Introducing the Newest Congressional Climate Warriors

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Climate hawks unite! Meet the newest members of Congress who will fight climate change.

Grist, November 16, 2016

Last week was an awful one for anyone who cares about the environment.

The new Congress and president-elect have a broad, aggressive, anti-environment agenda. Donald Trump has promised to scrap the Paris agreement, repeal all climate regulations, and approve every oil pipeline he can find. Congressional Republicans have spent years practicing for this moment by passing bills that eviscerate the government’s power to regulate pollution. And it’s sure to get worse as Trump fills his cabinet with fossil fuel magnates and climate science deniers.

But amid all the depressing news, there were a handful of election results that offer a glimmer of hope. At least five candidates with strong climate credentials won offices in Congress, and they have an impressive range of personal and political backgrounds. Here’s a quick overview of the newest congressional climate hawks.

Chris Van Hollen: Van Hollen is a progressive from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., who just won election to the Senate. He served for the last 13 years in the House of Representatives, where he co-chaired the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change and the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus. When he served in Maryland’s legislature, he helped pass a comprehensive package of tax incentives to support clean energy.

Kamala Harris: Sen. Barbara Boxer, the longtime climate leader from California, is retiring. Her replacement is Harris, the Golden State’s attorney general and a charismatic African-American woman. Harris excited the state’s climate activists earlier this year when she launched an investigation into whether ExxonMobil lied about climate science. Her environmental platform included calling for carbon pricing and a raft of proposals to address California’s water shortage.

Nanette Barragán: Barragán ran a pro-climate congressional campaign in California’s 44th district. Barragán, a Latina lawyer and former member of the Hermosa Beach City Council, helped lead a successful campaign to stop new oil drilling in the city. She also helped pass a ban on plastic bags and backed the city’s goal of getting carbon neutral by 2020.

Salud Carbajal: Another Latino climate leader from California, Carbajal is a supervisor in Santa Barbara County. Climate Hawks Vote backed Carbajal because he stood up against fracking, fighting for a ballot measure to ban it in 2014, even as it went down to defeat.

Brad Schneider: While congressional climate hawks tend to cluster on the coasts, you can find some in the Midwest. One is Illinois congressman Brad Schneider, who lost his House seat in 2014 but just reclaimed it last week. During his previous two-year term, Schneider racked up an impressive LCV score of 90 percent.

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