Kirsten Gillibrand was in the midst of her second term in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving New York’s 20th District, when Gov. David Paterson selected her to replace Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate. (Clinton, you’ll recall, was chosen by Obama to serve as secretary of state.) Gillibrand will serve in the Senate at least until a special election in 2010 to serve out the remainder of Clinton’s term, which ends in 2012. She’s viewed as a strong favorite to win that election and, more generally, as a rising star in the Democratic Party.

As a member of both the Environment & Public Works Committee and the Agriculture Committee, Gillibrand will be heavily involved in the development of the Kerry-Boxer clean-energy bill. She is considered a likely “yes” vote, and her advocacy for the bill has had three notable features, each reflecting her state’s interests:

  1. She is a leading voice in the effort to retain the EPA’s Clean Air Act authority to regulate CO2, which was stripped away in the House’s Waxman-Markey bill but restored in Kerry-Boxer.
  2. Unlike many opponents and even some supporters of the bill, she views the creation of a global carbon market, with the participation of large financial institutions and the use of various financial instruments like derivatives, as a positive feature of the bill (and argued as much in a Wall Street Journal op-ed).
  3. Despite the considerable shaping of the legislation by the agriculture lobby in both the House and the Senate, she has said that the bill needs to do more for the interests of farmers.

We asked Sen. Gillibrand about these issues, and she was gracious enough to answer the questions via video (full transcript below):

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Here’s the full transcript:


Hi, I’m Senator Kirsten Gillibrand from New York. I’m pleased to be here today to answer some questions from on climate change legislation.

Question #1: The first question asks: Do other senators share your support for EPA Clean Air Act authority? Will it survive the coming negotiations?

Absolutely. Other senators do share my view on this issue, but for a number of the senators who don’t serve on the [Environment & Public Works] Committee they haven’t been as engaged yet on this discussion, which is why they need to hear from constituents like you so that they know how important it is that they preserve the Clean Air Act. These protections, as you know, are critical to New York ’cause we are the ones that suffer from a lot of the air pollution that comes across the country from coal-fired plants. We suffer from acid rain, we suffer particularly in the Adirondacks increasing contamination in all of our rivers and streams. In New York you can only eat one fish a month because of the high mercury content in our waters. And we also have a growing asthma rate throughout our state, so for me this is a critical issue that I will continue to fight for.

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Question #2: Second question. How are you working to persuade your Senate colleagues to support the creation of a carbon market involving many financial instruments?

I’m very concerned that we make sure we have a robust financial market that will fuel investments in carbon reductions. I think it’s very important that we have proper oversight and accountability, good regulations that provide transparency, and also capital requirements. I think this kind of regulation will be a derivative market that will be regulated through the [Commodity Futures Trading Commission], and I think it’s critical that we regulate this alongside the other derivatives legislation that we are going to do. We want to make sure that capital is available for investing in clean energy generation like large-scale wind and solar projects, so we have to make sure that we have the kind of products that are necessary to do this. I’ve been advocating for both standardized products and customized products with oversight and accountability and capital requirements for both.

Question #3: Third, What type of measures would you like added to the climate change bill to serve the interests of farmers?

Well, I think farmers can play a very important part in this climate change bill. We want to make sure that the agriculture section can achieve the overall parts of the bill or the overall goals of the bill which is to make sure there is verifiable reductions in carbon emissions, but there are so many opportunities for our farmers whether they’re going to be part of wind energy or solar energy or whether they’re going to be part of anaerobic digesters and cellulosic ethanol, they have a lot of opportunity to be part of the climate change bill and do those offsets by the things they can create throughout agriculture. We also want to make sure that our farmers have the resources and technical assistance available for smaller projects and working with aggregators who can connect for example multiple dairy farms for large methane digestive projects or make the project not just achieve reductions but also be economically feasible for those farms who are participating. So there is a lot of opportunity out there and I just want to make sure our farmers have a voice in this climate change bill.

Question #4: Fourth question: Which Senate Republicans do you think will support climate change legislation?

Answer: Well, I really think this issue is not about Democrats or Republicans, I think climate change is not going to wait for anybody so we need to bring colleagues together to actually achieve results. I think Senator Graham, Senator McCain have both spoken out in favor of climate change in the past, and I’m hopeful that they will join us in our efforts. But the bottom line is, as Chairman Boxer said, that this is something we all have to care about. It’s the future of our country, its our national security, its our economic strength, and it’s the one thing that’s going to turn around global climate change, so I think we will have a lot of allies in this and my goal is that for all Americans we need to support these kinds of efforts to achieve energy independence, grow green jobs in a clean economy, and stop all of the threats of global climate change.

I want to thank for giving me the opportunity to discuss these very important issues. The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act will lead to long-term economic prosperity, energy security, and the protection of our environment for generations to come.