This is a Moms Clean Air Force exclusive interview with Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA).
Rep. Cartwright was elected to Congress in 2013. Since that time, he has consistently stepped up to make the environment one of his key issues. For Cartwright, producing safe and clean energy is not mutually exclusive to protecting the country’s health and ecosystem. That point of view – and his – voting record, has snagged him a 97 percent Lifetime score and a 100 percent 2016 score from the League of Conservation voters.
His district in Pennsylvania includes areas from the Pocono Mountains to the Delaware River. Rep. Cartwright understands the issues of both air and water, and the essential part they play in the lives of American families. He was on board for H.R.2059, the BREATHE Act, which “Amends the Clean Air Act to eliminate the exemption for aggregation of emissions from oil and gas sources, and for other purposes.” Cartwright has been vocal in the fight to repeal the Halliburton Loophole, which allows fracking industry polluters to withhold information on the chemicals they use in their drilling.
In July, Rep. Cartwright became part of the bipartisan Climate Solution Caucus, with hopes of working in tandem with his colleagues from across the aisle. I reached out to the Congressman, to find out more:
What motivated you to join the Bipartisan Climate Solution Caucus?
Global emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases continue to rise. Climate change is not only a threat to our environment and public health, but also our economy, infrastructure, national security, and agriculture. I joined the Climate Solutions Caucus in order to put partisanship aside and find solutions to combat this crisis.
You sit on the House Committee on Appropriations, and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Science. The current budget being reviewed for FY2018 will cut $528 million from the EPA. What are your thoughts on this?
We need to invest in – not cripple – agencies focused on curbing climate change. I am a strong supporter of the EPA and the work done there to protect clean water, clean air, and our natural resources. I will continue to use my seat on the Appropriations Committee to support full funding for the EPA and to fight for critical programs that protect our environment for future generations.
Can you discuss specific legislation you have introduced to protect the environment?
To this Congress, I introduced the FRESHER Act (Focused Reduction of Effluence and Stormwater Runoff Through Hydraulic Environmental Regulation. The FRESHER Act protects our environment from the dangers of fracking by repealing exemptions in the Clean Water Act, which allow the oil and gas industries to operate without stormwater permits.
We need to ensure that all industries are held accountable to ensure the safety of our communities.
How has your district specifically been impacted by climate change? Are you dealing with the ramifications of fracking infrastructure? Methane leaks? How do you propose to safeguard your constituents?
Some areas in Pennsylvania’s 17th district have been impacted by poor air quality. For instance, the American Lung Association has scored Northampton County as an ‘F’ on particle pollution. I believe everyone deserves access to clean air, which is why I am a Co-Chair of the Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition (SEEC), which promotes clean energy technology and green collar job innovation.
We also need to take precautions with regards to natural gas. Research shows that background methane levels in Northeastern Pennsylvania have significantly increased though natural gas drilling has declined. This suggests that there are leaks during production and transportation of natural gas. We must be doing all we can to plug leaks and eliminate flaring of excess gas, which can rapidly increase greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.
Ensuring that the fracking process is performed in an environmentally safe manner has been a top priority for me – which is why I introduced the FRESHER Act.
Frontline communities are now at a greater risk for harm due to the lack of interest in Environmental Justice from the Trump administration. How can they be protected?
We can never allow a situation like the Flint water crisis to happen again. Access to clean water and clean air is a right. Instead of gutting funding for agencies that safeguard environmental protections, we need to fund their work in order to protect our most vulnerable communities. I plan on continuing to fight for bipartisan solutions to protect those who are disproportionately affected by environmental injustices.
What advice do you have for parents who are concerned about the impact of climate change on children’s health, and the potential relaxation of clean air regulations?
I encourage all concerned parents to contact their representatives – not just on the federal level, but also on the state and local levels – to urge them to take action and support any legislation that would improve air quality.