The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) today passed landmark climate change legislation to combat global warming and invest in a new clean energy economy. Because the Republican members of the Committee declined to propose amendments to the legislation and boycotted the Committee's meetings to consider the bill, the Committee approved EPW Committee Chairman Boxer's "mark" of the legislation without amendment. The bill passed by the Committee is stronger than its House counterpart passed earlier this year, establishing a strong 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and preserving important Clean Air Act authorities. U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Committee, released the following statement following the vote:
"Our Republican colleagues put us in an impossible position by simply refusing to show up for work at a time when this critical legislation needs our attention. I commend Chairman Boxer for her decision to go forward. I think it was the brave one and the correct one.
"The hearings we have held in the EPW Committee over the past two weeks on the Senate climate bill have shown the vital importance of this legislation to our national security, to our economy, to our environment, and to our public health. The bill approved by the Committee advances all these national interests.
"As we continue to move forward toward consideration of climate change legislation by the full Senate I will continue to fight for environmental and economic principles that matter most to Rhode Islanders: protection of low-income consumers, investments in energy efficiency, coastal protection, natural resource adaptation, emissions reduction, and the promotion of a new clean energy economy that generates good jobs at good wages to sustain our State and our nation for years to come."
The bill passed out of Committee today contains a number of provisions championed by Senator Whitehouse, including:
Protecting Natural Resources - Senator Whitehouse authored a comprehensive provision to help America's wildlife and natural resources adapt to and survive the impacts of climate change. Whitehouse joined with Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) to include this title in the bill that calls for the development of a national strategy approved by the President of the United States to protect our natural resources and guide state and federal agencies in implementing on the ground programs to ensure the resilience of natural ecosystems.
Lowering Energy Costs for the Neediest Families - Whitehouse successfully added a provision to the bill that would set aside funding for states to make energy efficiency upgrades to homes occupied by low-income owners and tenants, including public housing.
Protecting our Coasts - Senator Whitehouse included a provision to help coastal and Great Lakes states respond to the current and future impacts of climate change. The Coastal and Great Lakes State Adaptation Program will help give coastal states like Rhode Island the resources they need to plan for and respond to climate impacts such as sea level rise and increased risk of storm surges and flooding.
Protecting the Clean Air Act - Senator Whitehouse fought to restore EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, which had been largely stripped in the House version of the climate legislation. The Senator believes strongly that EPA's regulatory authorities can reinforce and complement market-based pollution reduction strategies.
Strengthening Offset Integrity - Senator Whitehouse also secured tougher oversight and accountability provisions for the domestic and international offsets programs. Enhancing these provisions - for instance, by requiring project developers to track and record progress on the projects, making the offset registration process more transparent, and establishing an Office of Offsets Integrity at the Department of Justice - will ensure the integrity of these offsets and therefore, guarantee real reductions in our greenhouse gas emissions.