The Extraordinary Climate And Environmental Legacy Of Henry Waxman

By Ryan Koronowski on January 30, 2014 at 4:29 pm

CREDIT: Center for American Progress

Following 40 years of sustained fighting on behalf of human health, the environment, and a livable climate, Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) announced on Thursday that he would retire from Congress after this year.

“In 1974, I announced my first campaign for Congress,” he said Thursday in a press release. “Today, I am announcing that I have run my last campaign. I will not seek reelection to the Congress and will leave after 40 years in office at the end of this year.” When the news hit the House GOP, their reaction spoke volumes of how strong a legislative adversary he was to them.

A Waxman-less Congress leaves a gaping hole on serious climate policy. Former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), the Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee when Waxman was Chair, described him as a formidable opponent: “he may be short in his stature, but he can be 10 feet tall if you get in his way.”

While the Congressman still has almost a year to add a few more bullet points to his already-full legislative record, here is a short list of his most notable climate and environmental accomplishments:

Climate change stayed a national legislative priority. “To me, this is an issue more important than all the other things we’re spending time on,” he told the National Journal in 2013. “It’s more important than the budget, sequestration, the debt ceiling — 10 years, maybe five years from now, people aren’t going to say, ‘What did we do on those issues?’ They’re going to say, ‘What did Congress do on climate change?’”

There is no EPA regulation of CO2 without Waxman.. The reason that President Obama has the ability to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act is because Congressman Waxman helped write it. The existing Clean Air Act was under threat of being weakened from the moment President Reagan was inaugurated for the first time in 1981. At first, Waxman and some of his colleagues merely tried to keep the important bill from being gutted. As the years went by, Reagan and his allies in Congress failed to weaken the Act, and Waxman and his allies ended the decade with a slew of strong amendments. Some of those found their way into a bill that strengthened the Clean Air Act in 1990, signed by George H.W. Bush. The Supreme Court decided in 2007 that the language in the Act meant greenhouse gases could qualify as pollutants under the law. The EPA has been moving to regulate those pollutants since 2009, starting with vehicle emissions and continuing with new and existing power plants today.

….(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environmental Justice
Environment Ethics

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