Statements and Speeches

Opening Statement: Chairman's Mark - Climate Change Legislation

Environment and Public Works Committee

Nov 03 2009

Madame Chair, I’d like to begin this morning first by thanking you and Senator Kerry for your hard work and your extraordinary commitment to bring climate change legislation before the Senate.
I also would like to thank our Chairman for including several of my own top priorities –including CLEAN TEA, nuclear energy and recycling in this bill – and for working with us on clean coal language. 
I believe that climate change may well be the foremost challenge of our generation.
When the 10 hottest years on record occur within the last 20 years, we have a problem. 
When the American Lung Association reports that nearly half of all Americans are breathing unhealthy air, we have a problem.
And, when 85 percent of the mountaintop glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro have melted and rising sea levels threaten the coasts of Delaware and more than a dozen other states, we have a problem.
How we decide to address the climate problem – how we choose to clean up our air and reduce our dependence on foreign energy – will impact generations to come.
Fortunately, I believe we can address climate change while bringing jobs and prosperity back to this country. As Albert Einstein once said, “In adversity lies opportunity.” It still does.
Fortunately, the Chairman’s Mark puts this country on a path toward a low-carbon economy while allowing us to harness the greatest source of power we have in this country: American ingenuity.
Although the legislation before us is similar to the House bill, let me mention three areas in which our Chairman has improved upon that legislation.
First, the Mark includes language from the CLEAN TEA bill that Senator Specter and I introduced in March, legislation now cosponsored by Senators Lautenberg, Cardin, Merkley, and Gillibrand.
Our language provides cities and states with funding to promote reductions in transportation emissions – through public transit, smart growth and more.
The Mark provides 3 percent of allowances for clean transportation projects – a significant down payment, but we can do better, and I hope that we will.
I will offer an amendment to slightly increase transportation allowances. I believe it is critical for us to adequately address in this bill, the major role that transportation emissions play, given the fact that 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the US come from the cars, trucks and vans that we drive.  
Second, thanks in no small part to the efforts of a number of people in this room, this Mark provides better incentives for the early deployment of clean coal technology, while keeping environmental protections firmly in place.
A result of a compromise between coal-state Senators and non-coal-state Senators, our coal language sends a clear message that consensus can be achieved to pass strong clean energy legislation that takes regional differences into account.
And third, I want to applaud the Chairman for putting a nuclear title in her bill.
Our country needs nuclear power to meet our clean air and climate goals. But building a new nuclear plant is not cheap.
By capping carbon though, we will incentivize investments in all clean energy – including nuclear. This Mark also funds the training of the next generation of nuclear workers.
I believe that we need to do more to promote nuclear energy, but this bill represents a necessary first step.
For all the good provisions in this bill, however, we still need to do better to protect our children from soot, smog and mercury emissions, and I fervently hope that we will.
To that end, Senator Klobuchar and I will offer an amendment that significantly reduces sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury emissions from fossil-fuel power plants. Our amendment will save 200,000 lives over the next 15 years. It will also save $1.5 trillion in health care costs. Let me say those numbers again. 200,00 lives and $1.5 trillion.
Passage of this amendment will guarantee reductions in these pollutants, provide business certainty AND protect public health at the same time.
In my state, we call that a win-win situation, not just for Delaware, but for all states. Especially states like Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine, all of whom live like we do, at the end of America’s tailpipe and pay a terrible price for it every single day of the year.
Let me conclude with this. I believe that we all share a number of common goals on this committee. We want to create jobs. We want to make America more energy independent. And, we want to protect our children from pollution that shortens their lives and threatens their health.
I believe that if we work together, we can make a good bill even better and create a clean energy revolution that will help to feed our economic recovery and get America moving in the right direction again.