Environment - Wenstrup for Louisiana


Non-negotiable: We owe our children clear air, clear water, and sustainable energy.

Issues of environmental justice and climate change directly impact the lives of our friends and neighbors, and the planet we’re leaving behind for our children. Increasing global temperatures are leading to sea level rise, stronger hurricanes, and lower crop and fishing yields. Generations of active decisions by people in power and corporations have also resulted in places like Cancer Alley, where children are born with a lower life expectancy due to the high concentration of pollutants in the air, water, and soil. These are political choices, not inevitable byproducts of our economy, that require prioritizing people over profits.

At-a-glance: Achieving our Environmental Goals

As a teacher and a father, I worry every day about the quality of our air, water, and soil. I worry about the effects of lead and polluted soil on the learning and health outcomes of my students. In this pandemic, we have seen evidence that communities which are exposed to more fine particulate matter – communities that tend to be poorer and inhabited by People of Color- see higher mortality rates from Covid-19. Dating back before the pandemic, air pollution alone causes 250,000 early deaths in our country. A transition to clean energy would save $37 billion a year in reduced hospitalizations and emergency room visits, and you cannot put a price on the numbers of lives saved.

Yet we are going in the wrong direction. On March 27th, Bill Cassidy stood by as the federal EPA announced it would stop enforcing air pollution regulations in the midst of a pandemic. That doesn’t make sense to me; we need cleaner and healthier lungs. On August 2nd, a transport ship spilled plastic pellets into the very waters that support our fishing industry. Politicians, if they bothered to care, argued over the blame instead of finding solutions. Most recently, Hurricane Laura led to up to 31 oil and chemical spills from creaking infrastructure. Apparently, it is cheaper to lobby folks like Bill Cassidy than to maintain 21st century resilient infrastructure.

When we face immense, seemingly intractable challenges, we must remember that hope lies in the tremendous strength of our people. In the classroom, great teachers find solutions by drawing upon the strengths of their students. In the political space, we must find solutions that empower the people.

In order to fight to protect our air and water, we must provide information directly to the people. Just as you can type “weather” in the search bar and have access to localized data, you should be able to do the same with fine particulate matter, benzene, and other air pollutants. This starts by providing grants to local governments to collect hyper-local air pollution data. We can replicate approaches that are already proven to work, like placing monitoring devices on city vehicles or at every school. Next, we can work with the National Weather Service to enhance our access to air quality information and create easily searchable data.

When communities can see air pollution levels at their schools and homes and compare those to other neighborhoods across their cities, states, and country, then we can have a people-powered fight for clean air and clean water for our children. I would require the EPA and state agencies to use this data to examine disparate impacts of air pollution on poor communities and communities of color.

While we’re tracking air pollution around schools, let’s remove one of the largest, most immediate sources of air pollution for young people: school busses. We must initiate a program, based on cash-for-clunkers, to transition our fleet of school busses to electric power. With the promise of public support, we could spur tremendous private investment and private jobs right now.

 Another way to empower the people to drive environmental change is to establish a private right of action for environmental harm. Over and over again we see that our environmental “defense” is too often paid for and influenced by our worst polluters. Politicians may tell you they’ll change that, but as a non-politician I’m looking for answers that don’t rely on a fairy-tale. By giving people the right to bring suits over environmental harm, we make companies accountable to the people directly. No politicians involved.

We can empower our children with better health and better school performance by cleaning the lead from our pipes, paint, and soil. Now, at a time when unemployment is over ten percent – thank you, Senator Cassidy – is the perfect time to put people back to work doing the expensive but necessary work to clean lead pipes from schools in Tensas Parish and clean lead paint from homes in Alexandria. Eliminating lead is the clearest way to make sure our children live healthier and better lives than we do.

In the long term, reducing pollution means reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. Over the next 50 years, a transition to clean power will prevent 4.5 million premature deaths due to pollution. That starts with a requirement that utilities be carbon neutral by 2035 and that all cars on the road be carbon neutral by 2040. We must give our children a healthy environment and a sustainable energy plan on which to build their own dreams. In the meantime, those requirements will spur billions of dollars of private investment in the next two decades. We are accustomed to workers being left out when change occurs. Not this time. I pledge that this transition will empower workers, not large corporations and politicians.

  • Bill Cassidy thinks that we need to bail out oil companies during a bust. I say that if you don’t pay extra taxes during a boom, don’t ask for a handout during the bust. I say that we need to empower workers with good-paying jobs and scholarships when oil and gas prices go down. We need a program so that any time the seven-day moving average of the price of oil is below $60 a gallon for sixty days, grants are made available to pay for job-training, retro-fitting of federal buildings, plugging orphan wells, and upgrading our electrical transmission system.
  • Bill Cassidy thinks that clean energy is anti-business, but clean energy is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. The largest energy companies and car companies in the country have big sustainable energy departments that are ready to hire new people. But with the subsidies we have, we basically have politicians sitting on the boards of private companies directing money towards fossil fuels. That’s corporate socialism.
  • Bill Cassidy has been in Washington for six years, and we still don’t have a national green bank to help finance private or local projects to improve resilience, building efficiency, and industrial heat investments.

With the environment, it comes down to yesterday versus tomorrow. Bill Cassidy is paid by yesterday’s profits from yesterday’s corporations. I will champion tomorrow’s industries by investing in tomorrow’s workers and unleashing innovation in tomorrow’s industries.

We need to empower communities with clear information about pollution levels so that they can advocate for their best interests.

During the pandemic, the federal government stopped enforcing air pollution regulations, which has the potential to lower the IQ, memory, and attention levels of our children. We can’t allow such important government tasks to be ignored because of economic downturns or the influence of political lobbying.



Fleet-Based Air Pollution Monitoring

School-Based Monitoring

Prioritizing Disadvantaged Communities

With federal grants, cities and highly-industrial rural areas could outfit twenty government vehicles with technology to monitor pollution levels across their municipalities.

With federal grants, state-level environmental regulators would install air quality monitoring technology inside and outside of every school in the state. Results could be displayed in school buildings.

With federal grants, municipalities can partner with the EPA to target air quality monitoring in communities with the highest levels of air pollutants. 

 Some Specifics on the Plans:


  • Fleet-Based Monitoring:
    • Fleet-based monitoring has already been used in places like Houston, New York City, Washington D.C. and the Bay Area as a low-cost replacement to the stationary pollution monitors found on buildings. The pollution monitors can be affixed to essential government vehicles like garbage trucks or city buses that remain in consistent operation.
    • Depending on the government vehicle, these sensors may not collect data in the evenings or on weekends. Attaching sensors to carbon producing vehicles is also counterproductive in the eyes of some critics.
  • School-Based Monitoring:
    • This proposal would put monitors where the children are and makes publicly available air quality information at the school, district, state, and national levels. Because schools are high traffic places, the public would receive the information where they are most likely to see it.
    • With over 1300 public schools in Louisiana, this would be an expensive plan, with information that could be more efficiently captured by mobile technology. In many places, sensors on 10-20 government vehicles could cover up to 70% of a municipal area without changing routes.
  • Risk-Based Monitoring:
    • Using indicators like Average Median Income, incidence of respiratory illness, presence of hazardous infrastructure, and historic pollution levels, municipalities at the highest risk can determine the best method of air quality testing for their local context.
    • Critics of plans like this argue that residents and local government officials already know about the poor air quality in these environments, and that unless targeted data collection is partnered with universal empathy and targeted solutions, more monitoring won’t lead to change.