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Rep. Earl Blumenauer Headshot

Reducing Pollution Should Not Be a Partisan Issue

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The Green the Capitol Initiative undertaken last year by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard has successfully demonstrated how a few common sense steps can reduce energy consumption and improve the quality of our air. Simple programs such as providing locally grown, sustainable food choices to recycling materials and composting food wastes in House cafeterias have already reduced the Capitol's carbon emissions by 72% and saved significant money through greater energy efficiency.

But the biggest step in improving the air in our nation's capitol came with Speaker Pelosi's request that the Capitol Power Plant -- the number one source of air pollution in the District of Columbia -- switch from coal to cleaner burning natural gas. When the Capitol Power Plant begins using natural gas in 2010, we will be able to reduce 95% of the sulfur monoxide and at least 50% of the carbon monoxide emitted by the Plant, making Washington DC a safer, healthier place for all residents, including many members of Congress and their staff.

Sadly, the Republican leadership has opposed, even mocked, the Speaker's determination to improve our air quality and reduce operating expenses. On Tuesday night, members of the minority party went to the House Floor one by one, accusing the Speaker of launching, "an assault on coal." Bizarrely, they chose the policies and the technologies of the past over the health of our citizens and our quality of life. Stranger still, the party that prides itself on fiscal responsibility neglected to mention that switching the Capitol Power Plant to natural gas will eliminate significant costs to transport and store coal, and to clean up coal's fly-ash and waste. Apparently, cost savings don't count if they're associated with measures that help to improve the respiratory health of the District of Columbia's children.

I applaud the efforts of Speaker Pelosi and CAO Beard to Green the Capitol. They understand the need to take financially sound and constructive action to improve the health and well being of our citizens and our planet. In fact, I believe that Americans expect the federal government and their elected officials to lead by example, demonstrating the actions that each of us can take to make our communities a better and healthier place to live: reducing our carbon footprint, eliminating waste, and saving money while we improve our air quality. I am proud that my office serves as a model of energy efficiency and carbon reduction for others, demonstrating ways to benefit our bottom line, reduce waste, and improve the quality of life for us all. I encourage all House members to commit to doing their part to create a more sustainable future for our planet and for generations of Americans to come.

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