Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), In Support of the Administration’s Clean Power Plan

[WASHINGTON (Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015) – The Senate Tuesday passed two resolutions disapproving the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, an historic initiative led by the administration to combat the effects of climate change and benefit public health by reducing carbon emissions and encouraging a cleaner energy future.  Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has long warned that the threat of climate change is now at our doorstep and called the resolutions an attempt to roll back one of the most meaningful environmental initiatives of our time.]

 Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
In Support of the Administration’s Clean Power Plan
November 17, 2015

There is irrefutable evidence, with more accumulating all the time, that humans have altered not just the weather of a region, but the climate of our entire planet.

From flooding felt across the country to extreme temperatures from north to south and east to west, these severe events are happening more and more frequently. Droughts are proliferating, wildfires are bigger and more expensive, tropical storms and hurricanes are more intense. You can look no further than the damage wrought in Vermont in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene – a storm that had greatly weakened since first making landfall, but still so powerful as to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to our small state.  It was enough to convince many Vermonters of the reality of climate change, as they watched roads washed away and iconic covered ridges yanked out of the footings that had supported them for generations.

The science and the data by now are clear that human activities are a factor in the climate change that is unfolding all around us and in every corner of the globe.  But common sense alone should tell us, as we look about us and see all of the carbon and pollution that is being pumped into our thin and fragile atmosphere, that all of these human activities are contributing factors.

We must address the root causes of climate change, and that is what the administration’s Clean Power Plan, bolstered by the rules for new and existing power plants, will do.

Today, we won’t vote about how to support our roads and bridges.  We won’t vote to further advance educational opportunities for young children.  We won’t vote on ways to keep our government – of the people, for the people – open.  Rather, we are summoned to heed the call of pressure groups, wealthy corporations, and moneyed interests, and vote on a resolution of disapproval that denies the impact and the causes of climate change.  These challenges under the Congressional Review Act fail to recognize the true cost of carbon pollution.  The Clean Power Plan sets clear and flexible rules that signal to the marketplace that we cannot continue to spew harmful carbon pollution without limit.  It finally puts an end to the free lunch for the fossil fuels industry.

These rules offer commonsense solutions that will not only address climate change, but will protect Americans’ health with cleaner air.  They will also unleash the creativity and inventiveness of American entrepreneurship, and support investments in new technology. They will further set the stage for our vibrant and job-rich energy future.  The flexibility in these rules means that states and companies will be able to decide the best ways to reduce their carbon emissions, whether through gains in efficiency and new technologies, or through an increased use of natural gas or renewable fuels.

Vermonters are encouraged by these rules and about the Clean Power Plan -- not only because together, these proposals move the country forward to finally address climate change, but also because the plan and rules recognize the important work that Vermont and other Northeast States have been doing for the last decade through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to cap carbon emissions and offer credits to cleaner producers.  In Vermont, we can breathe easier knowing that under these rules, we will have less pollution blowing into the state from power plants in the Midwest.

The majority in the Senate would rather roll back some of the most meaningful environmental initiatives of our time, rather than help to improve the health of Americans across the country.  The science is clear:  Failing to address climate change will lead to more dangerous and costly extreme weather events and threaten the health and wellbeing of our families and our communities.  We must stop putting the interests of polluters above public health.  It’s time to stop putting the future of our planet and of generations to come in danger, and to act now to halt the devastating effects of climate change.  Let us move beyond the energy policies of the last two centuries and move forward toward America’s energy future.

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