The 2012 election cycle swept many clean energy and climate champions into office. Now it looks like Representative Ed Markey could ride the same wave in Massachusetts’ special election to replace Senator John Kerry.
Senator Kerry has been an outspoken advocate for curbing climate change. His climate leadership will be missed in the Senate, but it will be put to good use as Secretary of State. Last summer, Kerry said climate change is “as dangerous as” the threat of a war over Iran’s nuclear program or the unrest in Syria. Kerry’s grasp of the crisis could elevate climate change in international negotiations and bilateral talks.
Representative Markey, meanwhile, would continue pushing for clean energy and climate action here at home.
Congressman Markey has been a champion for the environment since first taking office. He has made protecting public health and the environment his signature issue since he was elected to the House in 1976. And he’s brought passionate determination to the task of making sure America’s air is clean, our water is safe to drink, and our public lands are better preserved.
But he brings more than enthusiasm to the table. He is also an accomplished and pragmatic lawmaker who knows how to get work done. In June 2009, for instance, he was a leader in drafting and passing the first-ever bill designed to unleash clean energy opportunities, create millions of jobs, and combat global warming. Known as the Waxman-Markey bill, the legislation would have put a cap on carbon and required utilities to get 20 percent of their energy from renewable resources like wind and solar power.
Few people believed a transformative climate bill could pass in the midst of an economic meltdown. Especially since the bill threatened the fossil fuels’ near-monopoly on energy production. It was a tough fight, but Representative Markey, together with Representative Waxman and House Speaker Pelosi, skillfully brought together green groups and energy companies and members of Congress and did what no one else could: pass a climate bill.
The Senate failed to take up the bill, but Markey’s record of effective policymaking stands. His fingerprints have been on every major effort to shield people from environmental harm—from making our cars run further on a gallon of gas, to public land protection, to leading the Congressional investigation into the BP oil disaster in 2010.
Markey would bring those three decades of experience with him to the Senate if he wins Kerry’s seat. We don’t yet know who else might join the race or how Markey would fare in a statewide race. But he did win his most recent House race by more than 70 percent and his candor and unapologetic support for a more sustainable future has resonated in Massachusetts.
When he announced his decision to run, Markey said, “I will not sit back and allow oil and coal industry lobbyists to thwart our clean energy future.” Judging from Markey’s last House victory and the success of clean energy champions in 2012 Senate races, it looks like Markey has a good chance of securing Kerry’s seat.
Frances Beinecke is the President of the NRDC Action Fund.