Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gerry Connolly on Earth Day

I'm a day late in posting this, but I hope it doesn't come up short.

Here's a statement from Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-11th CD) for Earth Day. As many of my readers know, Gerry Connolly has been an environmental advocate since his service as Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, when he initiated the Cool Counties initiative and advocated for smart growth and high density residential buildings clustered near metro stops. Connolly also supported one of the most innovative affordable workforce housing programs, which unfortunately the current Board of Supervisors appears to be back tracking on in the name of faux consensus. Nevertheless, Connolly has been an innovative leader, fighting for the environment and working people, so his floor statement on the environment and its link to the economy comes as no surprise to me.
House Floor Statement of
Congressman Gerald E. Connolly
April 21st, 2009

I rise to speak tonight, on the eve of Earth Day, with respect to the most critical environmental crisis that this nation has ever faced: climate change. As daunting as this challenge is, I am proud that this Congress has done more in the past two months to combat climate change than the previous Administration accomplished in eight years.

With passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we invested over $70 billion in clean, renewable energy. This important legislation will save or create over three million jobs.

In the area of clean, renewable energy we will put people to work weatherizing homes of low income Americans. The previous Administration proposed eliminating all funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program. This stimulus legislation will invest $5 billion dollars over two years, which will weatherize at least two million homes. A wide range of studies suggests that weatherization is the most efficient way to save money while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. With the stimulus legislation, we are off to a great start.

The stimulus also invested $8.4 billion in transit and $8 billion in high speed rail. Communities around the nation, including my 11th District of Virginia, are suffering from congestion that threatens to constrain economic growth in some of the most productive communities in the nation. These transit investments will give commuters choices, reduce congestion, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They will spur economic development while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The stimulus invests $2 billion in advanced battery research. This field is essential to develop the next generation of plug in hybrids and to store solar energy. With solar companies creating jobs throughout our region, we must make the investments in innovation that will continue to grow the green jobs sector. America invented the photovoltaic solar panel, yet Germany, China, and Japan now lead us in solar panel production. With these investments, in addition to loan guarantees, we will once again have the opportunity to lead the world in production of green energy. By investing in the development of a smart grid, we will ensure that we conserve energy at home while enabling the transmission of renewable energy.

Although we are already seeing benefits of the stimulus, whether it is repaving potholed roads or creating green jobs, we know that we cannot rest while carbon emissions continue to rise in America, China, and India. We must lead by passing comprehensive greenhouse gas reduction legislation that reaches 80% reductions in emissions by 2050, with aggressive but achievable shorter term targets. Without this legislation we will not be able to bring China and India to the table to develop binding goals for those large carbon emitters.

I look at greenhouse gas legislation as an opportunity. For a quarter of a century, we have accepted dependence on foreign oil. For a quarter of a century, we have accepted dramatic declines in mining jobs even as our communities are devastated by acid mine drainage and mountaintop removal. For a quarter of a century, we have lost market share in auto sales as we clung to production of gas guzzling dinosaurs.

No more will we accept the constraints that accompany an unwillingness to innovate. We may look forward to greenhouse gas legislation that sends a strong market signal to invest once again in America: in efficient automobiles, in wind turbines, in solar panels, in weatherization, in transit. These investments will not only protect our climate, and thus our coastal communities and agricultural heartland, but also lay the groundwork for a new age of industrial expansion founded on technological innovation.

The environment cannot sustain further increases in carbon emissions and neither can our economy. We must act now to pass greenhouse gas reduction legislation that protects our climate while unequivocally redirecting our economy toward a clean energy future.
It's precisely because of statements and sentiments like this that I am proud that I supported Connolly in the general election!

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