Pottstown Mercury - 4/22/17
There are only four members of Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation who are members of the bi-partisan “Climate Solutions Caucus” and all four of them are from Southeast Pennsylvania.
U.S. Representatives Ryan Costello, R-6th Dist.; Pat Meehan, R-7th Dist.; Brian Fitzpatrick, R-8th Dist. and Brendan Boyle, D-13th Dist. are Pennsylvania’s only members of the caucus, which was formed a year ago by Florida lawmakers looking to slow the effects of global warming, like coastal flooding.
The caucus is committed to keeping an even number of members of both parties, according to Reuters, and seeks to generate effective bi-partisan solutions to the climate challenges facing the nation and the world.
It has doubled in size from 12 to 28 since the 115th Congress convened in January and hopes to become a force to be reckoned with in the same way the Freedom Caucus, a Conservative voting block, has influenced legislation.
“This is a place where Democrats and Republicans are working together on a problem that’s really difficult to solve,” Daniel Richter, the caucus spokesman and legislative director for the Citizens Climate Lobby, a non-profit whose volunteers encourage members of Congress to join the caucus, told Reuters last month.
“There is a long history of conservation and environmental stewardship and policy coming out of southeast Pennsylvania,” Costello told Digital First Media, “so I think our involvement in these issues is nothing unusual for us.”
The three Republicans also joined last month in signing on to a House resolution calling on the government to address climate change and take advantage of the tradition of American ingenuity to find economically viable solutions.
The resolution also calls on the U.S. to “balance human activities that have been found to have an impact” on global climate change.
“The preservation of the environment and our natural resources for future generations should be a priority for us all,” Costello said in a press release issued last month by his office.
“We should leverage conservative principles to develop innovative, economically viable ways to achieve this goal, including through clean energy technologies,” said Costello. “I hope to see the Republican Climate Resolution gain momentum and be part of the solutions we advance this Congress.”
He said there have been a few more Republicans who have signed on since it was introduced, but the resolution has also lost some supporters as amendments have been added that include specific language about greenhouse gases.
When it was issued, the resolution and the effort behind it earned the praises of environmental and science advocacy groups.
“As a science-driven organization, The Nature Conservancy strongly supports actions to address climate change. We appreciate the leadership of Reps. Stefanik, Curbelo, and Costello and their fellow members of Congress in recognizing the consequences of a changing climate and calling for solutions to this challenge,” Lynn Scarlett, Managing Director of Public Policy for The Nature Conservancy, said in a prepared statement.
“I’m heartened to see Republican House members introduce a resolution committing Congress to address climate change and base its policy decisions on science and quantifiable facts,” Ken Kimmell, President of the Union of Concerned Scientists said in a statement.
“The U.S. is seeing more extreme weather due to climate change, including flooding, droughts and wildfires, which cost taxpayers billions of dollars in damages. There’s strength in numbers, and I hope that this sizable group of responsible leaders will have an impact on votes in Congress,” Kimmell said.
“Real conservatives don’t deny reality, they face it. They don’t avoid problems, they tackle them head on,” David Jenkins, President of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship said in a prepared statement. “The resolution’s 17 initial co-sponsors are stepping up on an issue that grows more urgent every day, and showing the prudent, fact-based — and yes, conservative — leadership our nation needs.”
The resolution comes in the face of President Donald Trump’s expressed skepticism about the reality of climate change. He has called it a “hoax” and “a money-making industry.”
It is also significant given statements by Scott Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, that he does not believe carbon dioxide to be a significant contributor to climate change.
In fact proposed cuts to the EPA contained in Trump’s budget were among the things that prompted Meehan to speak out.
In a statement issued last month, Meehan expressed concern about “significant cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, which may hamper its ability to protect our air and drinking water. And it cuts federal protection for national parks and federal lands by 75 percent, which could endanger conservation efforts in Pennsylvania at sites like Gettysburg National Military Park.”
Costello joined in that criticism.
“Proposed cuts in the budget blueprint to programs that have a lasting, positive impact on our communities and that my constituents value are unacceptable to me, including those to medical research, environmental protection, and public education,” he said in a prepared statement.
More recently, Costello signed onto a letter to the President urging that the United States maintain its commitment to the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
According to Costello’s office, the letter has not yet been made public, but in part it states, “The world’s leading nations must work together to not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also mitigate and prepare for the effects of climate change, which many of our communities are dealing with on a daily basis.
Boyle, who is also a member of the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change, took aim at Trump’s executive order signed last month meant to roll-back measures taken by President Barack Obama aimed at reducing the impacts of climate change.
“During his first address to a Joint Session of Congress, President Trump promised he would ‘promote clean air and clean water,’” Boyle said in a statement posted on his web site. “This Executive Order does the opposite. It threatens the environment, health, economic welfare and national security of future generations.”
“The President ran on the promise of making ‘America globally competitive again.’ This action does the opposite, instead putting us at a competitive disadvantage in the clean energy economy of the future,” Boyle said. “Some of our biggest global competitors have already invested hundreds of billions of dollars in their clean energy programs, and plan to invest even more, hoping the United States will have to buy these technologies from them. Even companies like Google and Exxon Mobil recognize this reality.”
Earlier this month, Fitzpatrick signed on to a bi-partisan bill aimed at permanently protecting Alaska’s north coastal plain, an area coveted by energy companies who want to drill for oil and natural gas there.
“Serving as good stewards of our environment is something each of us are called to regardless of location, background or political ideology. Protecting our nation’s open spaces and wild places unites us as Americans,” said Fitzpatrick.
“I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in support of this bipartisan legislation and urge others to join us in the defense of America’s wilderness,” he said.
The positions outlined by the Republican House members are significant not just because they stand in opposition to stated Trump priorities, but also because of the significant campaign contributions they have received from the energy and natural resources industries.