“My family in Puerto Rico was a rural family too. I understand some of the challenges.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said Wednesday that she can relate to people from Appalachia due to her Puerto Rican roots, the Lexington Herald Leader reported.
Ocasio-Cortez, who accepted an invitation from Rep. Andy Barr, R-K.Y., to tour a Kentucky coal mine, said that despite her Bronx upbringing, her Puerto Rican roots help her identify with rural families.
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“It’s very close to my heart,” Ocasio-Cortez said of struggling areas of Appalachia. “Folks may not think of that because I’m from the Bronx, but my family in Puerto Rico was a rural family too. I understand some of the challenges.”
Barr, a longtime supporter of the coal industry, extended the offer to the New York Democrat in response to her Green New Deal proposal. Republicans argue that Ocasio-Cortez’s far-reaching plan would result in putting coal miners out of business.
The Green New Deal proposes fighting climate change in part by ending dependence on coal and fossil fuels, replacing them with renewable sources like wind and solar power.
Ocasio-Cortez insisted she considered the economic impact on coal miners when putting together plan.
“It’s a complete injustice the cancer levels that a lot of these communities are confronting,” Ocasio-Cortez said, adding that she is concerned about the environmental effects of mountaintop removal mining on communities in Appalachia.
“We have to plan a future for all of our communities, no matter what,” she said. “Failure to plan is planning to fail and I feel like we’ve been failing Appalachian communities for a very long time and it’s time to turn that ship around.”
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For his part, Barr expressed appreciation for the freshmen representative’s willingness to learn about the coal industry.
“I appreciate her passion about the issue,” Barr said. “I think it’s genuine, I think it’s heartfelt.”
“I want her to learn about the coal industry the way I have learned about the coal industry, not through textbooks, not through politically charged movies, but by talking to human beings,” Barr continued.
The visit comes as Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal was rejected by the Senate in a 57-0 vote on Tuesday.
Republicans argue the plan does little to solve climate change while costing the taxpayers a fortune to implement.
Barr echoed that sentiment Wednesday, calling the Green New Deal “shortsighted.” He argued there’s a place for coal in America’s future, noting that he’s “not a climate denier, I’m a climate thinker.”
No date has been set for Ocasio-Cortez’s visit to Kentucky.
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