Last weekend in cities across the country people came together to celebrate Earth Day and learned more about how we can and must act to save our planet. Nowhere is it more appropriate to observe Earth Day than on the Central and South Coasts, one of the most beautiful places in America and a place where environmental stewardship has become the rule rather than the exception. Earth Day holds particular significance for our community because the idea was conceived after Senator Gaylord Nelson visited Santa Barbara to witness the devastating effects of the 1969 oil spill.

I remember well the tragic aftermath of that 1969 oil spill. The long term damage to the local economy and environment caused by that historic oil spill helped jump start the modern environmental movement and it convinced me that there was a better way to meet our nation’s energy needs.

We have come a long way in the past 37 years. Our oceans, rivers, and lakes are cleaner, and our parks and open spaces are vaster. Yet much remains to be done, particularly in the areas of energy independence and Global Warming. Fortunately the new Democratically-led Congress, under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi, has made a commitment to addressing environmental issues.

We’ve already taken some important steps, such as creating a Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and passing legislation that would repeal $14 billion in subsidies given to Big Oil companies and shift those resources to investments in clean, alternative energy and energy efficiency. In addition, last month the House passed a budget that places a high priority on tackling global warming and making America more energy independent. The House is also launching a ‘Green the Capitol’ initiative that will make the Congress a leader for environmental stewardship and sustainable energy use. These initiatives will be good for the environment and our economy as we work to create new jobs for a “green