Candidate, NM House of Representatives, 12

Nicole Olonovich 
https://olonovich4hd12.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?

The Environmental Rights Act, also known as the Green Amendment. Moratorium on any new fracking. Fully fund agencies to do their jobs: prevent degradation, supervise, monitor and actually enforce against O&G violators (including penalties, and fines, permit revocation). Push for 30x30 initiatives with immediacy and the Governor’s Executive Order. Expand the solar tax credit and reauthorize it at higher rates. Invest in solar and storage for all public schools, all libraries, all state agencies. I’d pair it with educational tools that explain how solar works and display them in the buildings that are solarized. Use my capital outlay to solarize community buildings, add sidewalks, bike paths, and EV battery charging stations.

  • 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?

I think campaign finance has a lot to do with why leaders miss emissions reductions benchmarks even though the science is clear that we are in a “Code Red.” Once elected, officials are told/taught to be practical and stick to the party line and quickly lose their altruistic reasons for running; they become tied up with raising money for their election cycle and catering to donors that they neglect and lose touch with the people they are elected to truly represent. People who are disenfranchised due to daily stressors or voting barriers fail to hold elected officials accountable. If elected I will prioritize climate and environmental concerns.

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

I refuse to align myself with fossil-fuels, corporate interests, and even take money from leaders who funnel these kinds of donations. I would like to create a political environment that is as close to direct-democracy as possible. This means I will consult with constituents and trusted advisors about pending legislation, draft legislation with the public, with community leaders, organizers, scientists, and key stakeholders, and educate myself in advance about progressive positions on a host of issues so I’d have a “checklist” of questions I can compare legislation to.

  • 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?

I’d support voting rights which is severely under attack. BIPOC, queer, LGBTQIA+, low-income folks need to be sitting AT the tables of policy formation. I believe in building coalitions to formulate policy, because then we bring forth many perspectives and attempt to address many needs. Only through true political powershifts which necessarily includes historically disenfranchised communities will we see the racial justice that we strive for. For example, the New Mexico Solar Energy Association talks a lot about community solar being a force of power, the ownership of that energy, and the need to make sure that power is decentralized and in the hands of BIPOC and working-class communities, not the affluent.

  • 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. Only with a Just Transition Study & Fund can we lay out the pathway and formulate climate action that is meaningful, transformative, sustainable, and do so in an equitable fashion. We desperately need alternative sources of revenues (for elections and voting) for our state budget (otherwise the stranglehold over our politics will always remain). I see renewable energy as one of those pathways: we could transform our current electric system to 100% renewable energy and then export our renewables and simultaneously create a revenue stream for the state.

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

I believe indigenous leaders need to be at the table of policy formation. I want to build relationships with our tribal leaders, communities, and grassroots organizations because they are the original protectors of Earth. Before colonialism indigenous communities were able to thrive in systems they built, upheld, and were sustainable to the plant. This knowledge is instrumental in climate solutions.

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

I am currently a member of the Environmental Justice Caucus, Fuerzas Unidas Caucus, Adelante Progressive Caucus, and OLE! NM. In addition, I follow YUCCA, SWOP, the Acequia Association, and Contra Santolina. I work with the New Mexico Solar Energy Association, Public Power, and CSolPower. I am on the board of The Green Amendment for the Generations. I try to gather my data from a variety of science-based, grassroots, and community organizations. I plan on building into these areas for education, consultation, and policy formulation.

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

Environmental racism is sacrificing disenfranchised communities, against their will or without their knowledge, to enrich the affluent and/or benefit the ruling class in ways that the powerful would not permit. Santolina is an example of environmental racism because charging ahead towards “development” was approved by a small group of people without the consultation of the low income BIPOC communities that live in the South Valley. Santolina will forever harm our watersheds and acequias, intensify gentrification and pollution to enrich a few out-of-state investors.

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

It is our responsibility to leave the Earth habitable beyond our years, our grandchildren’s years, and their grandchildren’s years. I am 37 years old and I am livid that the science was known when I was a child that our air, water, and soil were being destroyed by for-profit, capitalistic, greed. My body has been ravaged by environmental toxins, and our government knew they were potentially harming me. It is my responsibility to be a shield, a defender, and a supporter of Mother Earth. It is my job to protect water, create sustainable agriculture, and move our planet away from fossil fuels.

