May 12 in Washington DC-waiting and praying for climate legislation.
The Russell Building Caucus Room with Environmental Defense Fund
After listening to Lisa Jackson, the new head of the EPA, Senator John McCain, Carol Browner (Climate Advisor to the President), and numerous introductions to celebrities in the audience, the moment arrived. House Representative from California, Henry Waxman walked into the room, which was full and buzzing with excitement. Waxman and Ed Markey from MA have proposed regulating greenhouse gases in the US for the first time in US history.
May 6: Interfaith Power and Light and some background
Prior to his arrival my own nerves were on edge because the Wednesday before (May 6) I had been invited to visit with Henry Waxman’s climate policy person, Bruce Wolpe. In the room with me were representatives from National Council of Churches, the Evangelical Environmental Network, the US Catholic Climate Coalition, US Catholic Bishops, and Rev. Richard Cizik. There we were and he was asking for our help. Environmental leaders cannot go to the moderate Democrats or moderate republicans. They have done all they can. They have given the argument for climate legislation, but not convinced them. But YOU, the religious leaders, can deliver a moral message and one that conveys responsibility to future generations. Additionally you can show that renewable energy technology can provide healthy air for all people everywhere. Investing in renewable energy will boost the economy, create jobs and bring manufacturing home to the US. In order for utilities and corporations, industry and individuals to do this, however, the US must put a cap on greenhouse gases. Trading emissions will make it profitable to cut ones own emission and sell the credits to someone else.
So our wise and committed IPL leaders who were meeting in DC for our annual conference spread out over Capitol Hill to give the “good news” of climate legislation. It was very exciting. When the day ended we were exhausted but hopeful that our message had been heard. Over 125 legislative visits were recorded.
Fast forward to The Russell Building a week later
When Waxman walked into the room to report on his just finished negotiation meeting with Rick Boucher from Virginia, which, as you probably know, is a state heavily reliant on coal for energy one could feel the anxiety. Could they, or would they, come to a compromise that Waxman and his supporters can live with. Would a representative from a coal state be able to support a bill that would control carbon emissions. Waxman, not a tall man, stepped to the stage.
Yes, they had “cut a deal”. The room broke with cheers and clapping. It is not perfect, but the bill was still moving forward. Thank God. Paul Krugman at The New York Times said it this way: “The legislation now on the table isn’t the bill we’d ideally want, but it’s the bill we can get – and it’s vastly better than no bill at all.”
Unfortunately, the Republicans are unified in opposing any legislation on capping carbon emissions, and are voting party lines, demonstrating that doing the right and moral thing does not hold priority over partisan politics.
What happens this week is crucial, and until every vote in the Energy and Commerce committee has been cast, every call to legislators counts. We still have a battle to win on the House Floor once the bill is out of committee (hopefully this week) and success is crucial. If we don’t, as a country, do this now, we go empty handed to Copenhagen in December, and the rest of the world will abdicate also. Passing the Waxman-Markey Bill is the one thing that will encourage international participation in cutting carbon emission globally and get the world on track towards a sustainable future for the next generations. In my opinion, it is insulting to God to destroy the creation that was so loved, God gave his only son to redeem.