Athena Christodoulou

https://www.athenafornm.org/

Candidate, NM Senate District 21

Do you agree with climate scientists that we are facing a climate emergency?

Yes

Do you agree with climate scientists that greenhouse gas emissions must be reversed within 12 years in order to achieve carbon neutrality in time to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees and to avoid catastrophic runaway climate disruption?

Yes

In your opinion, why do political leaders set benchmarks and timeframes for emissions reductions that do not comport with  climate science mandates? If elected, what will you do differently than current leadership?

Most political leaders must answer to their funders and are not trained in critical thinking. As a candidate, I have pledged not to accept more than $250 from fossil fuel industries and PACs. I lead by modeling the joys and freedoms of using only clean energy. I’m almost fossil fuel free in my home. An environmental engineer, I will fight for a Green Amendment that has teeth. That is the role of good government. To protect its people now and in the future.

 

If elected, what specific policies will you initiate in your first year of service to begin transitioning our economy to net zero carbon emissions in the timeframe set by the world’s leading scientists?

I will establish a Just Transition Fund, incentivize vehicle electrification both new and conversions, and disentangle public education funding from Oil and Gas revenues.

What measures will you propose and advance to ensure that economic recovery and the transition to a green economy fosters equity and economic & racial justice?

 

The Transition Fund will include the funding mechanism for those who are typically paying a large percentage of their income on energy to get off fossil fuels as fast as possible . Careful not to set up a dependency on the funds, but true freedom.

 

If elected, will you support the creation of a Just Transition Study & Fund to identify alternative revenue sources for our state budget and invest in community-driven climate mitigation and adaptation strategies?  Explain.

Yes, yes, yes! As a technology transfer expert,  energy engineer, and entrepreneur, I have many ideas on tax reform, utilizing our 3 national labs and universities, and the new benefit corporation legislation. We also need to call on the Federal government to establish 4 corners as a Federal Disaster area because of the natural  methane leaks.

If elected, how will you include Indigenous and traditional land-based knowledge in the development of a sustainable economy for all of NM?

Communication. Reparation. Respect.  My background as an environmental engineer and permaculturist help me already to understand and appreciate our Earth. I’m a good listener and can validate and support many of their concerns. My faith requires that I love all my neighbors, and I take it seriously. Money cannot be the cornerstone and god of our lives. We must find a sustainable balance.  

Who will you talk to about climate issues? Who advises you? What is your plan for community consultation on climate issues?

I talk to my neighbors, the PRC,  and have already spoken to many of my constituents. In 2019, I ran for Albuquerque City Council and during my radio and TV interview I brought up climate change as a surety and an opportunity. Find NMSEA on FB for Earth Mastery course. I am well-versed in climate issues, myself. But I have certainly engaged others during that process, including,  Tom Solomon of 350NM.org. I plan to use NextDoor, FB, and host meetings on the topic. Spreading the right info NOW!

Define environmental racism in your own words and provide an example in NM

NIMBY - Not In My Back Yard. Those with money and political power don’t want the polluting means to their comfort in their backyard.  In NM...it’s not so much a racism factor as a socioeconomic-education divide. Fracking in Chaco Canyon, is the best example right now. It is done without regard to the people and for the profit of faceless companies and banks. But we need to focus on the root cause - burning gas. Smackdown the demand. If no demand, then demand they stop!

Do you believe climate action is an issue of intergenerational justice? What is the responsibility of your generation to the youth and future generations while in office? Explain.

Yes. My generation is playing a major role in Earth’s destruction. The Boomers need to help and support the Zoomers. I now have a granddaughter, and nothing is more fierce and loving than a  Navy veteran Greek Yiayia. I say, “Stand down you future killers! Stop thinking of only yourselves. ”  The Greeks used to plant an olive tree for the next generation, since it wouldn’t start fruiting for decades. Solution: gloves off education...not to create fear, but to inspire action.

A) Do you support placing a moratorium on new gas development in the state of New Mexico? Why or Why Not?

Yes. Thank you for the report. There are a lot of negative aspects of O&G on the environment and communities. In fact, it has come to light that NM fracking operations are not financially stable nor profitable. All the new info has swayed me to not leave it to supply and demand anymore. The Zoomers will be left with the clean-up and financial mess. Time to do what’s right. O&G industry has not been honest, law abiding, nor considerate in our state.

B) Do you support placing a moratorium on new gas plant investment for utilities in New Mexico? Why or Why Not?

Yes. No new gas or old coal. When you are drawing down...you never start a new demand. Not when the solution technology is out there already. We should consider making investor owned utilities become Benefit Corporations and let them be a considerate monopoly beholden equally to the people, planet and profits. Short term profits need to balance the long term results. And I have made public comments to that effect at the PRC.

