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Let’s prioritize the climate in 2022 – Congress must take bold, effective climate action

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When I was first elected as the congresswoman for the District of Columbia, in 1990, climate action was already a priority of mine. Now, having celebrated 31 Earth Days in Congress, combating climate change and mitigating its impacts are more urgent than ever. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that the world will experience unavoidable climate hazards over the next two decades, and D.C. is likely to see up to two to three times as many dangerously hot days, increased flooding, and related damage to infrastructure and community resources. 

This Earth Day, I am calling on Congress to take bold, effective climate action in 2022. This is necessary for the planet and country, and it helps advance priorities in D.C., too, such as racial and environmental justice, access to economic opportunity, and modern infrastructure. 

As the chair of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee and as member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I know that investments in transportation and infrastructure, particularly investments in public transportation, are a powerful way to reduce carbon emissions while benefiting our city. 

I am especially proud of my work on the historic infrastructure bill that was signed into law last year, under which D.C. will receive $1.2 billion to improve public transportation, $355 million to improve water infrastructure, and the opportunity to apply for $2.5 billion in grants for electric vehicle charging. 

This legislation is an essential step toward reducing our carbon emissions. At the same time, it will ensure that all D.C. residents have safe and modern transportation options that promote access to jobs, health care, and more. 

Beyond transportation, I have a robust track record of introducing climate and environmental legislation across a wide range of issues that are important to D.C. residents, such as my bill to amend the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act to treat D.C. the same as the states as well as a bill to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to waive matching requirements for certain grants to D.C. I also regularly advocate for D.C. residents’ environmental health in hearings, including on some of the most critical infrastructure issues that impact our water quality and safety. 

I believe that environmental justice is a key component of climate action, and it has been a priority for me throughout my career in Congress. I spoke at the first National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, in 1991, and I most recently co-sponsored the Climate Justice Act of 2021, the Environmental Justice For All Act, and the Environmental Justice Mapping and Data Collection Act.  

However, legislation is not always enough to spur change. Oversight is one of my main responsibilities as a member of Congress, and I have been active in House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on the Environment hearings with the fossil fuel industry. D.C. residents deserve accountability from fossil fuel companies, and I will continue ensuring we have the transparency and information we need. 

Finally, I regularly co-sponsor environmental bills, such as the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act, the THIRVE Act, and the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. These, too, would have a positive impact in D.C. beyond their environmental protections. For example, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act would directly return funds from a carbon fee on fossil fuel sources to Americans, and in D.C., most people would come out ahead: 63 percent of households would receive dividends that exceed any increased costs. 

We cannot let another Earth Day pass without strong climate legislation. In my fifteen terms in Congress, I am proud to have advocated for the environmental issues that affect D.C. residents most, and I will continue to champion these issues so that our city can have a more livable future. This Congress is our best chance to act on climate change, and I again am urging my colleagues to join me in prioritizing the climate in 2022–not just for our planet, but for the economic and social well-being of our constituents.  

Eleanor Holmes Norton represents the District of Columbia in Congress.  

Tags Climate change Earth Day electric vehicle charging environmental justice water quality

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