Holly Harris, Snake River Alliance

By Harrison Berry, As appeared in the “Boise Weekly” on July 3, 2019

For the last nine years, Holly Harris lived in Juneau, Alaska, where she worked as an attorney for environmental law advocacy group Earthjustice. Before that, she worked for Preston Gates & Ellis (now K&L Gates), a law firm in Seattle, Washington.

“After the combination of big law and big green, I looked around and was thinking about starting a new chapter of my life, and Boise happens to have four of the most important people in my life living there: two nephews, my sister and brother-in-law,” she said. “I’d follow my nephews anywhere.”

Harris has only been in Boise a few months, and though she came to the City of Trees in pursuit of what some might call “big fam,” she will continue as an environmental activist in her capacity as the new executive director of the Snake River Alliance, where she will take up fresh challenges, from a proposal to build a dozen new nuclear reactors in Idaho to revamping the nonprofit’s website.

Where does your passion for environmental issues come from?

It’s a family-driven priority. That just started as kids trucking around the mountains of Colorado with my family and recognizing that we had an obligation to take care of what was there, to enjoy it, to be inspired by it, and to share it with others.

What’s on your to-do list?

Big-picture, there are some things that are really important to me. Education. I was so excited when I came to Idaho and saw the energy and passion from people already here, whether it was the climate strike in March or reaching out to K-12 educators. And I think we have the worst website of any Idaho environmental nonprofit. We’ve got to fix our website. On a serious note, I think the immediate threat is a proposal coming out of Utah to build 12 new nuclear reactors in the State of Idaho.

Where is that in process?

They’re in the early stages of design and certification. The Alliance is calling this proposal “The Dirty Dozen.” They want to build 12 nuclear reactors with little to no benefit to the State of Idaho, so that Utah can get a bunch of cheap electricity. It’s a lose for Idaho and one the Alliance is going to be educating folks to rally against. The fact is, clean, renewable, sustainable energy is here, and it’s already supporting our communities. It out-competes nuke at every turn, and that’s the future of Idaho.

Have you seen the HBO series Chernobyl?

You know, I don’t have TV, so I haven’t. I have certainly been online, checked out a bunch of the trailers, and I’m going to happily find someone who does have HBO and start watching it. I think it’s been a real testament to the recognition of the threat that nuke poses.

Why don’t you have a TV?

Technically, I have a TV, but I cut the cord on cable. I’m a streaming kind of girl. Netflix right now. I also don’t drive, if that matters. I just got my bike back from the guys over at East Side, and they just installed my e-bike conversion kit. I am in love with my Bad Boy—that’s the name of my bike. My Cannondale Bad Boy is perhaps the best bike on the planet.

Why not have a car?

Transportation is the single greatest contributor to the adverse effects of climate change. You look at Boise: Boise has got to confront its transportation problem. This is an extraordinary city, we have tons of visionary partners. The city is doing great work, Idaho Power is doing great work. We wish they were doing it faster, and we’re working to bring about some of those changes faster. We have to get people out of their cars as much as possible. The single-occupancy vehicle? Hop on your bike.

People are familiar with the Solarize the Valley program. How has the Trump administration changed the logistics of installing solar for home or business?

The Solarize program by design was a stimulus into a new market. It was intended as a short-term shot in the arm to get people talking, educating people about the opportunities. It’s going to come as no surprise to anybody that the Trump administration is making life difficult for renewable energy. It’s also a testament to the strength of renewable energy that it’s still outcompeting fossil fuels and the nuke industry.

The science says we can expect the most severe effects of climate change starting in about 2040.

I’ve been living in Alaska. It’s here, folks. I always get worried when I hear people say it’s going to happen out there somewhere. It’s happening, whether it’s forest fires, droughts, flooding, etc. We’re living with the consequences of our choices and our energy choices right now, and really, the responsibility that we have. [What] we could do today that could help mitigate adverse effects.

What do you see as Idaho’s role in addressing the issue of climate change?

It’s not unlike conversations that are happening all across the country, and that is finding creative ways to take on our share of that problem, that we’re not making it worse. Let’s look at the electrification process, and make sure we’re getting it from the cleanest sources possible. Let’s look at natural gas, and let’s look at the enormous costs that it’s inflicting on our communities. How do we make sure low-income communities are not bearing a disproportionate weight in their energy choices?