Stefanik rep rips Green New Deal

Gillibrand supports it; Schumer doesn’t answer

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik waves to a crowd while marching in the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival parade Feb. 9. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Earlier this month, two Democrats in the House of Representatives introduced a resolution calling for a Green New Deal — comprehensive reforms that address climate change, income inequality and the rights of workers and indigenous people. And while the non-binding resolution has a long way to go before it could be enacted as law, New York’s federal elected officials are split along party lines.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican who represents the North Country, said in a statement that the Green New Deal is impractical.

“Congresswoman Stefanik is not in favor of eliminating air travel, knocking down every building in the country, or massively reducing dairy and beef consumption — a significant economic driver in the North Country,” Stefanik’s communications director Maddie Anderson wrote in an email. “She is an original cosponsor of the Republican Climate Resolution, which is a serious and thoughtful proposal that works to protect the environment without imposing arbitrary, over-burdensome regulations on hardworking Americans and sending our economy spiraling.”

The Green New Deal, as introduced, does not call for the removal of all buildings but rather retrofitting buildings and requiring new construction to be more energy- and water-efficient. The Green New Deal also does not call for a ban on air travel but rather “overhauling transportation systems … through investment in zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing [and] clean, affordable, and accessible public transportation.” It does not call for a massive reduction in dairy and beef consumption but rather “working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible … by supporting family farming [and] by building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food.”

Stefanik introduced the Republican Climate Resolution in 2016. The three-page document states that climate change is a serious threat to the United States. It does not get into detail on how to achieve its goals. It also says any effort to combat climate change should not have a negative impact on the U.S. economy.

“If left unaddressed, the consequences of a changing climate have the potential to adversely impact all Americans … saddling future generations with costly economic and environmental burdens, and imposing additional costs on State and Federal budgets that will further add to the long-term fiscal challenges that we face as a nation,” the 2016 resolution reads.

The Green New Deal also focuses on climate change as not only an environmental issue but also as a socioeconomic issue.

“Whereas … human activity is the dominant cause of observed climate change over the past century (and) a changing climate is causing sea levels to rise and an increase in wildfires, severe storms, droughts and other extreme weather events that threaten human life, healthy communities and critical infrastructure,” the resolution reads, “The United States is currently experiencing several related crises” including declining life expectancy and economic stagnation.

The resolution goes on to say climate change is a threat to the security of the United States and that the Green New Deal is modeled in the form of the New Deal.

“The House of Representatives recognizes that a new national, social, industrial and economic mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II and the New Deal is a historic opportunity … to create millions of good, high-wage jobs (and) to provide unprecedented levels of prosperity and economic security for all the people of the United States and to counteract systemic injustices,” it says.

The Green New Deal — introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts — aims to combat climate change through a 10-year plan that would put the U.S. on track to utilize clean and renewable energy sources while at the same time tackling several other progressive issues, such as high-quality health care, economic security and, healthy and affordable food.

Both of New York’s U.S. senators are Democrats. Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office did not respond to a request for comment, but Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is exploring a 2020 presidential run and is a member of the senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, came out in full support of the Green New Deal.

“Climate change is real, it threatens us, and the evidence is now irrefutable that if we don’t act immediately to stop it, then our land, our water, our air, and our lives will all be upended in potentially catastrophic ways,” Gillibrand said in a press release. “There will be no going back. I urge my colleagues: Rise to this challenge, prevent the catastrophe, and pass a Green New Deal that protects and strengthens our country in this new, uncertain era.

“We can end the climate change crisis, we can dramatically modernize our economy, and we can create countless new jobs across the entire country that can’t be shipped overseas — but we can only do it if Congress seizes this opportunity and acts now, instead of wasting more time arguing about whether or not the problem is even real. We cannot wait another day.”

Gillibrand also sent a letter last month to to the head of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, saying the economy and environment can both benefit from action on climate change.

“Setting policies to eliminate carbon emissions and related pollutants can be a win-win for our environment and our economy if done right,” she wrote. “We can foster innovation and investment in clean energy and energy efficiency, and transportation that will create good-paying, family-supporting jobs here in the United States. In order to do so, we first need to take the problem of climate change seriously and seek bold, innovative, and inclusive solutions.”