By José Rodríguez
As we approach the May 6 municipal election on various charter amendments, the debate over the proposed Climate Charter Amendment (Proposition K) has raised the temperature and summer is still a few months away.
At a recent forum, representatives of the El Paso Chamber, El Paso Electric and the city raised their opposition, claiming the amendment would reduce El Paso’s economy, lose jobs, and increase taxes.
Members of the El Paso Sunrise Movement, which triggered the election by collecting 39,000 citizen signatures in support of the Climate Charter, countered that those claims are exaggerated, based on false assumptions, ignore benefits, and support control over the status quo by powerful business interests. Energy experts also dispute the Chamber’s data.
Proposition K outlines a blueprint for the city to adopt policies regarding climate change by reducing its reliance on fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide and other pollutants which contribute to global warming and contaminate the air, water, and the natural environment.
To achieve this, the city would establish a Climate Department and begin shifting to renewable energy technologies like solar and wind to meet its energy needs, including electricity.
To conserve water for our local use, the City is authorized to cancel contracts for the sale of water outside the City’s jurisdiction. The City would do a feasibility study to determine whether to buy El Paso Electric and establish a municipally owned utility as in San Antonio, Austin, other Texas cities. These are overdue measures we should support.
Each of us is responsible for doing our part to fight climate change. As a former state senator, I established a citizen advisory committee on renewable energy to provide input on reducing our dependence on harmful fossil fuels and promoting solar as a means to capitalize on our abundant sunshine while cutting electricity bills, creating clean energy jobs, and building a green economy.
Among other environmental measures, I passed a bill that established net metering to facilitate the development of residential rooftop solar. Unfortunately, due to opposition from powerful interests, including El Paso Electric, El Paso has not benefited from our abundant sunshine, leaving San Antonio to claim it’s the solar city in Texas.
This strong opposition continues as the campaign to defeat Proposition K intensifies. Powerful fossil fuel interests like Exxon and the Texas Oil and Gas Association have barraged voters with expensive TV ads and glossy brochures containing false or misleading information.
The Sunrise Movement is relying primarily on young volunteers to canvas voters door to door and phone banking. Ironically, El Paso Electric attacks the young volunteers as uninformed activists influenced by outsiders, ignoring the fact that it’s primarily the young whose future is threatened by climate change.
Don’t sit out this election! Something needs to be done about climate change. My vote for the amendment reflects my personal commitment to act now.
Do we continue on the same path, maintaining the status quo, or chart a bold new course for an environmentally sustainable future?
José Rodríguez is a former El Paso County attorney and former state senator.