U.S. Rep. William Keating, D-Mass., and John Chapman may not agree on much. But the incumbent Democrat and his Republican challenger often use the same word to describe the 9th Congressional District: “coastal.”
The district lies squarely at the front lines of rising ocean levels. And as if that weren’t enough, the district is home to a nuclear power plant in Plymouth and a planned offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound that have both drawn protests, making energy and the environment two of the pressing issues on voters’ minds.
Here is where the candidates stand on some of those related issues:
and renewable energy
Their differences could not be more clear: Keating supports Cape Wind, the offshore wind project proposed for Nantucket Sound, and Chapman opposes it.
With other wind farms possible farther offshore, Keating sees an opportunity to create jobs in Southeastern Massachusetts. But for any project to come to fruition, Cape Wind is needed, he said, to lay the infrastructure for turbines over the horizon.
“Without the anchor that is the Cape Wind project, that’s going to fall apart,” Keating said.
Like Keating, Chapman sees offshore wind as a possible boon for New Bedford. But he opposes Cape Wind and believes turbines should be placed farther offshore.
Chapman criticizes the turbines that would go up for Cape Wind as “two generations old” and says the project does not make economic sense.
“I want to keep energy costs down. Cape Wind is a project that does not contribute to that,” he said.
“We have an opportunity to use more up-to-date technology.”
Chapman supports federal tax incentives to spur the development of renewable energy. As a congressman, Keating said, he has worked to make Southeastern Massachusetts one of the four sites selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to test hydrokinetic power.
Massachusetts Maritime Academy, he said, offers a “perfect site,” with University of Massachusetts Dartmouth as the research institution.
Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station
In 2012, Keating wrote a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission calling for Pilgrim to be denied relicensing until certain safety measures were met. He doesn’t believe they have been met, and he supports expanding the emergency response zone around the plant to include the Cape and Islands.
“I live, as the crow flies, maybe 3 or 4 miles away from the plant, so I’m very much aware of this,” Keating said.
An unintended consequence of creating the NRC and taking politics out of relicensing decisions, he said, was the loss of responsiveness to safety concerns. Ultimately, economics will permanently shutter the plant faster than any political action, he said.
Chapman toured the plant during his primary campaign and felt comfortable with what he saw.
“I’m supportive of Pilgrim,” Chapman said. “One of the things that is always of concern is whether Pilgrim is safe, and whether regulators and operators are doing everything in their power to make sure it is safe and remains safe. I was encouraged by what I saw. I was very pleased with what I saw.”
On the issue of spent fuel rods, Keating said he supports storing the radioactive material in dry casks while the federal government searches for alternatives to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.
Chapman said he would push for the Yucca Mountain repository to start accepting spent fuel rods.
“I think we need to, on a national level, push that through and have it come to fruition,” he said.
On the night he won the GOP primary, Chapman repeated a point he made throughout the summer: “Most troubling of all, the 9th Congressional District is being represented by a career politician who has lost touch with the people he represents.”
An example, he said, was Keating’s vote to “raise our flood insurance rates.”
“My criticism of Congressman Keating is that, in this instance, he did what he always does: He played partisan politics over the district’s interests.”
But the bill Chapman was referring to was filed by a Republican, Keating said. And the provision Chapman was citing, he added, was needed to reauthorize flood insurance before it ran out and was tucked into a transportation bill that sent federal money to the district.
And the new flood zone maps, which significantly expand risk zones on the Cape, were put in place by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Keating said he approached University of Massachusetts Dartmouth scientists about the maps, setting in motion the determination that the new maps were drawn using wave information from the Pacific.
The congressman also said he led the charge to put caps on flood insurance rate increases for the next 3½ years and worked to delay the implementation of the new maps, buying time to possibly redraw them.
“If he’s criticizing the vote, then that means he’s not in favor of having flood insurance. Either there was flood insurance or there’s no flood insurance,” Keating said.
“He can’t weave his own little myth about this.”
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