406 Dirksen EPW Hearing Room

Sheldon Whitehouse


As prepared for delivery

Washington, DC – I’d like to thank Ranking Member Sessions, members of the subcommittee, and our witnesses for being here today to discuss the need to act on climate change.

We are privileged to have before our subcommittee today four former administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency.

All of them solved contentious environmental problems during their tenures working for Republican presidents. Now they’re banding together to bring attention to the biggest environmental threat of all – climate change. In a New York Times op-ed written last year that I’d like to enter into the record, these former administrators stated, “[W]e have a message that transcends political affiliation: the United States must move now on substantive steps to curb climate change, at home and internationally.”

They are four in a large choir of voices singing the same tune on this issue. Major corporations, are concerned about climate change and have already started reducing their own emissions. The BICEP Climate Declaration is signed by more than 750 companies, including nameplate American corporations like eBay, Gap, Levi’s, L’Oreal, Mars, Nike, and Starbucks. It states, in part, “We cannot risk our kids’ futures on the false hope that the vast majority of scientists are wrong… Leading is what we’ve always done. And by working together, regardless of politics, we’ll do it again.” I will enter a copy of the declaration into the record. The defense community has sounded the alarm that climate change is a serious national security threat. There are also scientists, outdoorsmen, faith leaders, state and local officials, and countless others demanding action.

I understand that many of my colleagues are from states that depend on fossil fuels, and they want to protect jobs in those industries. But I also ask that they look at the side of the ledger that affects states like Rhode Island. Our side of the ledger includes costs like damage to coastal homes, infrastructure, and businesses from rising seas, erosion, and storm surge; hospitalizations and missed school and work days for the families of kids suffering from asthma attacks triggered by smog; forests dying from beetle infestations and destroyed by unprecedented wildfire seasons; farms ravaged by worsened drought and flooding. Our side of the ledger counts, too.

Recently, the EPA used its Clean Air Act authority, as established by Congress and affirmed by the Supreme Court, to propose carbon pollution standards for the country’s existing power plants. As proposed, the rule will reduce carbon pollution while providing as much at $93 billion in public health and climate benefits per year by 2030. As you can see from this chart, a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, found that 70 percent of the public supports federal standards to limit greenhouse gas pollution.


And just this morning, the Wall Street Journal and NBC-News released polling data saying two-thirds of Americans support President Obama’s new climate rule and more than half say the U.S. should address global warming even if it means higher electricity bills.

The effects of climate change are apparent across our country. At the Newport tide gauge, sea level is up almost ten inches since the 1930s. What do you think will happen when a hurricane as powerful as the devastating hurricane of 1938 rolls into the shores of Rhode Island on seas that are ten inches higher? [Hurricane 1938 photo]. Louisiana is losing a football field of wetlands every hour due in part to sea level rise. According to measurements at NOAA’s Dauphin Island station, sea level has risen approximately five inches along the Alabama coast between 1966 and 2006. In addition to eroding the coastline, that’s five more inches of ocean that batter Mobile Bay during storms. And then there is Florida, ground zero for climate change. In October 2012, streets and homes in Hendrick’s Isle, FL, were flooded—but not because of a storm. It all happened on a beautiful sunny day. It was just extreme high tides, pushed into the town by sea-level rise.

Climate change is a challenge that can and must be solved. Again I thank the witnesses for joining us. The committee has much to learn from the collective experience of the four former administrators as we address this urgent threat.

Witness Introductions

• The Honorable William Ruckelshaus was the inaugural EPA administrator under President Nixon and later served as EPA administrator again under President Reagan, He banned the use of the pesticide DDT.
• The Honorable Lee Thomas served under President Reagan and was instrumental in the negotiation and ratification of the Montreal Protocol to phase out substances that deplete the ozone layer.
• The Honorable William Reilly, EPA administrator under President George H.W. Bush, worked to amend the Clean Air Act to control acid rain.
• Governor Christine Todd Whitman served two terms as governor of New Jersey before serving as EPA administrator under George W. Bush. She oversaw implementation of standards that significantly reduced diesel air pollution.
• Dr. Daniel Botkin is the Professor Emeritus of Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
• The Honorable Luther Strange is Alabama’s Attorney General.
• Dr. Joseph Mason the Hermann Moyse, Jr./Louisiana Bankers Association Endowed Professor of Banking at Louisiana State University and Senior Fellow at the Wharton School.