 
Do you support nuclear energy? Why or Why Not?

Both. To reach carbon free, quickly, we can maintain our current nuclear plants with a caveat. But no additional nuclear to our state energy  portfolio, as it is not in our state and does not help our economy. It also represents a major financial risk because of the waste. Speaking of waste. Do not allow the feds to have a “temporary” waste site anywhere in our neighborhood. Out of sight, out of mind. A nuclear waste site represents many generations of responsibility.

Do you support a competitive energy market where Cities/Counties/Indigenous Nations are able to own, produce, and sell electricity to residents and keep energy dollars local?

Both. As long as the energy market forces and maintains a clean portfolio. The City of Farmington is an example of an electricity market outside of the Energy Transition Act. Their continued push for carbon capture is scary and dangerous.

Community Solar legislation has been brought up multiple times in the last few years. What is your position on community solar and what will you do to ensure that community solar is prioritized and passes?

I have been a champion of the Community Solar bill as well a coach for the Department of Energy’s Solar in Your Community Challenge. The replacement power in San Juan could determine its future. If any new gas goes in, then bam! A BIG push. We have other areas that will yield better results for addressing climate change. One exception...on tribal lands. It is a matter of addressing environmental and economic racism.

 
What do you believe is the fossil fuel industry/utility’s responsibility for cleanup and how as an elected official in the public office for which you are running do you plan to hold industry accountable for pollution and cleanup?

The same thing I told my kids. You made the mess, now you clean it up.  The state has an obligation to make companies set aside funds for clean-up. We have the obligation to make sure the costs from cradle to grave are paid today, by those using the product. A carbon tax on ALL extraction, increasing our royalty rates, and increasing our highway gas tax will offset any lower ad valorem and other revenues. Let’s stop giving it away and feeling guilty for demanding fair and responsible practices

Do you believe bonding rates for industry should cover the full cost of cleanup?

Yes

We have seen the oil industry collapse over the last month, with oil prices nosediving. Given our current situation and the danger our state’s budget is in, how do you see the role of oil and gas corporations in New Mexico’s future?

They have gone through their final bust….Let’s have a funeral and honor their contributions. Let’s move on to a cleaner, more diverse economy. Farmington was called such because they used to have an agricultural role. If value-added products like durable plastics  help them remain viable, they still represent huge greenhouse gas emissions in the field. They must control their waste, still.

Do you support utility bill forgiveness for low-income New Mexicans who have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis?

Yes

Some are saying that COVID-19 is the dress rehearsal for the climate crisis. In fact, in many places throughout the world, the two are compounding crises. What do you think we can learn from the COVID-19 crisis when addressing the climate crisis?

I’m one of those saying it is a dress rehearsal. We learned that there is a huge difference between wants and needs. We learned that transportation has a huge impact on local pollution, while electric generation has an even greater one on GHG emissions, but with fewer participants. We learned that a good president can call it an emergency and unleash Federal drive and money to combat it while the states themselves need to carry out the actual work. Evidence-based decisions need to prevail.

Describe your previous experience working on social/health/environmental issues, do you have experience working with impacted communities to co-develop solutions? How will you use this experience to tackle the climate crisis?

I have been a citizen lobbyist  in Santa Fe, at the PRC, and with PNM. My focus has been sustainable, clean energy. I was the president of the NM Solar Energy Association. I coached a local land trust community to the point of needing the Community Solar bill and enabled a rural electric coop to help low income customers with solar. I’ve helped launch an electric vehicle  charging company as well as pledged to go Fossil Fuel Free. Technical and personal knowledge mean strong political ability.

What are your ideas to loosen the grip of industry on the state legislature and strengthen our democracy?

Require transparency in the budget process, capital outlay designations by legislators, and all committee meetings. Pay your legislators so there is more chance of viable candidates for office. Take away all the obvious and indirect subsidies to the industry and do some tax restructuring to take away some of the locale issues (i.e. ad valorem tax). Fund public education with general revenues and the permanent fund. Have the permanent fund invest a portion of its monies in New Mexico companies.

Name specific alternative sources for state revenue that you'd pursue and propose if elected

Reinstate higher income  taxes for super rich. Look at the GRT and remove some loopholes. Raise the gas tax and state royalties. Review liquor licensing, cannabis regulation, health insurance taxes, decriminalizing possession  and tap into other permanent funds besides the Land Grant Funds. Get the Four Corners region declared a Federal Disaster area because of the natural methane leakage. Investments in early childhood education will yield revenues and reduce costs later.

Have you accepted any donations from fossil fuel companies or utilities? Yes/No

No

Will you take the #fossilfree pledge? http://nofossilfuelmoney.org/politician-signup/

Yes

© 2020 YUCCA Action (Youth United for Climate Crisis Action) 

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