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February 27, 2019

Senator King Urges Progress on Climate Change: “I Want The Answer to Be ‘I Took Action’”

King cites 1986 remarks from predecessor Senator George Mitchell to make climate change a priority

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) took to the Senate floor to echo the call of his predecessor, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, who urged action on climate change more than 30 years ago. During his speech, Senator King read a statement that Senator Mitchell made during a 1986 Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on climate change, emphasized the lack of substantive action since that speech was made, and pushed for more forceful bipartisan efforts to protect our planet.

“What we are doing in this colloquy is recreating a statement, a letter, as the senator from Minnesota outlined, that was sent by six of our predecessors in December of 1986, warning about the dangers of climate change. Warning about what this can do to our country and to our world – about costs, and about how we had to take action,” said Senator King.  “One of those senators was George Mitchell of Maine, one of the great legislators of the 20th century. I’m honored to be in the seat that was once occupied by George Mitchell, and also by his predecessor, Edmund Muskie…What I'd like to do is step into George Mitchell's shoes for a moment and read a statement that he himself wrote and made back in 1986. And it's -- it's -- you're not going to believe how prescient this statement is. It could have been written yesterday.”

After reading Senator Mitchell’s statement with occasional asides to reinforce the message, Senator King closed by saying,

“George Mitchell was right in 1986. Tragically he's even more right today because we did not heed his call. We did not take action. We have avoided action. I don't want to be the generation that our children and grandchildren look back on and say, ‘where were you and what did you do when the climate was deteriorating, when the glaciers were melting, when the ice sheaths were melting, when the sea level was rising, when the storms were increasing in intensity, when the wildfires were burning our states, what did you do, Senator?’…I want the answer to be ‘I took action.’ The answer should be we took action. This is a challenge today, even greater, significantly greater than it was in 1986. But the very fact that people like Quentin Burdick and George Mitchell and John Chafee and Bob Stafford and David Durenberger saw the future and predicted it so succinctly and profoundly should spur us to the type of action that's necessary to meet, confront, and overcome this most serious of challenges before us."

In addition to Senator King, other Senators speaking on the Senate floor today to push for climate change included Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.). Each of these individuals succeeded a Senator who signed a bipartisan letter in December 1986 letter, requesting that the Office of Technology Assessment undertake a study on climate change. Specifically, the letter sought research to inform legislation that would address “such a rapid and unprecedented change in the composition of the atmosphere and its implication for the human and natural worlds.”

A forceful advocate for clean energy solutions, Senator King has previously introduced the Next Generation GRID Act, which would encourage energy independence, foster innovation, and leverage federal resources to support a more resilient 21st century electricity grid through the use of distributed energy resources. He is also the lead sponsor of the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Support Act, legislation that would support businesses investing in energy efficiency technology, help diversify energy options for rural industries, and maximize use of Maine’s natural resources.

Earlier this month, in an Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, Senator King questioned experts on opportunities to address the threat of climate change through clean energy alternatives and technology innovations. In August, Senator King spoke on the Senate floor to highlight the detrimental public health, climate and economic impacts of the administration’s proposal to replace the Clean Power Plan (CPP). In July, Senator King spoke about the threat climate change poses to Maine’s lobster economy on the Senate floor. Senator King has continuously advocated on the behalf of climate experts, he strongly opposed the President’s decision to exit the Paris Climate Agreement and pushed back against a Department of Interior proposal that would open up the Gulf of Maine to offshore drilling. 

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