From an environmental perspective, it is hard to imagine a better choice than Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., to fill the vacancy created by Senator John Kerry's departure to the State Department.
A special election will take place in June for the remaining two years of Kerry's term. It is unclear whether Markey, who has officially declared his candidacy, will be challenged in a Democratic primary. Nor has any Republican yet entered the race, although recently defeated Senator Scott Brown is expected to announce he will run again.
That having been said, there is no prospective candidate on the Massachusetts horizon with Markey's proven record of courage, dedication, expertise and tenacity in championing environmental protection issues. Certainly in the U.S. House of Representatives, Markey and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. have been far and away the leading lawmakers in addressing a broad range of current and future environmental concerns.
As dean of the Massachusetts delegation, the 66-year-old Markey has served 36 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, and during that time, no one has been more outspoken in taking on the industrial polluters. He has shown no hesitation in facing down the fossil fuel industry when he has perceived it to be at fault. British Petroleum can attest to this as Markey relentlessly hounded the oil company to make full restitution for the damage caused by its disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Markey has been a leading congressional advocate of subsidies to expedite the development and distribution of clean, renewable energy sources, and he is an author of the successful bill to increase automobile fuel economy.
In pillorying the House Republicans' unprecedented crusade to roll back environmental regulations, Markey has never minced words, whether his party was in the majority or minority, but he has been more than just a name-caller. The congressman is always armed with detailed charts and other documentation when he levels his broadsides at Republican adversaries. It is this preparation that has engendered a begrudging respect among GOP ranks, even when smarting from his criticism.
When Democrats held the majority in the House between 2006 and 2010, Speaker Nancy Pelosi made Markey the democratic point man on climate change by naming him chairman of a special committee devoted to that subject. He proceeded to hold 80 hearings over that four year period, compiling a body of overwhelming evidence authenticating the threat and pointing to the most effective ways to mitigate it.
Election of Markey to the Senate would strengthen the hands of Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. and several other senators who have made the environment their signature issue and have already established a formidable coalition. At a time when our natural resource base is under major stress from human mismanagement, Massachusetts needs a senator of Markey's environmental vision -- and so does the nation.