Recap: Congressional Forum for Long Island Candidates

October 22, 2020

On October 15th, 2020, the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF), Citizens Campaign for the Environment, and Students for Climate Action (S4CA) held a candidate forum for New York Congressional Districts 1 and 2, which cover a large part of Suffolk County and the southeastern portion of Nassau County. The forum took place on Zoom ahead of the general election on November 3rd. NYLCVEF regularly holds candidate forums to provide voters with the opportunity to hear directly from candidates about their stance on important environmental issues. 

The forum featured pre-recorded interviews with Congressional District 1 candidates Lee Zeldin (incumbent) and Nancy Goroff. Also featured were pre-recorded interviews with candidates Jackie Gordon and Andrew Garbarino, running for the Congressional District 2 seat soon to be vacated by longtime congressman Peter King. The forum was moderated by Adrienne Esposito, the Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, and featured panelists Julie Tighe, President of NYLCVEF; Melissa Parrott, Executive Director of S4CA; Harrison Bench, Deputy Director of S4CA; Christine Giurcanu, a member of S4CA; and Gordiane Raacke, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island. 


NY Congressional District 1

Lee Zelden is the incumbent Congressman for NY’s 1st Congressional District, an attorney, and an officer in the United States Army Reserve. During the forum, he advocated for the government to work with the private sector, and mentioned the Carbon Capture Improvement Act, a bill incentivizing corporations to invest in carbon capture and storage equipment, which he co-sponsored. Regarding solar energy, Zeldin acknowledged legislation that he co-sponsored to extend the Solar Investment Tax Credit by five years. Congressman Zeldin acknowledged the importance of water quality testing and transparency of the results, and recognized the need to make incremental progress on the long-term issue of water quality across the country. He advocated for the EPA to set a limit on the level of contaminants in local water supply, mentioned the need for investment in sewer infrastructure to decrease river contamination, and emphasized the need to complete the Forge River Watershed Sewer project. In his closing statement, he emphasized the need for bipartisanship on climate legislation and lauded bipartisan climate action over the past year.

Dr. Nancy Goroff is the chair of the chemistry department at Stony Brook University and has a PhD in Organic Chemistry from UCLA. During the forum, she mentioned the need for climate action as a top priority for her and a major motivation for her entry into the race. She advocated for completely carbon neutral energy production by 2035, and total carbon neutrality as soon as possible after that. She emphasized the need to invest in clean energy infrastructure and research. Dr. Goroff also spoke about her desire to make her office a resource on climate change for every member of Congress, and to challenge climate-denying members. Dr. Goroff mentioned the need for clean energy infrastructure in the next stimulus package, including offshore wind farms for Long Island. She is in favor of increasing solar energy infrastructure however she can, including extending the solar tax credit and working with local governments to ease ordinances that place restrictions on solar power. Dr. Goroff emphasized the need for the EPA to monitor water contamination, and for both the EPA and the Department of Defense to remediate water contamination. In her closing statement, she mentioned the need to re-enter the Paris Climate Accord.

NY Congressional District 2

Jackie Gordon is a U.S. combat veteran who has worked as an educator, a community leader, and a public servant. During the forum, she acknowledged the reality of the climate crisis, recalling the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy, and spoke about the need to re-enter the Paris Climate Accord. She said she would prioritize renewable energy in Congress, and mentioned the need to ensure that renewable energy companies get their products to market. She also recognized the need to secure funding for renewable energy corporations to help them conduct research. Gordon supports extending the solar tax incentive, and envisions partnerships between educational institutions and the solar industry. Gordon said she would prioritize the Bethpage plume, and bring local, state, and federal environmental agencies together to figure out what went wrong. She also mentioned the need to identify who was harmed, and to introduce a bill in Congress to clean up the site and penalize polluters. In her closing statement, she mentioned our collective responsibility to take care of the planet, emphasizing her special responsibility as a leader to do so.

Andrew Garbarino currently serves as a NY State Assemblyman for Assembly District 7. During the forum, he mentioned his personal connection to the environment, having grown up on the South Shore and learning to sail and swim in the Great South Bay. He cited his experience serving on the Environmental Conservation Committee as an assemblyman. Garbarino also acknowledged the importance of protecting the South Shore, mentioning its role as an economic driver for the area. He supports a bill which would provide a carbon recapture tax credit as well as the “Trillion Trees” bill. He emphasized that environmental conservation should be a bipartisan issue. Additionally, he supports the solar industry and extension of the solar tax credit, citing personal stories of its effectiveness. He opposes offshore drilling, and wants to replace coal and oil power with renewables and natural gas. Garbarino also cited his votes for bills banning aquifer contaminants, and advocated for a comprehensive infrastructure bill from Congress to address Suffolk County’s lack of modern sewage infrastructure. In his closing statement, he reiterated his earlier remarks about his personal experience growing up near the Great South Bay and that the climate should be a bipartisan issue.

Harry Burger is a mechanical engineer and the Green Party candidate for NY’s 2nd Congressional District. In his opening remarks, Burger mentioned current natural disasters that are being spurred on by climate change: fires in the west and hurricanes in the east. Burger supports the Green New Deal, and advocates for zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Burger expressed that we need to end new oil drilling, fracking, and fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Burger expressed the need to invest aggressively in renewables and look to lower energy alternatives (e.g. high speed rail as opposed to airlines), which he says will stimulate the economy. With regards to the Bethpage plume, Burger mentioned how if Grumman and the Navy properly disposed of their waste in the 1970s, there would be no contamination in the first place, and that it would have been cheaper for them in the long run. He also stated the huge economic ($558 million) and environmental costs of the plume. To help remediate the situation and avert future disasters, Burger wants to hold Grumman responsible for the full cost of the cleanup. The more immediate concern to Burger, however, is getting the federal government to stop polluting before it reaches places like the Great South Bay. Finally, he emphasized how climate issues are interconnected, and that a disruption in one area of the environment can have a cascading effect on everything else. Harry Burger’s video testimonial can be viewed here

Thanks to our partners for helping to make this event a success: Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Students for Climate Action (S4CA), and Renewable Energy Long Island. 

We encourage you to vote in the upcoming election on November 3rd, and to pledge to vote early to help ensure that your vote is counted in a timely manner!

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