As we are considering the leadership of the Environmental Protection Agency, I think we should pause a moment to recognize this administration’s record on the environment–or should I say the missed opportunities–and what this administration has done in moving America in the wrong direction on environmental protection. This administration’s record in dealing with the greatest challenge we have–global climate change–is deplorable.
I had the opportunity to lead a delegation of 10 Members of the Senate to the Paris climate talks in which U.S. leadership demonstrated our ability to get universal consensus that climate change is real, is happening, that it is primarily caused by the activities we do here on Earth, and that we can make a difference in the trajectory of climate change and the impact it will have on our lives. If we follow what science tells us, we can change the course for the better for future generations.
I saw in Paris the importance of U.S. leadership. We had been trying for a long time to get a global agreement to deal with this challenge. It wasn’t until America’s leadership in Paris that we were able to get a global consensus. In fact, every country in the world signed on to the Paris Agreement and recognized that every nation has the responsibility to respond because what happens in the environment knows no state boundaries–we are all in this together.
Then there was the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. One of his first actions was to withdraw America from the Paris climate agreement. America became the only Nation in the world not to be part of the global effort to deal with climate change.
Our leadership was now going to be lost, but the Trump administration didn’t stop there. They have withdrawn the powerplant rules even though it was in 2007 that the Supreme Court, in Massachusetts v. EPA, determined that carbon dioxide is a dangerous air pollutant and is required to be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency under the clean air rules. Yet the administration is moving in the other direction as it relates to clean air.
They did the same thing with water. The Supreme Court issued certain decisions in regard to regulated waters. It required Congress to act. Congress didn’t act. The administration under President Obama issued regulations that were similar to what we had before the Supreme Court decision, and now the Trump administration has withdrawn those regulations as they relate to clean water.
The list goes on. The Trump administration is now backing down on CAFE standards. That is energy efficiencies in our automobiles. Maryland is one of 12 States under section 177 that follow California’s tougher standards. That is now being jeopardized by the Trump administration.
As we are considering the leadership of the Environmental Protection Agency, we have to recognize that the Trump administration has moved us in the wrong direction. We take pride that with every administration, Congress adds to the protections we have for clean air and clean water and dealing with our environment. Yet we find with this President, the opposite is true. That puts special responsibility on us in Congress. We have to fill that vacuum. Yet the Republican leadership in Congress has made no effort to bring forward legislation to deal with climate change. They have not acknowledged that climate change is real. They have not acknowledged that our activities here are the primary cause of climate change. They have not acknowledged that science tells us that if we do the right thing, we can affect for the better the impact of climate change in our communities. All that has been denied by this administration.
What we should do is bring forward comprehensive legislation to reduce greenhouse gases. We should put a true cost on carbon. Let the market forces help solve the problems we have here. We should provide for the continued efficiency of the transportation sector. We should restore America’s leadership. That is what this Congress should be considering. Yet under Republican leadership, we have had no opportunity to consider comprehensive legislation in this area.
If we acted, it would be good for our environment. There is no question about that. Why should we all be concerned about that? Let me give some examples from my State of Maryland. Over the last 50 years, Maryland has experienced a 70-percent increase in rainfall. Tell the people of Ellicott City, who have experienced two 1,000-year floods in the last 20-month period. These are floods that they have never seen before in their lifetime. A large amount of rain that fell in a very short period of time caused tremendous damage to the people of Ellicott City. Tell the 13 million people who are in danger of being displaced by the end of this century because of rising sea levels. Tell the people in the Western United States whose homes were taken by wildfires. We need to act. It would be good for our environment.
I am proud to be one of the Senators who represent the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. There are 18 million people who live in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. We see a rise in the sea level. This is a vulnerable body of water.
The warming of the Chesapeake Bay is causing the loss of seagrasses that are important for the aquatic life. The salinity of the bay is being diminished because of more freshwater, and that is affecting the ecology of the bay. Algae growths are greater and longer because of the warm waters. All of that affects the Chesapeake Bay. If we respond to climate change, we have a much better chance of improving the quality of the Chesapeake Bay, which is critically important for the way of life for the people who live in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
It is also, by the way, an important economic issue. If we do what is right and respond to climate change, we will also be helping our economy. The Chesapeake Bay alone adds $1 trillion to our economy. A clean bay helps our economy. Green energy creates jobs–many more jobs than do traditional fossil fuels.
It also is good for our national security. If we use more of the renewables and fewer fossil, we as a nation will be stronger from the point of view of not being dependent on other countries that don’t agree with our way of life for supplying energy needs not only to us but to our allies around the world–to the democratic countries around the world. It makes sense.
As we are considering the future leadership of the Environmental Protection Agency, let us recommit ourselves to recognizing that we have responsibilities to advance these environmental issues and implore upon the Republican leadership to bring forward comprehensive legislation that, in fact, will make a significant difference on the trajectory of climate change here in the United States and will restore America’s global leadership on this critically important issue.