Ean Thomas Tafoya
Members of Congress returned from Washington to their respective home districts for the October recess. The purpose of this break is for our elected officials to go home to their respective states and districts so they can directly talk to constituents about their most pressing problems and needs. The result of these interactions should be a list of legislative priorities and a plan of action for their return to DC.
Instead of using this work period to speak directly to Coloradans about the concerns, Senator Cory Gardner was noticeably absent, avoiding meetings with community leaders and environmental activists who are demanding action to address the climate crisis. The American people have made it clear that they want Congress to address the climate crisis we are facing by taking climate action. Evidence of this crisis is abundant: this past July was the hottest month on record; the rampant destruction Hurricane Dorian caused in the Bahamas and the Carolinas; the uncertainty Florida and Puerto Rico residents faced with the threat of a category five hurricane; the increasingly severe and uncontrollable wildfires; and the alarming levels of air pollution in cities like Los Angeles and San Diego, which the American Lung Association has ranked among the nation’s worst for air quality.
It is unacceptable to remain silent when vulnerable communities suffer because their children are breathing toxic air. Silence is unacceptable when wildfires consume everything in their paths. Silence is unacceptable when this crisis is increasingly cornering us– and moving to another planet Earth is not an option.
Gardner’s silence is worrisome because the effects of the climate crisis are particularly visible in Colorado. We have experienced dangerously high temperatures, droughts, extreme weather events and wildfires that have jeopardized our safety and economy. That’s why 72 percent of Coloradans believe climate change is happening and why at the individual and community level, we do our part. We recycle, use public transportation, support the manufacturing of cleaner cars and educate our neighbors and families about the importance of protecting our resources and environment. But our lawmakers have to do their part by creating effective public policies that help us mitigate the effects of climate change.
Our communities cannot afford to continue breathing polluted air, especially our Latino communities. Nearly 50% of Latinos live 30 miles from a power plant or reside in cities where pollution obscures the sky and lungs of children and seniors, causing respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. We cannot continue to delay the transition to a clean energy economy, hampering technological innovation and job creation in this industry, which is the energy future of our state.
Faced with all these facts, Senator Gardner still refuses to protect Coloradans while the Trump administration, led by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler, rolls back and weakens safeguards that protect our public health, such as the Clean Power Plan, Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, and the Clean Car Standards. Gardner has been silent while bipartisan proposals like the International Climate Accountability Act (S.1743) were presented as solutions to reduce carbon pollution and ensure the United States meets its commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement. His actions stand in stark contrast to Colorado’s Governor, Jared Polis, who has been hard at work advancing clean energy and transportation solutions in our state to fight climate change, reduce pollution, and grow our economy.
Now that Gardner is back in Washington to do the work we elected him to do, he must truly commit to finding climate crisis solutions without hidden agendas or partisan loyalties. The only loyalty must be toward Coloradans in every corner of the state suffering the effects of climate change– not with polluters or the fossil fuel industry that’s given him over $1.7 million in donations.
In the coming weeks, several members of Congress will present a bill to drastically reduce carbon pollution by transitioning the country to a 100% clean energy economy. It is an opportunity for Senator Gardner to stop being silent and speak out in support of transitioning America to a 100% clean energy economy by 2050 because it fights climate change, protects our health, and helps create good jobs.
It is unacceptable to remain silent when vulnerable communities suffer because their children are breathing toxic air. Silence is unacceptable when wildfires consume everything in their paths. Silence is unacceptable when this crisis is increasingly cornering us– and moving to another planet Earth is not an option. We all have a responsibility to protect the present and future of our communities and families. Senator Gardner, it’s time to for you take action and prove you’re in Washington to represent us and advocate for us – not the interests of corporate polluters.
Ean Tafoya is the State Organizer for GreenLatinos in Colorado.
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