We must present a consistent approach to protecting our environment. In Maryland, we know that our natural resources are of utmost importance to businesses as well as families. We need to ensure federal funding is allocated to regional and local efforts to protect resources like our beloved Chesapeake Bay and our historic C&O Canal. Not only are they a part of our shared experience as Marylanders, but they provide jobs for communities across the state. Our environment and resources are the employment and economic base for our future.
Our planet faces tremendous challenges ranging from climate change to overfishing to water allocation and conservation. Using science to guide, we can act now to reverse our present course and create solutions to shape a sustainable world and future. Some areas that provide opportunities for action now:
- Green Energy Jobs
We must expand the role of renewable and clean energy sources within the context of a national energy policy. Not only will we provide economic opportunity and jobs for Maryland workers, but green energy development is crucial for reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Green jobs also foster greater economic stability for families and communities, creating wages 13 percent higher than median U.S. wages.
The federal government plays an important role in supporting green jobs through Green Job Training grants like the one awarded to Maryland last year. Through this program, the Maryland Energy Sector Partnership has created an integrated system of education; training; and supportive services for green jobs in manufacturing, construction, environment technology, and solar energy.
We have made some strides in expanding the use of green energy and creating green jobs, focusing on four key areas: manufacturing sustainability, building trades and green construction, environmental technology, and renewable technology. More than 1,200 professionals are employed by the solar industry in Maryland. By expanding training programs and incentives for green energy, we can provide an education that increases our competitiveness while creating more green jobs to benefit workers, businesses, and the environment.
- Reducing Dependence on Fossil Fuels
To preserve our environment for future generations, we need to address our dependence on the fossil fuels that are contributing to climate change. Instituting a national carbon tax is one way to create certainty for the markets and guidelines for industry that will help foster investment, research, and development for a clean energy economy.
According to a 2008 study by the Congressional Budget Office, such a tax would be the most efficient incentive-based option for reducing emissions and could be relatively simple to implement. A revenue-neutral plan will also protect families from increased energy costs.
We need clean air and water to keep our families healthy and to build a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren. Protecting our nation’s air, land, and water resources must be a priority. My family’s commitment to defending our environment is longstanding, and I want to continue that in Congress. My wife, April, served on the Ocean Council of Oceana. For me, this experience highlighted the importance of protecting our world’s oceans. From acidification to global overfishing, these vital ecosystems are at risk. We have also supported Discovery Creek Children’s Museum, which fosters an appreciation for our environment at a young age.
Clean air is vital to our families’ health and well-being. Mercury and other air toxins like arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium, and cyanide contribute to various health problems, from childhood asthma and acute bronchitis to heart attacks and premature death. Power plants remain the largest source of several air toxins. We must support efforts to rein in polluters and create a level playing field for power plants that are taking steps to reduce their emissions of dangerous pollutants.
In December 2010, the EPA established the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, a “pollution diet” aimed at restoring clean water in the Chesapeake Bay and the region’s streams, creeks, and rivers. Measures like this one – which requires reductions in harmful nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution and contains rigorous accountability provisions – are vital to protecting our natural resources. We must strengthen and support similar efforts to restore clean water across the country.
According to a recent report released by Rep. Henry Waxman, the House of Representatives averaged more than one anti-environmental vote for every day the House was in session in 2011. Of the 770 legislative roll call votes taken in the House that year, 22% were votes to undermine environmental protections. I will be an outspoken voice for upholding federal laws that protect our natural resources and promote good stewardship. I will stand up against efforts to undermine the EPA and will defend the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act protections.
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