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Washington Review, August 23, 2021

Aug 23, 2021
Washington Review

Recently, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report detailing the widespread and intensifying effects of climate change. We can now say with certainty that climate change is not a problem for the distant future, but a crisis which deserves our immediate action and focus. With that in mind, I have joined my colleagues in supporting several important pieces of legislation this Congress to address the effects of climate change and expand our mitigation and sustainability efforts.

Clean Energy

To support a clean energy future, I cosponsored three bills which create renewable energy standards, incentivize renewable energy investments, and promote renewable energy in U.S. territories.

H.R. 3959, the American Renewable Energy Act, was introduced by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) to create a national renewable energy standard aimed at reducing carbon emissions and driving the deployment of clean energy resources around the country. Specifically, this legislation would require energy producers in the United States to meet the goal of 70% renewable energy production by 2030. The bill would also require retail electricity suppliers to address existing pollution disparities through requirements to distribute an increasing share of their generated renewable energy in adversely impacted communities. I also cosponsored H.R. 3180, the Renewable Energy Investment Act, introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). This bill will allow taxpayers to receive a direct cash payment for renewable energy investments rather than a tax credit.

I also signed on to H.R. 2791, the Renewable Energy for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands Act, introduced by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA). This legislation would promote the deployment of community-based renewable energy systems on the islands. This legislation establishes a program at the Department of Agriculture to award grants to non-profits to develop local renewable energy systems and require a study on renewable energy efficiency.

Sustainable Infrastructure

The impacts of the climate crisis can already be felt across the country in our crumbling infrastructure and unsustainable transportation systems. To reduce carbon emissions of air travel, I cosponsored H.R. 3440, the Sustainable Skies Act, introduced by Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL). This bill would create a new tax credit specifically aimed at incentivizing the production and use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), which can reduce emissions by up to 80% compared to conventional jet fuel. Under this legislation, SAFs that achieve 50% or greater reduction in Green House Gas (GHG) emissions compared to conventional jet fuel would be eligible to receive a tax credit of at least $1.50/gallon and could be scaled up to $2.00/gallon depending on the fuel’s GHG reductions.

I also cosponsored two bills which improve the climate mitigation and adaptation strategies of coastal communities and ecosystems. H.R. 3431, the Increasing Community Access to Resiliency Grants Act, introduced by Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH) directs NOAA to establish a comprehensive website that will provide information on all federal climate mitigation and coastal resiliency grants administered by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other federal agencies.

In addition, H.R. 4092 the Coastal Habitat Conservation Act, introduced by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) authorizes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Coastal Pilot Program to protect and restore coastal habitats, and authorizes $20-25 million each year from 2022 to 2026 for FWS’ Coastal Program. In addition, this legislation directs the Secretary of Interior to identify natural resource problems and solutions in priority coastal ecosystems in partnership with federal, state, and local governments, and private and nonprofit organizations; build capacity of partners to carry out stewardship and conservation; and assist in development and implementation of monitoring protocols.

I also joined H.R. 1863, The Public School Green Rooftop Program Act, introduced by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), which would direct the Department of Energy to create a grant program for public elementary and secondary schools to install green roof systems on their buildings; additional maintenance funding for up to four years; and provide funding for technical assistance including an engineering analysis, cost estimate and assessment of a school’s roof characteristics. Green roofs provide heat island mitigation, thermal regulation, habitat enhancement, and can serve as educational spaces for students.

Protecting Ecosystems and Biodiversity

The climate crisis has had a significant detrimental effect on fragile ecosystems and national biodiversity, and immediate action is needed to counteract these effects. I joined Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) in introducing H.R. 3396, the Extinction Prevention Act, to provide funding for some of the most endangered wildlife species in the US, including threatened and endangered underfunded species groups most at risk of extinction.

I cosponsored H.R. 815, the Arctic Refuge Protection Act, introduced by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), which repeals the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge oil and gas program. In ending this program, the legislation also designates over 1.5 million acres of land within Alaska in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a component of the National Wilderness Preservation System, preserving the natural ecosystem from disastrous oil drilling.

H.R. 3764, the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act, introduced by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), bill protects and restores blue carbon ecosystems, promotes offshore wind energy and research while prohibiting new offshore fossil fuel activity, promotes climate-ready fisheries and eliminates fishing subsidies in trade agreements, establishes a climate and fisheries research and management program, and establishes a manufacturers fee on virgin single-use plastic production

Lastly, I signed on to H. Res.69, introduced by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) which expresses the need for the Federal Government to establish a national biodiversity strategy including a stronger coordinated response to species protection and biodiversity loss. Specifically, it would create a blueprint for effectively tackling this challenge, and direct federal agencies to pursue a range of actions within existing law to protect biodiversity.

