Environmental Justice Forum Hears from Federal and State Candidates

Feb 25, 2020

4th Congressional District candidate Nelson Ijih answers questions.
Credit Elizabeth Gabriel / KLCC News

Last Thursday, Beyond Toxics, Eugene-Springfield NAACP, and 350 Eugene held the city’s first of three candidate forums on environmental issues.

At least 125 people attended the climate emergency forum for federal and state candidates. The following are abbreviated answers to three of each candidate’s questions.

State Representative Candidate for House District 11

Credit Beyond Toxics

Marty Wilde

Question: Why do you think environmental justice and racial justice go hand in hand? What policies do you have, or would you like to see, to address it?

“I think they do go hand in hand,” said Wilde. He referred to the lack of a just transition fund on the initial draft of the cap and trade bill, which he said “had the potential to put people out of work without training them for the new jobs and green industries in the future.”

Wilde also mentioned the chlorpyrifos ban to end the use of pesticide sprays on crops. He said even though farmers only use the spray once a year, this was a racial justice issue for workers who are exposed multiple times when the travel to multiple farms.

Question: Do you believe that the state legislature should have the power to intervene in city zoning policy when cities are failing to adapt to the needs that climate change will bring in terms of zoning land use and all the other code and buildings that are gonna be necessary for cities to adapt to?

“Yes, I do,” said Wilde. “I think [an] important bill that nobody paid attention to in housing policy last year was house bill 2003.” Wilde said house bill 2003 “sets a requirement that city's inventory, their housing, existing housing stock and make projections overseen by the state for the housing stock they will need in the future.”

Wilde said if he were to propose another bill to follow that, he would draft a similar bill to other states in which cities would lose funding if they do not appropriately address housing.

“So I think the first thing you might see is, and if you don't produce the housing—you don't do the things you need to do to reduce barriers to the construction of the dense housing we need—especially the low income housing we need—then you're going to risk losing state funds,” said Wilde.

Ultimately, Wilde said he wants the state to work collaboratively with cities to address the issue.

Question: What are you doing to reach out to other legislators—including senators—to help improve the chances of a cap and invest bill actually passing in the short session?

“We actually had a robust conversation around the Oregon and resilient communities act—which was our house version of cap and trade in November, December timeframe,” said Wilde.  

When the bill moved to the Senate, he said they began discussing the bill with people who were previously against cap and trade.

“Since they came out with their initial draft, we've made significant suggestions to improve that. Including the just transition fund, including rate relief for low income people—and some other tweaks we think will make the program stronger and more well-balanced for everyone,” said Wilde.  

State Representative Candidate for House District 13

Credit Beyond Toxics

David Smith

Question: If you're proposing a property tax reduction, what other places do you think that we can get the funds to implement the policies in environmental justice?

“The seniors that are 65 and over have been supporting education for three generations,” said Smith. “They've been supporting government their whole lives. I think it's time to give them a break.”

Smith also said if he were able to, he would create a program that would plant millions of trees.

Question: How is the government going to have the responsibility to address [recent hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters]?

“That's a big question I have,” said Smith. “What is government going to be doing to make this go away?”

A large portion of Smith’s time on stage revolved around him defending himself after he made comments saying he does not agree with the sense of urgency climate change scientists have presented.

“Climate change is happening and a portion of that may be caused by people,” said Smith. “But I guarantee you in 12 years from now, we'll all be here.”

Question: A lot of undocumented immigration is happening in America because of the effects of corporate corporations and their practices in other countries. We can talk about hydroelectric corporations in Guatemala or mining in several other Latin American countries. Do you think that the government has a role in regulating those companies that create destruction in other countries?

Smith said he does not blame people for coming to the United States. He said he has a problem with people who break the law.

“I don't understand how you can excuse 20 to 30 million people that come across the border—the first thing they do is break the law,” said Smith. “Not by coming across the border. They break the law because they went out and got a fake ID. If I got a fake ID and used it, I'd be in jail for 20 years. They have to get fake IDs—I get it—but it's wrong. You want to bring these people in? I have no problem with that. My first wife was Mexican. My second wife was Filipino. So don't even go there to think that I'm some hard-nose white supremacist, racist guy. Cause I'm not.”

