Mr. McGinn goes to Washington, gets dealt bizarre blow

Jun 18, 2013

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn likely never saw it coming.

While testifying against proposed coal export terminals before a Congressional committee on Tuesday, McGinn found himself at the receiving end of a bizarre — and, at times, personal — attack.

On the offensive was U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-West Virginia, who boasts taking on “anti-coal zealots” on his website.

McKinley began his questioning by calling McGinn’s testimony “a good photo op” in his campaign for re-election, then accused the mayor of trying to impose his belief that climate change is caused by man.

“The question I’m still trying to determine as an engineer — I’m one of two engineers in Congress — is whether or not the climate change is caused by man, or is it natural and cyclical?” McKinley said, adding McGinn’s claim that “we should keep coal in the ground where it belongs” “sent a shiver up my spine.”

Then the Congressman, while voicing his distaste over McGinn’s alleged imposition, suddenly changed the topic.

“With all due respect, you coming here and trying to lecture us about climate change…Mayor, I would strongly suggest that you take a look at the crime rate in Seattle,” he said.

McKinley didn’t allow McGinn to respond, and instead recited off several statistics related to crime in Seattle, which McGinn said were incorrect. The topic did not return to coal.

The non-sequitur questioning even prompted a quip from another lawmaker. 

"Didn't realize this is a new day for this subcomittee, when we have come upon the intersection between coal and crime. Never thought we'd see this day here in this committee. Never ceases to amaze me, this committee," said U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Illinois, of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, drawing several chuckles. 

Environmental groups were also dealt a blow during Tuesday’s hearing when an official with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers testified the agency is not planning a broad environmental study on the impact of coal exports.