Earth Day was established in 1970 by the late U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin as a way to encourage awareness and appreciation of our planet, including its fragile nature and vulnerability.
What started as a one-day celebration has now grown into a movement. Today, Earth Day is celebrated in 145 countries by more than 500 million people. In 41 years, Earth Day has helped to focus world attention on the need to protect our planet from forces that threaten its survival.
In our nation, concern for the environment is on the rise. I am pleased that so many Americans want to leave a better world for their children and grandchildren. Today, there is a much greater understanding for the need to enact public policies that will help achieve that goal.
As a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), one of my top priorities has been to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay, to fight growing efforts to roll back the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts and to protect the Environmental Protection Agency’s important regulatory powers.
I also serve as Chairman of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee of EPW, where I have hammered out bipartisan legislation to ensure that our nation’s water and wastewater systems get the funding they need for upgrades and investments.
But our environment is facing an increasing array of assaults. I recently chaired a Senate hearing on “fracking,” a process used by the natural gas industry to extract natural gas from Marcellus Shale. Under a Bush-era loophole, fracking is currently exempt from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and natural gas companies are not required to disclose the chemicals they use in the fracking process. An analysis by the investigative news site Pro Publica has found serious water contamination near drilling sites for Marcellus Shale.
I have cosponsored the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act, S.587, which would end the natural gas industry’s exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act and require the industry to disclose the chemicals used in the fracking process. Additionally, while the natural gas industry is seeking to expand Marcellus Shale drilling into New York and Maryland, state regulators are delaying any permits until human health and environmental impacts are better understood.
A critical part of protecting our environment is to enact a comprehensive energy policy that emphasizes renewable energy, as well as promoting greater energy efficiency. We as a nation must reduce our dependency on foreign oil and dramatically reduce our carbon footprint. With American technology and American innovation, I am confident that a new, sustainable energy economy will emerge that will help protect our environment.
This Earth Day, I vow to continue my efforts to protect and nurture the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land that sustains us. I also call on all Marylanders to lead by example and to become true stewards of the environment. Together, I am confident that we can protect our world for future generations.