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Climate,the Green New Deal, and California Fires

Here is my policy overview on climate change.
Here is my policy overview on prevention of California fires.

Climate action is my urgent agenda

As a councilmember, I pushed for climate action within our city. Three key examples include:

  • The adoption of REACH codes
  • The move to Silicon Valley Clean Energy
  • The call to action with PG&E’s subversion of the solar industry.

As a climate activist, I have pushed for prudent choices:

  • I publicly opposed President Biden’s approval of oil drilling in Alaska
  • I was against the Keystone pipeline
  • I stood with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline

Reach Codes

As an elected leader of Saratoga, I pushed for the adoption of innovative local amendments to our building codes, known as "Reach Codes," to spearhead the transition towards healthier, safer, and emissions-free buildings. Recognizing the importance of sustainable development, Saratoga embraced these codes to facilitate the construction of all-electric buildings. This pivotal move marked Saratoga's commitment to climate friendly choices.

Our forward-thinking policy not only paved the way for a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions—by approximately 80 to 90% for home energy use—but also offered financial benefits. Homeowners and businesses embarking on new construction projects can now avoid the hefty costs associated with gas infrastructure, potentially saving thousands of dollars in project expenses. Furthermore, I have been a vocal advocate for the electrification of transportation, supporting the community's shift to electric vehicles (EVs) by advancing the new code that facilitates convenient home charging solutions. This initiative reflects Saratoga's broader commitment to clean, electric transportation, aligning with our community's high adoption rates of EVs.

Through this groundbreaking policy, we set a precedent for sustainable urban development and demonstrated our unwavering commitment to environmental stewardship and the well-being of our community.

Silicon Valley Clean Energy:

A push for clean electricity was enabled by the move to Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE) to help fight climate change and build a cleaner, greener Santa Clara County for everyone. The move to Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE) represents a significant stride towards sustainable energy solutions for cities within Santa Clara County. SVCE, a community-owned agency, provides clean, carbon-free electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power to residents and businesses. This transition has yielded several key accomplishments:

  • Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions: By switching to electricity generated from renewable sources, SVCE has significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy use in its member communities. This shift supports the broader climate goals of reducing carbon footprints and combating climate change.
  • Stimulating Local and Renewable Energy Projects: SVCE invests in local and regional renewable energy projects, which not only contribute to the generation of clean energy but also promote green jobs and economic growth within the region. This investment helps build a resilient and sustainable energy infrastructure.
  • Energy Independence: By focusing on local and renewable energy sources, SVCE contributes to reducing dependency on fossil fuels and enhances energy security. This shift towards more sustainable energy sources also mitigates the risks associated with volatile fossil fuel markets.
  • Consumer Choice and Competitive Rates: SVCE offers residents and businesses the choice of cleaner energy sources at competitive rates. Customers have the option to select plans that suit their energy needs and preferences, including 100% renewable energy options, thus promoting consumer empowerment and engagement in sustainable practices.
  • Support for Electrification and Energy Efficiency: SVCE has been instrumental in supporting policies and programs that encourage the electrification of buildings and transportation, as well as energy efficiency improvements. These efforts align with the broader goal of reducing energy consumption and lowering emissions from various sectors.

Overall, the move to Silicon Valley Clean Energy has enabled cities within Santa Clara County to make substantial progress towards sustainability goals, showcasing a model for clean, community-focused energy solutions that can be replicated in other regions.

With this move, so many Santa Clara County cities reduced their dependence on fossil fuels by providing carbon free, affordable, and reliable electricity and innovative programs for the SVCE community.

Pushing back on PG&E’s sabotage of solar

In 2022, CPUC drastically cut the rate paid to homeowners for surplus solar power by about 75%, a change that began affecting new solar applicants. This decision has significantly dampened consumer interest in residential solar. Solar energy is pivotal for California's goal to transition to 90% carbon-free electricity by 2035 and 100% by 2045, with solar expected to supply over half of the grid's power by then. Here is what happened: PG&E decided to drastically lower the amount they pay for solar power fed back into the grid to about 3 cents per kilowatt-hour, a big drop from the current 25 to 45 cents. This means if you generate and use the same amount of solar power in a day, you’ll end up paying PG&E more than you save. This could extend the time it takes to benefit from solar from 6-8 years to 12-16 years or even more. This new pricing plan is killing the rooftop solar industry in California. It's essential to strengthen policies that support energy conservation and rooftop solar, and to oppose the CPUC's habit of green-lighting these utilities' rate increase requests without proper evaluation. Details at https://rishikumar.com/pge

Forest Fires

In 2020 - Four million acres, 112 million tons of greenhouse gases, thousands of lightning strikes, 11 million gallons of fire retardant. And 31 lost lives, with more than 100,000 having to evacuate from their homes. This is an exponential increase compared to 2019 when ~100,000 acres burned down in California. Many urban communities today are feeling the threat of evacuation and fire. Our droughts and dry conditions have exacerbated the problem.

Recently, we have seen rollbacks on environmental measures in the United States, and restrictive climate policies weakened around the globe. Now more than ever, we need the Green New Deal. Climate change is the most urgent issue of our time. The science is clear: global temperatures continue to rise, and the world is already experiencing more intense hurricanes, deadly heat waves, wildfires, and droughts. We must take a three-pronged approach to the battle against climate change:

We can’t afford to wait — we must take immediate, bold action to limit the effects of climate change. The United States must lead the world in reaching net-zero emissions by 2035. We must promote and create jobs in a clean-energy economy and build green-energy infrastructure.. I am serious about protecting the environment and that is why I am a vegetarian practitioner with no meat or eggs in my diet. Clean air and water is a basic necessity for all living things. We owe it to our children to take care of our planet.

creek cleanup

Open Space

I am committed to being an advocate for California’s natural open spaces and to preserving and protecting our native wildlife. I am against the development of the Cargill Salt Water site property, which was once underwater and part of San Francisco Bay a century ago before it was diked for salt-making. The Stanford development project demands caution, and we have to address mitigation plans with traffic and housing. As a councilmember of Saratoga, I stood firm against a potential 300-room hotel mega development project on a hillside in a high fire hazard zone that would have also disrupted wildlife and vegetation and the very future of our community. The project was ultimately defeated. I was in support of 65 acres of open space preservation with the ribbon cutting of the newest park in Saratoga - the Quarry Park. Read my views on the Los Gatos North 40 project here.

I believe that we need managed housing growth in Silicon Valley. I am not in favor of policies like Senate Bill 50 or Senate Bill 35, which preempt local control for housing developments. There have been cases in Silicon Valley where development was planned on hillsides and a high fire risk zone. This will not only put our environment in jeopardy, the wildlife but also our people. The Mega Silicon Valley vision plan, “21 Counties in 21 Minutes” is a better approach to solve Silicon Valley’s housing and traffic challenges, while preserving our quality of life allowing for economic expansion.

Other Priorities