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Congressman Mike Quigley

Representing the 5th District of Illinois

The House Must Tackle Climate Change with a National Energy Plan

Jul 24, 2013


WASHINGTON - “ Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) urged his colleagues in Congress to put partisanship aside and craft America's first national energy plan to address climate change and protect natural resources.

Below is video and transcript of his speech:

Mister Speaker, we can do better.

When it comes to legislatively establishing a national energy policy to address climate change, we can, and must, do better. But, we're not. As members of this body, we're not doing anything. Why?

We are hamstrung by our inability to work together, to do great, important, vital things, here in this chamber. Things like address our national debt, tackle comprehensive immigration reform, and to ever, ever, in the history of this nation, establish a national energy plan.

The only way forward is to establish a national energy plan to address climate change, something this great nation has always lacked, and to work with public and private entities alike to get this done.

And for the climate doubters out there who still question climate change, I remind them that over 200 peer-reviewed scientific studies have said that climate change is real, and that man contributes significantly to it, and zero scientific, peer-reviewed studies have said the opposite.

So we must craft a plan that focuses on working with the business community, hand-in-hand, to be competitive internationally. 

We must go toe-to-toe with India and China.

We must craft a plan that focuses on public transportation and green infrastructure. We must pass a multi-year transportation bill.

We must focus on conservation, as demonstrated so adeptly by our own President's increase in Corporate and Fuel Economy standards, and his call to action on climate just a few weeks ago.

And, above all we must compromise, work together, and we must be inventive and creative.

I'm not calling on the President for another Executive Order. I'm not calling on the Senate to move one more piecemeal energy bill that lies holed up in Committee. I'm calling on this House.

I know what the critics will say, and my argument is the same as theirs: it's about jobs.

Setting standards for carbon-pollution limits for coal plants under the Clean Air Act will not shutter all U.S. plants, as some will have you believe. On the contrary, it will set achievable standards for existing plants, until we can use a patchwork solution to transition to cleaner sources.

Still, others will say the Clean Air Act is a draconian doctrine that kills jobs, slows down American progress and sets us back as a technologically advanced nation. Right? Wrong.

The Clean Air Act has been the impetus for the only existing technologies that currently exist for power plants, having been required to reduce emittance by 90 percent by 2015. Without such directives coming out of the EPA over the past 40 years, such advancements by polluting power plants would never have been voluntarily made.

We can transition with incentives and a patchwork approach. And compromise.

So, several weeks ago when the President made a major drive on combating climate change, it's too bad he had to bypass Congress to do it. But as a member of this body, I don't blame him. I'd love to say we here in this chamber could be part of the solution, but I understand why he believes we cannot.

Since Congress has abdicated its desire to pass climate legislation, natural gas has become a panacea for fossil fuel - it's dirt cheap and "cleaner", they say. But, it's brought about a renaissance of dirty extraction like hydro-fracking, or extracting gas from shale, in an often-times negligent and toxic manner.

Also, our energy can't compete with China's solar energy. China provided over half the solar panel cells in the U.S., that's over 3.1 billion dollars within our domestic market, 3.1 billion dollars we could be capitalizing on - infusing small and mid-sized solar companies across the country, creating and retaining green jobs. 

Our attempt to deregulate or fight rules promulgated from the EPA isn't working either. Take the bill we're considering this week, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, which would set up a separate management stream which would bypass the EPA. Per the Congressional Research Service, this federal minimum standard, as established by the bill, pays no mind to public health. The CRS memo written at the request of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, states that:

This bill fails to establish minimum national safeguards, fails to establish federal backstop authority, fails to define what facilities the bill applies to, fails to contain any minimum federal requirement to protect health and the environment.

It's time this body became a relevant advocate and participant in solving the great questions that plague our nation today before we lose a chance to have a tomorrow.

Thank you, and I yield back.