Dingell, Democrats roll out ambitious climate bill

Image by Kevin Snyman from Pixabay

WASHINGTON — Democrats introduced ambitious U.S. House legislation this week that would commit the United States to achieve a 100% clean energy economy by 2050. 

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), one of the bill’s lead sponsors, previewed the plan last week at an event held by the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell | Andrew Roth

“This bill sets goals to achieve a clean economy by 2050 with significant progress each year. To accomplish this we must bring environmentalists, workers, and businesses together and ensure we are building coalitions that actually accomplishes this,” Dingell said. “The U.S. will stay at the forefront of innovation and technology and leave a healthy planet for generations to come.”

Original co-sponsors from Michigan are: U.S. Reps. Dan Kildee (D-Flint), Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly), Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield), Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) and Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills).

No House Republicans, including the six from Michigan, are among the co-sponsors. 

The bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Don McEachin (D-Richmond), which has more than 150 co-sponsors in the U.S. House and the backing of national environmental groups, has been in the works for months. It would require economy-wide net-zero greenhouse gas emissions; it would also direct federal agencies to draft plans to clamp down on emissions that contribute to climate change. 

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“The need to act on climate has never been clearer: 2019 is on pace to be one of the hottest years ever recorded and every week brings another community damaged by extreme weather events fueled by climate change,” said McEachin said in a statement. 

The bill, titled the 100% Clean Economy Act of 2019, “will protect public health and our environment; create high-quality green jobs that will strengthen our economy; and mitigate the impacts of climate change for all communities and all generations,” he said. 

Dingell cited record Great Lakes levels as a key reason to take action. 

“Look at the world: devastating hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, melting glaciers, rising sea levels – and we see it directly in Michigan with ‘Once Every 100 Year Storms’ as yearly events now,” said Dingell. “The Great Lakes are at historic high levels. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report was clear that we must rapidly transition to clean, net-zero emissions economy.” 

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Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said McEachin’s bill “presents an opportunity to tackle the climate crisis while providing federal leadership towards the creation of a new energy system.”

A major United Nations report released last year said the world could face catastrophic climate change impacts unless global greenhouse gas emissions are cut by 45 percent by 2030. The world would need to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the report found.  

The targets in the proposal 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. 

McEachin, who isn’t a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, called that legislation “aspirational,” noting that it lays out broad goals but doesn’t articulate a path forward. 

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His bill, he said, “is still ambitious and it’s very consistent with what scientists tell us we have to achieve.” 

The bill is one of several major pieces of climate change efforts introduced in the House since Democrats took control of the chamber in January. But while some of those efforts could clear the U.S. House this Congress, they’re unlikely to get traction in the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate. 

McEachin introduced the legislation after returning to Washington this month following about three months of recovery from surgery in August. 

He faced complications from the surgery, he said, but he’s feeling “much better” and his strength is coming back, he said in an interview this week. He has been back and forth between Washington and Richmond, but he expects to be back in Washington full time after the Thanksgiving recess, he said. He’s fully prepared to run for reelection in 2020, he added. “It never crossed my mind not to.” 

Robin Bravender
Michigan native Robin Bravender is the Washington, D.C. Bureau Chief for States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit news publications, including the Michigan Advance. Previously, Robin was a reporter for Politico, E&E News and Thomson Reuters.
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Susan J. Demas is an 18-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.