The Mark UP

Congressional Candidates' Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: AZ-08

This is the eighteenth article in a continuing series by the NRDC Action Fund on the environmental stances of candidates in key races around the country.

Tucson, Arizona has quite an environmental legacy. For 40 years it was the political base of the Udall brothers — Stewart, a U.S. Representative in the 1950s and Interior Secretary in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and Morris, a U.S. Representative for 30 years and a pioneering environmentalist. Most of Tucson, along with Arizona’s southeastern desert, make up the state’s 8th Congressional District. Politically this district leans Republican, but only slightly. John McCain carried the district in the 2008 election, and for more than 20 years moderate Republican Jim Kolbe represented the district in the U.S. House. Since Kolbe’s retirement in 2007, the 8th district has been represented by Tucson native and former state Senator Gabrielle Giffords (D). This November, Giffords is being challenged by Republican Jesse Kelly, an Iraq War veteran and “Tea Party” favorite, who won the August 24 primary in an upset victory over former State Senator Jonathan Paton.

Giffords has built on the Udall brothers’ environmental legacy, making solar energy one of her top legislative priorities, saying that she wants Arizona to be “the Silicon Valley of solar energy.” During her first three years in Congress, Giffords has voted the right way on just about every environmental issue, earning a career rating of over 90% from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV). Last June, she supported the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), our nation’s first climate bill and an important step forward in creating green jobs. Her vote for ACES was supported by many Arizona community and business leaders. In a statement following the vote, Giffords said that ACES will “help jumpstart our economy. We’ve seen that right here in Arizona, where a small but vibrant solar energy industry is taking root. Arizona can be a world leader in solar energy production and use. The American Clean Energy and Security Act will help us achieve this goal.”

Kelly’s position on clean energy and climate couldn’t be further from Giffords. He believes we should “toss cap and trade,” which he calls a “massive tax increase & jobs killer.” The truth, according to according to collaborative research by the University of Illinois, Yale University and the University of California, is that ACES could lead to as many as 1.9 new jobs nationally; 24,000 in Arizona alone. And according to experts at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the bill would cost the average household $175 a year, or less than 50 cents a day.

Kelly doesn’t just stop at attacking ACES, he also takes issue with the overwhelming evidence of global warming, calling it “junk-science.” The experts at the National Academy of Sciences, our most authoritative scientific body, strongly disagree with Kelly’s claims, saying, ”Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.”

Kelly’s stance on climate is unsurprising given that he has signed Americans for Prosperity’s “No Climate Tax Pledge.” Americans for Prosperity is the big oil funded think tank behind the tea party movementwhose campaign is being supported by ultra-conservative Koch Industries.

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.