New York State Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has been an unwavering voice in Congress, emphasizing the importance of environmental protections. The mother of two young boys, she has pointed to the connection between children’s health and the air they breathe.
Senator Gillibrand has also been working in tandem with Senator Frank Lautenberg to spearhead the modernization of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), forging a bipartisan coalition. An announcement was made on May 22 outlining the achievement. One of the key points includes the requirement that the EPA assess potential harm to pregnant women and children when evaluating a substance, a proviso not included in the existing law.
I contacted Senator Gillibrand for Moms Clean Air Force, to get her take on a number of important issues affecting our children and our planet. She graciously replied via e-mail:
MCAF: As a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, you have been proactive as an advocate for the environment. You mentioned your role as a mother, in regards to your position on protecting clean air and water, noting the effects of pollution on the health of children — specifically asthma. What advice do you have for parents about having their voices heard on environmental issues?
Senator Gillibrand: My advice to parents is to speak up and get involved. Elected leaders need to know that these issues matter to families, and that only happens when parents get involved and share the stories of how our environmental policies affect their children and their communities.
Moms Clean Air Force: You have supported legislation on recycling, environmental education grants for outdoor experiences, vehicle efficiency and emission reduction standards, cap and trade measures, removing oil and gas subsidies, as well as reintroducing the Safe Chemicals Act. Can you elaborate on your goals for the country’s environment and natural resources?
Sen. Gillibrand: Ensuring that the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the chemicals that are used in every day products are safe are major priorities for me in the United States Senate. They are the reasons that I sit on the Environment and Public Works Committee. For example, I am working to support the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule to limit tailpipe emissions, which will lower the amount of pollution in the air and lead to reduced asthma rates and hospital visits. I am also an original co-sponsor of the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013, along with Senators Lautenberg, Vitter and Crapo, which is a bipartisan bill to reform our federal chemical policies to ensure that the chemicals used in products are tested for their safety. I am promoting policies and legislation that will continue our investment in protecting clean water, and promoting the conservation of our lands and other natural resources for future generations. I also believe that the best way to promote long-term energy independence and job creation is through investing in alternatives, rather than expanded drilling.
MCAF: As a Senator from New York State, you have witnessed first-hand the devastation from Superstorm Sandy. How has this impacted your thoughts on climate change?
Sen. Gillibrand: The evidence is clear and overwhelming that climate change is real. Superstorm Sandy was tragically another wake-up call that the storm of the century is becoming the storm of the year. But it’s not just Superstorm Sandy — communities in every corner of the United States are experiencing the effects of extreme weather. The recent massive tornado that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma is another heartbreaking example, and we are seeing frequent devastating tornadoes across the South. In recent years, we have seen drought in the Midwest and wildfires on the West Coast. No matter where you are from, you should be concerned about the effects of climate change on extreme weather that is causing natural disasters on a scale we haven’t seen before.
MCAF: Natural gas hydraulic fracturing has become a focal point of heated debate in New York State. What is your position on fracking and natural gas development?
Sen. Gillibrand: Before hydraulic fracturing can occur in New York, there are certain criteria that I think must be met to ensure that the health and safety of surrounding communities are protected. First, the potential health effects must be fully studied. Second, we must ensure that there is full public transparency on the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluid. Third, there must be fully developed plans for how to safely dispose of the fluid and dismantle the well casings once operations have ceased.
MCAF: You have pushed for reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent, with a stated achieved target date of 2050. Are you hopeful about passing legislation to reverse climate change when there has been such a consistently strong push back against the EPA and its regulations?
Sen. Gillibrand: The majority of Americans support taking action to reduce the threat of climate change, and I am hopeful that Congress will eventually hear their call.
Thank you Senator Gillibrand for speaking with MCAF and for supporting clean air and our children!
Photos via Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand