December 19, 2013

Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change Releases Recommendations for Department of the Interior

Washington, DC – Following recent reports that John Podesta may be primed to push for “aggressive executive action on climate change” in his new role as White House counselor, the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change today released a white paper recommending concrete steps the Department of the Interior (DOI) should take in carrying out the President’s Climate Action Plan.

DOI manages roughly one-fifth of the land in the U.S. and plays a key role in policies regarding energy production and conservation.  The agency is poised to assume a leadership role in achieving several goals of the President’s Climate Action Plan regarding emission reduction and resiliency.  Some of the recommendations from the report include limiting methane emissions from fossil fuel production on federal land and the outer continental shelf; revising policies that effectively subsidize fossil fuel development on public land; advancing government-wide adaptation planning; and encouraging the Administration to expedite the timely release of guidance and regulations that help DOI advance its climate agenda.

These recommendations are based on suggestions submitted to the Bicameral Task Force by over 200 groups ranging from environmental organizations and efficiency advocates to electric utilities and Fortune 500 companies.  They also reflect input from academics and policy think tanks.

“The Department of Interior has a crucial role in addressing climate change,” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman.  “We hope the ideas in this report will help in this effort.”

“The Interior Department is already working to fight climate change by advancing clean-energy technologies, and by protecting wildlife and habitat that support our tourism and recreation-based economies.  These recommendations would expand on the Department’s ongoing efforts and ensure that the goals set out in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan are achieved as quickly and effectively as possible,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who strongly supported the Interior Department’s first-ever competitive lease sale for offshore wind in the waters off of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

“The Safe Climate Caucus members made the commitment to talk every day about the urgent need to address climate change.  The Interior Department is moving in  the direction of addressing climate change and as they further their goal the caucus supports them in their efforts,” said Rep. Bobby L. Rush.

“It is time that we get serious about enhancing our communities’ infrastructure and systems in order to adapt to the effects of global climate change. In Maryland, coastal communities including Smith Island are already experiencing the affects of sea-level rise. Science predicts that changes in the Earth’s climate will increase the severity of meteorological events like droughts and storms and the federal government has a role in helping communities to not just respond better to these effects of these events, but also help reinforce our transportation and water infrastructure and major systems so that communities are better prepared before disaster strikes occur. We have a responsibility to act now to protect our communities from the consequences of climate change. Long-term safety must be our focus if we are to protect our natural environment and the health and safety of our citizens and their livelihood,” said Sen. Ben Cardin.

“Every moment we hesitate brings us close to the point of no return,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer.  “Our white paper outlines some actual steps that DOI can take to combat and mitigate climate change’s disastrous effects.  I sincerely hope that the administration sees that the time for action is now, and that Mr. Podesta is ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work.”

“Everyone has a role to play in fighting climate change, but with the Interior Department’s vast land and ocean resources, they can be an outsized actor in cutting the pollution that is changing our planet,” said Sen. Ed Markey.  “They’ve already started by approving the first offshore wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts, and pushing for clean energy development on public lands. We need every single agency, and every single American, engaged in this fight against dangerous climate change.”

The Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change, founded in January 2013, focuses on drawing congressional and public attention to climate change and developing effective policy responses to this urgent challenge.  The current co-chairs are Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rep. Bobby L. Rush, Sen. Ben Cardin, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, and Sen. Ed Markey.  Additional information on the Task Force is available online here.

The report is available online here.


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