Kaine Unlikely to Affect Clinton Tone on Environment, Energy

Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...

By Rachel Leven and Anthony Adragna

July 25 — Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), tapped to be the Democratic vice presidential nominee, is unlikely to significantly alter the tone of Hillary Clinton's campaign on environmental and energy issues and unlikely to affect who votes for her, observers told Bloomberg BNA.

Kaine, with a lifetime score of 91 percent from the League of Conservation Voters, has taken energy and environment stances similar to Clinton's, except in his support for offshore oil and gas drilling on the East Coast and for liquefied natural gas exports abroad. While some in the environmental movement are cautious over these differences, ultimately the stark contrast between Clinton's and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's stances on these issues means voters aren't likely to shift their vote over the vice presidential pick, political observers said.

“It likely will not matter a whole lot in the presidential election itself,” Lynn Scarlett, former deputy secretary for the Interior Department under former President George W. Bush, told Bloomberg BNA. However, “the selection of the V.P. can make a difference in the agenda of the president once elected.”

Kaine has served as a senator since 2013. Before serving in the Senate, Kaine was Virginia's governor from 2006 to 2010 and mayor of Richmond, Va., from 1998 to 2001.

Kaine's Record

Kaine and Clinton are largely in lock-step on the issues affecting energy and the environment, political spectators said.

Kaine supports President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan to curb carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, opposed the Keystone XL pipeline and speaks frequently about the need to protect local communities from the impact of sea level rise.

“Climate change is not an abstraction,” Kaine said July 11 on the Senate floor. “Climate change is not a next-year or next-decade issue. Climate change in Virginia is a today issue.”

However, the Virginia centrist has pushed to allow offshore drilling for oil and gas on the East Coast and backed legislation that would speed the export of liquefied natural gas abroad, positions that environmentalists generally oppose.

Daniel J. Weiss, an energy consultant, told Bloomberg BNA that the environmental community was not in agreement about how to approach liquefied natural gas exports and said offshore drilling was an area where Clinton and Kaine would likely agree to disagree. Chris Warren, a spokesman for the American Energy Alliance, told Bloomberg BNA that these stances by Kaine likely wouldn't have an impact on the ticket.

Scarlett, who now serves as global managing director for public policy for the Nature Conservancy, said that one area where Kaine likely would complement Clinton is his “personal passion” for public land, forestry and species issues. He has championed these issues as a senator, including supporting the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and throughout his political career, she said.

Liz Purchia, who recently left the Environmental Protection Agency where she served as the associate administrator for its public affairs office, told Bloomberg BNA that Kaine has significant experience in state and federal government. He knows how to make things happen in Washington and outside of it, said Purchia, who now works at Purchia Communications. In contrast to the Trump-Pence ticket, she said, Kaine will bring people together around issues and make things happen.

Unlikely to Change Clinton's Stance

Former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) said Kaine's record hit the “sweet spot” in terms of caring for the environment while also holding some more “conventional thoughts” on energy development. Despite that, he did not expect the Virginia Democrat would change Clinton's approach to those issues.

“My sense is the discussion on these issues will be stimulated by the presidential candidate,” Dorgan told Bloomberg BNA. “Hillary is going to call the shots with what they’re doing.”

In fact, Weiss said that Kaine would be a “great partner” to Clinton on energy issues and would help amplify her message as a rare Southern Democrat calling for climate action.

“He’s been a real leader in taking positions that are easy for a senator from New England to take but are harder for a politician from Virginia to take,” Weiss said. “In that sense, he’s shown political courage that is valuable.”

Election and Agenda

Oscar T. Ramirez, a principal at the Podesta Group, told Bloomberg BNA that some of the “real hard core” environmentalists would be upset over some of the differences between Clinton and Kaine—namely offshore drilling and LNG export issues.

However, mainstream environmentalists understand that Clinton is a much stronger candidate for the environment than Trump, Ramirez said. Clinton would almost surely keep environmentalists' votes, he said.

But that doesn't mean that Kaine's differences wouldn't matter. Scarlett said the selection of the vice president can make a difference in the agenda of the president once elected. For example, the perspectives and views of Bush's vice president, Dick Cheney, probably had an impact on Bush's policies and agenda, she said.

Ultimately, though, should Clinton win the presidency, it will be Clinton's views that would be primary, Scarlett said. Kaine's “role will be to complement her perspective as opposed to steering it in a whole new direction,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rachel Leven and Anthony Adragna in Washington at rleven@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Request Environment & Energy Report