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Public Statements

Issue Position: Energy & Environment

Issue Position


Colorado's landscape and environment are the heart of our state's character. Visitors from across the globe come to Colorado year-round to get a taste of what we're surrounded by every day. Our state's natural beauty is itself a precious resource that we must preserve. In Colorado, we see first-hand that the health of our environment directly relates to the health of our citizens and the health of our economy. We owe it to future generations to protect the land we love.

America is a beautiful country. For too long, we have ignored the poisonous pollution we pump into our skies and rivers. The time has come to act. I am committed to the fight for cleaner air, cleaner water, and preservation of our natural resources. I reject the false choice between a clean planet and economic prosperity. As Vice Chairman of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC), a focused, action-based caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, I am working with my colleagues in the Congress and the Obama Administration to advance policies that recognize this important priority.

Climate Change

The threat of global climate change is undoubtedly the most challenging environmental issue of our time. The magnitude and complexity of this crisis surpass any problems we've confronted as a global community thus far. In Colorado, we already see the first-hand effects of a changing climate and its impact on our ecosystems. We watch the spread of the beetle epidemic hitting our lodgepole pine forests with devastating effects. As our globe warms, scientists predict that our precipitation will come less frequently through more intense storms, changing already fickle runoff patterns. Our forests, water reserves and wildlife will face competition from invasive species and insects. Our legendary ski industry could see its seasons changed, and not for the better.

To Colorado this means not only a likelihood of increased flooding, but also an eventual net shortage of usable water. Our state's recreation-based industries have a lot to lose as well: threatening skiing, hiking and backpacking, rafting, fishing, and wildlife dependant activities. Backcountry enthusiasts flock to Colorado to enjoy our natural wonders; global climate change could damage this important sector of Colorado's economy. Simply put, Colorado has a vested stake in the health of our world's climate.

When it comes to climate change, the science is clear. The energy sources that once sparked the industrial revolution have now become outdated and are a root cause of our climate crisis. The consensus of the scientific community has been widely heard through the impartial United Nation's International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in addition to the many other peer reviewed and non-special interest funded studies. This consortium of over 3,000 of the world's top climate specialists has been actively evaluating the state of our world's climate and the role that carbon plays in affecting climate change. I believe, as do most Coloradans, that we should put science before special interests as we shape public policy. Together, we must change our attitudes and behavior to slow the dangerous pattern of global climate change.

Congress is undertaking an invigorated effort to address climate change this Congress and I will work with my colleagues to develop and institute responsible policies that effectively address our carbon output and grow our economy. By working to address our nation's carbon emissions, we will set an example for emerging world powers in the lead up to a new international climate agreement. This holds especially true for China, sending them the message that environmental responsibility is economically advantageous and international cooperation is not only possible but necessary. The house this year already passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act which contained a greenhouse gas cap and trade program, a national Renewable Energy Standard (RES), and a new environmental education and green jobs training program that I developed. These provisions, including my environmental education and green jobs program, are also included in the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, the central energy and climate legislation that the Senate is considering right now. While the Senate continues their work, I will continue to work to ensure that the end result is an effective and responsible approach to curbing this ever increasing problem. It is my hope that the final bill will have strong midterm targets, at least 20% by 2020, with strong efficiency targets, reassuring consumer protections and an ability for the EPA to regulate greenhouse gasses if congress fails to enact strong policy.

Colorado's landscape goes hand in hand with its character, and we are lucky to have many beautiful places set aside as public lands. Colorado's economy relies on the health of those public lands and draws masses of visitors every year to explore Rocky Mountain National Park, Hike the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, or enjoy skiing on our hundreds of world-class slopes. Colorado's second district is home to the Indian Peaks Wilderness and the White River National Forest, the single most visited national forest in the nation, among many other marvelous attractions.

It is imperative that we keep these lands pristine. We should give every child who grows up in our state the ability to develop an appreciation for, and personal tie to, the land. Environmental protection and lands stewardship where necessary, directly affects our public health, our local economies and the world our children will encounter.

Despite their worldwide appeal, our public lands face a myriad of different challenges, both natural and man-made. Spending any time in the high country reveals the thousands of acres of lodgepole pine and other evergreens affected by the growing pine beetle epidemic. Local leaders, the environmental community and Congress are working to craft solutions to the problems created by this epidemic. The mountain communities which are most directly affected need help maintaining Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) zones that lessen the threat to their communities from wildfires. In Congress we are working with the federal land management agencies to provide them with the resources they need to protect our mountain communities while ensuring it is environmentally friendly.

I plan to work with my colleagues and the new administration to ensure that our public lands continue to be protected not only for our future generations but for the sake of maintaining their natural state and the wildlife and vegetation that depend on it. Interior Secretary and former Colorado Senator Ken Salazar will be a crucial ally in this effort as a member of President Barack Obama's Cabinet. Legislation for Rocky Mountain National Park's Wilderness Designation and an expansion to the Indian Peaks Wilderness, among other initiatives, have recently passed congress and been signed into law. I also hope that there will be an opportunity to support new wilderness areas that will protect these lands while never forgetting the people that live on their boundaries and enjoy recreating in them. I look forward to working with our congressional delegation, local communities and everyone who understands the value of our state's abundant natural beauty to expand its protection.

Energy Development

An issue that touches Colorado, as well as many other states, is the issue of energy development. Our nation has a serious addiction to fossil fuels. We must reduce our reliance on foreign sources of oil, but it is incorrect to assume that the solution is with oil and gas production here at home, especially in pristine, critical habitat like the Roan Plateau outside of Rifle, or anywhere oil shale production is planned. Because of the international nature of the oil and gas market, domestic supply has little or no effect on price, and espousing a "Drill, baby, drill" attitude is not the answer.

For years now, our country has fallen victim to a short sighted energy policy that feeds our addiction and fattens the pockets of energy company executives the world over. It is now time to think about energy in a holistic, sustainable and long-term way. By encouraging long-term investments, understanding the wide ranging effects of coal and oil use on our environment and our health, and by putting in place the proper policies to create a new energy infrastructure, we can make a rapid change for the better.

Our nation's energy future won't be found in Colorado's mountains, Canada's oil sands, Alaska's wildlife refuges or on the Outer Continental Shelf. In Colorado, we simply don't have the water to keep using these old sources of energy, particularly oil shale development or new coal fired power plants. Those are antiquated sources from a time when the only green that mattered was money.

Our nation's energy future can be found in securing a long term Production Tax Credit that will grow rapid investment. It can be found in green jobs workforce training that will drive down costs and spur innovation. It can be found in a responsible cap and trade policy that invests in new technologies, creates jobs and sustains communities. Domestic energy production has provided jobs and supported families. It powered the Industrial Revolution and gave Thomas Edison the energy to make his light bulb glow. Innovation need not stop with making more energy at home. By moving to renewable forms of energy we will create millions of jobs, turn around our economy, and improve our environment and public health all at the same time.

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