 

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

Yes. Specifically speaking we cannot properly fund and provide oversight to these oil and gas wells than there should be no more permitting till this is addressed, as well as the argument we must stop the direction we are going and find new energy sources. I support a moratorium on any new gas development. We have the technology to transform our economy. Political will is the barrier to the change we need. I would pursue feasible alternatives to this addiction to O&G for our budget. I see renewables, especially for export, as a real possibility.

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

Yes. We can move to 100% solar, wind and storage. We can make the change quickly, unlike the slow pace seen by the investor-owned utilities. I sat in 350 New Mexico’s “Methane” event with speaker Dr. Anthony R. Ingraffea, and I love that he called natural gas “fossil fuel fumes.” I think we all need to think of “natural gas” exactly like this, the way we speak about reality matters. This way more folks can clearly see that fossil fuel fumes should not play a role in our energy portfolio. We must move away from fossil fuels to responsibly address climate change.

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

I do not think we should continue our reliance on nuclear. It is the most expensive form of energy, uses huge sums of water and we still have no answer for the enormous amounts of radioactive waste that is produced which will be radioactive for thousands of years, and this requires mining of uranium. The radioactive waste created from the “mature” nuclear generating industry has and will cause neurological deficiencies, cancers and other health problems for future generations. It has and will continue to poison waterways as well.

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

No. Hydrogen is a false solution in New Mexico. It is purely a way for us to stay beholden to fossil fuels. Hydrogen production—more than 99.8 % of which is not green—is responsible for an enormous amount of greenhouse gas pollution; far from being low carbon, greenhouse gas emissions from blue hydrogen are quite high, particularly due to the release of fugitive methane. Globally, less than 1 percent of hydrogen is produced through electrolysis and less than 0.02% is green hydrogen (i.e., powered by renewable electricity) and that is enormously water intensive, and can’t happen in New Mexico because we don’t have the required water thus both blue and green hydrogen are false solutions.

  • 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?

Yes, in fact I just began working with Public Power New Mexico and believe that we need to remove shareholders from the equation of utilities, especially if we are ever going to reach climate goals. Community owned energy will reduce the cost of electricity and keep the profits in the hands of the people. If we are to survive, we will need to eliminate the perpetual capitalistic growth mentality that is unsustainable.

  • 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?

Yes, it is absolutely the responsibility of the industries that come into our state and wreak havoc on our land and harm our people to not only cleanup their mess, but to make us whole. I believe in the publics’ right to litigation, as well as our general right to a healthy environment. I would support state funds to be used by an attorney general who litigated to protect New Mexicans from environmental harms caused by industry.

  • 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?

We need to listen to the science and act with urgency. Future facing policy on a state level is not enough. We need all levels of humanity acting together: individuals, communities, municipalities, states, and the federal government. We need to stop behaving as if there is time to waste, and realize the Earth is on fire, we are in a “code red” and failure to act is inviting imminent death

  • 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 worked with the National Association of Social Workers during the 2013 “Behavioral Health Shake-Up.” This event changed how I trust the executive branch, how quickly good policy like the ACA can be weaponized in the wrong hands, and how fast the State is willing to out-source behavioral health to out-side, for-profit, entities. This is why I fight so hard for Constitutional Amendments like The Green Amendment & Early Childhood Education. When we are not prepared and lack tools to hold the government accountable, they will make unilateral decisions that disproportionately harm historically disenfranchised communities, including the creation of bureaucratic hoops that are painstaking to navigate.

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

Campaign finance reform, to include transparent donation practices (this means watching for “green-washing” of funding and public financing). I also am a strong supporter of direct-democracy, and support greater access to voting by ensuring everyone who wants to vote can do so. I would vote to make Election Day into a state holiday to encourage voting.
Further, I think we need to have paid legislators, with paid staff, and the legislative session runs for three months. Industry benefits from the chaotic system we have. For instance, interim committees should not just be for industry, they need to be held EVERY community we serve.

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

Tax the rich. We do not properly nor adequately tax the wealthy corporations taking advantage of our state, nor do we tax the wealthy individuals within our state. We need to stop subsidizing the exploiters and tax them. We also need to create fossil fuel tax, carbon emission tax, and expand revenues by harvesting green energy and selling it to other states (i.e. New Mexico is well suited for solar energy on levels that would not only supply NM, but we could sell to California).

  • 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