Southern California is rich in natural beauty and a daily reminder of the importance of environmental stewardship. In my community – California’s 39th congressional district - we manage to fit the Chino Hills mountain range and over 700,000 people in an area that is 20 miles across at its longest. Whether it is the limited open space, increased threat of wildfires, or the negative impact of droughts, we are on the front lines and need leadership ready to fight for our environment on day one. I am running for Congress to be a champion for our environment and to help us reach our still untapped potential when it comes to clean energy innovation.
While we must do all we can to stop Trump and EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, protecting the environment shouldn’t just be about defense. We also must be proactive and define the conversation. This means having fresh ideas and being willing to lead. As a former Chief of Staff in Congress and clean energy executive with Solar City and Tesla, I have the experience and ideas to help go on the offensive with our solutions to combating climate change.
Transition to 100% Clean Energy
We have the technology today to begin the transition to 100% clean energy. The biggest hurdle we face is politics. The Koch brothers and fossil fuel industry have overpowered Republicans and even some Democrats at the expense of our environment and economy. This is why I have pledged to reject any donations from the oil and natural gas industries. I have also pledged to do all I can to move our nation towards 100% clean energy. This means transitioning away from fossil fuels and investing in the next generation of jobs. It means setting markers and committing to reaching them. We have the technology to do this. It’s time our politics catches up.
Lead on Clean Energy Innovation
According to the non-profit Solar Foundation, there are over 100,000 solar jobs in California. This includes thousands of solar jobs and small businesses throughout Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties. Solar is creating middle class jobs throughout our district. Across the country, the solar industry already employs more people than coal and natural gas. Combined with a rapidly growing energy storage sector and growth in electric vehicle adoption, our state is leading on clean energy innovation and we are just getting started.
The key is making sure we have smart policies that encourage competition, deployment and job creation. This starts by removing Trump’s anti-competitive tariffs on solar panels as well as steel and aluminum. While we must encourage American manufacturing, the use of tariffs is an outdated solution that only serves to drive up the costs of solar panels. Instead, we should look for targeted incentives to encourage solar and battery storage manufacturing and deployment to help these industries compete and promote American leadership in clean energy innovation. The fossil fuel industry enjoys millions in subsidies that, along with their political influence, creates an uneven playing field, which hurts our ability to lead. Its time we correct this and promote the industries and technologies that represent our future.
Promote Clean Energy Adoption
As noted earlier, the technology is here to build a clean energy future. The challenge is building political will. We can do this if we focus on solutions encouraging local adoption. Here are my ideas for building a clean energy future:
- Green School Infrastructure Bank – Earlier this year, the City of Anaheim Public Utilities announced a partnership with the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District to build shade structures over schools’ parking spaces and picnic tables and cover them with solar panels that generate energy for the utility. The schools will receive a lease fee for use of their campuses. This is the type of program Congress should be encouraging. In Congress, I will introduce legislation to establish a green school infrastructure bank funded by matching public and private dollars to promote the deployment of solar, wind and battery storage to power our schools. This fund will support projects that provide energy to our schools, which will enable schools to sell excess power back to the grid and utilize their energy cost savings to fund our schools.
- Veterans in Clean Energy - Modeled after the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Ready Vets program, I will draft legislation to create a job training partnership between our military, community colleges, apprenticeship programs and the clean energy sector to train veterans for jobs in clean energy. Today, the U.S. solar industry employs 13,000 veterans of the armed forces, a figure which represents 9.2% of all solar workers in the nation, exceeding the percentage of veteran employment in the overall economy. As clean energy adoption expands, we have an opportunity to help those who served once more serve our nation by leading the fight against climate change. It is critical we make sure local training resources are available to train our veterans for these jobs.
- Community Solar and the Post Office – The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) maintains more than 25,300 leased spaces in its facilities inventory nationwide. These facilities encompass thousands of acres and unutilized roofs that could be the site for solar projects. I will introduce legislation to promote using USPS facilities to provide solar power in the communities they serve. Solar produced at the facility can be used to power the USPS, which will lower their operating costs, and excess power generated can be used for community solar projects that power surrounding neighborhoods. This is a win-win that helps the USPS with its fiscal situation and broadens deployment of solar in every community.
