Jared Huffman stands at the front of the auditorium to meet audience members after answering questions on Feb. 21. | Photo by Kris Nagel

Environment Takes Center Stage at Huffman Town Hall

Huffman talks greenhouse gases, sea level rise, salmon and more
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Huffman talks greenhouse gases, sea level rise, salmon and more

Jared Huffman, representative to California’s Second District, held a town hall at Eureka High School on Feb. 21 to engage his Humboldt constituents. After touting the progressive platform he’s pushing in Washington, D.C., Huffman answered questions spanning from immigration reform to the 2020 election—but the prevailing concerns surrounded the climate crisis.

“You got about a decade—less than a decade—to dramatically transform the global economy to put us on a path of decarbonization that gets us to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050,” Huffman said.

Huffman sits on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis along with 14 other representatives. Authorized in January of last year, the committee is set to release policy recommendations on March 31. The report will steer the current and upcoming Congress on legislation regarding the changing climate.

“Sea level rise and resiliency in coastal communities like this are just a huge part of the climate crisis. We are gonna have to do a lot of planning and prioritization for critical infrastructure.”

Jared Huffman

Several Humboldt residents questioned Huffman about protecting infrastructure from rising sea levels. Much of the county would be at risk if the sea rose. Low bridges and roadways are at risk as well as economic infrastructure like fisheries and farmland.

“Sea level rise and resiliency in coastal communities like this are just a huge part of the climate crisis,” Huffman said. “We are gonna have to do a lot of planning and prioritization for critical infrastructure.”

Huffman also sits on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Huffman aims to focus some of the funding for infrastructure on coastal communities that would be impacted by rising seas.

Some audience members expressed concern about Pacific Gas and Electric’s role in California’s power supply. After months of sporadic power outages, many Californians are looking at the possibility of de-privatizing the utility company.

“I’d be fine if [PG&E] were reinvented into some type of not-for-profit entity as well,” Huffman said. “It would be nice to take that profit motive out of the situation to convert it from an investor-owned utility, where they gotta meet Wall Street’s expectations, to something that was publicly-owned or possibly a cooperative.”

Huffman then shifted his focus to the diversion of water from the tributaries that feed into the Trinity River to farmland in the San Joaquin Valley. The Trump administration is working to release a new biological opinion that will allow for significantly more water to be diverted from flowing down the Trinity. This would override the previous finding that diversion of water would drastically impact the salmon population.

A similar decision was made by the Bush administration in 2001. Restrictions on the natural flow of water down the Klamath River led to the mass salmon kill in 2002.

Huffman is hoping to hold the previous finding up long enough for a new administration and Congress that would prioritize protecting native species.

“You get the picture, right?” Huffman said. “The deck is pretty stacked right now against protecting our rivers and fisheries here on the North Coast. And it’s a fight I will continue to fight.”

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