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Mayors Tell House Climate Leaders Federal Action is Needed at Congressional Field Hearing
Conference Leaders Urge Action on Energy Block Grant

By Judy Sheahan and Debra DeHaney-Howard
November 19, 2007


The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming held a field hearing November 2 at the final session of the Mayors Climate Protection Summit, taking testimony from Conference leaders.

Conference President Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer of Trenton joined with Conference Vice President Miami Manuel A. Diaz, Conference Advisory Board Chair Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to highlight their city climate protection efforts and to offer recommendations on federal climate legislation.

The hearing, titled Bright Light in the Cities: Pathways to an Energy-Efficient Future, was chaired by Representative Jay Inslee (WA). Other House Members participating were: Representatives Norman Dicks (WA); Jim McDermott (WA); James Sensenbrenner (WI); and Greg Walden (OR).

In his opening remarks, Inslee said, “It has been an inspiration to see what mayors have been able to achieve with very little resources. And, it has been frustrating that Congress has been unable to move forward - but that is changing. This problem can not be solved city by city so we need a national policy.”

Sensenbrenner, the panel’s Ranking Minority Member, said “Cities can be seen as laboratories of global warming policy.” While indicating he was an opponent of the Kyoto Treaty, he was pleased that over 700 mayors are trying to meet the Kyoto standards.

As a Senior Member of the House Appropriations Committee, Dicks joined the panel to hear testimony on the issues before cities. He spoke in support of the Conference’s block grant initiative, stating, “I am confident that we (the House) will pass an energy bill with your block grant in it.”

Bloomberg Advocates for Carbon Tax at Hearing

Bloomberg urged Congress to start taking the same kinds of bold actions that cities and states are taking, regardless of political affiliations.

“We need federal action because putting the brakes on global warming is not only an environmental imperative but it is also a national security imperative and an economic security imperative,” he said.

He called attention to the positive benefits of fighting climate change, including economic opportunities for green energy and American jobs, and the importance of this issue to national security level as efforts seek to decrease our dependence or “addiction” to foreign oil.

“Usually breaking an addiction involves a 12'step program,” Bloomberg said, “but I think we can do it in four steps.” He identified increased investment in energy research and development; stop setting tariffs and subsidies based on pork barrel politics; get serious about energy efficiency — for both buildings and vehicles, and stop ignoring the laws of economics.

In discussing pending federal climate legislation, Bloomberg indicated that the primary flaw of cap-and-trade approach is economic — price uncertainty, which could have harmful economic effects; while the primary flaw of a pollution fee is political — because proposing a new fee is unpopular.

“Whichever route we choose, we can’t be afraid to act; global warming is testing America’s leadership on the international stage, and it is testing our resolve here at home,” Bloomberg said, “Mayors and governors have shown that elected officials can make tough choices and still win the respect and support of constituents.”

Palmer Tells Panel: “Time has come for Congressional Action on Energy Block Grant and other Climate Protection Initiatives

Palmer told the Representatives that the nation’s mayors want Congress to finish its work on national energy policy and send a bill to the President by the end of the year. “The energy legislation, which includes an energy block grant program, is absolutely critical in moving not only America’s cities, but the nation to the next level on climate protection,” said Palmer.

“This energy block grant will dramatically accelerate and expand local energy efficiency programs and help us make gains in protecting the climate,” he said.

Palmer also indicated that the current energy legislation is “not an endpoint but rather it is the beginning of a new generation of federal commitments to combating our excessive energy use, foreign energy dependence and climate change.”

“For America, we believe this broader partnership is necessary to help us be competitive in the worldwide race to develop the new generation of green technologies and practices,” Palmer said.

Palmer stressed the opportunity to create new green collar jobs through an expanded federal commitment to climate protection. “Through our work on climate change, we have an opportunity to not only reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but to also create a new workforce — a green-collar, domestic workforce where green jobs remain in our communities. We can’t outsource these jobs.”

Palmer also reported that more than 700 mayors representing 25 percent of the U. S. population have signed this Agreement, pledging local actions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by seven percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Miami Mayor Manuel A. Diaz Highlights Local Action and Need for Federal Partners

Diaz discussed best practices that Miami is implementing and how the federal government can assist local governments in their efforts, calling for enactment of an energy bill that contains the Energy Efficiency Block Grant.

“In Miami, we are especially susceptible to the effects of climate change,” Diaz said, “with the same geographic location that gives us year round sunshine also places us in the midst of ‘Hurricane Alley.’”

Diaz discussed how Miami was responding to this challenge through a climate action plan or a “blueprint toward sustainability.” Through this plan, the city is changing the way it does business, placing environmental consciousness into every decision they make. He talked about Miami’s climate plan, including his Miami 21 project. “Miami 21 is rooted in the belief of the power of traditional neighborhoods to restore the functions of sustainable cities,” Diaz said.

“Mayors are in a perfect position to act at the grass roots level — to interact with our business community and our citizens to change business practices as well as human behavior,” Diaz said, “but local government cannot and should not act alone.”

Diaz stressed to the Congressmen the importance of providing local governments with the necessary resources to develop and implement comprehensive energy efficiency plans. He strongly urged them to pass the pending Energy Bill that contained the Conference of Mayors’ top priority, the Energy Efficiency Block Grant or EEBG.

“I would like to strongly urge to move forward in these negotiations and get this important piece of legislation passed,” Diaz said, “every delay makes all of our efforts more difficult.”

Nickels Cites Mayors Climate Protection Agreement as Evidence of Mayors’ Climate Commitment

Nickels talked about The U. S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. “It’s been more than two years since I initiated the Mayors Climate Agreement and today we heard that more than 728 mayors have pledged to reduce emissions 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. This represents one in four people who live the United States.”

“Mayors are pledging to take local action to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their own communities,” he said. “Cities across our nation are pledging support for bipartisan greenhouse gas reduction legislation that includes clear timetables and emissions limits and a flexible, market-based system of tradable allowances among emitting industries.”

In speaking to the progress that Seattle has made on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, Nickels noted that city has made tremendous progress in the effort to cut emissions and is on target to meet its climate protection goals. In discussing federal legislative priorities, he indicated support for the Energy Efficiency Block Grant and the “Green Jobs” Act.

After their testimony, the four mayors responded to questions about potential economic and job loss, by highlighting the presentations that were given during the Climate Summit with most experts agreeing that there is actually a potential job increase for all types of workers.