CNN's climate crisis town hall

By Meg Wagner, Dan Merica, Gregory Krieg and Eric Bradner, CNN

Updated 3:25 AM ET, Thu September 5, 2019
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8:01 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Klobuchar: Restore methane regulations rolled back by Trump

Amy Klobuchar isn’t ready to ban fracking, but on Wednesday night, she called for a reversal to Trump administration's move to rollback regulations on methane emissions.

“I see natural gas as a transitional fuel, it is better than oil, but it's not nearly as good as wind and solar,” Klobuchar said, before adding that she was concerned by one of the most dangerous byproducts of its extraction.

She also pledged to review every fracking permit during the first 100 days of her administration and, earlier, denounced White House deregulation of methane emissions.

“One of the things, among many, that the Trump administration has done that is so bad for our environment, that I would reverse, is their changes to methane rules and methane emission," she said. "That is very dangerous.”

Klobuchar also said she would hope to “go to carbon neutral by 2050,” though she would push for a faster transition. That means no new coal plants and a new look at nuclear plants if safe storage could be assured.

The fight to combat climate change should be treated like the space race or the civil rights movement, Klobuchar said, moments “where our country came together and said, we're going to solve something.”

7:36 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Klobuchar calls the Amazon fires a tragedy

Sen. Amy Klobuchar was just asked about the wildfires in the Amazon, the Brazilian rainforest that is home to at least 10% of the world's biodiversity, produces 20% of the world's oxygen and helps regulate the temperature of the whole planet.

Environmental organizations and researchers say the wildfires were set by cattle ranchers and loggers who want to clear and utilize the land, emboldened by the country's pro-business president.

Klobuchar called the fires a "tragedy" and outlined some ways she'd try to combat the issue.

"And being part of the international climate change agreement again, being able to have some clout and leverage with allies will make a big difference in trying to put pressure and working with non-profits and other groups all over the world to try to stop this," she said.

"Because we are at a point — between the fires and some of the decisions for deforestation — that it's very dangerous to our climate, and I think just shows how everything is interrelated," she added.

7:24 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Klobuchar lays out her first seven days in presidential office

From CNN's Dan Merica

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN
Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar laid out on Wednesday how her first week in the White House would take on the climate crisis.

On her first day in office, Klobuchar said she would reenter the Paris climate accord. On the second day, Klobuchar said, she would bring back clean power rules that President Barack Obama pushed but were rolled back by President Donald Trump. And on day three, she would do the same with gas mileage standards for US car companies.

While Klobuchar said she would take action without Congress, she said the rest of her first week in office would focus on “sweeping legislation” to tackle the issue.

“On day 7, you’re supposed to rest,” Klobuchar said, “but I don’t think I will.”

“So that’s the first seven days,” she continued. “And from there you make this a top priority to get this passed.”

7:05 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Klobuchar is the next candidiate to take the stage


Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar just took the stage at CNN's climate crisis town hall.

In total, 10 2020 Democrats will answer questions tonight.

7:16 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Harris: I would empower “ignored” communities

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Asked what she would do to help at-risk people threatened by climate change, Harris said they would benefit from her commitment to lifting up all marginalized communities.

“Ultimately it’s about empowering communities that are often ignored,” Harris said in response to a question from a man with a spinal cord injury that has left him with thermodysregulation -- or the inability for the body to control its own temperature, leaving him unable to sweat. The health risk rises during hot summers like this one.

“No community should be dumped on and no community should be less than,” Harris said, pointing specifically to black and brown and indigenous people.

Harris also touted her founding of an environment justice unit during her time as the district attorney in San Francisco -- a decision, she said, that came partly in response to the pollution of a nearby area with a low household income, which diminished its ability to rally political support for its cause.

7:12 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Harris: "There’s no question I’m in favor of banning fracking"

From CNN's Eric Bradner

California Sen. Kamala Harris said she would seek to ban fracking and offshore drilling if she is elected president.

“There’s no question I’m in favor of banning fracking,” she said of the controversial form of oil and natural gas extraction at CNN’s town hall on the climate crisis.

Harris said she’d backed efforts to stop the practice in California as attorney general. As a Senate candidate in 2016, she said she was skeptical of fracking.

What is fracking, anyway? Learn more in the video below:

6:55 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Harris supports banning plastic straws — and says paper straws need to be perfected

California Sen. Kamala Harris said the US needs to ban plastic straws — but acknowledged that paper straws can be difficult to drink from.

“I think we should, yes," she said when asked about banning plastic. "I mean, look, I'm going to be honest: It's really difficult out of drink out of a paper straw — like, if you don’t gulp it down immediately, it starts to bend, and then the little thing catches it. So, we gotta kind of perfect that one a little bit more.”

She said now is the time for "innovation" when it comes to plastic alternatives.

"Innovation is a process. But you know, let's encourage innovation. I think we can do a little better than some of those flimsy plastic straws," she said.

But ultimately, "we do need to ban the plastic," Harris added.

6:47 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Harris would tell DOJ to go after oil and gas companies

From CNN's Dan Merica

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN
Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

California Sen. Kamala Harris said Wednesday that, as president, she would direct the Department of Justice to go after oil and gas companies who have directly impacted global warming, telling the audience at a CNN town hall that she will “take them to court and sue them.”

Harris, a former prosecutor, said “people who profit off harmful behaviors” need to have a financial reason to change their behavior.

“When you take away that money because you take them to court and sue them, as I have done, it’s extraordinary how they will change behaviors,” Harris said. “They have to be held accountable. Maybe this is the prosecutor in me. They have to be held accountable.”

She added: “These are bad behaviors. They are causing harm and death in communities. And there has been no accountability. Certainly not by this administration. Nor, and I hate to say it so generally, by the Republicans in Congress.”

Asked directly if she would sue a company like ExxonMobil, Harris said yes.

“Yes,” she said. “And they’re going to pay fines and they are going to pay fees.”

Harris’ written plan, which was released this week, also harkens back to her time as a prosecutor, especially when she helped California win an $85 million settlement with Volkswagen for cheating on emissions tests for its diesel vehicles.

If she becomes President, Harris’ plan states, she will increase penalties for companies that violate federal pollution laws and restoring the “polluter pays” model for funding the Superfund program.

6:42 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Kamala Harris says she would eliminate the filibuster to pass Green New Deal

From CNN's Eric Bradner

California Sen. Kamala Harris said if elected president, she would back abolishing the filibuster if Republicans stand in the way of legislation to combat climate change.

It’s the first time she has said as a 2020 candidate that she backs the end of the filibuster.

Harris said she would first seek to work with the GOP.

However, she said: “If they fail to act, as president of the United States, I am prepared to get rid of the filibuster to pass a Green New Deal,” she said.

Democrats need to win the presidency and gain three seats in the Senate to take control of the chamber in the 2020 elections. But the party would need 60 votes -- virtually an impossibility given the map of Senate seats up for election next year -- to win a filibuster-proof majority. That means even if a Democrat is elected president and the party wins full control of Congress, Republicans would still have the ability to block legislation in the Senate unless the filibuster is done away with.