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Public Statements

In Recognition of Earth Day

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. RICHARDSON. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate Earth Day, which has been celebrated on this day, April 22, for the past 42 years. Since the first Earth Day in 1970, Americans have worked to make cleaner the air we breathe and the water we drink. Four decades later, I am proud to be working with like-minded colleagues in the Congress and the Administration to continue this honored tradition of environmental leadership.

Earth Day was first organized in 1970 by one of the greatest environmentalists in the history of the Congress, Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. Despite his tireless work to raise awareness of environmental conservation, for years the Congress and the administration consistently failed to enact his environmental legislation. Senator Nelson called upon student activists of the day who led a nationwide ``teach-in.'' It is estimated that 20 million individuals participated, demonstrating to Congress the extent of the public's interest in, and concerns over threats to, the environment. The resulting change was dramatic and profound. With bipartisan support and majorities, Congress took the following actions: Created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (1970); Passed the Clean Air Act (1970); Passed the Clean Water Act (1972); Passed the Endangered Species Act (1973).

Added to this impressive list of accomplishments are the actions taken by the Democratic-controlled 110th and 111th Congresses to preserve and protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the lands we inhabit, and the green spaces where we recreate. Let me briefly mention some of the highlights of this impressive record of environmental stewardship.

In the 110th Congress, the House passed, and I supported the following major legislative initiatives:

Energy Independence and Security Act in 2007, which will increase vehicle fuel efficiency standards for the first time in more than 3 decades, to 35 miles per gallon in 2020, projected to save $1,000 per vehicle each year. The act will also expand the use of American-grown biofuels and combat oil market manipulation.

Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, also known as the Farm Bill, which made an historic commitment to American biofuels--which are keeping gas prices 15 percent lower than they otherwise would be due to fuel blending--and increased Commodity Futures Trading Commission oversight authority to detect and prevent manipulation of energy prices.

Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008, which extended and expanded tax incentives for renewable electricity, energy and fuel from America's heartland, as well as for plug-in hybrid cars, and energy efficient homes, buildings, and appliances. This legislation is critical to creating and preserving more than 500,000 good-paying clean energy American jobs in the wind and solar industries alone.

Green the Capitol--Under the leadership of newly-elected Speaker NANCY PELOSI in 2007, the House started this program to make its operations a model of sustainability. The House set aggressive targets, including reducing energy use by 50 percent over 10 years. Since the program's inception, the House has reduced its carbon footprint by 73 percent, it purchases wind energy to meet all electricity needs and burns only natural gas at the Capitol Power Plant, with total energy consumption down by 23 percent and water consumption down 32 percent. The project has already saved taxpayers at least $3.3 million a year.
In the 111th Congress, the House passed, and I supported, the following major bills:

American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, historic legislation that launches a new clean energy economy--to create 1.7 million American jobs (with the Recovery Act); helps reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil by 5 million barrels per day; keeps energy costs low for Americans; protects consumers from price increases with lower income families seeing no cost and with no increase to the deficit. The legislation requires a reduction in the carbon pollution causing climate change from major U.S. sources of 17 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which made historic investments of $90 billion in tax cuts and investments in clean energy. These investments leveraged another $100 billion in private investments in energy efficiency, renewable generation, research, and other areas and helped speed the transformation to a clean energy future. The included tax incentives spurred energy savings and created clean energy jobs, as will lead to breakthroughs in clean energy research. The Recovery Act also included incentives to produce new electric cars, develop advanced battery technology, and modernize the electricity grid to make it more efficient and reliable. It is estimated that this legislation created more than 2,700,000 jobs, nearly doubled renewable electricity over four years, and saved consumers up to $98 a year in energy costs.

Today, it is no less urgent that we take great pains to keep environmental issues from receding into the background. Four out of five Americans live in areas hit by recent weather disasters, and emerging scientific data suggests that such disasters will continue occurring at higher and higher frequencies if we do not take steps to address our changing climate.

My home state of California has made great strides in developing a ``green economy'' and investing in renewable sources of energy. In 2011, California added more wind power than any other state. The state's wind industry now employs 4,000 5,000 people and is responsible for 3 percent of the California's electricity. Additionally, the solar energy industry in California alone is comprised of over 3,500 solar companies, which employ more than 25,000 people. These industries should be recognized for their contributions to job creation as well as their growing success in securing our energy independence.

Partisan politics threatens to turn back this progress, particularly through the recently proposed Republican budget plans. These plans protect billions of dollars in tax breaks for big oil companies while slashing investments in clean solar and wind energy. We cannot afford to lavish subsidies on oil companies earning record profits, furthering our dependence on increasingly expensive, dirty and dangerous fossil fuel sources.

Since Senator Nelson sparked a widespread interest in our environment four decades ago, environmental legislation has enjoyed support from both sides of the aisle. I am committed to working with my colleagues in Congress and the Obama Administration to continue the bipartisan tradition of environmental protection.

Mr. Speaker, as we celebrate Earth Day this year, let it serve as a timely reminder of the immense opportunities the planet holds, both in terms of current economic growth and future prosperity. It is my hope that we may recapture the energy and enthusiasm behind Senator Nelson's original celebration in order to restore environmental stewardship as a core American value.

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