Travis county congressional candidates address climate change at panel

350 Austin, a local, grassroots environmental group, held a forum for candidates running in the U.S Congressional districts of Travis County to delineate their approaches to issues related to climate change in office.

The group held their monthly open meeting at Scholz Garten on Feb. 20 and invited candidates to speak from districts 10, 17, 21, 25 and 35. They discussed tax measures, the meat industry and the political and economic challenges of protecting their constituents through consideration of the environment.

350 Austin did not endorse any of the candidates present and allotted each of them an equal amount of time to state their responses to audience questions.

Several of the candidates supported a carbon fee dividend, legislation that would reduce the level of emissions by imposing a fee on carbon dioxide in fossil fuels.

Julie Oliver, a candidate from district 25 who was not present at the meeting but was represented by a spokesperson crafted tax legislation that would place such a fee on fossil fuels.

“There is actually a bipartisan caucus in Congress called the Climate Caucus who champions [a carbon fee dividend]. So we know we can get there,” Oliver’s spokesperson said. “Is it gonna get us where we need to be? I think everybody would agree that ‘no.’ We have to do a carbon fee dividend plus everything else if we’re actually going to stop reefs from being killed and temperatures from going up every year.”

Kathi Thomas, a democratic candidate also in district 25 cited accountability as the impetus for her support of the tax plan.

“This carbon fee plus dividend plan is the way to make these fossil fuel companies pay the real cost of all the pollution they do, all the health problems they cause,” Thomas said. “Right now, they just go scott-free; they shouldn’t be able to do that.”

A former social worker, Elliot McFadden of district 21, promoted the plan as a benefit for both the environment and his constituents, suggesting that a carbon tax could be directed to help alleviate the financial burden on communities who need more funding.

“If we can move whatever fees and taxes we impose and move these directly to these at-risk communities and give them the extra health care and the special attention to the education, then they will rise up on their own,” McFadden said. “That’s how we can move towards curbing climate change and also improving the lives of people while watching out for the impact that corporations have on low-socioeconomic communities.”

Some of the candidates offered less specific solutions to issues like natural disaster relief and prevention and offered political commentary.

“Next time, let’s elect a president who knows Puerto Rico is part of this nation,” Samuel Temple said. “We are here for each other. We take care of each other. We need to stop electing people who say ‘bleep you, I got mine’.”

Other candidates talked about incentivizing eating less meat and initiating campaigns to reduce methane emissions, which account for approximately 10 percent of all U.S greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“Methane is a problem. It can be controlled with diet,” West Hanses, a democratic candidate from district 25 said. “It’s a very simple way to immediately lower our methane by mandating certain types of feed for cattle and not just the cheap corn feed with growth products in it. It’s very simple: grass fed cattle are going to produce a lot less methane than grain-fed cattle.”

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