The Democratic candidate running in New York's 24th Congressional District, Colleen Deacon, advocated for a progressive environmental agenda while in Oswego with Rep. Paul Tonko (D-Amsterdam), the former president of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Monday. She called for more investment in renewable energy sources, including in upstate.
"Why don't we take some of our old factories that might have shut down here in this region and turn them into wind turbine manufacturing centers, solar panel manufacturers?" Deacon asked. "Really turn this into a job generating opportunity for us to be able to put people to work."
Deacon said she had earned her green stripes while working as a former staffer for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), such as on an effort to ban tiny plastic microbeads in beauty products that pollute the country's water sources. Deacon said that experience and her stance on environmental matters make her better suited to tackle energy issues than her opponent, incumbent Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus). She stressed that Katko flipped his position on climate change, only recently acknowledging the human impact.
"He's somebody that we can't take seriously," Deacon charged. "We have to have somebody in Congress who has been working on these issues, who understands these issues and sees it as something more than just what the poll numbers tell them that they see them to be."
Katko campaign spokesperson Erin O'Connor said he has been "a steady environmental advocate in Congress by voting to incentivize green energy technology, improve water infrastructure and ensure that land is set aside and preserved for environmental purposes."
Deacon is 19 points behind Katko in a recently released poll from Siena College and Time Warner Cable News. The 24th District covers Onondaga, Cayuga and Wayne counties and a part of Oswego County. It encompasses the two nuclear power plants in Oswego County, FitzPatrick and Nine Mile Point.
Deacon said she supports New York's recent decision to subsidize the state's nuclear power plants, which are struggling to compete with natural gas and oil. The plants do not emit carbon dioxide so the state is hoping to keep them afloat while it works to achieve the governor's ambitious goal of cutting those emissions by 40 percent. Some environmental advocates say the billions of dollars that will be used to support the plants would be better spent on renewable sources. But Deacon said the infrastructure for renewable energy is not ready quite yet.
"We need to invest in what we have [and] in what we need for the future," Deacon said. "Let's do what we can to make sure we have the energy available for people right now but invest in forward thinking: in renewable technologies, in wind turbines, in solar panels, in geothermal, to help us transition off so we have the ability to use energy and electricity in future years to come not with fossil fuels."
Katko has also been an advocate for the state's nuclear power plants.