Statements and Speeches

For the past eight years, the Bush Administration has not provided the leadership we need on some of the biggest environmental challenges of our time – global warming, energy independence and cleaning up our nation’s air.

But beyond just refusing to do its part, the Administration has also held up any federal regulation on climate change – despite the Supreme Court ruling that the regulation of carbon dioxide is required under the Clean Air Act.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has had a field day beating up the Bush Administration’s fossil fuel emissions regulations – and rightly so. That court’s decisions have sent the EPA back to the drawing board to rewrite the rules that reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury emissions.

So we start this 111th Congress pretty much where we were eight years ago – with no meaningful federal regulations to clean up our dirtiest fossil-fuel power plants. And while we wait for the Bush Administration to act, our nation is left breathing dirty air. 

We can no longer afford inaction on climate change or air pollution.

Starting today, here in this committee, we must send the right signals to the industry that will impact their decisions tomorrow and in years to come.

Quite simply, how we address many environmental issues today will directly impact future generations. As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman said: “It’s not about just lighting up our house, it’s about lighting up our future.”

And unfortunately, the next EPA Administrator and CEQ Chairman must address a host of problems at the same time our country faces its worst economic crisis in decades.

We need leaders who can build alliances, work with Congress, and determine a path forward that both strengthens the economy and protects the environment.

I can think of no one more qualified and ready to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and the Council of Environmental Quality during these challenging times than Lisa Jackson and Nancy Sutley.

Ms. Jackson and Ms. Sutely are both principled and pragmatic advocates for environmental and energy issues. Both with strong resumes at the state and federal levels, and with an especially good track record when it comes to clean air.

Ms. Jackson and I both come from states that are at the end of what I like to call “the nation’s tailpipe.” The bulk of air pollution in states like Delaware and New Jersey comes from emissions generated by power plants in other states. It harms our health and inhibits our states’ economic activity, but we have no control over the sources of this pollution.

As Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, I especially look forward to working with Ms. Jackson and Ms. Sutley on developing stronger air quality regulations on our country’s aging fossil fuel power fleet.  

Let me put it simply: Continued inaction on clean air legislation means that tens of thousands of Americans will die prematurely from lung-related illnesses.

Inaction means that thousands of children, who would have been born healthy, will be born with birth defects from mercury poisoning.

We cannot afford to ignore the other pollutants, while we address climate.

So Ms. Jackson shares my vision of developing a comprehensive, national approach to slashing harmful emissions from power plants and I hope she continues to share this concern.

Both Ms. Jackson and Ms. Sutley have been very active on climate change and clean energy. 

I look forward hearing more about Ms. Sutely’s and Ms. Jackson’s experiences and lessons learned as we look to drafting an economy-wide climate legislation.

When talking about climate change mitigation, we cannot forget the transportation sector. 

The transportation sector is responsible for about 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Any climate change strategy we develop must also require substantial reductions from our transportation sector. This will mean more fuel efficient cars and cleaner burning fuels, as well as convenient, reliable alternatives to driving.

But if we are asking the car companies and oil companies to contribute to the solution, we must require the same of ourselves by improving our nation’s transportation systems. I hope that Ms. Jackson and EPA will work closely with the Department of Transportation to ensure that this area is not overlooked in any developing climate initiative. In fact, I hope this new administration views the Department of Transportation as a key player on its climate and energy team. I believe Ms. Sutley can help facilitate these conversations.

Ms. Jackson and Ms. Sutley, you have been nominated to serve at an historic time. The opportunities you will have to shape the future of our nation’s environmental policy are truly monumental. And I have confidence that you can, and will, rise to the challenges presented to you. Thank you.