Casten Listens to Pleas for Environmental Preservation During Town Hall at Harper College
Fracking, coal mining and climate change all illustrate the complexities of protecting the environment, U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, said Thursday at a town hall meeting he hosted at Harper College in Palatine where environmental activists were among the attendees.
Casten, a freshman congressman who serves on climate-related committees and is co-chair of the New Dems Climate Change Task Force, went over pending energy and conservation legislation and answered questions. He is up for reelection in 2020.
The villages of Barrington, Lake Barrington, North Barrington, South Barrington and Port Barrington are part of Casten’s 6th Congressional District.
Colleen LaVigne, a member of Our Revolution Buffalo Grove, the local chapter of a politically-progressive organization, praised Casten for addressing climate change issues, but questioned his refusal to support the Green New Deal, a proposed economic stimulus package that aims to address climate change and economic inequality.
“Climate crisis is real and it’s the largest experiential threat we face in humanity, so I want to thank you for being a champion in this fight. It’s incredibly important and thank you for that,” she said. “How must a Green New Deal be modified to garner your support?”
Casten acknowledged the proposal addresses the urgency of the situation, but he does not agree with the structure of it and the details. He described the Green New Deal as 90 percent economic policy and 10 percent environmental policy.
“There’s a whole lot of things in the Green New Deal that are fundamental economic policy questions -- that are not fundamentally about the environment,” he said.
Henry Gross of Glen Ellyn asked Casten if he would support an immediate and permanent ban on fracking in Illinois.
“We need to be very responsible about how we do any kind of mining or extraction,” Casten said, adding that he is reluctant to support a ban on fracking now because all sources of gas extraction need to be utilized.
“We also need to recognize that the single worst way that we can get energy is from coal and the thing that is killing coal right now is natural gas, and so, if tomorrow we said we’re going to completely eliminate fracking as an experiment, the immediate practical impact would be a significant increase in the output of the coal fleet,” Casten said.
Before the start of the program at the Harper College Performing Arts Center, Angel Llavona of Algonquin held a sign in support of the Green New Deal.
“It’s about the future. It’s about the planet,” he said. “It’s not about the special interest groups. I have two kids, so I’m doing this for them.”
Among other legislative proposals Casten outlined are:
Grid Storage Act, introduced in May along with Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota, to expand the use of clean and renewable energy through storage capabilities.
Carbon Risk Disclosure Act, which requires public companies to report information such as their direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions, the total amount of fossil-fuel related assets owned or managed, and risk management strategies related to climate change.
Clean Industrial Technology Act, which supports research and development of new technologies to reduce emissions from steel, cement and chemicals production, and other industries.
He also cited a carbon-pricing bill, the Department of Defense Energy Procurement Bill, which would require the DOD to purchase clean energy, and a bill that would compel automobile manufacturers to create more fuel-efficient cars and give consumers an incentive to purchase fuel-efficient vehicles as in the drafting stages.
“When you set fuel economy standards that are fixed, all the manufacturers rush to be just a little more efficient than at the minimum level," Casten said.
He also noted that the more fuel-efficient the car is, the bigger tax credit. In contrast, buyers would pay a higher tax on less fuel-efficient cars.