Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today called President Obama's newly announced climate change prevention plan "a good first step" and said he was encouraged by the president proactively addressing the issue. Grijalva, the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulations and a leading environmental voice in Congress, saluted the president for taking the initiative and presenting a clear agenda to the nation.
In the speech, President Obama said the Keystone XL pipeline proposal should be blocked if it adds significant greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Grijalva said he hopes that in making a final decision, the president carefully considers the Environmental Protection Agency's public comments on the project, released in April, suggesting that the State Department's controversial draft environmental impact statement had not fully accounted for the pipeline's likely atmospheric impacts.
"This decision will set a tone on environmental policy in Washington for years to come," Grijalva said. "The fate of this project will define much of the legacy of this administration and others to follow. I'm encouraged by the president's clear and genuine interest in preventing more damage to our atmosphere, and I hope that consideration is foremost in his mind when the final decision is made."
Grijalva has been a leading Congressional opponent of Keystone XL and sent a letter to President Obama on May 25, co-signed by 29 of his colleagues, urging the president to reject the pipeline. That letter read in part, "Keystone XL will increase global demand for tar sands, which produce far more climate-heating emissions than conventional oil. There is a better way forward, and we call on you to continue leading the way."
"Today's speech is what leading the way really looks like," Grijalva said. "While I have reservations about certain aspects of his plan, I believe there is much the nation can agree on and put into practice in short order, and that's what we need right now. The time for false choices and outdated rhetoric is over. We really can clean up the world we live in and put more people on the job. It's time to start doing that."
Grijalva cited the end of public financing for new coal plants as just one example of a workable, uncontroversial goal laid out by the president today.
Grijalva has been a vocal leader on combating climate change both in Congress and in working with outside groups. He voted in favor of the 2009 American Clean Energy and Security Act passed by the House, which would have established a first-time cap-and-trade emissions reduction system. He promoted the expansion of the Department of the Interior's climate research program to include universities, especially those able to leverage access to national forests and public lands, and in 2010 successfully advocated for the creation of the Southwest Climate Center at the University of Arizona, which was announced following a round of competitive proposals.
Grijalva called for Congress to follow up on the president's action items, work more closely with the White House on the issue, and adopt a proactive stance going forward. Over the long term, Grijalva said, others should follow and expand on the themes of today's speech.
"Today opened a new phase of our national conversation about the balance between extractive industries and the public interest. We're not going to look the other way any longer when environmental risks present themselves. We're not going to kid ourselves about the consequences of our choices. We're going to start doing the hard work of building a new economy that works for everyone and doesn't profit from pollution, and we're going to do it together."