Candidate, US House of Representatives, NM CD3
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?
The fossil fuel industry is perhaps the most powerful lobby in history, and has spent billions in climate disinformation, political contributions, and to undermine the energy transition. I have spent my career fighting for people and communities living in the shadow of fossil fuel exploitation, holding our government accountable, and taking on big oil in federal court and winning. This work has laid a legal foundation for ambitious action. This is a fight I will continue in office.
Do you pledge to co-sponsor the Green New Deal
Why or Why Not?
The GND recognizes that emissions reductions alone are not enough to maintain a livable planet. It recognizes the intersectional and urgent nature of the challenge, which is rooted in structural inequities and a legacy of exploitation, and that principles of justice and equity must operate as the foundation of this transformation. But vision alone will not be enough, and for GND legislation to be realized, we need champions who will fight for that change. It is why I am running for office.
If Yes, what is your Green New Deal Plan? What specific policy instruments would you like to see included? And what are your ideas to get the GND passed through Congress?
A current gap in the GND, as articulated H.Res.109, is the role of public lands in exacerbating the climate crisis and enriching the fossil fuel industry. Almost 25% of annual U.S. emissions are from coal, oil, and gas developed on public lands, and current federal laws prioritize this exploitation over all other values. We must ban fracking, end leasing programs, and manage the decline of the fossil fuel industry. By directing federal funds to states for a just transition and to help meet revenue shortfalls, we would have a chance at bipartisan support.
If elected, what other specific policies will you initiate and support in your first year of service to transition our economy to net zero carbon emissions in the timeframe set by the world’s leading scientists?
I have released a detailed plan to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable and accelerate the transition to clean energy (see article on Medium). Industry is in extreme debt and, even before the current oil price collapse, was structurally built to fail. Making matters worse, it has not been saving for retirement, with trillions in environmental liabilities. In bankruptcy proceedings, the government should nationalize assets, pay workers for cleanup, and manage decline of fossil fuels.
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?
Neoliberal policies of free markets and deregulation have resulted in massive and growing inequity. Economic recovery should be from the ground-up, not as a bailout to billionaires and multi-national corporations. We should have a federal jobs program focused on green infrastructure investment, restoration agriculture, and landscape scale reclamation that will build resilience and address historic environmental injustices in front-line communities.
If elected, how will you include Indigenous and traditional land-based knowledge in the development of a sustainable economy?
As a public interest environmental attorney, my career has been dedicated to building power from the ground-up. This is how lasting change occurs. I will ensure this knowledge is represented by having a staff comprised of indigenous and community leaders who advance these interests in every policy action, and by maintaining close relationships with Diné and pueblo individuals and groups I have worked with over my career.
Who will you talk to about climate issues? Who advises you? What is your plan for community consultation on climate issues?
As a father of 3, I spend a lot of time thinking about my children's future and that of future generations. Fighting for a livable planet and addressing the climate emergency is why I decided to run for office, and it is what motivates my work every day. As a climate attorney, I have the privilege of working with top scientists, economists, and organizers. Consultation is not checking a box, but active engagement and dialogue with communities, rooted in free and prior informed consent.
Define environmental racism in your own words and provide an example in NM
I have been the lead attorney fighting for the protection of people and communities across the Greater Chaco Landscape. This is an area that has been designated by our federal government as an energy sacrifice zone, and where a legacy of policies and decisions have exploited the people and the lands for generations. This includes uranium mining, two mine-to-mouth coal plants, and over 40,000 historic oil and gas wells.
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.
In many ways, our economy is premised on the exploitation of people and natural resources. This exploitation, and indeed human activity since the late nineteenth century, have brought our world to the brink of collapse. The very narrow window that remains to maintain a livable planet demands actions on the pace and scale of this emergency, which is a moral obligation we have to our children and all future generations.
A) Do you support placing a national moratorium on new gas development? Why or Why Not?
Yes. As necessary to protect people and communities living in the shadow of fossil fuel exploitation, we should ban fracking and issue a moratorium on new leasing which will provide the needed window to reform foundational public lands management laws and regulations. These changes should end fossil fuel exploitation on public lands aligned with the demands of science and warming thresholds.
B) Do you support placing a national moratorium on new gas plant investment for utilities? Why or Why Not?
Yes. Even big banks recognize that if the world aligns its policy and ambition on a pathway to avoid even 2C warming, this will result in $100 trillion in stranded assets by mid-century. Not only is any further investment in fossil fuels incompatible with our ability to maintain a livable planet, but it will further threaten and exacerbate the financial and economic risks of broad collapse, which will be borne by the most vulnerable people and communities.
Do you support nuclear energy? Why or Why Not?
No. Although some climate advocates support nuclear because this energy does not create GHG emissions, the legacy of pollution and waste streams that result are hugely problematic, the impacts of which are unjustly experienced by already vulnerable communities. Particularly now, with the further development and lowering costs of energy efficiency, renewables, and storage technologies, we have the tools needed to decarbonize our energy systems without these additional risks to communities.
Do you support community choice aggregation - an energy policy adopted in seven states whereby local communities and Tribes can aggregate their energy demand and become electric energy owners, producers, and sellers? Why or Why Not?
Yes. Community-based ownership and production gives power to local municipalities and communities to procure energy on the open market, which can allow for adding green and renewable electricity, which also lowering the costs of electricity for consumers and small businesses.
Community Solar legislation has been proposed in NM multiple times in the last few years and exists in many states throughout the country. What is your position on community solar and what will you do to increase access to the benefits of solar for communities across the country regardless of income.
Community solar is a critical move away from monopolized utility systems, allowing not only additional control over energy supplies and resources, but it lowers electricity prices and helps build wealth and prosperity within communities. To better facilitate growth of community solar, we need additional investment in smart-grids and transmission.
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?
Cleanup and reclamation are built into a license to operate. Unfortunately, public assurance and bonding is often times woefully inadequate. There are several policy reforms that can hold industry accountable and ensure taxpayers aren't left holding the bill. These include full-cost bonding as a condition of any future permits, as well as full-cost bonding at the point of asset transfer (the sale from one company to another), as well as imposing retroactive joint and several liability.
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 our economy's future?
New Mexico has operated as an energy colony for big oil for generations, and our budget and the services our state can provide have been tied to the price of oil. Even before the current crisis, I have fought to end this relationship, hold oil companies accountable, and diversify our economy. We can grow jobs in plugging wells and reclaiming landscapes, become leaders in green energy and drive change on the regional and national grid, and add resources for restoration agriculture.
Do you support a moratorium on utility shut-offs and utility bill forgiveness for low-income Americans 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?
What this health crisis has exposed are the gaps in the current structures and how bad we do as a country taking care of people. We must use this moment to address existing inequities--including healthcare, labor reforms, and improving the social safety net--which also including conditions on relief and federal spending to rapidly decarbonize our economy. We must align action and build a framework to ensure a moral and just transition and response to growing climate disruptions.
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 spent my career fighting for front-line communities and people shouldering the burdens of fossil fuel exploitation, and building power for change from the ground up. Lasting change doesn't happen in a courtroom alone, but is built by empowering people, exchanging knowledge and information, and growing a movement. My run for office is to continue the fight build the movement for climate justice into the halls of congress.
Have you accepted any donations from fossil fuel companies or utilities? Yes/No
Will you take the #fossilfree pledge?