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Vermont U.S. House candidates debate climate issues

Screenshot from 2022 Vermont Congressional candidate climate forum
Screenshot from 2022 Vermont Congressional candidate climate forum

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 running for Vermont’s at-large congressional seat participated in a virtual Wednesday forum.

Organizers held a moment of silence and the candidates were given extra time during opening comments to acknowledge the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

Current Democratic Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray pushed her past experience and said she hopes to be assigned to the House Energy and Commerce committee.

“It's where the rubber really hits the road in terms of policy components," Gray said. "Making sure that we're doing everything we can to expand the capacity of our electric grid, and also to decarbonize it. We're so lucky here in Vermont to have the infrastructure. We now just need the federal investments. And those would be my top priorities.”

State Senator Democrat Kesha Ram Hinsdale said climate has been a priority since she was in high school working for the Coalition for Clean Air, leading her to introduce Vermont’s first environmental justice bill.

“We have to knit together people's economic well-being, their health and well-being, and our attention to climate and the environment," the senator said. "We can't do anything without the light at the crossroads between social justice and environmental justice.”

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

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

Vermont Senate ProTem Democrat Becca Balint responded that climate work must be done regardless of who is in charge of Congress.

“The biggest challenge on climate change as I see it is not actually Congressional roadblocks," Balint said. "It's not the inaction. Our biggest impediment to meaningful change is the level of despondency and inevitability that Americans feel on this issue because they're overwhelmed with day to day struggles.”

Independent Liam Madden said he stands apart from the other candidates because he sees climate change from a bigger perspective.

“I focus on the root cause of this crisis," Madden said. "We can't resolve this problem by keeping our civilization’s behavior the same and simply switching our energy technology. Our economy is premised on never-ending growth. And things that don't stop growing don't jive well with sustainability. The only way to shift an economic paradigm short of a catastrophe that would make us, is to a government far better equipped to democratically solve enormous and complex problems.”

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

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