Preserving the Environment

Preserving the Environment

I know we need to safeguard our environment for the new century. As a member of Congress, I promise to fight for the following: 

  • Encourage energy efficiency and water conservation. Water and energy are two of the biggest issues of our time, and I will bring together stakeholders and experts to find a solution that works for everybody.
  • Promote open space and sustainable communities. We need to strike a balance of growing our economy while at the same time preserving the open space and park land that makes the South Bay beautiful.
  • Support the EPA in holding local polluters accountable.
  • Develop alternative energy to reduce our carbon footprint and tackle climate change.

The South Bay is one of the most beautiful regions of the country, with incredible forests, hiking trails, and parks. These natural attributes attract people to live and work in Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, preserving the environment is no longer an abstract debate. The science is indisputable – climate change is happening at an alarming rate, threatening crops and coastlines and causing severe weather patterns that could fundamentally alter our way of life. The human induced global rise in temperatures is an existential threat that requires a proactive approach from both parties – we have come together on big issues before and I believe that we will do it again.

With this threat comes great opportunity – a chance to grow our economy and create thousands of new jobs by harnessing the power of green and alternative energy. Here in Silicon Valley, innovators are at the forefront of new technologies that will help us reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and lead the world in clean energy production.

The federal government must play a vital role in supporting those industries and maintaining our competitive edge in the global economy, ensuring that windmill manufacturers, solar panel makers, and biofuel producers have the support they need to grow. 

While serving as deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Commerce, I led the Green Embassy Program to make foreign offices more energy efficient, and designed clean energy trade missions. As a member of Congress, I will be a strong advocate for green energy policies that combat climate change while spurring new industries and creating thousands of new jobs. I’ll always fight to protect our clean air and water, and the natural environment that makes the South Bay such a wonderful place to live.

Protecting Our Local Environment

Reduce mercury and selenium emissions at Lehigh Cement Plant. The Lehigh Southwest Cement Plant in Cupertino has been the subject of criticism from families across the Bay Area for a number of years, emitting high levels of selenium and mercury. Critics say the plant has also expended other pollutants like carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur oxides, and that the sediment it leaks contaminates nearby creeks, threatening our local rainbow trout population and other endangered species.

Plants like Lehigh show that it's necessary for us to implement higher environmental standards, and use the latest technology to substantially decrease emissions. As the representative from the South and East Bay, I'll lead the charge on ensuring plants are up to date and conform to standards. 

Fighting to reduce odor in Milpitas. The Newby Landfill is creating odor in Milpitas and Fremont that is adversely affecting our quality of life. I have been fighting with citizen groups to hold Newby accountable. We need Newby to shut down the compost facility or enclose it and find solutions to mitigate odor. We also need to address other regional causes of odor, including from the San Jose Sewage facility.

Finally, I am categorically opposed to any expansion of Newby.  We need to work to reduce the odors coming from the plant and demand odor mitigation. I will be a strong voice in Congress to make sure that citizens concerns are met regarding the Newby Landfill. I will work towards regional solutions, involving all stakeholders, to solve the odor problem. 

Allow vegetation to grow on levees in the Bay Area. After Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made several changes to their levee standards in an effort to improve public safety. One revision was banning all vegetation from growing on levee systems throughout the country. That regulation is important for levees that hold back huge rivers like the Mississippi, which could be damaged from fallen trees. However, the environment and climate patterns in California are different. We do not have intense and sudden flooding like that caused by hurricanes in other regions of the country. Consequently, our levees only have to last for a few hours during elevated tides caused by storms.

Tidal marshes in California can actually provide significant flood protection benefits by reducing wave energy during storms. In fact, we could reduce our flood protection costs by 50% through marsh restoration efforts. In addition to providing extra protection from storms, the new marshlands would provide habitats for wildlife and endangered species. Congress should leverage its power to change the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s guidelines to be restricted to areas of the country where levees are threatened by vegetation, and let California and other regions with similar climates take advantage of marshlands’ benefits.

Create sustainable communities. In the 17th District cars are largely our transportation mode of choice. While that makes sense given the spread out nature of our communities, it is also important to maintain infrastructure in our cities for safe walking paths, especially for children going to and from school. If more children were able to walk to school – and more adults found it convenient to walk or bike to work – our traffic congestion and air pollution would decrease. It’s critical that that we take a comprehensive approach to making sure public streets and downtown areas can safely accommodate bikers and walkers – and that we have a robust and affordable public transportation system to reduce our dependence on cars.

Unfortunately, federal policies have led to neglecting walking and biking paths in residential areas across the U.S. Congress has the opportunity to reverse this trend by creating an Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities within the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The office could facilitate and increase grants to local governments to establish or improve walking and biking trails. 

Promote open space and sustainable agriculture. Those of who live and work in Silicon Valley know that there is much more than sprawling campuses and freeways. We also have a rich agricultural history – in fact, before it became known as Silicon Valley, this area was called the Valley of Heart’s Delight. Prior to becoming the capital of technological innovation and manufacturing, it was famous for having some of the most fertile soil in the nation and for its orchards and farms. 

The companies that now call Silicon Valley home – which have fostered development in the area – drive our innovative spirit. But while we cultivate ingenuity, we don’t have to disconnect from our roots. I support projects like the Coyote Valley Agriculture Feasibility Study, which aims to enhance sustainable agriculture in this area while also protecting our open spaces and habitats. As the representative from the 17th District, I will promote partnerships between tech companies and environmental conservation projects.

