Democratic congressional candidates debate climate change

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CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT NY-19—The Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a nonpartisan environmental organization, hosted congressional candidates for New York’s 19th District on Friday, August 12, for a discussion on climate change policy.

Carol Fisler of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby introduced the forum, noting that Republican candidate Marc Molinaro had been invited to participate but was unable to attend. Molinaro has no challenger for the Republican nomination. Early voting for the Democratic primary has already begun and primary election day is August 23.

Rather than the typical debate style of questions coming from the host, contestants were given a list of questions prior to the event and could choose which ones they wanted to address.

Jamie Cheney and Josh Riley introduced themselves, explaining a bit about how they got into politics.

The debate then began, the first question relating to the most important climate or energy issue of the candidates for the 19th arrondissement.

Cheney responded by saying that if she had to choose one issue, she would go to New York State’s biggest greenhouse gas producer, which is transportation. Citing progress on clean fuel tax credits and subsidies, Cheney said she still believes “we need to go further, [and] we need incentives for electric cars that are not solely funded by tax credits, which may not provide access to some of our low-income residents who wish to invest in electric cars.

Cheney also said public transportation alternatives are needed in all rural areas of the district, and broadband is another priority that can indirectly address greenhouse gases from transportation, as it will allow more people to people to work from home.

Riley responded to the same question, saying climate change is the biggest threat facing the country and the conversation about it should also highlight jobs.

“We have the opportunity to do what we have done throughout our history, which is to take on the challenges facing the world and make them addresses in upstate New York,” he said. he declares.

The next question asked about the actions the candidates would list as their top priorities if elected.

Riley, picking up where he left off on the last question, named a top priority as creating green jobs in the district, and referenced the Battery Materials Processing Program which provides accessible funds at the that can be used to disperse lab technologies within the SUNY system. and actually “put them on the factory floor here in upstate New York”.

Riley also said shifting energy subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable sources is a top priority, and he’s happy to see some movement starting August 11, 2022, with the passage of the Reduction Act. of inflation.

The following question was directed to Cheney, on the topic of the 2023 Farm Bill and what would help farmers adapt and mitigate climate change while maintaining their incomes.

Cheney said she’s really excited about the potential of the farm bill in the district and has already spoken with congressional leaders about the need to bring the voice of small Northeast farms to the table. committee that renegotiates the bill.

“No one hates the price of diesel and therefore the burning of fossil fuels more than the farmers in this district, and the farmers in the district would really like to invest in more fuel-efficient equipment,” she said, acknowledging that the Bill’s provisions can be used to bring financial services and access to capital to farmers, who could then make more fuel-efficient purchases.

Riley responded to the same question, saying his top two priorities with the bill would be cover crops, which most farmers want to use (but not necessarily harvest) for their various benefits, but sometimes can’t due to labor cost and intensity. associated with practice. For that reason, he said, he would like to see increased reimbursement rates and rewards for farmers who want to work with cover crops.

The next question was about agricultural policy and what federal changes need to be made to align with the country’s goals.

Cheney responded to Riley’s earlier statement on cover crops, saying that as a farmer in the state, the use of cover crops has to do with “lack of access to apps, literally the time to make them, access to Cornell Co-op educators to help those who are not comfortable with the forms, fill them out, and apply for financial capital in advance.

She also said she would be surprised to find many farmers who don’t use cover crops to some degree, and that decisions are made every day based on repayment rates or labor needs. work.

Rather than letting farm policy revolve around corporate growers, “We need a voice on the committee that’s going to stand up for small farms in the Northeast, and not let farm policy in this country be dominated by people who understand it from a policy textbook, or like a big farm executive works as a lobbyist for those farms,” Cheney said.

The next question was about jobs and the problem of not enough trained people for clean energy jobs.

Riley responded by arguing that there will be the option to reauthorize the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which is a federal bill that invests in job training programs for industries. specialized.

“The answer is to partner with our unions, on their apprenticeship programs, it’s to partner with our community colleges,” he said.

Cheney agreed that skilled workforce training is worth more than the investment, but making sure programs are accessible is a huge part. “We have a unique opportunity to roll out these programs directly into communities, but we need to look at what the barriers are to workers accessing these training programs and jobs,” she said, explaining that the transport and child care are two obstacles. that should be settled.

The next question was about working with colleagues across the way on policy.

Riley said he has been encouraged on this topic during his travels around the district and his conversations with different parts of the district have agreed on a fundamental position that climate change is real.

“I think when we talk about jobs, job creation and economic opportunity, and we’re not just talking about solving the challenge of climate change as such, but linking it to the economic opportunities that we see in this area, it’s a great way to get people on both sides of the aisle,” Riley said.

Cheney said she has a positive outlook on this issue within the District and believes there are many things that unite District residents with a shared sense of connection.

“What is different from party to party is that our language will always be amazed that the word climate has become so politicized that we actually take the time to stop and listen to the concerns of the people. voters. We talk about the same things and we use different language,” she said.

Another question was about how the federal government could help manage limited resources and fiscal challenges, as well as infrastructure issues related to COVID-19.

Cheney said she saw a real opportunity in the district in terms of sharing best practices, and the mentorship programs have successfully helped communities mentor other parts of the district that may not have the same resources. .

“Nobody needs to reinvent the wheel here – we’ll help every community that wants to get involved in our district,” she said. Additionally, by traveling across the district on the campaign trail, she was able to connect communities that have similar challenges or ideas, which created more unity for geographically separated places.

The next question for Riley was about how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act will improve NY-19’s energy infrastructure.

Riley responded by saying that in the near future, making sure agencies implement and enforce laws that are already on the books will be a big task, especially in terms of congressional scrutiny. He said one of the things he will focus on is making sure the agencies with jurisdiction over these laws “really get that money into the hands of the people who need it, making sure these laws work. on the pitch as they need to.”

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