Sen. Ed Markey said he was “disappointed” that Rep. Joe Kennedy missed the first candidate event of their high-profile 2020 primary race.
The Massachusetts congressman — whose primary challenge against Sen. Ed Markey, a longtime environmental advocate and Green New Deal co-author, has upset some activists — skipped the climate change forum Sunday night, after his campaign said they didn’t get any “meaningful input” in its organization.
But that doesn’t mean that Kennedy is unwilling to stand on his environmental positions. Like Markey, the Newton Democrat has received high grades from environmental groups for his votes in Congress and is an original House co-sponsor of the Green New Deal.
“Joe supports an aggressive move to net-zero emissions and a nationwide mobilization to address the climate crisis,” Kennedy spokeswoman Emily Kaufman told Boston.com in a statement.
“He believes we must prioritize health, safety, risks and costs for frontline and fenceline communities, American workers, and all those already forced to bear the brunt of our inadequate climate policy and broken energy infrastructure,” Kaufman said.
Those general objectives won’t spark much disagreement in the race for Markey’s seat. However, the climate forum Sunday did reveal several more nuanced rifts between Markey and his other primary opponent, Shannon Liss-Riordan.
Liss-Riordan, who also supports a Green New Deal, criticized the “lofty” resolution for lacking policy prescriptions to achieve its goal of eliminating the country’s carbon footprint through investments in renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, in order to avoid the worst-predicted consequences of climate change.
The Brookline labor attorney specifically criticized the Green New Deal for lacking any mention of carbon pricing, which she said could raise revenue for investments through making emitters pay for the amount of greenhouse gases they release into the air.
According to Kaufman, Kennedy generally supports the idea of carbon pricing as part of a comprehensive climate plan, though his position would depend on the details. Carbon pricing plans could range from a carbon tax (which has recently gained steam among some moderate legislator) to a cap-and-trade system, which was proposed under the bill co-authored by Markey and passed by the House in 2009.
Markey acknowledged during the forum Sunday that some form of carbon pricing, such as a cap-and-trade system, might be necessary for certain industrial sectors, but argued that increased government efficiency standards could widely spur adoption of cleaner energies.
Another subject of contention during the debate was Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s pledge to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, “everywhere” on her first day in the White House, if she wins next year’s presidential election.
Liss-Riordan said she agreed with Warren’s call, while Markey said he wouldn’t go so far to support an immediate out-right ban over fears in could have a downstream effect on gas prices for ordinary — and especially lower-income — people. The senator said he supported a ban on additional fracking on public lands and argued that the use of controversial extraction process would naturally decrease as alternatives like wind and solar become more competitive.
Kennedy’s position mostly aligns with Markey’s. According to Kaufman, the congressman supports a fracking ban on public lands, as well as the rights for states and communities to implement local bans. However, he doesn’t go as far as Warren, who both Kennedy and Markey have endorsed in the Democratic presidential primary.
Kennedy also supports a package of bills, known as the “Frack Pack,” aimed at closing “loopholes” for oil and gas companies and tightening oversight of the fracking industry, particularly around local water quality testing.
During the forum Sunday, both Markey and Liss-Riordan were pressed on the subjects of nuclear energy and carbon capture technology. Both have traditionally garnered more support among Republicans than Democrats, though some on the left have come to embrace nuclear power plants — the country’s biggest source of carbon-free energy — and trapping the greenhouse gas in order to help address the urgent climate crisis.
Markey and Liss-Riordan were unfazed, arguing that both technologies were ultimately less cost-effective than investments in renewables like wind and solar.
Kennedy’s campaign says he’s pretty much on the same page; while he believes there’s a limited role for nuclear energy carbon capture technologies, Kennedy thinks federal investments should focus heavily on renewable development.
To that end, he has been a consistent supporter of offshore wind projects as the representative of the state’s 4th District, which stretches from Brookline to the South Coast. In 2012, Kennedy broke with family members to declare his support for an offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound.
Markey, for his part, would have liked to hear from Kennedy himself Sunday night
“I wish he was here,” he told reporters after the forum, according to Politico. “I think that it would’ve been a better debate if he was here and it would’ve been a better discussion for the people of Massachusetts.”