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U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown took considerable heat for his position on cap-and-trade legislation.
He voted against it in the Senate, which disappointed and even outraged some environmentalists. It was among the biggest issues on which Brown, Ohio's Democratic incumbent, split with President Barack Obama.
That was why PolitiFact Ohio was surprised to hear a radio ad for Brown's Republican challenger, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel.
The ad blasts Brown for "supporting the job-killing cap-and-trade plan" and labels him an "Obama rubber stamp."
We asked the Mandel campaign how that claim was supported, and we reviewed the background.
Cap and trade legislation seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and other greenhouse gas sources by setting caps on the amount of pollutants a plant can spew into the air. Companies that come in below their cap are then allowed to sell their emission credits to other companies that need them. Supporters say the approach provides economic incentives to reduce pollution and innovate. Critics deride it as an energy tax and say it increases costs for everyone.
The approach was originally employed to curb the pollutants that cause acid rain in the early 1990s. President George H.W. Bush championed it, with the support of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. In 2008, it was one of the few areas of common ground between Obama and his opponent, Sen. John McCain. Both acknowledged climate change and favored carbon caps.
In June 2008, Brown joined Republicans in voting to block a bill which would have imposed a cap-and-trade system of credits for carbon dioxide emissions.
He said he would have liked to support the bill, but he said the measure would place too high a cost on Ohio industry and threatened jobs.
In spring 2009, after Obama had taken office, Brown proposed legislation to provide incentives for manufacturers to adopt green technologies, but said it "doesn't cause me at all to change any position from last year" opposing a cap-and-trade system.
He voted shortly afterward to keep the fast-track budget reconciliation process open on an emissions bill, so that it would not face a filibuster, but said he still had significant concerns about the legislation.
"I'm an environmentalist," he said. "I want cap and trade. I just want to make sure that the ratepayers in my state don't get socked hard. And that the manufacturing doesn't get crippled."
Mandel's campaign cited that quote as a source for its assertion that "Brown was open to supporting a cap-and-trade proposal."
But being open to support falls short of endorsement.
Before cap-and-trade legislation stalled and then died in the Senate, the New York Times reported in October 2009 that "Brown has not been shy about embracing the cap-and-trade policy (but) he also has not endorsed the bill."
Brown "has bluntly stated that unless the (carbon emissions bill's) authors agree to a variety of manufacturing and trade provisions, there is little possibility that the legislation will get anywhere near enough support to clear the Senate," the article said.
"Clean energy legislation is not just about the environment, it's about creating jobs and revitalizing our nation's manufacturing basis," Brown said. "For a clean energy bill to be successful, it must also be a jobs bill that partners with the business community."
In early 2011, with no legislation on the table, The Plain Dealer reported that Brown and the coal industry "both are trying in their own ways to stop President Barack Obama's administration from imposing rules this year on new or upgraded power plants and large factories that use coal because, both say, the rules would hurt Ohio manufacturers and consumers."
What's the capper on the ad's claim?
The Mandel ad labeled Brown "an Obama rubberstamp" for "supporting the job-killing cap and trade plan."
We’ll leave the phrase "job-killing" to those who debate policy. As a statement of opinion, PolitiFact Ohio won’t rate it.
Regardless, the statement is not accurate. Rather, it invokes the fear of a proposed system for limiting emissions that Congress could never agree on and to this day does not exist.
Brown has expressed support for some form of emissions controls and has said that under the right conditions, he would support cap-and-trade legislation. But it’s also clear that he had reservations about the legislation that has been before the Senate.
When the 2009 bill was pending, Brown never endorsed it. He "bluntly stated that unless the (carbon emissions bill's) authors agree to a variety of manufacturing and trade provisions, there is little possibility that the legislation will get anywhere near enough support to clear the Senate," according to The New York Times. That bill stalled in the Senate and died without a final vote.
In 2008, prior to Obama becoming president, Brown joined Republicans and voted to block a bill that would have created a cap-and-trade system of credits for carbon dioxide emissions.
That is far from being a rubber stamp on the issue.
On the Truth-O-Meter, the claim in the radio ad rates False.
Mandel Radio Ad
The Plain Dealer via Cleveland.com, "Sen. Sherrod Brown votes with GOP against legislation to curb global warming," June 7, 2008
Email from Mandel campaign spokesman Travis Considine, Oct. 19, 2012
PolitiFact, "Newt Gingrich claims he 'never favored cap and trade'," Dec. 7, 2011
PolitiFact, "NRSC blasts Brown for standing by Obama, his jobs record and debt increases," Sept. 8, 2011
U.S. Senate, Roll Call Vote #145, June 6, 2008
The Plain Dealer via Cleveland.com, "Senator Sherrod Brown proposes grants, loans to help manufacturers adopt green technology," March 26, 2009
New York Times, "Cap-and-trade advocates press on after budget battle," April 3, 2009
New York Times, "Midwestern Senator Puts Manufacturing Issues at Forefront of Climate Debate," Oct. 14, 2009
New York Times, "Cap and Trade," March 26, 2010
The Hill, "Climate bill hinges on Ohio’s Sen. Brown," Oct. 1, 2009
Columbus Dispatch, "Ohio senators discuss energy with Obama," June 30, 2010
Brown for Senate, "Fact Check," Oct. 19, 2012
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