Harold Pope Jr.
Candidate, NM Senate District 23
Do you agree with climate scientists that we are facing a climate emergency?
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?
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?
I believe they are being influenced by Oil & Gas, the increase in the cost of energy, and fearful of the job losses that will occur from these industries shutting down. If elected my timeframes and mandates will be science based and not be by setting arbitrary numbers that don’t address the limited time we have to save our planet. I would also implement a just and equitable transition that addresses jobs, the health, the environment, and economic assets of the community impacted.
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 would reintroduce the Community Solar bill that was unsuccessful in the last legislative session. Tax credits and incentives for electric cars and electric charging stations must be introduced as well. NM must become the epicenter for renewable energy. This means legislation that provides the proper investments and incentives to manufacture solar and wind hardware, to create solar and wind farms, and to develop the storage capability to provide clean renewable energy across the nation.
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?
This transition should be fair and not cost the community their jobs, health, environment, or economic assets. We accomplish this by providing training and new renewable energy jobs, address the health issues impacting the community, provide remediation to the environment, and address income inequality. The community that has been impacted should also be included in crafting this just transition. We must also ensure these new jobs allow for worker’s rights and collective bargaining.
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. We will need to study and properly fund this transition to ensure a just and equitable transition to those communities being impacted as well as the communities impacted in the past. We must also include a bottom up versus a top down approach to ensure input from community stakeholders is not only heard but enacted.
If elected, how will you include Indigenous and traditional land-based knowledge in the development of a sustainable economy for all of NM?
Indigenous and land-based knowledge experts should always have a seat at the table, this knowledge has helped Native New Mexicans survive in this rugged environment for centuries. This knowledge and the groups that have it must be brought together to form a high-level State Council or Board in order to implement the policies needed. All stakeholders must be involved in order to make an economy that is sustainable for all of NM.
Who will you talk to about climate issues? Who advises you? What is your plan for community consultation on climate issues?
I will talk with subject matter experts and organizations like yours with the background to make informed decisions. I don’t have an advisor but I speak to Greg Sonnenfeld and Eleanor Bravo who are experts in renewable energy and the environment. I also have a BS in Biochemistry & MS in Pharmaceutical Chemistry which have given me the educational background to understand. I don’t have a plan but townhalls & forums are a must and my door will always be open.
Define environmental racism in your own words and provide an example in NM
When people of color and the poor are forced to live under environmental pollution and hazards that impact their quality of life, long-term health, and lifespan. One example would be the Native American communities in Northwest NM who are subject to the toxic exposure of burning coal, methane, and the abandoned uranium mines. To top it off many of them were forced to work in these industries in order to survive, no one should have to make this terrible choice.
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. Past generations including mine have done so much damage to the planet with no regard for future generations. While we have made strides in cleaning up our air and water the changes in administrations have taken us backwards in some cases leading to even more damage. Our responsibility is to listen to their generation and do as much as we can to clean, mitigate, and make our environment as resilient as possible for the future.
A) Do you support placing a moratorium on new gas development in the state of New Mexico? Why or Why Not?
Yes. We do not have enough regulators to manage the current wells we have to date and my worry is that with the current instability of oil prices we run the risk of oil & gas companies abandoning wells and leaving NM taxpayers to pay for the cleanup.
B) Do you support placing a moratorium on new gas plant investment for utilities in New Mexico? Why or Why Not?
No.. I would hope that we no longer need this investment as we transition to renewable energy sources but we may still need to make this investment.
Do you support nuclear energy? Why or Why Not?
No. Transporting this material is too dangerous and the waste produced create future threats to the environment and environmental racism.
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?
Yes. I would support these types of markets similar to some of the coops that have been created in New Mexico. The more competition we have in renewables should bring the costs down. The City of Albuquerque has already made a deal like this with the Jicarilla Apache Nation.
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 support Community Solar as I have stated previously in this questionnaire. Not only will I support and vote for it but I will campaign and promote the benefits with my colleagues and the public to make sure it passes.
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?
Not only should the fossil fuel industry be responsible for cleanup but we must also ensure they are not contaminating our water, land, air, and quality of life. We must be more proactive with regulations, taxes, and fees that support more regulators to decrease damage as much as possible. These same regulators must provide oversight in order for us to hold them responsible for cleanup and not leave taxpayers left to pay the bill.
Do you believe bonding rates for industry should cover the full cost of cleanup?
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?
The industry is not only unsustainable from a budget standpoint but it is unsustainable from a business standpoint with many people in the industry set to lose jobs. If we are too transition to a renewable energy portfolio, a diversified economy, and net zero emissions the industry will eventually fade away. We must make sure we take care of the New Mexicans who lose jobs in a just and equitable way.
Do you support utility bill forgiveness for low-income New Mexicans who have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis?
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?
Both situations highlight the equity and inequality that is pervasive in our society and the current pandemic has exacerbated the issue even further. One thing I think we can take from COVID-19 is that while expensive, we can make investments and make sacrifices now or pay much more and lose more lives later if we do nothing. We can no longer leave this to future generations.
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 served over 20 years in the military working a few years in the environmental area but most of my experience has been working on social issues within my Fraternity and non-profits. This experience has allowed me to build relationships with diverse and inclusive communities which are needed for coalition building. Climate change impacts as all and we need everyone’s voice and participation in order to move our state and country to act.
What are your ideas to loosen the grip of industry on the state legislature and strengthen our democracy?
The industry has so much influence on the Roundhouse due to the money they provide for the State budget and the campaign funds they provide to legislators. Eventually their power will fade due to decreasing revenue but not soon enough. A few ways we could lessen their influence would be by moving to public financing and paying our legislatures which would give younger and working-class people the opportunity to serve.
Name specific alternative sources for state revenue that you'd pursue and propose if elected
I support recreational marijuana, tourism, and industries like biotechnology. Besides the jobs and revenue, marijuana would provide an opportunity to develop and research technology to test if individuals are impaired, this would be huge. We need to promote more tourism to our beautiful state we are not like any other place. Finally, we could be a biotechnology hub for the nation with startups already being developed and with research universities and national labs providing the expertise.
Have you accepted any donations from fossil fuel companies or utilities? Yes/No
Start with the film industry that is still growing. Use the venture capital fund w/ $120 million for patent development from the labs. Expand venture capital fund to develop art investment and music production. Pay for college education for every young person. Every body talks jobs but not many Senators actually created any jobs directly. Remember we won't be fooled again?
Have you accepted any donations from fossil fuel companies or utilities? Yes/No
Will you take the #fossilfree pledge?