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What's Next for Clean Energy and Climate Policies

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There is no doubt that we have our work cut out for us. The current Senate has failed to act on comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation and we now know that the 112th Congress will be a very different landscape with an incoming class of members that is among the most anti-science to date. Yet the outcome of the elections does not change the facts: the U.S. is dangerously dependent on oil, China and other countries are making huge gains in clean energy technologies, and we continue to spew dangerous carbon pollution into the atmosphere.

The fight to create new clean energy jobs and solve the climate crisis must continue - in the states, at the Environmental Protection Agency and with other administrative opportunities and, to the extent possible, in Congress. While we do not expect the new Congress to act on a comprehensive energy and climate bill, we will continue to push for progress and encourage Congress and the Obama administration to use every tool available to grow America's clean energy economy and curb harmful carbon pollution.

Most importantly, we must now focus on protecting and preserving the EPA's authority to crack down on polluters and regulate global warming pollution under the Clean Air Act, with a particular emphasis on beating back any congressional attempts to block or delay the EPA from moving forward. Additionally, we will also urge the administration - via the Departments of Energy, Interior, Transportation and EPA - to take aggressive action on other clean energy, environmental and public health issues. (As we've previously noted, our election eve poll of 83 battleground districts found that voters -- including independent voters -- overwhelmingly support the EPA regulating carbon pollution.)

Where possible, we will work to pass complementary clean energy measures in Congress - like a renewable electricity standard, building efficiency standards, cutting fossil fuel subsidies and reducing the transportation sector's oil use -- many of which have had bipartisan support in the past.

We were reminded of this recently as we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, which were signed into law after passing through Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. Newt Gingrich, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Barton, Henry Waxman, Jim Inhofe, Ed Markey, Jim Sensebrenner, Chuck Schumer and Fred Upton all voted for final passage of the amendments -- shepherded by the administration of George H.W. Bush -- that updated the Clean Air Act to address a wide range of modern day air pollution problems including acid rain, automobile tailpipe emissions, air toxins and ozone depletion.

We need that same bipartisan support to protect EPA's ability to hold polluters accountable and put in place clean energy solutions that help rebuild America's struggling economy. But we should be clear that much of our effort in the 112th Congress may be focused on defense. It's worth remembering what incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner said last year when asked about climate change: "...the idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical. Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide. Every cow in the world, you know, when they do what they do, you've got more carbon dioxide."

As Congress acts on these issues, LCV will aggressively hold accountable those lawmakers who stand in the way of progress by siding with Big Oil, Dirty Coal and other corporate polluters.

Building off the overwhelming rejection of California's dirty energy ballot measure -- Proposition 23 -- we will also work to defend other states' clean energy laws that are under assault from polluting special interests. And we will continue to make progress on clean energy and climate policies in key places across the country. Successful clean energy economies are already emerging in cities and states where innovation is supported by smart, sustainable policies, and this progress must be encouraged. The states have always been the laboratories of democracy, and clean energy is no exception.

It is deeply disturbing that the U.S. has not yet enacted comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation and that as a result of the midterm elections we will have to say goodbye to many good friends. But there are paths forward. We can still make progress. We must keep working at every level to transition our nation to a cleaner, safer, more secure energy future.

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