Congress pays tribute to Earth Day’s 40th anniversary April 22nd

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, April 22 – On the Senate floor Thursday, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) marked Earth Day by pointing to the challenge of climate change. He said that next Monday, Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) plan to introduce their climate bill. Durbin explained that the bipartisan bill is “certainly consistent with the goals of Earth Day and our national goals:”

  • “First, to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, to encourage domestic energy sources that are renewable and sustainable.
  • “Second, to create jobs which is our highest priority in this Congress with the recession that we face.
  • “The third thing, of course, is that we want to do something about pollution, carbon emissions, the impact that they have on our lungs and on our atmosphere.”

Durbin called the three goals “ an ambitious agenda because it engages the entire American economy.” But he warned that if the U.S. fails to achieve these goals, “we are going to fall behind in the development of industries that have great potential.”

Durbin called on his Senate colleagues to join in pursuing “clean energy alternatives, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, creating good paying jobs in industries with a future and in the process doing the right thing for Mother Earth.” He said “I’ve often spent my Earth Day back in Illinois downstate with farmers. I can’t think of any people in America closer to Mother Nature every single day of their lives and most of them are not all that comfortable with the so-called environmentalists.” He said farmers generally consider environmentalists too theoretical, “not grounded in the reality that farmers face.” But he added that farmers “come up with some common-sense approaches whether we’re talking about soil or water conservation, the reduction of the use of chemicals on the land, all of these things are consistent with both environmental goals and profitable farming. So I look at our stewards of the agricultural scene in America as part of our environmental community that could play a critical role in charting our course in making policies for the future.”

Sen. Tom Harkin also focused his Earth Day remarks on farmers and climate change. Despite substantial progress since the first Earth Day in 1970, Harkin said that “we still face significant environmental challenges in agriculture and industry, in cities, towns and rural areas.  For example, crop nutrients and pesticides we use in farming or on our lawns and gardens, along with wastewater discharges or smokestack emissions continue to require our attention.  Farmers in Iowa are continuing to improve their conservation and environmental efforts – such as proven resource protection practices like buffer strips along streams, crop and manure management and grass and tree planting – and I successfully led a strong push in the two most recent farm bills to provide much stronger assistance for farmers who adopt and maintain good conservation practices.”

Calling climate change “a monumental, international challenge,” Harkin said that he hopes the Senate will pass climate legislation soon.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) commented that “Earth Day offers us the opportunity to renew our efforts to preserve our environment and fight global climate change.” He focused his remarks on jobs: “As we work to help Colorado and the United States recover from the current economic downturn, green jobs can provide a valuable source of growth. . . In recent years, renewable energy, natural gas, and other related industries have brought thousands of jobs to our state. Earth Day allows us to note the considerable benefits these industries have brought Colorado and focus upon the work we are doing to make greater gains in the future.”

To read more congressional Earth Day comments, go to:

To return to the News Index page, click: