This is a Moms Clean Air Force exclusive interview with North Carolina Representative Pricey Harrison:
1. What is unique about protecting North Carolina’s natural resources?
I grew up enjoying the natural areas on the coast and in the Piedmont. I have always valued the quality of our natural places, air and water.
2. What concerns you about the effects of climate change on the children of North Carolina?
Due to climate change, we know that North Carolina is vulnerable to sea level rise. I chaired the Legislative Commission on Climate Change from 2007 to 2009 to study the effect that climate change has on our state. We learned that North Carolina is the third most vulnerable to sea level rise, after Louisiana and Florida.
The impacts beyond sea level rise include drought, losses in agriculture — specifically our Christmas tree farms, and ocean acidification. Climate change makes North Carolinians more susceptible to diseases associated with warmer climates. The air quality issues have huge impacts on our health.
There is a lot at stake. We are as vulnerable as other states and more than most in some areas and we have a big problem with energy: In 2010, North Carolina ranked 13th highest in carbon dioxide emissions, emitting 142.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and this is all with imported fossil fuels-mainly coal.
3. Why is a bipartisan effort so important and how can these efforts be achieved in our politically polarizing culture?
It doesn’t make sense to fight the Clean Power Plan because, even if climate change was not the threat that we know it to be, there are compelling long term economic and health benefits to be had from greenhouse gas mitigation. The cost of mitigation is less than the consequence of inaction.
There is a lot of opportunity for solar and wind and that is what we, as legislators can get agreement on. Solar and clean technology can bring a dramatic increase in jobs. In 2007 there were 2,500 solar jobs and by 2014 there were 25,000 in the state. While other industries were suffering from a poor economy, our state experienced a reverse trajectory because of clean energy jobs.
When we harness the wind and solar energy in North Carolina there will be no oil spills — No Deepwater Horizon. Clean energy also helps us to excel at educating students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
There are plenty of people supporting clean energy. In fact, it was a coalition of farmers that was critical in the repeal of the renewable energy and energy-efficiency portfolio standard which requires utilities to meet a percentage of their demand through renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Kids get the importance of clean energy from their parents, be they Democrat or Republican.
4. Is there anything you’d like to share that is important for Moms Clean Air Force members to know?
The Koch Bros. have specifically been challenging clean energy. If we can’t get redistricting and fair elections, it will be hard for our constituents to have fair representation.
The corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is also undermining President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Folks need to be alerted so that they can weigh in.
Legislators need to get the push back from their constituents if they don’t implement measures to protect our health and environment like the Clean Power Plan.
Mary Price “Pricey” Harrison is a Democratic member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, representing the 57th district since 2005. She was born and bred in North Carolina. When we spoke, she was preparing for a trip with her niece.