Washington, D.C. – As Congress returns from the holiday, Climate Power and the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) held a press briefing with Sens. Brian Schatz (HI), Martin Heinrich (NM), Tina Smith (MN), John Hickenlooper (CO), Chair of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Kathy Castor (FL-14), and Rep. Donald McEachin (VA-4) to explore why the Senate must take transformative climate action as soon as possible via the Build Back Better Act.
WATCH the full recording here.
The Senators and representatives said that driving their sense of urgency were the climate-driven wildfires and the increasing loss of life that has occurred in their states, and the damage these disasters impose to public infrastructure and access to opportunity among those affected.
Just last week, the Marshall Fire engulfed Boulder, Colorado, and surrounding areas, forcing over 30,000 residents to evacuate and destroying nearly 1,000 homes and businesses. This tragedy came two weeks after Dozens of tornadoes swept across the Midwest—including the longest path of any tornado in American history. They left 93 dead, over 1,000 homes destroyed, hundreds of thousands without power, and dozens of people unaccounted for.
As Sen. John Hickenlooper said, “Thousands of people have been displaced. When someone’s house burns, they don’t just lose their house. They lose their records and pictures—things that were mementos of a life well-lived. It goes far beyond just that moment. It is ridiculous that we still are willing to avoid the scientific reality and subject communities across this country to the same agony caused by the Marshall Fire in Colorado.”
Because of the redlining practices endorsed by federal home lending institutions in the 1930s, many Black and Brown neighborhoods continue to be prone to flooding and environmental risks. The Build Back Better Act seeks to repair this injustice by investing in those communities so that they are not hit harder when natural disasters strike. Rep. Donald McEachin (VA-4) spoke about the importance of historic climate action to reversing these historical inequities: “Make no mistake about it my friends: we are at an inflection point. The decisions we make or fail to make will have long-term impacts, the raging fires in Colorado. Vulnerable populations are disproportionately impacted by climate change. The House has done its job—now we need the Senate to resume negotiations.”
Chair of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Kathy Castor (FL-14), said “This is, unfortunately, a new normal. We cannot become complacent. People across the nation are demanding that Congress act. They are more awake to the catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis than ever before. We should not be discouraged—we have made progress, more than 200 recommendations have been turned into law, and another 377 passed by the House. And the House Select Committee has created a tracker for clean energy and climate change recommendations and legislation. The Senate now holds all the cards in the negotiation to get these proposals signed into law.”
“Regulatory action is not a substitute for congressional action,” Sen. Tina Smith said. “Climate change is posing a catastrophic threat to our communities—it is happening right now. Minnesotans understand the links between these extreme weather events and the carbon pollution we continue to pump into the air. Minnesotans also understand there is a huge opportunity in taking the lead here.”
“We’re going to get this done, come hell or high water. Because, right now, we have both hell and high water,” said Sen. Schatz. “The planet is not going to pause its warming process while we sort out our politics out. The planet continues its warming process while we argue and fuss and fight, and that’s why we have to have a collective determination to get this done.”
Sen. Heinrich said “We are seeing the cost of inaction. I see it in my home state, in a Rio Grande that is under stress like I’ve never seen before. I see dying Cottonwoods even when there’s water because of the heat stress. I see winter temperatures that are just not what we’re used to. And then you see the extreme fire behavior as we saw in Colorado. And we can’t accept this. This cannot be the status quo that we’re going to pass on to our kids and grandkids. They deserve better. And the start of how we win this fight is to pass Build Back Better.
LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld said, “The costs of inaction on climate are catastrophic. They are staggering. And they are beyond tragic. It’s never been more urgent or more important for Congress to address this Code Red for Humanity. Fortunately, the House has already passed the Build Back Better Act to do just that. Now the Senate must pass the Build Back Better Act to meet the test of cutting climate pollution in half by 2030, the goal set by President Biden and that science and environmental and racial justice require.”
Experts say that the Build Back Better Act would put the U.S. on a path to meeting President Biden’s target of cutting carbon pollution in half by 2030, lowering energy costs for consumers, and creating millions of good-paying jobs in clean energy industries of the future.