The retirement of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), a friend of fossil fuel companies and a foe of climate action, was welcomed by environmentalists across the country.
The icing on the cake for climate activists is that the Democrat who will be representing Issa’s 49th congressional district starting in January 2019, Mike Levin, is a proponent of aggressive action to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Levin, who defeated Republican Diane Harkey in the midterm elections, gave his climate credentials a boost when he announced his support on Friday for the formation of a select committee to create a “Green New Deal” endorsed by Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
During his nine terms in congress, Levin’s predecessor, Issa, had a 4 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV). In August 2013, Issa won a “Climate Change Denier” award from the LCV for “his extreme anti-science views, which put him at odds with 97 percent of scientists and a majority of the American people.”
With Levin’s name, there are now 18 Democrats who have announced their support for the formation of a select committee to create a Green New Dea
At a press briefing on Friday on the south side of the Capitol building, Levin was joined by Ocasio-Cortez and several other House members and members-elect to voice support for the climate initiative. Levin explained how he will bring a different approach to environmental and climate change issues than Issa.
“For the last 18 years, our district has been represented by Congressman Darrell Issa. I started the campaign against Mr. Issa by sending him the book, Climate Change for Beginners,” Levin joked in his opening remarks, bringing some levity to the dire issue of climate change.
But Levin quickly pivoted to explaining why he decided to sign on to the resolution calling for a selection committee for a Green New Deal.
The National Climate Assessment, released last Friday, clearly explains that serious action is required in the coming years to fend off “unprecedented” and “catastrophic” impacts on the environment and the nation’s economy.
“What I hope to do in the next two years is to work with my new colleagues to at least put the down payment towards a Green New Deal,” Levin said, for when the time comes that “we are able once again to have someone in the White House who believes in science and believes in the importance of acting on climate energy policy, who doesn’t subcontract environmental policy to the big polluters and the oil companies, but who stand up for people again, not just for the powerful special interests.”
If those changes come to the White House and Congress, a comprehensive piece of legislation will be ready that says, “Here is what we must do to protect our planet, to protect our communities, and our futures,” Levin said.
The proposed new select committee would have the authority to develop a detailed plan, known as a Green New Deal, for the transition of the U.S. economy to become carbon neutral and to draw down and capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans and to promote economic and environmental justice and equality.
Under the proposal, the committee would be required to complete the plan for a Green New Deal by January 1, 2020.
The goal of the committee would be to draft legislation that, within 10 years, would move the nation to 100 percent renewables for power generation and upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety.
The legislation also would provide all members of society the opportunity, training, and education “to be a full and equal participant in the transition, including through a job guarantee program to assure a living wage job to every person who wants one.”
Aside from Levin, the newest members to add their support to the creation of the select committee are Reps. Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI). In September 2017, Gabbard introduced a major piece of legislation, the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act (OFF Act), which has dozens of co-sponsors and has similar ambitions as the Green New Deal. The bill mandates a transition to 100 percent renewable energy in electricity production, with 80 percent of that shift happening within 10 years.
On Thursday, Gabbard tweeted that as she and her cosponsors continue to push through the OFF Act “to protect our environment and secure our future with clean air and water for all,” she plans to stand with Ocasio-Cortez and a host of environmental groups “in supporting the #GreenNewDeal.”
At Friday’s press briefing, Gabbard highlighted groups such as Food and Water Watch that have been pushing for strong climate legislation for several years. Their work “has laid the pathway for us to continue to build this momentum,” she said.
“Just one week ago today, the Fourth National Climate Assessment confirmed what the IPCC report had already reported and what many of us have already known for quite some time,” she said. “What we know is that we continue to ignore our planet, we will face dire consequences” and lose “the ability for our children and their children and their children to live in peace and prosperity.”
Some lawmakers have hesitated to support the select committee because existing committees, such as House Energy and Commerce, House Natural Resources, and House Science, Space, and Technology already have jurisdiction over the energy and technology issues.
Levin emphasized that the select committee for a Green New Deal and the existing House committees can work together on fighting climate change.
“This should not be a zero-sum proposition between committees,” he said Friday in a statement. “Just as Markey-Waxman was collaborative between the head of the Select Committee and standing Energy & Commerce committee, this must also be collaborative. A Select Committee ensures constant focus on climate change as the standing committees deal with that and many other issues of the day — such as wildfires in California, infrastructure, clean water issues, etc.”