SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt., March 22 - Senator Bernie Sanders said today that "we can strengthen our economy, create millions of good-paying jobs, protect our environment for future generations, and reduce threats to public health by addressing global warming."
In the keynote address to the annual conference of the National Association of Environmental Law Societies at the Vermont Law School, Sanders (I-Vt.) called for a commitment to reverse climate change commensurate to the space program that put men on the moon.
The need to stop global warming is urgent because "to be blunt, the problem is even worse than many have previously suggested," Sanders said. Earlier this week, for example, it was reported that the amount of long-lasting sea ice in the Arctic declined sharply last year - the steepest yearly decline on record.
The United State no longer leads the world in protecting the environment and reversing climate change, the senator told the lawyers' conference, because President Bush has thrown up legal roadblocks and pursued environmental policies that have been rebuked by the Supreme Court and other federal judges.
The Supreme Court last year rebuffed Bush administration claims that it had no legal authority to regulate emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions. In a federal courtroom in Vermont, meanwhile, the administration last year lost a lawsuit brought by Vermont and other states over vehicle emissions. Now, Bush administration anti-environmentalists are headed back to court because the EPA refused to grant California a waiver that would let it and other states, including Vermont, take action on global warming. In another regulatory ruling that may be headed to court, it was revealed just last week that the president personally intervened to weaken new EPA smog standards.
While lawyers for states and environmental organizations have scored landmark legal victories, Sanders said there also has been progress in Congress.
An energy bill passed last year included the first substantial change in the nation's vehicle fuel-efficiency law since 1975. The legislation also created a new Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program to support grassroots efforts to reduce fossil fuel emissions, lower total energy use, and improve energy efficiency. Another Sanders provision in the bill created a grant program to support work at colleges and universities to get students and local communities involved in efforts to develop renewable, alternative energy sources. He also worked with Senator Hillary Clinton on a provision to build a "green jobs" workforce trained in jobs related to energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Later this year, Sanders added, the Senate is expected to take up bipartisan legislation on global warming that he helped craft in the Senate environment committee. "I plan on playing an important role in arguing that it must be strengthened,"
"While we face a tremendous challenge, we also a face tremendous opportunity," Sanders concluded in the address at the Vermont Law School, which offers one of the nation's leading environmental law and policy programs.