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The San Diego Union Tribune: Rep. Scott Peters aims for NAVWAR military housing and action on water, sequoias and climate change

Rep. Scott Peters plans to reintroduce legislation on carbon capture, wildfire response and other environmental issues in Congress this year.

January 28, 2023

 Climate change, wildfires and water storage are at the top of Rep. Scott Peters’ agenda for 2023.

Peters, D-San Diego, won a sixth term in Congress in November, representing the newly redrawn 50th District, which extends from Coronado up the coast through La Jolla and inland to Rancho Santa Fe, San Marcos and parts of Escondido.

In an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune, part of a series on what local members of Congress have planned for this year, he said he plans to press for projects to help California adapt to climate change and the sea-level rise, intense wildfires and extended periods of drought it is causing.

Updating water storage systems to capture runoff will help western states respond to changing weather systems, which in most years recently have dropped more water as rainfall rather than snowpack, he said. “Even thought there’s water everywhere, the way it’s distributed by the atmosphere is changing dramatically.”

He also aims to update the Clean Water Act to recognize that water recycling projects such as Pure Water San Diego — which will purify wastewater to generate clean drinking water — can meet federal standards.

“It’s really a model for how cities that are strapped for water supply can recycle and take advantage of that resource,” Peters said.

As hot, dry conditions fuel catastrophic wildfires, it’s crucial to update forest management to prevent those blazes, Peters said, pointing to legislation he introduced last year to protect giant Sequoias.

That bill, introduced with Reps. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., would have allocated $350 million over 10 years to protect the iconic trees, streamline environmental review for restoring groves and create reforestation plans.

It did not go to a vote last year, but Peters plans to reintroduce it to help tackle broader wildfire prevention efforts that include thinning overgrowth to prevent catastrophic fires.

“We’ve got to look at how we’ve managed forests and make sure we can act fast to deal with the wildfire crisis,” Peters said.

He also plans to reintroduce a bill he proposed last session with Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., to require the Department of Energy to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, including through direct air capture.

“The United Nations announced we won’t be able to meet our goals just by emissions reductions but will also have to capture it,” Peters said.

He acknowledged that technology to achieve that on a large scale isn’t available now, but said federal investment will ultimately be needed to develop commercially viable carbon removal methods.

“Carbon is one of those things that we don’t quite now how to do yet,” he said. “That’s where federal investment is important.”

Last year he also joined Rep. María Salazar, R-Fla., and Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, on legislation to streamline federal responses to climate hazards that threaten health, safety and infrastructure.

“I think we should look at permitting reforms to make sure these things get done quickly, and without a lot of wasted time or taxpayer resources,” he said. “We need to agree on ways to achieve high level environmental protections and standards, without taking so much time.”

Although none of those bills went to a vote last session, Peters plans to reintroduce each of them this year, and with Republican co-sponsors, he hopes the bills will have bipartisan support.

He also aims to help naval bases become more resilient to sea-level rise, push for high-voltage interstate power transmission that would enable regions producing renewable energy to share it with buyers elsewhere, and set aside emergency funds for severe weather events.

“We’re seeing more intense tornadoes, more intense hurricanes,” he said. “We have to budget for them. We can’t pretend they’re off-budget items.”

Last year Peters crafted some language for a major Democratic package of legislation to fund climate action, tax large businesses and cap prescription drug prices for Medicare recipients — a slimmed-down version of elements of President Biden’s agenda that had previously failed with the “Build Back Better” legislation.

That law allocates $369 billion for investments in rooftop solar, renewable energy development, zero-emission vehicles and electrification of buildings and port facilities, and through amendments Peters introduced, it caps drug prices for Medicare patients at $2,000 per year and limits their insulin costs to $35 per month.

“We managed to provide an alternative to the original bill that preserved private incentives for private investments in drug discoveries, and also provided the same relief to seniors,” Peters said.

Over the next year, Peters also aims to help shape the redevelopment of the Navy’s NAVWAR property, a 70.3-acre campus in San Diego’s Midway District, to ensure that it includes military housing.

In November, the Navy put the property on the market, seeking bids from developers to build new military facilities there in exchange for a 99-year ground lease on the rest of the land. Peters plans to propose that the developer use part of the land for homes for sailors or other military members stationed in San Diego.

He also plans to introduce a bill to expand the Fair Housing Act, which bars discrimination against people renting or buying a home. Peters proposed to add veterans to the list of people protected under it and to ban discrimination based on sources of income.

Peters said he’s concerned about the rules package adopted by Republicans for this session of Congress, saying on Twitter that the new rules are fiscally irresponsible and favor “right-wing extremists.”

Despite the turmoil at the outset of the session, however, Peters said he’s hopeful that he can work across the aisle in a Republican-led House to advance his goals next year.

“It could create better outcomes as well,” he said. “Bipartisan legislation is normally more durable, because it has buy-in from both sides and is less political.”


Source: The San Diego Union Tribune