Candidate, Bernalillo County Commission D 5

Eric Olivas 
Bernalillo County Commission District 5 
www.olivasforbernco.com
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  • If elected, what specific policies will you pursue in 2023 to begin rapidly transitioning our economy to achieve carbon neutrality in the timeframe set by the world’s leading scientists?
    1. Create and Implement a Bernalillo County Climate Plan
    2. EV Chargers at all County Facilities
    3. Renewable Energy Installed at all County facilities
    4. Electrify the County vehicle fleet
    5. Electrify County Buildings
    6. Work with Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Air Board to tighten vehicle emission standards
    7. Divest County investments in fossil fuel companies and their partners
    8. Increase the funding for and efficiency of Public Transit
    9. Change Development standards to encourage high-density infill development
    10. Tighten methane emission standards for landfills within the county

     

  • Do you agree with climate scientists that the brunt of the impacts we face due to climate change will be put on those who contributed the least emissions? (The global South, Indigenous, and low-income communities)

Yes

  • Do you agree with climate scientists that greenhouse gas emissions must be reversed within 8 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?

Current leadership, including my incumbent Democratic opponent, do not take this crisis seriously. Many leaders have other ambitions for higher office, and believe that taking necessary actions to address climate would hurt their ambitions by alienating donors. Most leaders opposing action are funded by fossil fuel corporations, big developers, and other business interests that prefer short term profit over the long-term impact of their short-sighted decisions.

  • If elected, what will you do differently than current leadership?

I will treat climate change as the crisis that it is. I will make tackling climate a core issue on the county commission. There are many steps the commission can take, like those that I outlined above. These must be done quickly. As the most populous county in New Mexico, what we do will have a ripple effect across the state and the region. My opponent indicated in her last campaign that she was an environmentalist, but her actions have shown that she is only interested in photo opportunities, not actually doing her job and moving legislation that can move the needle on climate. My first bill on the commission will be to move forward the plan outlined above.

  • 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?

1. Grants for low-income resident to insulate and electrify their homes
2. Expand apprenticeship programs to bring youth and displaced workers into the green economy
3. Green Infrastructure investments in low-income and historically marginalized communities (ie parks, EV chargers, green spaces, community centers, etc)
4. Restrict construction of industrial plants, heavy infrastructure, and highways in communities already overburdened with pollution.
5. Robust community outreach to inform residents of programs available

  • If elected, will you support the creation of a Just Transition Study & Fund to identify alternative revenue sources for our state budget and allocate funds from oil and gas directly into community-driven climate mitigation and adaptation strategies? Explain.

Yes! Identifying alternative revenues is critical to quickly and smoothly transitioning away from fossil fuels and will be necessary in order to limit oil and gas extraction. We must work to quickly transition from oil and gas, but we must have adequate revenue replacement available so this transition doesn’t cause pain to working families, schools, and other government programs funded with oil and gas revenues. I support using oil and gas money to fund climate mitigation and adaptation strategies, but we must ensure that it is used equitably, particularly to support communities that can least afford the cost of mitigation/adaptation.

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

Indigenous peoples have cared for this land for generations and have endured great natural and human hardship. For too long we have sidelined indigenous peoples and their knowledge of the land and how to care for it. I will not profess to you that I know these techniques and practices, but I will listen to those that do and act to make policy reflect that knowledge. I will always have an open door and an open mind. I will also push to create an indigenous peoples advisory council to offer guidance to the commission and county administration on all matters that come before it.

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

I am a landscaper and a scientist. I have a masters degree in Biology from UNM where I studied the effects of drought and climate change on our state tree, the Piñon pine. I will listen to scientists, public health professionals, indigenous peoples, and the communities most affected by climate change. I believe the county should convene an advisory board on climate issues, so that commissioners have experts advising them on issues and best practices. This advisory board, the commission, and commissioners should always listen to public input and seek it out from a diverse assemblage of places. It is important that input be preceded by outreach to ensure that people know their voice can be heard and is wanted in places of power.

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

Environmental racism is the concentration of environmental problems, such as pollution and heavy industry in disadvantaged areas and historically marginalized communities. For example, the Mountain View neighborhood in the South Valley of Albuquerque has a huge concentration of oil and gas infrastructure, factories, chemical plants, junk yards, etc. There are few parks and open spaces in this area. This neighborhood has a much lower than average income and has predominantly people of color living there. The disparity between this area and others highlights the issue of environmental racism.

  • What is the responsibility of your generation to the youth and future generations while in office? Explain.

