December 5, 2007

Whitehouse Secures Protections for Coastal Communities in Bipartisan Global Warming Bill

Legislation Will Protect Wildlife, Habitats, Ocean and Marine Ecosystems

Washington, D.C. – The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee voted today to incorporate amendments sponsored by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), aimed at protecting coastal communities in Rhode Island and across the country, into a bipartisan bill to counter the impact of global warming.  Whitehouse also successfully fought for provisions safeguarding wildlife and marine ecosystems.
“Rising temperatures around the globe could bring higher sea levels, more powerful storms, and increased risk of flooding and beachfront erosion.  Global warming is real, and it has serious implications for the homes, businesses, communities, and ecosystems along our nation’s coasts,” said Whitehouse, a member of the EPW Committee.
“Rhode Island has 400 miles of coastline, from South County’s beaches to Newport Harbor to the Barrington and Seekonk Rivers.  The amendments we passed today will help ensure that the people who live and work there have the information and resources they need to plan for the impact of climate change.”
A study released yesterday by Environment Rhode Island found that global warming has contributed to an 88 percent increase in severe rainstorms, with heavy rainfall or snow, in Rhode Island over the past 60 years.  The report noted that rising temperatures on land, in the oceans, and in the atmosphere cause water to evaporate more quickly and allow clouds to hold more water vapor, making this “extreme precipitation” more likely.  Severe storms significantly increase the risk of flooding, water pollution, and other environmental damage, which would likely hit low-lying coastal areas in Rhode Island particularly hard. 
The EPW Committee is considering the Climate Security Act (S. 2191), legislation sponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.) that would take steps to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 65 percent by 2050.  The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said that pollutant cuts in this range, if not higher, are necessary to avert the catastrophic effects of global warming. 
To accomplish this, the bill would implement a “cap-and-trade” system in which most companies and organizations that emit greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide would be required to purchase “emission allowances” from the federal government.  The facilities covered by this bill are responsible for more than 80% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The proceeds would support the development of renewable fuels, workforce training, environmental restoration, low-income energy assistance programs, and new energy technology.
Whitehouse’s amendments, adopted by the Committee today, would ensure that coastal communities affected by climate change have the information they need, such as data on projected sea level rise, severe weather, and associated flood risks, to prepare for and adapt to global warming, and that this data is considered and incorporated as part of any national plan to mitigate the effects of climate change.  The amendments also would promote investment in renewable energy technologies and planning for the siting of wave energy, wind farm, and other clean energy facilities in states and coastal waters, including projects currently being considered in Rhode Island. 
Whitehouse also worked with EPW Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and the bill’s sponsors to incorporate his Global Warming Wildlife Survival Act (S. 2204), which calls for a coordinated national strategy to help wildlife populations, habitats, and coastal and marine ecosystems adapt to stresses related to climate change. 

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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921