Congressman Rush Holt spoke about wilderness protection, the dangers of using fossil fuel energy and pipeline projects at a talk on campus on Wednesday.
Holt, a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, has mainly supported conservationist legislation that includes wilderness protection, promoting the use of alternative energy and capping greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition to serving as congressman of New Jersey’s 12th district, which includes the town of Princeton, Holt is the former assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.
Listing examples such as oil spills, climate change and fossil fuel energy use, Holt said that it is general citizens who have to suffer the damage of such environmental destructions while the companies responsible for the damages often benefit and escape the responsibility.
He said that people around the world, as well as in the United States, are “dying early and unnecessarily” because of the way we produce and use energy and the effects of climate change.
Holt then explained the importance of the Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act, which was introduced to preserve the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He is currently co-sponsoring the act and noted that preserving the wilderness in Alaska is important because “It deserves to be there.”
“This Arctic Wilderness Act is a nice designation to have because of all this wildlife, but it is a necessary designation to have because the oil companies are licking their lips at the prospect of being able to extract oil from this area,” Holt said. “Not only because of the damage that it would do to this area should we oppose oil and mineral extraction but also because it takes us further down the road on dependence on fossil fuel … an unsustainable, unacceptable kind of energy.”
Holt then discussed the controversial Keystone Pipeline project.
The pipeline is “all risk, no gain for the United States of America,” he said, adding that the environmental risk caused by the pipeline is high, most of the oil will be exported to other countries and the pipeline project will not create many permanent jobs.
Concerning the potential damages of a gas pipeline that would pass through Princeton, Holt called for a “real environmental review” that would allow the decision to be made with the full understanding of the environmental costs.
“I don’t know the environmental costs myself. I don’t think anybody else does. I think we need to have a real review in the open,” Holt said.
The talk was followed by a screening of “Years of Living Dangerously,” a nine-part documentary on climate change. The documentary, which premiered on April 13 on Showtime, featured celebrities traveling around the world to investigate the impacts of climate change.
The event took place at 7 p.m. at McCormick Hall 101 and was hosted by Princeton University Students United for a Responsible Global Environment along with the Alaska Awareness League and The Sierra Club in celebration of Earth Day.