Question: Where do you stand on the use of herbicides?

“I think that there's a lot of natural ways where farmers could engage in using ladybugs and other types of things to reduce predators in their crops and insects that are disasters to farmers,” said Smith.

4th Congressional District Candidates

Credit Beyond Toxics

Doyle Canning

Question: The current incumbent that you are challenging wields a great amount of power and influence in the committee that is important to environmental justice advocates. What would you say to a voter who was considering that influence over your actual campaign’s platform?

“You will never have to push me to take a stand on these issues,” said Canning. “This is why I'm running. There is no conversation that is more important to me than the intersection of racism and the climate crisis.”

She specifically referred to the environmental racism in the Jordan Cove pipeline.

“The Malin pumping station that would pump the gas into the pipeline in the South Eastern corner of Oregon adjacent to Klamath tribal lands, would create a pollution burden on that community—consistent with the statistical records that these facilities are almost always cited in communities of color, and have a disproportionate impact on communities of color and create health problems that can be deadly,” said Canning.

Question: What would it look like if America was taking the climate crisis seriously at the federal, state, and local levels?
“It would look a lot like the vision that's put forward in the Green New Deal,” said Canning.

Canning said the vison would include a ban on fracking, as well as support for the Public Lands and Waters Climate Solutions Act of 2019 and the Environmental Justice Act of 2017. She also said she wants to move to a 100% renewable energy system in the next 10 years.

Question: What does climate resiliency look like, especially taking into consideration that communities of color and the disabled community might not have access to the same resources as other communities. What policies would you put forward to address that?

“I support the provisions in the Green New Deal that specifically talk about investment in depopulated, post-industrial and frontline communities,” said Canning. “Which we have here in rural Oregon and need the investment now—not 10 years from now—now, to transition out of extractive industry and into regenerative forestry, regenerative agriculture, [and] renewable energy.

She also said there are provisions in the Fair Housing Act that need to be expanded to recognize that the housing crisis is related to racism. If elected, she said she would want to hear from people within marginalized communities so they can decide what solutions work best for them.

“An intersectional understanding of this climate crisis is to always center the voices and leadership of the most marginalized communities as the principles of environmental justice set forth. And those principles create a framework for decision making that will guide me.”

Credit Beyond Toxics

Nelson Ijih

Atmospheric methane is a huge climate problem and cannot be separated from natural gas production or use. How far are you willing to go to reduce or eliminate natural gas use?

“I think on a state level, I think state needs to legislate ways—and sensible ways—on how we could eliminate natural gas usage on the federal level," said Ijih. "I think Oregon can lead as a state in terms of doing that."

He said it would be hard to regulate natural gas usage on a federal level. He referenced policies that are being proposed in Utah.

“They introduced a long list of climate crisis action plans that they're planning to take," said Ijih. "And one of them is a cap and invest. So I think that there are sensible ways and realistic ways that Oregon can lead and hopefully that can ripple down across the country.”

If elected, Ijih said he would use this example to convince other Republicans to join his platform to fight climate change.

If you were to get elected to Congress, would you support a bill that makes it a federal requirement for all companies to have to disclose their air toxics pollution?

Ijih said companies should disclose their toxic pollutions. He also suggested having product manufacturers do as well.

“Maybe we should have some way of even having labels on products," said Ijih. "For example—this product for example—it costs this much carbon admitted in the atmosphere. Just like we have nutritional labels on products.”

Do you believe that the United States has a moral responsibility to act on climate change before demanding colonized nations to act on climate change?

Ijih said the consumption of someone residing in the US or other developed nations, would emit more carbon than possibly 20 people living in a village somewhere in the middle of Africa. To address climate change, he said it requires personal actions, not just actions of government policies.

“An example of that is, on a personal level, I gave up driving like two years ago,” said Ijih. 

Peter DeFazio

Peter DeFazio was unable to attend the forum. Beyond Toxics’ posted DeFazio’s statement on their Facebook page.

The City of Eugene candidate forum will be held March 12 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Eugene from 6:00-9:00 pm.