El-Sayed wants tougher environmental policies, more money for enforcement

Jul 19, 2018
Originally published on July 18, 2018 6:05 pm

Michigan is now just three weeks away from the primaries. In preparation, Stateside has invited the gubernatorial candidates back for one last chance to speak to you.

The first candidate in this last round of interviews is Abdul El-Sayed.

El-Sayed is 33 years old, and the former director of the Detroit Health Department.

Stateside’s Cynthia Canty sat down with El-Sayed to discuss his unveiled energy plan, what makes him a unique candidate for governor of Michigan, and the recent New York City primary win for congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

You’ve recently release your energy plan, a three-part plan, with the goal of what, exactly?

“So, we know that one of the biggest challenges that we face in the state right now is that we’ve allowed these big corporations to pollute our air and our water, and we’ve got a responsibility to stand up.”

That means number one, the Department of Environmental Quality is supposed to be the regulator that is supposed to stand up to these corporations, it needs to have both the capacity and the teeth to do that, and it is preempted from doing that right now. In the past, the DEQ used to have a budget in the hundreds of millions. Today it is $27 million and they don’t have the means to do the actual work they need.

We are proposing that we would bring together the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality, under one Department of the Environment. We would raise their budget to nearly $1 billion, empowering them with the capacity to investigate and to regulate, so that we are protected in our air and water.

Second, we know that there are large corporations who get away polluting air and water because we haven't stood and up and forced them to bear the cost of doing that. And we are proposing a corporate polluter fee that would force [corporations] to pay per gigaton of carbon output and emissions that pollute our air. And then, that money would be returned directly to everyday folks in the form of a taxpayer stipend. This is the best way to disincentivize that kind of pollution and to empower people so that they are actually paid the costs of the pollution that they are supposed to breathe everyday.

And then lastly, we need to be able to invest in renewable energy infrastructure. We don't have the means of doing that. And we've proposed a program called the Pure Michigan Infrastructure Bank, and what it would do is finance investments in renewable energy infrastructure. Things like wind turbines … and solar panels to be able to harvest renewable energy and then also the means to store it in batteries. And then over time, we would push legislation to allow net metering or to extend net metering…. And net metering basically says that if you are harvesting and holding renewable energy, that you can sell that energy back into the grid. So instead of you having to pay DTE, DTE has to pay you.

All of this is about pushing Michigan forward to a renewable energy future, and we’re intending to get there by 2030, 100% renewable energy.”

How would you, if elected governor, work with what could be still a GOP-controlled legislature to wean Michigan off fossil fuels?

“I believe in the ability to inspire, and the ability to find shared winds. And, if not, the ability to make it challenging for folks to do things that are not in the best interest of all of us. The facts of our system, is that we are a democracy, and the power is vested in people. And so we’ve got to rely on people to speak to their representatives. As an elected governor, I am just one person of the many folks elected to do the people’s bidding. And my appeal will be right to the people elected legislators."

"I look forward to working across the across the aisle with anybody who’s got Michigan’s best interest at heart. And I know that I can do that. I rebuilt the health department in the poorest city in America, in post-bankruptcy Detroit. And it wasn’t always easy hauling, but I do know that if you are willing to sit down with somebody, and you’re willing to find common ground, there’s a lot more work that’s there to do together.”

Dr. El-Sayed, you've been endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose upset defeat of New York Congressman Joseph Crowley made some big national headlines. She's coming to Michigan to campaign with you, why?

“She has shown us how it is done. Our movement is about people coming together for politics as it was supposed to be, to build a government for the people, by the people.

I’m very proud of the work she has put in, I’m very thankful for her support. I’m excited to share both her with the people of Michigan, and, more importantly, the people of Michigan with her.

People forget sometimes that this state went for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary. We are a progressive state.”

You’re not worried that she is, perhaps, too far left for mainstream democratic voters?

“Again, this electorate went for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 democratic primary."

Should you not win the nomination, come August 7, would you have any reservations endorsing either Gretchen Whitmer or Shri Thanedar?

“If Gretchen Whitmer wins the nomination, I would gladly support her.”

And Mr. Thanedar?

“If Gretchen Whitmer wins the nomination, I would gladly support her.

It’s important to me that the winner of the Democratic primary is a Democrat, and I think there is very clear evidence that Mr. Thanedar is an opportunist, and whether it is giving a full contribution to an opponent of Barack Obama, whether it was voting for Rick Santorum, whether it’s the fact that he giddily took a selfie with Marco Rubio, it speaks to me of certain opportunism in the moment and I don’t believe in that in our politics."

Listen to the full interview above to hear El-Sayed talk about the uniqness of his age and religion, more on his energy plan, and what he's been up to during the campaign. 

The full energy plan can be found here.

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