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Owens and Doheny agree on many energy measures


On energy politics, there’s some daylight between Rep. William L. Owens and Matthew A. Doheny, who are seeking to represent the north country in the House of Representatives.

Mr. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, has staked out a centrist position on many issues, such as the Keystone XL pipeline and hydraulic fracturing.

Mr. Doheny, a Republican of Watertown, concurs with Mr. Owens on many of those positions, with a more gung-ho approach to some measures and criticism of Mr. Owens’s votes on regulations.

On lowering gas prices, Mr. Doheny said one of the best ways is to drill for more oil in the United States. The position could raise the ire of some in the environmental community, but Mr. Doheny said the potential economic benefits shouldn’t be held hostage by “far-left” environmentalists.

Mr. Owens, meanwhile, called the position “not logical.” He said the United States is a net exporter of oil.

“If they drilled more, they’re just going to send it overseas,” Mr. Owens said. “So without ever getting to the environmental questions, you first have to say what’s going to happen to that increased oil. If they’re willing to accept restrictions that the oil has to be used in the U.S., maybe we have something to talk about.”

The only step the federal government can take directly to lower gas prices, Mr. Owens said, is to release oil from the strategic petroleum reserve, a cache of fuel that the government keeps in case of a global shortage.

Both men support the development of the Keystone XL pipeline from the Canadian border to connect with a pipeline in Nebraska. Environmentalists are worried about the effect that it could have on fragile ecosystems. Supporters like Mr. Owens and Mr. Doheny say that the construction of the line could mean good-paying jobs, and Mr. Owens has argued that it would help further foster trade ties with Canada.

On nuclear power, Mr. Doheny said he would advocate for a plant in Massena. He said he would tell someone opposed to a nuclear power plant to “look in Oswego,” where three nuclear plants in Scriba provide good-paying jobs.

“In the non-cartoon world, there’s not an undereducated person in a nuclear power plant,” Mr. Doheny said.

Mr. Owens said that before he advocated for a nuclear power plant, he’d want to see the governing body in a local community vote to support it.

“If that group said we’re interested in doing it, I would support it,” Mr. Owens said.

He staked out a similar position on hydraulic fracturing. The process involves pumping a mixture of water and sand treated with chemicals into the ground to shake loose natural gas deposits. There are no known major deposits in Jefferson, Lewis or St. Lawrence counties, but farther downstate and in Pennsylvania, hydrofracking is a major political issue.

Mr. Owens said that he’d like to see the results of a state Department of Health study on hydrofracking, and that natural gas companies should say what chemicals they’re using in the water and sand mixtures. And, he said, a community should be able to vote on whether it wants hydrofracking within its borders. That issue is more likely to play out on the state level.

Mr. Doheny was more eager to support fracking than Mr. Owens was.

“I am 100 percent in favor of hydrofracking,” Mr. Doheny said. “Just go to Pennsylvania. They’ve found a way. They have areas that are booming.”

The candidates also differ on a federal subsidy for wind and solar energy. The credit, which will expire soon, helps make wind-power projects possible. Mr. Owens supports its extension, as part of an “all of the above” approach to energy; Mr. Doheny does not.

Federal dollars shouldn’t go directly to support a business’s efforts, Mr. Doheny said. Hydropower, in Massena, and biomass, on Fort Drum, have proven or will prove effective, Mr. Doheny said. But solar and wind power have not.

Said Mr. Doheny: “Wind and solar don’t work.”

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