Build Back Better in the Rio Grande Valley

Throughout this summer, Congress and the Biden Administration have been  working to shape an infrastructure package and budget that could advance  critical climate, water quality, and equity investments across our  country as part of the Build Back Better agenda. The future of our  climate crisis hinges on whether a $3.5 trillion historic budget  resolution that invests in a clean, renewable energy transition and  climate adaptation passes through Congress in the coming weeks. But what  does this legislation mean for communities in the Rio Grande Valley  today -  where frontline communities are already facing climate  disruption in the form of coastal flooding, record-setting heat waves,  and extreme drought? How can these resources help mitigate challenges  faced in this region and help communities adapt in an equitable way?  

To look towards an answer, GreenLatinos hosted a virtual community  roundtable to discuss the Build Back Better agenda and proposed budget  package. GreenLatinos advocates Mariana Del Valle Prieto Cervantes and  Ean Thomas Tafoya were joined by local community leaders from  Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas to discuss provisions of the  legislation, the impact they will have on Latino communities, and what  the public can do to advocate for the best version of this important and  far reaching policy.   

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DeeDee Belmares

DeeDee Belmares was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, Dee Dee   Belmares has a long track record of environmental activism in her  hometown. She served on the Steering Committee during the formation of  San Antonio’s Climate Action Adaptation Plan. The Plan passed in October  of 2019 and will put the city on a path to carbon neutrality by 2050.  Currently, Belmares is a Climate Justice Organizer for Public Citizen in  San Antonio. She serves on the Technical and Community Advisory  Committee to help guide the city in implementing the Climate Plan while  ensuring that it prioritizes the people suffering the most from climate  change. Along with members of a local climate justice coalition, DeeDee  is working to close the city’s last remaining coal plant and to move San  Antonio to a clean renewable and sustainable future. She also serves on  the municipally owned CPS Energy’s Rate Advisory Committee and gives  the utility input on rate structure and power generation.  Along with the work she is doing in San Antonio, DeeDee serves as  co-chair for the Climate and Clean Air Working Group with Green Latinos,  a national non-profit that convenes a broad coalition of Latino leaders  committed to addressing national, regional and local environmental,  natural resources and conservation issues that significantly affect the  health and welfare of the US Latino community. DeeDee also is a mentor  with the Women’s Earth Alliance-a global initiative that trains,  resources and catalyzes grassroots women’s networks to protect our  environment and build healthy, safe and just communities now and into the  future.  

Theresa Cardenas

Theresa Cardenas is a native New Mexican born and raised in Santa Fe  with a passion to serve her community. Her farming, ranching and native  family roots date to the original New Mexico settlements. She has over  25 years of dedicated experience working as a social entrepreneur as a  social worker, home builder and as a science advocate to improve and  sustain the natural, cultural and built environment for future  generations. She has expertise in public policy at the local, state and  federal level at the intersection of air, water, climate, electricity  and resiliency. She formally served as a climate and energy outreach  consultant to the Union of Concerned Scientists. In her role she worked  in partnership to use independent science, analysis and effective  advocacy to create practical solutions to make New Mexico resilient and  sustainable.  Theresa is a 2013 fellow at the National Hispanic Leadership Institute  in Washington DC and Harvard Kennedy School, holds a bachelor’s degree  from the University of New Mexico and a masters of sustainability degree  from Arizona State University with a concentration in water resources.   

Ean Thomas Tafoya 

Ean began his career as a youth educator. He has worked for three  branches of local government and run for Denver City Council. He has  directed campaigns for state offices and local initiatives. He received  recognition for his work from both the Denver Regional Council of  Governments and the Regional Air Quality Council.  Born on Earth Day and raised in Denver, Colorado, he loves to dance  whether it be at a concert or in politics. He was recognized as the Most  Outstanding Student from his college at Metropolitan State University  of Denver, where he received a BA in Political Science with a Minor in  Native American Studies. He holds certificates in Early Childhood  Education and Horticultural Therapy. He is currently completing a Water  Studies Certificate. He serves on the Executive Board of the Colorado  Latino Forum and is the Environmental Justice Chair.

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