- Electric Vehicles Adoption – According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, cars and trucks account for nearly one-fifth of all U.S. emissions – emitting around 24 pounds of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases for every gallon of gas. These emissions are also a leading cause of respiratory illness. While electric vehicle adoption continues to grow as cars become more affordable, we do not have sufficient infrastructure to support purchase of these cars. We also have incentives that promote foreign manufacturing over domestic suppliers. In Congress, I will propose inclusion of funding for electric vehicle charging stations in any infrastructure bill. I will also work to fix the electric vehicle tax credit to apply to make sure American manufacturers are not disadvantaged and we are promoting middle class adoption of electric vehicles.
Budget and Plan to Adapt to Climate Change
Climate change is real and it will come with significant costs. We have already seen these costs in Puerto Rico, Houston and South Florida as a result of massive and unprecedented hurricanes. We must begin to budget for our response to natural disasters made worse by climate change, as well as prevention; otherwise, we will continue to absorb “unexpected” costs, which will be a drain on our budget. As Trump’s tax reform severely tightens our federal budget, we must double down on adaptation programs in order to avoid the high costs of catastrophe.
In Congress, I will introduce a matching grant program geared to support state and local climate adaptation efforts. For the 39th district, these funds can help with efforts to wildfire prevention efforts in our hills and canyons already underway by our local fire departments. Funds can also be used to address droughts that will likely be the new normal in the coming years. We must increase water conservation efforts, supporter waste water treatment and water recycling and invest in rebuilding our aging water infrastructure. In order to avoid high costs later, we can begin making these investments now.
Save Our Open Spaces in the 39th District
Whether listening to the will of our voters and preserving Coyote Hills in Fullerton, keeping Tres Hermanos along our Tri Counties region available to everyone or preserving the foothills above Yorba Linda Blvd., our open spaces are a community treasure. We have a long history of open spaces throughout our community, but, as areas have been developed, we are losing our natural beauty. The reality is that once land becomes developed, we don’t get it back and the next generation misses out on hiking the trails that define many parts of our community. While I am not opposed to development and support addressing our housing shortage, we can do this without removing the hills and open spaces that make us a destination.
Protect Our Beaches from Drilling
In January, the Trump Administration announced its plan to expand offshore drilling on California’s coast. Our coastline sets our state apart from the rest of the world. In Congress, I will use every means available to block attempts to open drilling on our beaches and will work with policymakers in the state to slow any efforts to drill. Whether its through litigation or restricting funds for implementation of Trump’s plan, we must stop this extreme attempt to destroy our coast.
Fund the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
As the birthplace of Richard Nixon, the 39th district has a unique connection with the EPA as it was one of President Nixon’s signature accomplishments and transformed the air we breathe and the water we drink. We all remember the days of smog alerts and, while we have made progress, we cannot let Republicans undermine the EPA. Under President Trump and climate denying Scott Pruitt, there is an active attempt to dismantle the EPA. Whether its undermining Obama-era regulations or cutting funds for enforcing environmental protections, the mission of the EPA is under attack. In Congress, I will fight to make sure the EPA is fully funded and we are holding Scott Pruitt accountable.
Let me know your thoughts on my plan for the environment. If elected to Congress, I am in it to fight for our future. You can learn more about me here. If you like what you are seeing, I can use the help to win this race.
Sam Jammal is a civil rights attorney who worked for President Obama, served in the U.S House and Senate and worked in clean energy with Solar City and Tesla, Sam has the experience we need to fight for families in the 39th district. Sam has been endorsed by Democracy for America, Climate Hawks Vote, CHIRLA Action Fund, Dolores Huerta, the International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union Local 13, 63 and 94, the Painters and Allied Trades District Council 36 and former Obama Administration officials. Follow his campaign on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Sam4Congress to learn more or visit www.sam4congress.com.