I am 30 years old, my generation may well be the last generation that can correct this seemingly irreversible course we are on to a fundamentally hostile climate for human beings. I believe that my generation has a solemn duty to protect and improve our environment. The time to act should have been 30 years ago, but leaders ignored the pleas of scientists to act. No longer can we ignore the dire warnings of experts. Mass extinctions, climate change, pollution of our water and oceans, devastating fires and floods, and other environmental catastrophes we are already seeing are only the beginning of the legacy we leave to the youth if we don't act now.

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

Scientists and experts on climate change have warned that we must immediately stop the development of new oil and gas resources. New Mexico must act as a leader and rapidly curtail additional drilling . New Mexico is one of the largest oil and gas producers and we are also one of the states that will be most negatively affected by the problems that resource extraction is causing.

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

Utilities need to rapidly move away from fossil fuel resources. A new plant typically has a lifespan of 30-50 years. We need to rapidly phase out fossil fuel use. A 50 year commitment to dependence on fossil fuel is not rapid nor does it treat the risk of such an investment with the seriousness it deserves. Alternatives to fossil fuels exist and are economically viable, particularly in New Mexico.

  • Do you support nuclear energy? Why or Why Not?

In principle I support nuclear energy as a carbon free base load power source, however in practice I cannot support nuclear energy. Uranium and plutonium production is dangerous and pollutes communities where it is mined. Typically this occurs in communities with few resources to fight back, especially indigenous communities and other historically marginalized places. Nuclear waste also presents a serious environmental challenge as the waste is long-lived and we do not have safe disposal available for this waste. Again, this waste is typically stored in or forced upon communities with large concentrations of low income residents, indigenous peoples, or people of color.

  • Do you support the development of Hydrogen Production Hubs here in New Mexico? Why or Why Not?

Hydrogen production in its current form is not a green technology. Given the fact that hydrogen is essentially a fossil fuel, due to its production mode, I do not support making New Mexico a hydrogen hub. Hydrogen produced without fossil fuel inputs may require a different evaluation, but at this time that type of hydrogen is not commercially feasible. I believe the best way to end fossil fuel dependency is to limit fossil fuel extraction and electrify the economy.
 

  • Do you support community ownership of energy where Cities/Counties/Indigenous Nations are able to own, produce, and sell electricity to residents and keep energy dollars local?

It is important that community power be safe, reliable, and support good paying union jobs. If community power can be designed and implemented to meet these standards, then yes I would support community power.

  • 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 fossil fuel industry/utilities must restore polluted sites to their pre-polluted state or better. The public cannot be held liable for the actions of private actors that profit from such pollution and then expect taxpayers to fund cleanup and remediation. I would use the power of the Bernailillo County Commission to ensure that new industrial sites/permits are issued with strict requirements to maintain a bond or remediation fund of significant capacity to remediate the site after operations cease. For existing operations I would work to expand surveillance and testing to identify polluters and then use legal mechanisms to hold them accountable.
 

  • 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?

COIVID has shown us how precarious our situation is. We were ill prepared for the effects of the pandemic and are even less prepared to confront the climate crisis and mitigate and adapt to its effects. Covid has shown most clearly that we must raise up society from the bottom up. One of the greatest issues has been wealth inequality and the effect that has had on preparedness and spread with covid. We see similar issues with climate where vulnerable communities are ill prepared to respond leaving the whole system more vulnerable than we would be if we work to spread resources evenly and fairly to all communities.

  • 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?

My master's thesis project focused on the effects of climate change induced drought on Piñon pine. I also have experience as a landscaper working to reduce the use of water in landscapes. In my business and as president of my neighborhood association I have worked to reduce herbicide use, particularly in my neighborhood park. This required working with users, volunteers, bureaucrats, and blue collar workers to find and adopt solutions. I will use my experience in these areas to ensure that Bernalillo County works to tackle the climate emergency rapidly and with real results. I know how to evaluate evidence and make decisions while engaging stakeholders.

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

We need a full-time paid legislature with paid staff. Furthermore we need additional restrictions on lobbyists and the influence of big money on lawmakers and government officials. Creating a robust public financing system for all public offices is a key part of reducing the influence of money and industry on politics. If people have increased trust and faith in public officials to act in their best interests, democracy will be strengthened.

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

Our outdoor economy and recreation economy have incredible potential for growth and revenue production. New Mexico has abundant sunshine and wind. We must capitalize on these resources and become the leading renewable energy producer so we can export these resources across the nation. New Mexico has a unique concentration of creators and we must also nurture and grow this class of our economy and market that resource to the world.

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

No

Yes