Vermont US House candidates debate climate issues

Several Vermont advocacy organizations are hosting a series of candidate forums focused on climate change. Debate organizers say Vermonters are increasingly concerned about the effects of climate change and the state and federal response. Four candidates vying for the Vermont congressional seat participated in a virtual forum on Wednesday.

Organizers observed a minute of silence and candidates were given more time during opening comments to acknowledge the shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas.

Current Democratic Lt. Governor Molly Gray pushed on her past experience and said she hoped to be assigned to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“That’s where the rubber really hits the road in terms of the political components,” Gray said. “Ensuring that we are doing everything we can to increase the capacity of our electric grid, and also to decarbonize it. We are so lucky here in Vermont to have the infrastructure. We only need federal investments now. And those would be my top priorities.

State Democratic Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale said climate has been a priority since she was in high school and worked for the Coalition for Clean Air, which led her to introduce the first bill on Vermont Environmental Justice.

“We need to link people’s economic well-being, their health and well-being, and our attention to climate and the environment,” the senator said. “We can do nothing without light at the crossroads between social justice and environmental justice”.

Rights & Democracy Council co-chair Jubilee McGill asked the candidates about potential Republican control of the House and Senate after the midterms.

“The Republican caucus in the House and Senate is full of climate deniers and climate solutions obstructionists,” McGill said. “How would you work to pass the climate legislation we need?”

Vermont Senate ProTem Democrat Becca Balint responded that climate work needs to be done no matter who is in charge in Congress.

“The biggest challenge on climate change as I see it isn’t actually the congressional roadblocks,” Balint said. “It’s not inaction. Our greatest obstacle to meaningful change is the level of discouragement and inevitability that Americans feel on this issue because they are overwhelmed by daily struggles.

Independent Liam Madden said he stood out from other candidates because he saw climate change from a broader perspective.

“I’m focusing on the root cause of this crisis,” Madden said. “We cannot solve this problem by keeping our civilization the same way and simply changing our energy technology. Our economy is built on endless growth. The only way to change an economic paradigm short of a disaster that would make us, is to have a government much better equipped to democratically solve huge and complex problems.

Qualified candidates listed by the Secretary of State’s office for the Aug. 9 primary but not appearing on the virtual forum are Democrats Dr. Louis Meyers and Sianay Chase Clifford and Republican Ericka Redic. The House seat opens as Congressman Peter Welch runs to replace incumbent U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy.

Teresa H. Sadler