Dingell pledges climate action, but faces a big hurdle: the Senate

Climate strike at the Michigan Capitol, Sept. 20, 2019 | Laina G. Stebbins

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) will soon roll out ambitious legislation to require the United States to achieve a 100% clean energy economy by 2050, she said Thursday. 

The Michigander is one of several Democratic lawmakers spearheading the bill, which has been in the works for months. The legislation is expected to require economy-wide net-zero greenhouse gas emissions; it will also direct federal agencies to draft plans to clamp down on emissions that contribute to climate change. 

Debbie Dingell at a housing hearing in Detroit | Ken Coleman

“We have a crisis,” Dingell said Thursday at an event held by the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington, D.C.-based think tank. 

She pointed to hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated other parts of the country. “Michigan may be safe from that dramatic kind of weather, but we keep having a once-every-100-year storm every year. So people know that we have to do something.” 

The bill will be formally released in the coming weeks, Dingell said, noting that there are now 117 co-sponsors and that its supporters are working to boost that number to 150. 

The proposal’s targets are less ambitious than the Green New Deal, a proposal championed by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that aims to transition the United States to 100% renewable energy by 2030. Dingell isn’t among the House Democrats who have signed onto that proposal. 

Hundreds rally for Green New Deal outside Detroit Dem debate

Major bills to tackle climate change may clear the Democratic-controlled U.S. House this Congress, but they face much tougher prospects in the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate. 

“It’s great that we have Democratic votes in the House, but here’s the reality: We’ve got to get it through a Republican Senate,” Dingell said. 

Still, she added, “I would like to get this done yet this year.” 

She also acknowledged that such efforts face likely opposition from the Trump administration. Dingell noted that President Donald Trump this month formally notified the United Nations that it intends to remove the United States from the Paris climate accord. 

U.S. House passes climate bill in a rebuke to Trump

And she said that while she “didn’t think there could be any worse EPA administrator” than the embattled ex-U.S. EPA boss Scott Pruitt, “now we’re going to pull back even more from scientific facts.” The New York Times recently reported that the EPA is planning to scale back the scientific research the agency can use to craft public health regulations. 

The Michigan lawmaker stressed the importance of building a broad coalition — including business, labor and other groups — in order to pass sweeping climate change legislation. 

“It isn’t enough to have just one House. We’ve got to bring everybody to the table,” she said. 

The House last passed a major cap-and-trade climate bill in 2009 during the former President Obama administration, but that effort collapsed in the Senate, which was then under Democratic control. Republicans took control of the House in 2011, which they held until Democrats assumed power in January. 

Stabenow talks climate crisis impacts on Great Lakes after releasing new report

“There was a 10-year lag where nothing was happening,” U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) said at the Center for American Progress event Thursday. “The only hearings we had were to critique President Obama’s approach to the issue, rather than being progressive and proactive in providing for a congressional response.” 

Now, he said, Democrats need to “start the engine, rev it up.” Tonko is also co-sponsoring the renewable energy bill. 

U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), who serves on a House select committee on climate change, said he isn’t ruling out legislative action on climate change in the Senate. 

Kildee warns climate change harms Great Lakes, experts urge ‘Apollo-type’ investment to stop climate disaster

“We should not assume that our friends in the upper chamber are impervious to public opinion,” Neguse said. “I think the public opinion has shifted so dramatically on this issue — I have Republicans and unaffiliated voters in my district who care deeply about protecting public lands and having clean air and clean water to ultimately ensuring that the next generation inherits a better planet than perhaps the one we did.” 

Dingell said that “the three of us here are going to get this bill through Congress,” referring to herself, Tonko and Neguse. “We might have a lot of bruises … but we’re going to get it done.”