By Sarah “Steve” Mosko
In November, residents within California’s 45th Congressional District will be deciding whether to entrust Mimi Walters with a 3rd term in the House of Representatives. She is facing a tough reelection battle, so in a race where every vote counts, it’s incumbent upon voters to take a serious look at her performance record before entering the polls.
Because the projected impacts of unchecked global warming are so dire, climate change has become the number one challenge facing humanity. Worsening storms, droughts and wildfires, catastrophic sea level rise, mass species extinction, disrupted food supplies and political and social unrest are all in the offing if we fail to transition from a fossil fuel economy to one based on renewable energy sources.
Though poorer communities and nations will be impacted most, material wealth cannot guarantee that our children and grandchildren will be spared serious consequences.
The years 2016 and 2017 were the first and third hottest on record, respectively. Many residents of Orange County have personal stories of how climate change is already touching their lives.
The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication tracks public opinions on climate change, down to the individual district level. It turns out that California’s 45th is very much in step with the nation as a whole: 71 percent in the district believe climate change is happening, 74 percent want carbon dioxide regulated as a pollutant, and 72 percent believe future generations will be harmed.
As a public servant, Mimi Walters is obligated to represent the views of her constituents, especially on an issue as vital to public security and prosperity as climate change. But, does she?
Her voting record suggests no. In 2015, she voted in favor of repealing the rule establishing limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants as set by the Clean Power Plan. Her opinion of the Plan is still posted on her website: “Forcing a shift away from traditional energy resources would ultimately stifle the economy for years to come and harm consumers’ pocketbooks.”
She also cosponsored the Stopping EPA Overreach Act of 2017 which has been signed into law; it declares that current law does not authorize or require the regulation of global warming.
The League of Conservation Voters produces a yearly “scorecard” for every member of Congress based on their voting record on important environmental legislation. Her lifetime score is an anemic four percent. For 2017, she scored just three percent, reflecting a single vote favoring environmental protection out of 35 House bills addressing environmental issues.
However, that vote was against language in a defense spending bill for 2018 which, if passed, would have prevented the Department of Defense from preparing for effects of climate change despite the Pentagon’s persistent warning that climate change is a national security threat. She followed this in January with joining 105 other members of Congress in cosigning a letter to President Trump admonishing him for neglecting the threat to national security posed by climate change.
She also joined up last fall with the now 35 other House Republicans in the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus which is dedicated to exploring policy solutions to climate change. Could these recent actions be a sign that Walters’ historically rigid stance on climate change is softening?
A perusal of her website is anything but encouraging. None of the subheadings in the Priorities tab imply anything about global warming or even environmental protection more generally. Inputting “climate change,” “global warming” or “renewable energy” into the search feature all yield exactly zero hits. Rather, under the subheading Creating Energy Independence, the stress is on expanding exploration of energy sources (presumably fossil fuels) on private lands through reduced government regulations.
What should be particularly alarming to coastal California residents, she signed a letter last August to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in support of reopening offshore drilling in our state.
It’s also disappointing that she has come out squarely opposed to a 25 cent proposed hike in the federal gasoline tax that even President Trump openly endorsed in February. The gas tax is the primary source of monies inputting the federal Highway Trust Fund which pays for needed improvements to the country’s highway infrastructure and mass transit, both of which reduce fuel consumption and traffic congestion. The federal gas tax has not been raised since 1993, despite inflation, leaving the Fund teetering on insolvency.
Walters has spent taxpayer money to mail out shiny fliers, imploring constituents to return postcards stating opposition to the tax increase.
As responsible citizens, we must hold Mimi Walters accountable for her position on climate change. If she is not supporting aggressive steps to transition away from fossil fuels, she is either unaware of the views of the majority of her constituents or simply doesn’t care.
We must not let any lack of concern on her part imply that our neighbors in the 45th are not worried about climate change either. Most of us are very worried and want the government to act.