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Orange County Commissioners join the national call for Green New Deal

david price

David Price speaks with members of the audience at the election night party on Tuesday at the Democratic headquarters in Raleigh. 

The Board of Orange County Commissioners approved a resolution on Jan. 22 requesting for U.S. Rep. David Price, D-N.C., to endorse the creation of a committee to study climate and energy policies. 

The resolution, which passed 6-1, asks the representative for Orange County to join other U.S. House Democrats in backing the call of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., for a Select Committee on the Green New Deal. 

“It is not a policy. It’s not an ordinance,” said Penny Rich, chairperson of the BOCC. "We didn’t ask for any action. We just asked for our representative to support forming this group to discuss it.” 

The Green New Deal is an initiative supported by the Green Party, environmental activist groups like the Sunrise Movement and, more recently, Democratic congressional representatives including Ocasio-Cortez, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. 

Rich and the other commissioners who approved the resolution hope that Price will look into the committee and support the creation. Commissioner Mark Marcoplos introduced the resolution on Dec. 3, 2018. 

“Climate change is an existential crisis,” Marcoplos said. “We need to act decisively and quickly. We’ve got 12 years to start turning things around, according to the sciences.”

In 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report that said at the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, the global temperature will rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial temperatures between 2030 and 2052. The potential consequences of this, the report warns, include rising sea levels, ocean acidification and weather extremes like droughts and floods.

Rich and Marcoplos said they hope the resolution will prompt Price to encourage fellow Democrats in the House to endorse the creation of a select committee. 

“As a member of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, Rep. Price has consistently supported bold policies to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, invest in clean energy, and combat global climate change,” said Sawyer Hackett, Price's spokesperson.

Price was not available for comment by the time of publication.

Earl McKee, another commissioner, voted against the resolution, citing concerns about the extremity of the Green New Deal as it stands. 

“The Green New Deal is essentially, in my view, a socialist document,” McKee said. 

The Green New Deal includes plans to nationalize Federal Reserve Banks, spur job growth in sustainable energy industries, fund free public college and redirect research resources away from fossil fuel industries. While McKee said he supports a transition to clean energy, he thinks the deal would jeopardize the current economic system. 

“There is no way on God’s green Earth that we will change the global economy in 12 years,” McKee said. 

Mitch Kokai, political analyst at the John Locke Foundation, a conservative-leaning think tank, said he also doubts the viability of the Green New Deal. He said the legislation has existed on the fringes of the Democratic party until recently, but that he thinks it is too expensive to be implemented. 

“It’s not going to affect North Carolina at all because it’s never going to pass,” Kokai said. 

If introduced as a bill to the House and passed, Kokai said he doesn't think it would pass the U.S. Senate, where Republicans have a majority.

“If it did somehow get through, the main impact on North Carolina would be a substantial, negative impact on our economy,” Kokai said. 

Kokai said tax increases would be required to fund the Green New Deal and it therefore would not allow for the job growth its proponents promise. He also doubts the U.S. economy is in any position to make a sudden switch to 100 percent renewable energy. 

Gary Pearce, a political blogger, said the ambition of the plan is one of its strengths because it raises discussion about climate change. He said climate change is one of the defining issues of today’s politics and cited a Yale and George Mason University study from December 2018 that suggested 73 percent of Americans believe climate change is happening. 

Pearce said he does not think many Republicans in the General Assembly are concerned about climate change. Republicans held a supermajority in the legislature between 2011 and 2018 and used the supermajority to block efforts for climate and energy legislation.

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“They basically tried to ban science by law,” Pearce said. “The problem is, science doesn’t care what you say. It’s either true or not true.” 

In 2012, the N.C. General Assembly banned using rates of sea level rise when making coastal policies. Pearce said the discussion of climate change encouraged by those supporting the committee on the Green New Deal will result in climate change being a pivotal issue in the 2020 elections, particularly among young voters. 

“Whether or not the select committee is formed, people around the world have noticed the Green New Deal,” Marcoplos said. “The great thing about the Green New Deal is that it addresses so many aspects of our society that need work. These kind of commitments are realistic and necessary.”