The Mark UP

Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: FL-02

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

Today, we examine Florida’s 2nd Congressional District, covering the eastern part of the Florida panhandle and including Tallahassee. In recent months, the 2nd district’s economy has taken a serious hit from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, with the tourism industry scrambling to lure visitors back to beaches in the area. Since 1997, Democrat Alan Boyd has represented the 2nd Congressional District. This year, Rep. Boyd is being challenged by Republican businessman Steve Southerland, who won the Republican primary easily over four opponents. Boyd also faced a bruising primary against State Senate Minority Leader Al Lawson, with Boyd winning by just 2 points, 51%-49%.

So far in this campaign, Boyd has talked about his work “pressuring BP to take swifter action on capping the well, containing the spill, cleaning affected areas and compensating victims,” as well as his vote for “legislation that will save jobs for teachers, police officers, firefighters and public workers.” For his part, Southerland has used the catch phrase, “We’ve had enough,” and has attempted to link Boyd closely to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and “her San Francisco values.”

On clean energy and environmental issues, Rep. Boyd has an excellent voting record. In 2009, for instance, Boyd received a 93% rating from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), and a 100% rating from Environment America. Boyd voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) an extraordinarily important piece of environmental legislation which the New York Times described as “the first time either house of Congress had approved a bill meant to curb the heat-trapping gases scientists have linked to climate change.” At the time of his “aye” vote, Boyd explained that ACES “may not be perfect, [but] it reflects our long-term energy needs and responds to our collective responsibility to ensure a better world for future generations.” Boyd also countered misconceptions about the bill, including “that it would impose thousands of dollars in costs on the average household.” Boyd has correctly countered, “This is simply not true,” with the “nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office [having] analyzed the bill and [having] concluded it would cost 48 cents a day for families at its height in 2020 – around the cost of a postage stamp per day.” Rep. Boyd is absolutely right, as you can see for yourself from looking at the CBO study.

In sharp contrast, Steve Southerland has signed the Americans for Prosperity “No Climate Tax Pledge” to “oppose legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue.” On his website, Southerland calls  cap and trade “an enormous energy tax on business that I believe will result in further losses for companies, job losses and increased debt.” In this debate video, Southerland claims that the cap and trade bill “transfers our sovereignty and the wealth that this country has worked for [over the last] 240 years.” Finally, Southerland blames “stringent environmental regulations” for limiting “oil, coal and natural gas exploration within our country.”

 This is all complete nonsense, of course. In fact, as noted above, the Congressional Budget Office has found that the tax burden to individual households from ACES would be minimal. Offsetting this would be enormous benefits to the economy, the country’s balance of trade, the environment, and America’s national security, as Pete Altman of the NRDC explains here. It might also be worth reminding Southerland of research by the University of Illinois, Yale University and the University of California, which found that “ACES has the potential to boost GDP by more than $100 billion, and create 1.9 million jobs.” As to Southerland’s comment about transferring “our sovereignty” and “wealth,” the reality is the exact opposite, as slashing the amount of oil money we send to despotic regimes will enhance our sovereignty, our wealth and our security. It’s highly unfortunate that Steve Southerland feels the need to base his campaign on such a shaky foundation.

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.