Congressional incumbent Nan Hayworth and challenger Sean Patrick Maloney addressed environmental issues Tuesday night at a forum in Westchester County.
The event was held by New York League of Conservation Voters, featured questions from the audience and from panel members representing Riverkeeper, the National League of Conservation Voters, and Scenic Hudson.
Maloney and Hayworth agreed on the broad points of promoting sustainable, financially-beneficial growth encouraged by bipartisan measures, including limitations or ends to certain environmentally-destructive practices and possible incentives for environmentally-beneficial practices, but differed in their policy priorities and their openness to various industrial activities such as hydrofracking, coal energy, and nuclear power.
Maloney stressed his own record in the Clinton Administration and what he said was Hayworth’s “mixed record” on environmental issues. He also alleged that Hayworth had significant conflicts of interest, having received funding from companies lobbying for hydrofracking, oil, and nuclear power and a “poor voting record” on coal energy and climate change.
“I want to ban fracking in the Hudson valley and I want to close Indian Point as quickly as possible,” Maloney said. “Those are the two biggest issues, and she’s on the wrong side of both of them.”
Hayworth emphasized her dedication to environmental issues and argued that a balance between environmental and economic interests was crucial to improve both. She emphasized that items such as green jobs were beneficial, but should not be enacted to the detriment of overall economic development or the free market.
“Making sure that our Hudson Valley’s air and water and land stay as clean as pristine as they can because it’s a magnificent heritage and we want to be able to make sure that everybody who lives here now and everybody who lives here in the future will be able to enjoy them,” she said.
Hydrofracking received significant attention and drew perhaps the sharpest contrast between the candidates. Maloney opposes fracking under any circumstances, including fracking under stringent federal regulations.
Hayworth was more open to safely-conducted fracking under appropriate federal regulations, but argued against special regulatory exemptions for the practice and drilling without environmental safeguards. In particular, she stated her opposition to regulations which would block the disclosure of chemicals pumped into the ground as part of the fracking process.
Nuclear power in the Hudson Valley was a second issue which has generated significant controversy over safety and security concerns at Indian Point. Speaking on Indian Point, Maloney stated that the plant should and would be closed, with its operations transferred over the course of five to seven years, preserving and creating jobs throughout the transfer, and providing for waste storage.
Meanwhile, Hayworth argued that so long as all regulations were followed and the plant remained a reliable, secure, and low-risk project, it should remain open. However, Hayworth also stated that waste should ideally be moved out of the Hudson Valley.
A contrast emerged with the issue of emissions and coal. When pressed on clean coal, Hayworth stated that she had consistently voted against coal energy proposals, citing her view that clean coal is not yet viable, though new technology might make it a future consideration.
Maloney, however, claimed that Hayworth’s record reflects a positive treatment of coal energy by voting to block EPA emissions standards and expressing skepticism toward climate change, whereas he said that he would work to strengthen EPA regulations.
The Tappan Zee Bridge was also a point of some disagreement, with Hayworth arguing that a mass transit line was a long-term rather than a short-term option and Maloney arguing that it would be required on the bridge at some point in the future. Both candidates, however, said that a new bridge was necessary and a mass transit line would be a welcome addition at some point in the future.