March 02, 2007

HEARING ON STATE, REGIONAL & LOCAL PERSPECTIVES ON GLOBAL WARMING

SENATE ENVIRONMENT & PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEEOPENING STATEMENT

Madam Chair:

Thank you for holding this hearing today. Justice Louis Brandeis famously said that "States are the laboratories of democracy." This hearing certainly attests to the truth of that dictum. The regional, state, and local initiatives to slow, stop, and ultimately reverse the growth of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that we will hear about today are truly significant.

Consider California: if it were its own country, it would have the world's 8th largest economy. So when Californians set out to reduce their GHG emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels over the next several decades, we shouldn't underestimate the impact that will have in fighting global warming.

I applaud the witnesses here today who are taking the lead in fighting global warming on behalf of their states, cities, and communities.

What's disheartening about today's hearing is that these officials feel compelled to act in large part because the Federal Government is abdicating its responsibility. As important as all of these regional, state, and local actions are, we still need leadership from President Bush and from Congress.

We have heard from the scientists. The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes it clear that global warming is happening and the causes are largely anthropogenic.

We have heard from enlightened business leaders who formed the Climate Action Partnership to advocate national strategies for fighting global warming.

I appreciate the fact that private sector and state and local public sector leaders are stepping in to fill the breach created by the current administration's inaction on the most pressing environmental issue of our generation. But the fact is, we need national leadership. And we need it right away.

I'm proud of what Maryland is doing to fight global warming. Several cities, including Baltimore, Annapolis, Rockville, and Gaithersburg, are participating in the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which commits them to voluntarily implement Kyoto agreement within their municipalities.

Later this year, Maryland will become a full partner in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). "REGGIE," as it is known, is a cooperative effort by several Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants by stabilizing CO2 emissions at current levels from 2009 to 2015, and then cutting them 10 percent by 2019.

Maryland is particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming. Tide gauge records for the last century show that the rate of sea level rise in Maryland is nearly twice the global average. Studies indicate that this rate is accelerating and may increase to two or three feet along Maryland's shores by the year 2100.

More than 12 percent of the State's land is designated under the National Flood Insurance Program as a Special Flood Hazard Area. An estimated 68,000 homes and buildings are located within the floodplain, representing nearly $8 billion in assessed value. Allstate Insurance, one of our largest insurers, recently announced that it will stop writing new homeowners' policies in coastal areas of the State, citing concerns that a warmer Atlantic Ocean will lead to more and stronger hurricanes hitting the Northeast.

About a third of the marshes at Blackwater Wildlife Refuge on Maryland's Eastern Shore have been lost to sea level rise over the past 70 years. Smith Island, the only inhabited island community in Maryland and the subject of a recent documentary on global warming, has lost 30 percent of its land mass to sea level rise since 1850.

According to 2005 report of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, Maryland is the 3rd most vulnerable state to flooding and has the 5th longest evacuation times during a tropical storm or hurricane event. So we don't have a choice. We need to do everything possible to curb global warming and rising sea levels. But we can't do it alone. The Federal Government has to join us in this effort.

Thank you, Madam Chair.