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Public Statements

Earth Day

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I take this time to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day that we celebrate today, April 22.

I think we first need to acknowledge that we have made a lot of progress since the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire in 1969. We have made a lot of progress since the uncontrolled air pollution that killed 20 people and sickened 7,000 people over just a few days. That happened in Donora, PA. We have came a long way since the exposé on the New York Love Canal, where toxic waste was dumped into neighborhood streams.

We have made a lot of progress. I think the most important symbol of that progress is that the environment is now in mainstream America. It is mainstream politics. It is a way of life for us, and that is really good news. It has given us the political strength to pass important environmental laws. We passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Superfund law. I am particularly pleased about the Chesapeake Bay Program. I remember when we started that program almost 30 years ago. It was a difficult start, and people wondered whether we would have the power to stay with this issue so that we could try to reclaim the Chesapeake Bay. Well, we did. It is still an issue we are working on today. We created the Environmental Protection Agency, an agency in the Federal Government with the sole purpose to try to help us preserve the environment for future generations.

I think we can take pride in what we have been able to do. We have made great progress as a nation. We should celebrate our success in addressing the great environmental challenges of the past. But our work is not done. Our environment faces new challenges today that are less visible and more incremental but still pose great threats to our treasured natural resources and all the work we have done to protect and restore them. For example, we do not worry that our great water bodies such as the Chesapeake Bay will catch fire, but there are small amounts of pollutants running off millions of lawns that accumulate and make it very difficult for us to reclaim our national treasures.

The great wave of water infrastructure we built over 40 years ago is now past its useful life and must be replaced. Water main breaks, large and small waste water, destroy homes and businesses, and undermine the water quality benefits this infrastructure was meant to protect.

Let me just give you a couple of examples that have happened in the last
couple of years. In Bethesda, not very far from here, River Road, a major thoroughfare, became a river because of a water main break. In Dundalk, MD, right outside of downtown Baltimore, thousands of basements were flooded as a result of a water main break. In Baltimore County, just a few weeks ago, we had a water main break that denied residential homeowners water service for many days. This is happening all over. In the city of Baltimore, 95 percent of their water mains are over 65 years old and have not been inspected. We need to pay attention to these issues.

If I had to mention the single most important challenge we face, it is in our energy policies. We all understand that, the impact it has on our environment, but we should also acknowledge that doing the energy policy right will be good for our national security. We spend $1 billion a day on imported oil. That compromises our national security.

For the sake of our national security, we need to develop a self-sustained energy policy on renewable energy sources. For the sake of our economy, we need to do that. We developed the technology for solar power and wind power. Yet we are not capitalizing on the jobs here in America. Jobs are our most important goal. A sound energy policy will allow us to create more jobs here in America.

But today, on Earth Day, I want to talk about the environment. A sound energy policy means we can become a world leader and bring this world into some sense on what is happening on global climate change, on the indiscriminate release of greenhouse gas emissions by the burning of fossil fuels and nitrogen and carbon into the air. We know we can do better on that.

So on this Earth Day, let's rededicate ourselves to develop an energy policy that will be not only good for our security and our economy but good for our environment. Addressing the failing health of our world is not just in the hands of our political leaders alone. Each of us can make a difference by changing the way we live and move about the Earth. Our history shows us that bold and courageous actions by all of us to tackle our environmental challenges make us stronger, more vibrant, and a healthier nation. That should be our message on this Earth Day.

I yield the floor.


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