By John Upton, Grist
It’s an off-year election so there are no congressional races today, but some state and local battles are of immense interest to environmentalists. Here’s a quick rundown of the key green fights to keep an eye on:
Virginia governor’s race
In the gubernatorial election in Virginia, the leading candidates are virtual caricatures of their political parties when it comes to climate change. The Democrat, Terry McAuliffe, is concerned about global warming and supports renewable energy. He also used to run a (now quite troubled) greentech company. The Republican, Ken Cuccinelli, is a climate skeptic who’s been trying to score political points by whining about the Democrats’ “war on coal.” Cuccinelli previously led a witch hunt of a prominent climate scientist, Michael Mann, trying, unsuccessfully, to force the University of Virginia to turn over emails and other records related to Mann’s time at the school. (You’ll never guess who Mann has been supporting in the governor’s race.)
President Obama called out Cuccinelli’s climate illiteracy while stumping on Monday for the Democrat. “It doesn’t create jobs when you go after scientists, and you try to offer your own alternative theories of how things work and engage in litigation around stuff that isn’t political,” Obama said. “It has to do with what’s true. It has to do with facts. You don’t argue with facts.”
Virginia, a coal-producing state, used to be solidly red, but in recent years it’s turned purple. The state’s voters went for Obama in 2008 and 2012, and they look very likely to lean blue in this race. McAuliffe is firmly up in the polls.
Anti-fracking ballot measures in Colorado
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into advertisements trying to convince residents of four Colorado cities to vote against ballot measures that would ban or suspend fracking.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, the pro-fracking Democrat who once drank fracking fluid in an attempt to demonstrate its harmlessness, claims the proposed measures in Boulder, Broomfield, Fort Collins, and Lafayette would be illegal. His administration is already suing one city, Longmont, for having the audacity to tell frackers to stay the hell away from their community.
“If you ban fracking you are essentially banning exploration and extraction of hydrocarbons,” Hickenlooper told Bloomberg during an interview about the ballot mesures. “Our state constitution guarantees people who own the mineral rights that there can be extraction from the surface to get those minerals.”
Washington GMO-labeling ballot measure
If Washington voters approve ballot initiative 522 [PDF], the state would mandate the labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients starting in 2015. The Washington Post reports that opponents have “raised at least $22 million, with large out-of-state food companies and agribusinesses like Monsanto, Dupont Pioneer, Coca-Cola, and Kellogg donating heavily.” Supporters have raised $8.4 million, mostly in small donations.
This is the first big state election battle over GMO labeling since Californians rejected a similar ballot measure one year ago. That election also saw tens of millions of dollars spent by large food corporations who want to keep their GMO ingredients a secret from their customers.
Read more about the initiative here.
Whatcom County council elections
Whatcom County in Washington state, a rural area in the northwestern corner of the country, has the power to determine whether a proposed $600 million coal terminal gets built. The Gateway Pacific Terminal would load coal mined in Wyoming and Montana onto ships bound for Asia. The county council will approve or reject key permits needed to construct the terminal. That’s why more than $1 million has flowed into four county council races from energy companies and environmentalists nationwide.