Tackling Climate Change

Increase fines for oil spills. Under the Clean Water Act, the federal government can impose oil spill fines of as much as $1,100 a barrel or $4,300 a barrel for gross negligence. That’s not enough to compensate for the billions of dollars of cleanup costs and environmental harm that oil spills create. BP, for example, was charged only $4.5 billion in criminal fines and penalties for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – the world’s largest accidental offshore leak. In contrast, the cleanup costs for the spill totaled tens of billions of dollars, and caused fishing and tourist businesses to lose billions more. BP’s total revenue the next year was $234.25 billion, making the fine a small blip on its bottom line.

We need to ensure that oil companies are more conscientious and safety minded by subjecting them to much steeper penalties. Due diligence also includes adopting the most state-of-the-art oil spill prevention technologies, and giving regulators the authority to hold energy companies accountable.

Expand the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). A provision of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 created a 30% tax credit for commercial and residential systems. In its first year, the tax credit led to tremendous growth in the U.S. solar industry, and doubled solar electric capacity while making solar the leader of clean energy technologies in venture capital and private equity investment. Based on that success, Congress made a bipartisan vote to extend the tax credit for eight years in 2008.

Extending the tax credit ensured market certainty to investors – annual solar installations have grown by over 3,000% since the ITC began and the industry has created over 114,000 jobs, primarily in small businesses. The price of solar has also drastically decreased, falling 60% just since the beginning of 2011.

It is clear that extending the project through 2016 incentivized companies to make long-term investments in manufacturing capacity, which increased competition and technological innovation while bringing down costs for consumers. However, there is still untapped potential to extend solar’s reach – it currently provides only two-tenths of one percent of total energy consumption in the U.S. Congress should expand the ITC for at least another eight years beyond 2016 to ensure further growth in the industry – leading to more jobs for domestic workers and greater energy independence.

Expand tax credits for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. The federal government offers a $7,500 tax credit for the purchase of most electric vehicles, and a tax credit up to $7,500 for plug-in hybrids. However, we no longer offer incentives to buy hybrids, even though they are still more expensive than other cars on the market and can be out of reach to the average consumer.

We should expand tax credits to consumers who buy energy efficient vehicles. I also support offering tax incentives and government support to auto manufacturers like Fremont-based Tesla that are committed to making electric cars here in America and bringing down the prices to allow them to be mass produced.

Increase investment in Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).ARPA-E works to advance high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. ARPA-E gives American energy researchers funds for developing new ways to generate, store, and use energy. Investing in these projects creates good paying jobs, grows the economy, and protects the environment. The rate of success and job creation from government investment in ARPA-E has been high and the payoff in energy independence will be invaluable. We must continue searching for alternatives to fossil fuels – expanding ARPA-E’s impact will accelerate our ability to bring breakthrough technologies to market.

Preserving our Air and Water

Prioritize open space. Oftentimes our discussions about creating greener and healthier communities overlook our ultimate infrastructure: open space. Preserving open areas protects our clean air and water, and provides critical wildlife corridors and ecologically sensitive trails that can be enjoyed by community members.

Protecting open spaces requires more action by the federal government. In addition to ensuring that programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which provides matching grants to state and local governments for the acquisition of public outdoor recreational areas, continue to thrive, Congress must also improve and enforce the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. In the past few years, legislators have made repeated attacks on both landmark pieces of legislation. As a member of Congress, I will lead on defending and bolstering these laws so that all Americans live in healthy communities with clean air and water.

Hold oil and gas corporations accountable. Currently, energy companies are not required to pay for monitoring water quality, nor to disclose the chemicals used while drilling. They should be. While we invest in alternative and green sources of energy for the future, it is essential that the public be made aware of pollutants and the potential environmental impact of oil and gas drilling happening in our communities now.

Apply higher standards and regulations for mercury emissions. The EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for coal- and oil-fired power plants limit emissions of mercury, lead, arsenic, acid gases, dioxins and other toxic pollutants. They prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, and 130,000 asthma attacks every year. As a member of Congress, I will fight to make sure that these new regulations limiting power plant emissions are quickly implemented, and will never allow industry lobbyists and climate change deniers to threaten our public health.

Implement carbon pollution standards for power plants. Electricity production at power plants is the single-largest domestic source of climate pollution. While there are limits on mercury and toxic pollution at power plants, we do not regulate carbon emissions. I support President Obama’s directive to the EPA to complete carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants by 2016. 

Get Rid of the “Halliburton Loophole” for Fracking. In 2005, the Bush Administration enacted the Energy Policy Act – a law that contained numerous senseless exemptions for companies using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract fossil fuels from the ground. Following a widely criticized 2004 “study”, Vice President and former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney championed a loophole that shielded fracking chemicals from parts of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and National Environmental Policy Act. Under the current regulatory framework, there is very limited accountability for the companies using these chemicals and little ability for the federal government to effectively protect major supplies of drinking water. If elected to Congress, I will support legislation to remove the so-called “Halliburton Loophole”. Hydraulic fracturing needs to be subject to the same environment regulations as other fossil fuel extraction techniques.

Enact Moratorium on Fracking Surrounding the Channel Islands. We have a responsibility to protect California’s natural wonders from the potential harm of fossil fuel extraction. I believe we need to be particularly careful with the use of fracking along the coast of California. New oil drilling has been prohibited off of the California coast since the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969, but existing platforms can still use fracking. This water is under the jurisdiction of Congress, and until we know the full effects of offshore fracking, I support enacting a moratorium in the waters surrounding the Channel Islands.