and has a long history of water pollution.

Kyl joined with his fellow Senate Republicans in 2012 to block a measure championed by President Barack Obama to end taxpayer-funded subsidies for oil companies.

Also that year, Kyl voted for an amendment approving the Keystone XL pipeline project. It would have exempted the pipeline from further approval from the Obama administration. The amendment failed. Three years later, Obama rejected the oil pipeline.

But in March, the Trump administration granted a presidential permit allowing the pipeline’s construction to move forward, a decision that has been challenged in court. TransCanada Corp. is expected to begin construction of the pipeline in early 2019.

On climate issues, Kyl in 2011 voted in favor of a bill barring the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. The measure ultimately failed to pass the Senate.

Kyl’s record as a senator is one of “consistently voting against the best interests of Arizona families,” Dent said. “Kyl is leading efforts to confirm a Supreme Court nominee that puts our environment and public health at risk. We deserve a senator who will stand up for all Arizonans, including Latinos and other under-represented communities most affected by dirty energy.”