Rep. David McKinley Tours District With Democratic Colleague From New York
WHEELING — U.S. Reps. David B. McKinley and Paul Tonko have opposing ideas when it comes to dealing with climate change policy — but that doesn’t mean they can’t spend a day riding in a car and formulating possible solutions.
McKinley, R-West Virginia, took Tonko on a whirlwind tour of Northern West Virginia on Friday as part of a program sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Their day began in Morgantown at West Virginia University, continued to Shinnston, then to Natrium to Westlake Chemical, Blue Racer Midstream, and Covestro.
There were stops at AEP’s Mitchell Power Plant, and the closed Kammer Power Plant. Next was a tour of the CertainTeed gypsum manufacturing plant, followed by a stop at Center Market in Wheeling.
The pair said they have worked together in Washington, and share a mutual interest in historic preservation. They are co-chairs of the House Historic Preservation Caucus.
There is perhaps no debate more polarizing than climate change, said Bipartisan Policy Center President Jason Grumet. Grumet moderated a discussion between McKinley and Tonko on the stage of the Capitol Theatre in Wheeling that concluded their day on Friday.
The White House has put out a report that has “untenable solutions” to the climate change issue, according to Grumet. It suggests eliminating fossil fuels altogether, and this is “unrealistic,” he said.
Grumet asked the House members their thoughts on what could be done to reach a more reasonable solution.
McKinley said extremists on the issue have been providing information to President Joe Biden on the issue, and “more reasonable Democrats” like Tonko need to approach him.
“People in leadership like Paul Tonko — he is close to Democratic leadership — have to convince him the artificial deadline (to eliminate all fossil fuel electric plants) of 2035 is probably unrealistic,” McKinley said. “Give us a little more time because we are making that move.”
America is already moving toward reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, he continued.
“Give us time to research and we’ll accomplish that,” McKinley said. “I think we can have it both ways. I think we can have (carbon dioxide) reduction in the atmosphere, and also protect our jobs for our families. They (parents) won’t have to worry about their kids going someplace else.”
Tonko said there are many reports on climate change in Washington, and the challenge is to “fuse all that thinking into what is best,” and achieving goals.
“The good thing is we are talking about it (climate change),” he said. “People are putting their reports out there. For four years, we’ve wasted time by not accepting the concept of climate change, and that held us back.”
He said his stop at the WVU campus reminded him there needs to be “more of a partnership and respect between government and academia.” Academia is an “underutilized resource.” according to Tonko.
“We fund them, then we have to apply that research,” Tonko said. “I would match the intellectual capacity of America against any nation. We have it within our realm to tap into that intellect.”
He said he sees recent graduates working in labs and doing innovative research.
“That’s the strength of America,” Tonko said. “Manufacturing is not dead. It is a new form of manufacturing, and it has a lot of opportunity if we give it a shot in the arm.”
Grumet told the House members he was optimistic the two could work together on a climate change solution because between them, they could get the support of “75 to 80% of the House.”
“If the two of you on the ride home can come up with a coherent plan to decarbonize the economy, I think we can get it done,” he said. “I’m glad to have played a small role in encouraging your future relationship.”
McKinley and Tonko on Saturday will visit Weirton and the Cleveland-Cliffs tin plate operation before Tonko returns to New York. McKinley will make a future visit to Tonko’s district in Schenectady, New York, but it has yet to be scheduled, according to Bipartisan Policy Center organizers.