Environmental Cleanup and Revitalization

I cosponsored four bills which would clean up public lands and address the disproportionate impacts of environmental degradation in underserved communities. H.R. 2415, The Orphaned Well Cleanup and Jobs Act, introduced by Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM), authorizes $7.25 billion over ten years in grant funding for abandoned well cleanup on state and private lands, $400 million for cleanup on public lands, and $300 million for cleanup on Tribal lands. It would also strengthen regulatory safeguards on public lands to prevent future abandoned wells, in part by requiring operators to pay an annual fee for idled wells. I am also a cosponsor of H.R. 2674, the Superfund Reinvestment Act, introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), which would require polluters to pay for the cleanup of toxic and hazardous waste sites within the United States. The bill would also restore Superfund taxes on crude oil or refined oil products and excise taxes on certain chemicals that generate hazardous waste. Finally, this bill would expand the definition of crude oil to include tar sands and oil shale and would ensure that money from the Trust Fund is only spent on Superfund cleanup.

A 2020 study found that of 108 urban areas, nearly all formerly redlined areas were up to 12.6 degrees hotter than non-redlined areas. The absence of tree canopy cover in redlined neighborhoods compounds the effects of increasingly common heatwaves and is a clear example of environmental racism. To address this issue, I cosponsored, H.R. 4166, the Saving Hazardous and Declining Environments (SHADE) Act, introduced by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman. This bill recognizes that redlining was a discriminatory housing policy that is the practice of systematically denying resources to predominantly minority neighborhoods in order to prevent investment in those places and creates a grant program through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to plant trees in formerly redlined areas graded “hazardous” or “declining” by the Homeowners’ Loan Corporation.

I also joined H.R. 3522, the Residential Energy and Economic Savings (TREES) Act, introduced by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), which would create a grant program at the Department of Energy to provide $50 million in funding to plant a minimum of 300,000 trees annually in residential areas through 2026 and would prioritize low-income communities and areas with low tree coverage. This program aims to incentivize local governments to improve green spaces and expand urban forests to reduce homeowners’ energy costs.

Climate Education and the Future of Climate Response

It’s abundantly clear that after decades of human-caused environmental degradation, we are at the tipping point. We are starting to live through the implications of our lack of significant action on climate change, so in order to prepare future leaders we must teach students to better understand the complexity of the issue, train communities to develop and carry out mitigation strategies, and establish an effective system for international coordination in response to climate crises.

I cosponsored H.R. 2310, the Climate Change Education Act, introduced by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI). This bill would create a Climate Change Education Office within the NOAA Office of Education that would be responsible for administering a grant program to state and local agencies, institutions of higher education, and professional associations. Specifically, the bill authorizes $50 million per year through 2026 for NOAA to administer grants to states’ Departments of Educators wishing to incorporate climate change education into their state education systems, and for climate mitigation and adaptation work.

In addition, I signed on to H.R. 4220, the National Climate Service Corps and Careers Network Act, introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA). This legislation establishes a new AmeriCorps program to promote community adaptation, mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery from the effects of climate change while connecting participants with opportunities for long-term careers and job training. The National Climate Service Corps would assess community resiliency and climate adaptation and mitigation projects, promote sustainability, assist with disaster preparedness, response and recovery, and provide job training and placement.

Lastly, I joined H.R. 2888, the Rapid Response to Climate Impacts Act, introduced by Rep. William Keating (D-MA), to establish a Climate Impacts Task Force led by the Department of State that will work with domestic and foreign partners to monitor, plan for, and respond to emerging events exacerbated by climate change. In addition, the legislation would require the task force to report on their ability to monitor and respond to these events and their recommendations to strengthen US mitigation efforts.

Current Washington D.C. Office Status

My staff continue to work remotely during this time. Please know we continue to monitor our phone system, so while we are unable to speak directly with you, we manage all voice messages left. If you reached out to us through phone or e-mail, please expect an e-mail response. Be sure to check your spam or junk folders for a response from our office. We appreciate your understanding as we all navigate working through the pandemic.

Vaccination Efforts

Vaccines are now available to all individuals 12 and older who live, work, or study in New Jersey. To find your nearest vaccine location and make an appointment, please visit Vaccines.gov. 

Please know that I will continue working to get the 8th District the resources it needs. If you have questions or need assistance please call my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225-7919 and follow instructions to be connected to my staff or send an email to NJ8inquiries@mail.house.gov.

Open Enrollment

This year, instead of using the federal marketplace, New Jersey will switch to their own state-run marketplace. In order to browse health care plans you can visit: www.nj.gov/getcoverednj. Here you will be able to compare available plans, review financial assistance options, and select a plan that is best for you. This new marketplace is easy to use and helps to clearly identify plans that will be most beneficial to you. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial we leave no one behind and that everyone has access to affordable health care. If you need a health care plan, be sure to visit the site.

Congressional App Challenge

The Congressional App Challenge is now open for submissions and all middle school and high school students are encouraged to participate. To fosters students’ interest in STEM and computer science, this annual coding challenge tasks students with developing an original app, covering any theme and using any platform or coding language they choose. Winners of the challenge may be displayed in the U.S. Capitol Building. Students can submit their app design until November 1, 2021. Please see CongressionalAppChallenge.us for more information and to register.