Setting the Example
We cherish the beauty and bounty of our natural environment on the Central Coast of California. Lately, however, the fragility of our ecosystems and the threats to our community have become more apparent with climate change. As the U.S. Representative for this place that I’ve always called home, it’s my personal obligation and, now, professional responsibility to formulate federal policy that stems from the people that live here, who also are committed to protecting our environment and preserving our way of life.
The Central Coast has a front-row seat to the effects of our changing climate. In 2020, we endured record-setting wildfires that scorched over 650,000 acres, burned hundreds of homes, and caused millions of dollars in loss- es to our agricultural and hospitality sectors. That same year, there was major flooding, especially in the burn scars from the fires in Salinas and Big Sur. The deluge wrecked homes, washed out roads, and put part of our famous Highway One in the Pacific Ocean. With months of closed roadways, smokey skies, shut-down businesses, and the rebuilding of homes, many people were not only negatively impacted, but it also became clear that we must do more to deal with climate change.
Reliability and resiliency are crucial when it comes to protecting our communities from natural disasters.With hundreds of thousands of acres of national forests on the Central Coast that are vulnerable to extreme weather events, we must do everything possible to not just suppress, but also prevent wildfires. That is why I have worked with many local partners to author legislation that would responsibly remove dead and dying fuels, hire more federal forest service personnel, and increase reforestation projects. However, we cannot limit our approach to the symptoms of climate change as we will continue to experience more fires, flooding, and droughts. We must also focus on the root cause by reducing our carbon emissions through innovative clean energy solutions.
We are playing our part on the Central Coast with the planning and development of an offshore wind farm just south of Monterey County. For the past two years, the Offshore Wind Working Group, which includes federal and state representatives and agencies, has worked and met with stakeholders such as local fishermen, coastal residents, and community organizations. After numerous and intense discussions, we agreed that the proposed wind turbines would be best placed off Morro Bay, near existing transmission infrastructure, and outside of our Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.This offshore wind project would be able to generate three gigawatts of energy, enough to power over one million homes, and greatly benefit our economy and climate. However, we also need to ensure that when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, we can still meet our renewable energy demands.
Fortunately, the Central Coast is now home to the largest battery energy storage system in the world. Located at the iconic former Moss Landing power plant, the 400-megawatt battery system will provide enough energy to power 300,000 homes and store excess daytime power so it doesn’t go to waste and then release it to the grid when it’s needed most. California leads the country in the transition away from fossil fuels and the Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility stands as a model for how batteries can support renewables and create a reliable grid of the future. As we face the increasing threat of disruptions to our grid due to natural disasters, this backup power will provide stability and reliability.
It’s clear that climate change affects our way of life on the Central Coast as wildfire seasons become wildfire years, ecosystems start to degrade, and temperatures continue to rise. We not only get that it is happening, but we also get what we must do to protect our communities by dealing with climate change. Fortunately, our policies created at the national level will be based on input from the people and values at our local level.That’s why our home and our clean energy solutions will continue to be an example for the nation and a foundation for our future.