ORANGEBURG – Six 2020 Democratic presidential candidates took the stage Friday night, answering questions and engaging with audience members at the first-ever presidential forum on environmental justice on the campus of South Carolina State University.
Through the line of questions asked by moderators Mustafa Santiago and Ali Amy Goodman and S.C. State students, the candidates were able to share some of their policy proposals and views on environmental justice.
Billionaire Tom Steyer defined environmental justice as “just another way of saying racism.”
“This country has focused its air pollution and water pollution in communities of color,” Steyer said.
Steyer said his plan to address environmental racism.
“My number one priority is to rebuild this country in a sustainable fashion and to make sure that we handle the climate crisis,” Steyer said.
“As we rebuild this country, whether that’s the $90 billion we’re going to spend on residential water, whether that’s the $700 billion we’re going to spend on the grid, whether it’s rebuilding the roads or the public transit systems, I am going to make sure that the planning process starts in the communities, and will start with the leaders from communities like Denmark, S.C.,” Steyer said.
“On day one, we’re using the emergency powers of the presidency to get going on environmental justice, to address environmental racism at the core of what we do,” Steyer said.
Steyer said he would also address corporate environmental crimes by creating “an environmental justice department within the Justice Department."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she would spend money to help combat environmental issues.
“I want to spend $3 trillion on our climate change and how to fight climate change over the next few years when I am president. I will spend one-third of that in the communities that have been most devastated by our past racism, by our past attacks on these communities,” Warren said.
Warren said that she wants to make a permanent position tasked with addressing the current environmental injustices.
“I will elevate this to a White House position. So we will have counsel on environmental justice,” Warrens said.
Warren added that within the first 100 days of her presidency, she would work with environmental justice groups and leaders to lay out a plan that brings structural changes.
Warren also said she would allocate federal dollars to go straight to the communities that are greatly impacted by environmental problems.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said the biggest existential threat to humanity is climate change.
Booker stated that he is in favor of rolling back tax breaks for coal and oil companies and increasing tax breaks for companies working with renewable energy.
“If I’m president, we’re going to make sure we create a better incentive model for people to be doubling down on investments. In addition to that, we’re going to create moonshots all around this country for science and research in the renewable states, which is critical because right now other countries are beating us in the race to solve these problems of innovation,” Booker stated.
Booker said one of his goals is to have the electrification of the country’s transportation sector by 2030.
John Delaney, a former U.S. representative, said he is in opposition to the Green New Deal. Delaney also said that he will implement policies that will protect minority communities from natural disasters by allocating resources to building sustainable resources.
Navy veteran and former congressman Joe Sestak said the military could play a role in helping address environmental justice issues. He said military officials are looking into innovative ways to keep military-related fuel emissions to a minimum.
Author Marianne Williamson said that she would better support HBCUs, as many of their students come from areas affected by environmental issues, and she would address race-based policies and giving reparations for slavery.