Teresa Leger de Fernandez
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?
We must seriously and intentionally listen to climate scientists and address climate change. In Congress, I will advocate for bold action to meet or exceed carbon reductions of 50% of 2005 levels by 2030.
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?
There has not been the political will to address the climate disruption with the bold, courageous action that is needed to protect our planet. The denial of climate change has allowed corporations to continue profiting off of the fossil fuel economy. The inability to grasp the immediacy of the danger has allowed political leaders to push off needed changes. As we begin to see the destructive effects of climate change, I believe that public opinion will push the political discourse.
Do you pledge to co-sponsor the Green New Deal
Why or Why Not?
I fully support the principles outlined in the GND as they provide a roadmap for a just transition to a green economy and sustainable future. The principles also address the economic and social inequities that must be addressed. A sustainable economy should create jobs, diversify and redistribute power, address monopolistic tendencies inherent in our corporate structure, incentivize a realignment of our education to train for the jobs of tomorrow and ensure healthier sustainable agriculture.
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?
I would begin with restructuring the tax incentives which subsidize the fossil fuel industry and instead redirect federal resources to renewable energy and regenerative agriculture. I would treat the climate disruption as a national security threat and enlist our local labs to refocus their efforts to research and innovation in addressing the climate crisis. I would co-sponsor legislation like the One Hundred Percent Clean Economy Act of 2019.
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?
In Congress, I will support efforts to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and incentivize green solutions. The fossil fuel energy subsidies are seemingly indefinite in stark contrast to the renewable energy tax subsidies which have had shorter than ideal time frames. The redeployment of the tax subsidies could be significant in aiding our transition and compliance with the Paris Agreement and the more stringent requirements that we must work towards.
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?
New Mexico has sacrificed too much in service of fossil fuels. The higher cost of coal energy has disproportionately harmed our poorest families when the cost of renewable energy was lower than coal. Low income households of color and renters pay a larger % of their income on energy bills. In Congress, I’ll ensure that we invest in communities most impacted by the transition, including direct investment in alternative economic development efforts, job training, education and clean up.
If elected, how will you include Indigenous and traditional land-based knowledge in the development of a sustainable economy?
I have worked with Native American communities for 30 years. During Zuni Pueblo’s legal battle against the Fence Lake Coal Mine, I was privileged to present expert testimony from the Pueblo of Laguna. Those experts were not hydrologists, they were experts in their own culture and community. I’m proud that we convinced the court to recognize that expertise. I've relied on the expertise of those who are closest to the land and culture for decades and I will carry it to Congress.
Who will you talk to about climate issues? Who advises you? What is your plan for community consultation on climate issues?
As Vice-Chair on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, I conducted listening tours in communities impacted by potential decisions, including with acequia commissioners, artists, architects, hydrologists, historians. By bringing together different perspectives, we developed responsible, actionable solutions. In Congress, I hope to implement similar listening sessions - while engaging climate scientists, local leaders, community groups, impacted individuals, health experts.
Define environmental racism in your own words and provide an example in NM.
Environmental racism refers to environmental injustice and inequity that is layered or compounded by racial injustice. In New Mexico, we see this with superfund sites on tribal lands that are still decades away from clean up. The uranium superfund sites scattered through the Pueblo of Laguna and Dine- lands are examples of environmental racism.
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. We have failed our children. We must acknowledge and accept that failure and do everything possible to correct this grievous injustice to their future.
I believe government and our leaders have a responsibility to help build communities that are just and sustainable and that provide the foundation for subsequent generations to thrive. Climate action is an inherent part of this belief, because without bold climate action our communities will not be able to sustain let alone thrive.
A) Do you support placing a national moratorium on new gas development? Why or Why Not?
The economic pain from the gas slump in the San Juan basin is because there is presently a glut on the market.
B) Do you support placing a national moratorium on new gas plant investment for utilities? Why or Why Not?
Do you support nuclear energy? Why or Why Not?
Nuclear energy is dirty at the front end - as the superfund sites and cancer patients in New Mexico demonstrate, and it is dirty at the back end as the nuclear waste shows. I do not support additional nuclear energy development.
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, and I lobbied for this in previous legislative sessions.
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.
I lobbied in support of community solar legislation, and helped secure the support of the All Pueblo Council of Governors for the bill. I fully support Community Solar legislation, and will continue to advocate for increased access to solar for all communities and all families.
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?
I’ve spent decades working with Native American communities negatively impacted by fossil fuel extractive industries and am familiar with the legal array of force that energy corporations will deploy to avoid cleaning up contamination. In Congress, I will champion an empowered and well-funded EPA and DOJ that restores and goes well beyond Obama-era efforts. We must fully fund and support the agencies and the attorneys, experts and public servants within our agencies to combat these polluters.
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 incredible resources, from our abundant wind and solar to the technology and talent at our labs and the energy and creativity of our people. New Mexico should put all our resources to work to tackle our climate crisis and build a green economy that will be stable and vibrant for generations to come. The workers that make up the workforce of the oil and gas sector should be trained to be part of this transition.
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?
COVID-19 has laid bare many of the faultlines in our society, and made more apparent the inequities among our communities. The climate crisis will continue to do the same. What we’ve learned from COVID-19 is that our collective health and safety relies on collective action. We’ve seen that the most vulnerable populations suffer disproportionately. We must take bold, collective action to protect our planet and communities with increased emphasis on improving the conditions of those most at risk.
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’ve spent 30 years as an attorney and advocate working for Native American tribes. Working in our most disadvantaged communities. I’ve spent time in kitchens, at feast days, funerals, and weddings of those most negatively impacted by fossil fuels. This direct knowledge will fuel my passion to redress past injustices. I believe that our next representative must truly understand poverty. But also come to the problem with a sense of optimism borne of working on solutions and creating opportunity.
Have you accepted any donations from fossil fuel companies or utilities? Yes/No
Will you take the #fossilfree pledge?