Activists want Congressman Tonko to commit to Green New Deal

Legislative Gazette photo by Eveline Levin
Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch delivers a speech outside of Paul Tonko’s office on Albany, NY on Thursday, February 7. In front of him, activists gathered to urge Tonko to support the “New Green Deal” as Congress discusses the legislation this week in Washington.

The day after Rep. Paul Tonko co-chaired a hearing on climate change in Washington, a group of protesters gathered at his Albany office urging him to “Walk it, don’t talk it” as Congress takes up legislation to combat global warming.

The environmental activists are angry that Tonko was the only New York Democrat who voted against HR 3671, the Off Fossil Fuels Act last year. The bill would have set a goal for 100 percent clean energy by the year 2035, among other things.

Congressman Tonko is a co-chair of the House Energy Committee’s Subcommittee for Environment and Climate Change, which met for the first time in six years on Wednesday.

“I know that Congressman Tonko, over the years, has spoken well about climate change, well about the need for renewable energy,” said Mark Dunlea, a longtime environmental activist and the chair of the Green Education and Legal Fund. “But for some reason he doesn’t really act like that in Congress, and that is why we’re here today to say we need Congressman Tonko to step up to the plate and embrace fast action on stopping climate change.”

Nearly two dozen protesters stood on the steps of Tonko’s Albany office and spoke in turn about the need for strong legislation that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, stop new gas pipelines and encourage new sources of renewable energy. The group is calling for a “New Green Deal” that has been championed at the federal level by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-Bronx, and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

After the rally, the group delivered a petition to Tonko’s staff, signed by 400 constituents, that demands Tonko support legislation that stops all new fossil fuel projects, requires 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 and encourages a green economy.

“This is not the time for a prolonged discussion,” said Tina Lieberman, a member of “We have a wonderful legislation, a Green New Deal that’s being proposed in Congress, and we need representative Tonko to sign on to it, to push it.

“I’ve heard Rep. Tonko speak at his public meetings, he talks a great talk on climate and environment but I need action.”