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Congressional Candidates' Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: PA-11

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Originally posted on The Mark Up.

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

Northeast Pennsylvania's 11th Congressional District, including Scranton, Wilkes-Barres and the Poconos resorts, flourished in the 19th century after the discovery of anthracite coal - the highest carbon type of coal available. Coal mining drove development in the region until the 1940s, when demand shifted to cheaper alternatives like oil and natural gas. Today, coal mines are more of a tourist attraction than an economic driver, and Scranton is best known as the setting for NBC's The Office.

For the past 25 years, the 11th district has been represented in the U.S. House by Democrat Paul Kanjorski. Throughout his time in Congress, Rep. Kanjorski has typically voted the right way on environmental issues. Last year, for example, he received a perfect score from the League of Conservation Votes, which means that he voted for the environment at every opportunity. This includes voting for the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), the first climate bill to pass a chamber in Congress. After the vote he said, "We need to begin the process of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, creating clean energy jobs in America, and reducing our dependence on foreign oil."

In November, Kanjorski will be challenged for the third time by Republican Lou Barletta, the mayor of Hazleton. The Cook Report ranks this race as a "Tossup." Barletta gained notoriety in 2006 when, as Hazleton's mayor, he passed one of the nation's most sweeping anti-immigration laws. He's had little to say about environmental issues, however, during his multiple Congressional runs, and what he has said is less than encouraging. He wrongly claims that ACES will "stifl[e] the economic recovery and jeopardiz[e] millions of jobs." The truth is quite the opposite. According to in-depth modeling built on collaborative research by the University of Illinois, Yale University and the University of California, ACES has the potential to boost GDP by more than $100 billion, and create 1.9 million jobs.

Barletta has also been a steadfast proponent of offshore drilling and dirty fuels, like liquid coal. And, after the BP blowout, he posted on his blog that "[a] leaking oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico does not justify the sinking of billions of dollars in a cap-and-tax scheme..." Actually, putting a price on carbon pollution is critical toward breaking our dependence on oil. We need to recognize that it is because we have not engaged in a serious effort to reduce our oil use that we've been forced to pursue petroleum products in sensitive areas like the Gulf's deep waters. Whoever wins this race needs to help lead eastern PA into a new energy future.

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.

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