State of the Union

Full interview with Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.)

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, discusses the politically charged discussion on climate change in Congress.


Monica Trauzzi: Tonight the president said his "all of the above" energy strategy is working. Would you agree?

Rep. Peter DeFazio: Well, we've made some strides in renewable energy. A lot of solar has been installed, we're doing a bunch of wind in the Northwest, looking at wave, those things are all good. Natural gas as a bridge fuel as we move to the future to displace coal has been positive, has reduced our carbon pollution of the atmosphere. I'm not ready to declare victory. I have concerns about fracking, it needs to be properly regulated. We don't really now how much methane escape there is, which could be basically offsetting the savings from coal. So we need to capture the methane as you're doing it, we need to do it safely, they need to be well cased, need to do it in areas where we're not going to pollute the water table. We need some federal regulations. Whereas the Republicans and the House are saying no, absolutely not, no regulations on fracking, just let them do it.

Monica Trauzzi: Do you see opportunities within your committee to move forward on this year of action agenda that he talked about?

Rep. Peter DeFazio: No, I see great opportunities outside the committee. Last week I led a letter with Raúl Grijalva, who is the senior Democrat on the Public Lands Subcommittee, to the president asking him to use his power, the Antiquities Act, to put in place national monuments to preserve precious resources or treasures around the country. We haven't passed one acre of wilderness of national monument protection out of the Resources Committee since the Republicans took over, and today they had a mark up with fake wilderness bills, i.e. bills that say they're wilderness but actually not the Wilderness Act. And they are totally opposed to putting more lands in federal ownership, even using land and water conservation funds. So the president has a great opportunity. When Clinton was president, the Republicans were in charge, we did the national monument in Oregon because the Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbit said, "If you don't act, Congress, we will use a more blunt tool, which is a national monument designation." And that's where we're at today. The president, we're urging him to look at dozens of national monuments around the country and he has a blunt tool with the national monument designation. If the Republicans what to save some of these areas they can cooperate and we can do it in a much more refined way with actual legislation.

Monica Trauzzi: Has Congress been ruled out on climate action?

Rep. Peter DeFazio: Look, these people do not believe in climate change. They would say, "Oh, we're having a cold snap, there's no climate change." That's the kind of people I'm dealing with on the tea party right and some of my other colleagues in Congress. The president was definitive: Climate change is real, it is happening, we need to take action. They're trying to undo his rather modest actions in controlling coal plant and carbon dioxide pollution. At this point I don't see the Republicans and the House moving an inch on that issue. They don't believe in it. Or if they do believe in it, they don't care, because it's too much money to pretend it doesn't exist.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, congressman, I'll end it there.

[End of Audio]



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