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Lawmakers, celebs rally for Earth Day after climate bill delay

Tens of thousands of environmentalists and music fans gathered on the
National Mall Sunday for a concert and rally to mark the 40th
anniversary of Earth Day.

Organized by the Earth Day Network, the afternoon featured an all-star
lineup of musical acts, including Sting, John Legend, Joss Stone, The
Roots, Bob Weir, Jimmy Cliff and more.

{mosads}Interspersed among the bands were VIP speakers, among them
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, Reps. Ed
Markey (D-Mass.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), retired Rep. and Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.),
Rev. Jesse Jackson, “Avatar” director James Cameron, Robert F. Kennedy,
Jr., Trudie Styler, Philippe Cousteau, and Cincinnati Bengals
linebacker Dhani Jones.

Despite ominous weather reports, the climate cooperated to produce a warm, breezy afternoon ideal for an outdoor festival.

The event came less than a day after Saturday’s unexpected announcement
of a delay in the unveiling of a Senate version of energy and climate
legislation passed by the House last summer. But the setback only
seemed to further energize the lawmakers, VIP guests, and fans in
attendance.

Markey, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment,
told The Hill that despite the latest obstacles facing a bipartisan
Senate bill, he’s “still optimistic” that lawmakers can find “a pathway
to seriously debating a climate and energy bill in the Senate this
year.” And while he didn’t speculate on when a final bill might
arrive on the Senate floor, if it does, he said, “There will be at
least 30 or 40 members speaking out [on behalf of the bill].

“There’s a long list of [lawmakers] who’ve dedicated their careers to seeing this legislation passed,” he added.

As for whether climate legislation might stand a chance of passage
after November’s midterm elections, Markey didn’t dismiss the
possibility outright. “Right now we’ve got the best chance [to pass the
legislation] in a generation,” he said, “and it would just be a shame
to lose it.”

Earth Day Network director Sean Miller was much less forgiving of the
delays to the Senate bill. “The fact that the House passed a bill last
summer, and today, almost a year later, we haven’t even seen the first
draft of a Senate version, it’s just ridiculous,” he told The Hill.
“We’re here today calling for real leadership in the Senate, and we
invited any senator willing to take a stand to join us today. None of
them did.”

According to early press releases, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
(D-Calif.) was also invited, and initially agreed, to speak at the
event. But Pelosi was in San Francisco on Sunday, where she attended a
memorial service for former Sierra Club president Edgar Wayburn.

For the VIPs in attendance, the scene backstage at the concert was
uniquely Washingtonian: artists blended seamlessly with policymakers,
scholars and activists. This was in part because may of them were old
friends, having worked together on environmental issues for years.
Sting and Trudie Styler embraced a bevy of old friends when they
arrived, then sat in the wings talking to people they knew for most of
the day. Just offstage, Markey chatted with James Cameron and his wife,
Suzy Amis, for nearly an hour. A few feet away from them, Lisa Jackson
and actress Gloria Reuben cracked each other up.

One of the newest faces on the green celebrity scene was Cincinnati
Bengals linebacker Dhani Jones. A native of Montgomery County, Md.,
Jones told The Hill that filming his Travel Channel show, “Dhani
Tackles the Globe,” has made him much more aware of how connected the
planet’s inhabitants are. “There aren’t many pro athletes who are into
[green issues], but for me it’s about learning as much as I can [about
the issues], and then affecting others.”

Judging by his eloquent remarks, delivered without notes, it may not be long before Jones is invited back to Capitol Hill.

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