This is a Moms Clean Air Force exclusive interview with Carlo Sanchez, Maryland State Delegate –Legislative District 47B:
Carlo Sanchez represents northwestern Prince George’s County, Maryland’s only district with a Latino majority in the state house. Sanchez is active in promoting environmental justice initiatives that benefit his constituents, including the Clean Buses For Healthy Niños campaign.
Can you discuss specific legislation you have introduced to protect the environment?
Right now I’m very active in promoting the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign to use VW emission settlement money to buy electric school buses. This isn’t something that legislators can vote on. The Office of the Governor has control over how the money is spent. I can use my influence as a Legislator to promote the campaign, and that’s what I’m doing. I want people to know that lawmakers are with them in this effort every step of the way.
I’ve co-sponsored a number of measures to promote environmental health. Currently we are working on legislation to ban styrofoam statewide.
The big issue in the statehouse right now is how to create and pass legislation to increase Maryland’s reliance on clean energy. There are competing bills on this at the moment — one that would set a goal of Maryland getting 50% of its electricity from renewable sources and another seeking 100%. I’m signing on to both and will work to come up with a compromise that supports job growth in the clean energy sector in Maryland. A renewable portfolio standard sets a goal for how much energy comes from a renewable source, but it’s important to consider what gets counted as clean energy and where it comes from. At this moment you can count energy from a business in Virginia that burns wood to make electricity. It’s counted as renewable because you can grow new trees. But this is not actually clean energy. The eventual bill should designate that the energy isn’t just renewable, it needs to not harm the environment. Any legislation should help Maryland create clean energy jobs, like supporting wind energy in our state.
Why is bipartisan effort important, and how can efforts to address clean air and climate change be achieved in our current political climate?
In Maryland, environmental legislation is led by Democrats. But we need to make sure that our environmental efforts support rural industries as much as possible. Maryland’s Republicans and Democrats can come together around environmental issues, as we did around the issue of fracking. The governor banned fracking in Maryland after people and lawmakers from around the state and from both parties made it clear that they don’t want fracking in our communities. Republicans also understand that we need to protect the Chesapeake Bay. So we can come together around these common values. We are trying to do that right now around a bill to mitigate pollution from poultry farms.
What is unique about protecting your district’s resources?
I live in and represent a high density area that is right by high traffic areas, like the I-495, the beltway. We live the reality that low-income communities of color are disproportionately impacted by pollution. It’s not just about bad air being unpleasant, it’s about what happens to kids, elders and others who suffer from medical conditions aggravated by pollution. It’s also a matter of how much it costs to take care of people with asthma and heart problems.
Are you personally worried about the impact of climate change and air pollution on your family and kids in your district?
It’s a factor when you think of starting a family, for sure. I have five nieces who live right in this area and I worry about how pollution and climate change impacts them. I want kids in our neighborhoods to be able to play outside and enjoy clean parks without worrying about asthma attacks. I want Sligo Creek right by my house to be clean in case kids decide to play in it.
Is there anything you’d like to share with Moms Clean Air Force members?
We need to reach everyone with our messages about caring for the environment, that’s why community groups like Chispa and Moms Clean Air Force are so important. I think it’s really important to reach out to people in their own language and to help immigrants learn about caring for the environment. My parents moved here from El Salvador, and people do different things with their trash there. In our district a lot of the growth comes from people who are coming from places that have different norms about disposing of trash and taking care of their health. All of us deserve a clean environment and also need to learn to take care of the environment around us. It’s so great that there are community groups that work with residents in their own language about these issues.