U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris spoke in Arvada with Rep. Brittany Pettersen on climate action, highlighting the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to combat climate change through a “clean-energy economy.”
The March 6 discussion at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities touched heavily on water policy, as well as wildfires, droughts and equity issues stemming from climate change in Colorado and the rest of the country, highlighting the Bipartisan Infrastructure law.
Lead pipes and their effects on lower-income people who cannot afford to replace the pipes themselves, bringing medical issues that can arise in pregnant women, children and the elderly was one example she gave,
“And so the significance of what we are doing with the infrastructure law around lead pipes, is we’re saying, ‘This is a public health matter, it affects all of us,’” Harris said. “And so we are saying therefore it is in the public interest to use public resources to address it.”
Executive Director Olga Gonzalez of Cultivando, a health equity advocate group in Adams County focusing on the latino community, spoke beforehand and described the Suncor plant in Commerce City as a large source of pollution in the Denver area.
She pushed for more regulation so “children won’t be sacrificed for the sake of cheaper gasoline,” referencing Suncor’s $9 million settlement for repeated air quality standards violations.
Colorado itself, as of 2022, is seventh in the nation for energy production according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, being fifth for crude oil production just below Louisiana. Renewables accounted for 35% of that in 2021, with wind power contributing 80% of all renewables, according to the EIA.
Gov. Jared Polis touted his administration’s 2019 plan for Colorado to be 100% renewable energy by 2040 before Harris spoke. Part of that plan focuses on growing the state’s fleet of electric vehicles and infrastructure, with one piece of legislation in 2019 that authorized public utilities to provide charging stations. As of January 2022, Colorado had more than 3,500 public electric vehicle charging ports — eighth in the country, according to the EIA.
Professional rock climber and Boulder native Sasha DiGiulian also sat in on the discussion, pointing toward her experience climbing around the country and seeing climate effects first-hand. She spoke on a recent trip for a woman’s first-attempt climb, where she witnessed sporadic weather, and then came home to Boulder and was evacuated for a wildfire.
Pettersen said the most urgent threat to Colorado’s way of life is the climate crisis.
She has consistently supported climate action legislation in the Colorado House and Senate, most recently in 2021 when Colorado passed over 30 bills on various aspects of energy efficiency, renewables and advances in transportation electrification.
Part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts against climate change has been a “Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool,” giving real-time data on extreme weather events, as well as giving historic and future climate impact data to residents.
Two areas in Arvada were highlighted in this tool, one of which was in the 94th percentile for “fatalities and injuries resulting from natural hazards each year.” Almost half of Lakewood is highlighted, in bulk due to unaffordability, but also “economic loss to building value resulting from natural hazards each year.”
Harris finished by telling how she has spoken to U.S. astronauts in the past, asking whether it changes their perspective about Earth.
“Almost to a one, they say how beautiful it is when you look at Earth from space, and how delicate it is, how fragile,” she said. “We all know some of the most precious things are fragile, and that’s why we pay special attention to take care of them. And so let’s continue to do that.”