Because of population loss, West Virginia’s three Congressional districts have been consolidated into two. The new 2nd District covers roughly the northern half of the state and pits two incumbent Republican Congressmen against one another in the primary on May 10. David McKinley, from Wheeling, is the sitting Congressman from the old 1st District. Alex Mooney, from Charles Town, is the incumbent from the old 2nd District. While not a perfect conservation candidate, McKinley is by far preferable to Mooney.
McKinley is a conservative, as one would expect. He has been in Congress since 2011. As one of two professional engineers in Congress, McKinley has a seat on the Committee on Energy and Commerce, where he has been active on issues related to the coal industry, environmental regulation, energy efficiency, and health care. He serves as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Environment.
McKinley is not opposed to burning fossil fuels. To the contrary, he is an outspoken supporter of the coal industry. But he recognizes that modern industrial processes have contributed to global warming and climate change. His website states:
The production and use of fossil fuels does not have to come at the expense of our environment. Environmentally-conscious mining, drilling, and electricity generation should be the goal. Any kind of environmental regulations should be realistic and scientifically achievable. We can grow American jobs while protecting the environment.
McKinley’s answer to climate change is to promote the development of carbon capture and sequestration technologies, which would reduce the effects of burning fossil fuels while not requiring a cessation of the practice. He co-sponsored the Clean Energy Future through Innovation Act of 2021, which would fund carbon capture research and infrastructure development to reach an 80% reduction of CO₂ emissions by 2050.
McKinley voted to approve the Biden Administration’s “Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill” and is a champion of using funds allocated by that bill to clean up streams in West Virginia affected by acid mine drainage. He is a sponsor of the STREAM Act, which would allow West Virginia to allocate funds in the bill to a set-aside account for water treatment of contaminated water. This approach is strongly supported by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.
McKinley has also introduced the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (H.R. 1443), which promotes energy efficiency improvements in residential and commercial buildings, and the Advancing CCUS Technology Act (H.R. 2296), which promotes the development of carbon capture and utilization technology.
Mooney is more of a libertarian than a traditional conservative. He has been in Congress since 2014. He joined the Freedom Caucus and has been an advocate of the combative approach adopted by that group, at one point storming into a secure hearing room to film a deposition related to a Trump impeachment hearing using his cell phone camera.
In Congress, Mooney has been hostile to the conservation viewpoint on nearly every issue. In a 2014 debate, Mooney said that the issue of whether humans contribute to climate change was “unresolved.” He co-sponsored the XL Pipeline Act. One of his campaign themes earlier in his tenure was “cracking down on out-of-control environmental regulations from President Obama.” He opposed the Paris Climate Accords and opposed federal funding for international projects to reduce greenhouse emissions. Finally, Mooney was a cosponsor of the EPA Maximum Achievable Contraction of Technocrats of 2015, H.R. 3939, which would have reduced the EPA’s workforce by 15 percent “to prevent the agency from crafting more onerous job killing regulations.”
Mooney’s principal campaign argument is that he has received the endorsement of former President Trump. He attacks McKinley for the latter’s vote in favor of the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
One final concern about Mooney is his apparent disregard for Congressional ethical rules and campaign spending laws. The Charleston Gazette-Mail has reported that Mooney was the subject of two out of nine matters referred by the Office of Congressional Ethics to the House Ethics Committee for further review in 2021. In October the OCE issued a report highlighting evidence that Mooney used campaign money for personal expenses.
Neither candidate in West Virginia’s May 10, 2022 Republican primary is fully committed to conservation. Yet there is a clear difference, and that difference favors McKinley.