Vice President Kamala Harris joined an audience of Colorado elected officials and other stakeholders in Arvada to talk about the Biden administration’s latest efforts to tackle climate change.
In a panel discussion led by U.S. Rep. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood as well as rock climber and environmental advocate Sasha DiGiulian of Boulder at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, Harris touted her passion for improving water policy and promoting environmental justice.
Pettersen said, “Being from a state like Colorado, we’re far too familiar with the devastating impacts of climate change as our water dries up and our wildfire season is year-round. This can be very scary for many of us and threatens the very existence of communities across Colorado. But right now, I have hope for real change.”
Harris said she is optimistic about the work the government is doing to protect the environment, particularly with leaders like Colorado already implementing policy that “works for the betterment and improvement of everyone’s life for generations.”
She noted that when combining policies the Biden administration has implemented across the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS Act and the bipartisan infrastructure law, about $1 trillion will “hit the streets of America” to combat climate change.
Harris said climate change comes up almost every time she has a discussion with other world leaders, as it is a global issue.
“We hope that we can use the recent accomplishments — those three bills and this amount of money and infusion — to really create and accelerate models of how we can grow a clean energy economy, not only for the United States, but globally,” Harris said.
With water policy being of key interest to Coloradans, Harris said it’s important to not only look for new ideas, but to evaluate what has been done in previous years. For example, she wants to see policies around the management of flooding change since a typical solution, particularly for coastal states, has been to flush excess water into the ocean instead of capturing it for areas that might need it.
“We’re looking at everything from drought to extreme rain and snow, and here in Colorado I don’t need to tell you what that has meant,” Harris said. “So thinking about water policy in a way that we take into account these extreme conditions and the fact that we get whiplash between them.”
Colorado has been at the center of a worsening “megadrought” attributed to climate change for more than 22 years.
Another issue Coloradans are familiar with is the impacts of lead pipes, and Harris said she hears about the hazards of lead pipes in communities across the country. She wants to see all lead pipes in America gone in the next nine years, she said.
“The significance of what we are doing with the infrastructure law around lead pipes, is we’re saying this is a public health matter,” Harris said. “It affects all of us — look at the intersection around public education, public health, all of that — and so we are saying that, therefore, it is in the public interest to use public resources to address it.”
A 2021 study found that nearly 3 in 4 Colorado children have detectable levels of lead in their blood. Harris emphasized the toxic health impact such contamination has on vulnerable populations.
Harris also reflected on the impacts of the environment on maternal mortality, particularly for women of color, new technologies in space to support the climate, electric vehicles including school buses, and clean air solutions.
She was welcomed on stage by Black Parents United Foundation Executive Director Shere Walker, Cultivando Executive Director Olga Gonzalez, Democratic state Rep. Lindsey Daugherty of Arvada, and Democratic Gov. Jared Polis.
“It’s not a matter of if the next climate-related disaster occurs, it’s simply a question of when and where,” Polis said. “And these events really underscore the obligation we have to tackle the challenge of climate change head on and protect the future for our children and our grandchildren.”
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