Senator Tom Udall Responds to Senate Resolutions Opposing Steps to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

U.S. Senator Tom Udall voted against two resolutions expressing Congress’ opposition to steps the administration has taken to reduce global warming-causing greenhouse gas emissions.

Earlier in the day, he delivered a speech on the Senate floor about the pending resolutions, which express disapproval of the administration’s Clean Power Plan and its regulations of new and existing power plants. Udall urged Congress to work together to develop a diverse energy portfolio and a comprehensive climate strategy instead of wasting time on symbolic resolutions that the president will veto.

“Congress could be using this time moving forward. Our country can lead the world in a clean energy economy. We have the technology, we have the resources. We need the commitment,” Udall said in his remarks. “Instead, the Republican leadership in Congress is doubling down, trying to overturn the president and derailing the progress we are making.”

Udall focused on the impact climate change has had in New Mexico. “The Southwest is at the eye of the storm. In New Mexico, temperatures are rising 50 percent faster than the global average – not just this year or last year, but for decades,” Udall said. “This has strained my state with terrible droughts and wildfires, and when water does come, it often brings floods as well. In 2011, we had the largest fire in state history – the Las Conchas Fire. Then, in 2012, we had an even larger wildfire. The Whitewater-Baldy fire burned 259,000 acres. We’ve had massive droughts, our crops and natural resources are at risk.”

Congress should be working on ways to create jobs and build a clean energy economy of the future, Udall added: “Renewable energy jobs and solutions are in abundance in New Mexico, and this is true for many other states. A renewable electricity standard, which I have long fought for, would create 300,000 jobs. Most of these jobs are high-paying, are local and cannot be shipped overseas.”

Below are Udall’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, before I begin my remarks today, I want to pause for just a moment and say a few words about the Paris attacks last Friday. Mr. President, the people of New Mexico and people the world over are grieving for those who were killed and injured in the horrific attacks. Earlier today, we had a moment of silence to recognize them. I just want to say that our thoughts are with the French people, and we are united in our resolve to fight the murderous thugs of terrorism who thrive on hate, intolerance and fear.

Mr. President, today we are discussing the issue of climate change. It is one of our greatest challenges, and we have a choice: We can deny the reality, we can ignore the danger to our planet, to our economy and to our security. That’s one choice, or we can move forward. We can work together. We can find common ground with a diversified energy portfolio that includes clean energy, with an energy policy that makes sense – that creates jobs, that protects the environment – and that will keep our nation strong. That is the choice we should make. That is the choice we must make, and once again, that is the choice we are failing to make.

This year is almost over. It will likely be the warmest year on record. And the current record holder? Last year-2014. The impact is clear, and people are seeing it all over the world – with rising sea levels and increased drought. The Southwest is at the eye of the storm. In New Mexico, temperatures are rising 50 percent faster than the global average – not just this year or last year, but for decades.

This has strained my state with terrible droughts and wildfires, and when water does come, it often brings floods as well. In 2011, we had the largest fire in state history – the Las Conchas Fire. Then, in 2012, we had an even larger wildfire. The Whitewater-Baldy fire burned 259,000 acres. We’ve had massive droughts, our crops and natural resources are at risk.

Through all of this, Congress has been slow to act. There have been many attempts in the past. We’ve had many bipartisan bills introduced in the Senate: the McCain-Lieberman cap-and-trade proposal, the Bingaman-Specter cap-and-trade proposal, the Cantwell-Collins cap-and-dividend proposal, the Lieberman-Warner bill, the Kerry-Graham bill, and others. In the House of Representatives, I had my own bipartisan bill with Representative Petri. And in 2005, over half of the Senate voted on a resolution affirming the need to implement mandatory reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. But each and every time, Congress failed to make it to the finish line – failed to pass comprehensive legislation in both houses to curb our greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. Time is growing short, and we are going from bad to worse. So the president and the EPA have used their authority under the Clean Air Act to implement restrictions. They have done what needs to be done – and with the support of many of us here in Congress and the American people. The proposals are reasonable. They are critical, and they will make a difference to restrict emissions from new and existing power plants. Some in the Senate have argued that these proposals do too much. Others argue they don’t do enough. But instead of rolling up our sleeves and developing a comprehensive energy and climate strategy of our own, we are here today voting on a Republican Resolution of Disapproval of the Clean Power Plan rules. What a waste of our time, the American people’s time and the time we have left to seriously address this important problem.

Mr. President, I started this speech talking about choices, and, again, we are making the wrong one. We are wasting time when we should be working together and developing proposals that would address global warming and help push forward clean energy jobs.

There are now more solar jobs in the United States than coal jobs. There are currently more than 98 solar companies in New Mexico, employing 1,600 people. Renewable energy jobs and solutions are in abundance in New Mexico, and this is true for many other states. A renewable electricity standard, which I have long fought for, would create 300,000 jobs. Most of these jobs are high-paying, are local and cannot be shipped overseas.

Congress could be using this time moving forward. Our country can lead the world in a clean energy economy. We have the technology, we have the resources. We need the commitment.

Instead, the Republican leadership in Congress is doubling down, trying to overturn the president and derailing the progress we are making. They do so knowing they will fail, knowing that the president will veto and knowing the votes aren’t there to override the veto. This is – once again – a lot of sound, a lot of fury and a lot of wasted time. It makes a false claim that support for climate action does not exist in the U.S., and it does so ahead of the Paris Climate Conference.

Mr. President, action on climate change is under attack here in the U.S. Senate. That is true. Make no mistake about it. But also make no mistake – all of these attacks will fail. I have led the charge in our Appropriations Committee to fight against dangerous environmental riders. I will continue to fight them, and they will fail.

My colleagues and I are here today in opposition of this Resolution of Disapproval. And we are also here to ask that we move on, to ask that we work together and face the very real threat of climate change.

We will go to Paris next month, and we will get a solid, strong agreement from the international community. The United States will continue to lead on this issue, even if our Republican colleagues continue to fight it each step of the way.