Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, discusses opportunities for bipartisanship on energy and climate.
Monica Trauzzi: Senator, the president called tonight for a change to the way we do politics. He'd like to see constructive debates. Is that possible on climate change?
Sen. Jeff Merkley: Well, certainly I think that we will take a big stride in that direction. As more of my colleagues across the aisle come to recognize this is the responsibility of our human civilization and our generation to take on the pollution that's wreaking such havoc on our forests, on our fishing and on our farms.
Monica Trauzzi: Did he talk enough about oil, natural gas?
Sen. Jeff Merkley: Well, certainly he addressed the fact that we are embedded in a fossil fuel system of energy, that we've got to pivot to renewable energy and that we can create a tremendous number of jobs at the same time that we're doing that. And I think so many would like to create a war between the economy and the environment, and that simply doesn't exist here. This is a win-win opportunity.
Monica Trauzzi: Now that the contentious crude oil export ban has been lifted, do you see an opening for some kind of comprehensive legislation to move through the Senate?
Sen. Jeff Merkley: Unfortunately I feel that the fossil fuel industry and the Koch brothers right now really do have control certainly of the Senate and also the House. We saw that in so many elections that the Koch brothers paid in this last cycle. But even so, the Clean Power Plan of the president stood. We did not have any killer provisions included in the end-of-the-year spending bill, and you can start to see that there are a number of my colleagues across the aisle who are very uncomfortable with the notion that this generation bears responsibility for taking on this threat to our planet, and that they're not participating yet, and they want to participate, and they want to free themselves from the grip of this powerful special interest and join the effort and be part of the community that takes this on.
Monica Trauzzi: Those efforts to derail the power plan will be revisited this year, do you think they have legs?
Sen. Jeff Merkley: I am sure we will see that, and I am sure we will defeat those efforts.
Monica Trauzzi: All right, we'll end it right there. Thank you for your time.
Sen. Jeff Merkley: Thank you.
Monica Trauzzi: Thank you.
[End of Audio]