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Climate Change

The science is clear: climate change is already occurring, it is caused by human activity, and it is the greatest existential threat to our planet that we have ever known. The science is clear that if we don't act immediately the destructive effects of climate change will worsen; we are already experiencing increasingly severe weather events like floods, droughts, and wildfires.

DeFazio understands that it’s critical to ensure that government policies aimed at ending global warming do not unintentionally hurt struggling low income, rural communities, or benefit some regions while penalizing others. Combatting climate change can lead to good-paying jobs, improved public health, and a cleaner environment for generations to come—no matter where people live.

In November 2017, thirteen U.S. federal agencies—including the Environmental Protection Agency—jointly published a climate report. The report, the National Climate Assessment, makes clear that every region of the country is already experiencing the detrimental effects of climate change, and it warns that “[f]uture impacts and risks from climate change are directly tied to decisions made in the present.” The report also predicts that, by the end of this century, global warming will damage the U.S. economy even more than the Great Recession did.

21st Century Green Transportation

Transportation is the leading cause of carbon emissions in the U.S. Congressman DeFazio understands that by transforming our transportation system we can affect real and long-term change.

As Chairman of the influential Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, DeFazio passed the INVEST in America Act, also known as the Moving Forward Act, in the House in July 2020. The legislation takes bold steps to build the clean transportation sector of the future by reforming existing programs and launching new initiatives to reduce greenhouse gases.

The INVEST in America Act is our opportunity to replace the outdated systems of the past with smarter, safer, more resilient infrastructure that fits the economy of the future, creates millions of jobs, supports American manufacturing, and restores U.S. competitiveness.

The bill creates key new programs to cut carbon pollution and mitigate the threat of extreme weather; invests in clean fuel infrastructure; provides more zero-emission and clean transportation choices; and harnesses American ingenuity in our fight against climate change. Notably, the bill:

  • Invests $8.3 billion in a new carbon pollution reduction program without federal government overreach; giving States the flexibility to reduce emissions through the projects that are right for their communities;
  • Provides $6.3 billion through a new pre-disaster mitigation program, helping States prepare for and limit the impacts of every-increasing extreme weather events and natural disasters. —whether that’s wildfires in the Pacific Northwest, flooding in the Midwest, or hurricanes in our coastal communities;
  • Establishes a new green highway materials research, development, and deployment program focused on highway materials that will reduce or sequester greenhouse gas pollution generated during production and construction.

The bottom line is the INVEST in America Act will create millions of family wage jobs, support American manufacturing, and restore U.S. competitiveness. By putting people to work on green, transformative projects in urban, suburban and rural communities across the country, this legislation invests in jobs that can’t be exported.

Rising Sea Levels and Ocean Acidification

Scientific research—most notably a study led by researchers at Oregon State University—has demonstrated that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are rapidly increasing the acidity of our oceans.  Approximately one third of human related carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by our oceans. This increased acidity is threatening our entire ocean food chain and the viability of the valuable Oregon fisheries sector, which the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates includes 6,000 jobs and a total of nearly $700 million in overall economic output annually. 

Climate change is already taking its toll. Commercial oyster production on the West Coast alone generates more than $100 million in gross sales annually, with total economic activity topping a quarter billion dollars nationwide. Yet, oyster farmers in Oregon and Washington are worried that they may have to close their operations because increased ocean acidity is preventing oysters from growing at a pace that is commercially cost effective.

DeFazio understands the importance of science-based policy and how the scientific community can make a difference. Climate change is not a hoax and it is far past time for policy makers to work with the scientific community to achieve fact-based solutions.  

Of additional concern is rising of sea levels. Sea level rise on our coasts could lead to permanent or episodic flooding of low-lying lands, increased erosion and shoreline change, threatening mariners and our ports, increased damages from coastal storms, and lead to saltwater intrusion of coastal freshwaters and drinking water systems. This could have devastating effects on coastal communities, economies, and cultures. Everything in our natural world is interrelated, which is why it is so important to fight climate change in every way possible.

While the current state of our oceans is perilous, there is good news. Oceans can play a large role in curbing climate change. Oregon State University Distinguished Professor Dr. Lubchenco is a world-renowned environmental scientist who served as the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as an inaugural member of President Barack Obama’s Science Team. She is also a member of the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (HLPSOE), a group of 14 nations working to improve ocean health. HLPSOE released a report in 2019 that found oceans could play a much bigger role in reducing the earth’s carbon footprint. In fact, oceans could reduce up to a fifth of the annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emission cuts needed by 2050 to limit the effects of climate change.  That reduction would be  larger than the annual emissions from all the current coal-fired power plants in the world.

The report named several ways the ocean can help the climate, including decarbonizing domestic and international shipping and transport, which DeFazio is working on as Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, increasing the protection and restoration of blue carbon ecosystems like mangroves, seagrasses, and estuaries.

DeFazio is a cosponsor of several ocean health bills, including the COAST Research Act, which would address the effects of ocean acidification on our marine ecosystems. This legislation, which passed the House last year, would reauthorize the Ocean Acidification Program of NOAA and expand research efforts to monitor the effects of coastal acidification.

DeFazio is also a cosponsor of the Save Our Seas Act, which reauthorized the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program and includes provisions to work with other countries to support research, development, and investments on systems and materials that reduce the amount of waste that enters the oceans.

Combatting Climate Change with Regenerative Agriculture

Many farmers have been urged to grow single species of crops (known as monoculture), use excess amounts of pesticides and chemical fertilizers that run off into streams and lakes causing harmful algae blooms to stay in business. The result is depleted topsoil that doesn’t hold water or nutrients. It has been starved of organic carbon and the beneficial organisms that depend on healthy soil to live. 

Like our oceans, our soil is at risk, and with it the world’s food supply. Soil is a critical stage in the earth’s carbon cycle. Plants draw carbon out of the air and feed it to the organisms in the soil. In return, they provide nutrients plants need, acting as a natural fertilizer.

Yet like our oceans, soil also holds the promise of being a prominent way to combat climate change.  Carbon can remain stored in soils for thousands of years. Using regenerative agriculture practices to increase soil health not only helps sequester carbon.  Like transitioning to organic farming, it can also help a farmer’s bottom line.

Congressman DeFazio is a leader in promoting environmentally friendly agriculture. He is the author of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, the law that created the national organic labeling standard. At the time, Oregon was leading the nation in establishing uniform organic standards. Oregon was the first state to have an organic labeling law, passed in 1972, that established the legal definition of what could be considered “organic” for marketing purposes. But outside of Oregon, anything could be labeled “organic”. In order for the organic food industry to thrive, DeFazio knew that national standards were needed. Consumers needed to trust that “organic” actually meant something.

DeFazio founded and co-chairs the House Organic Caucus. One area of the caucus’ focus is dedicated to assisting traditional farming operations transition to organic production. The good news is that the organic industry is booming. To keep up, we need more American farmers to transition to organic production, and it makes good economic sense for them to do so. Consumers are willing to buy organic products at a premium. We must ensure the federal government is doing all it can to support organic farmers, producers, and consumers. Every year DeFazio leads funding requests to robustly fund USDA organic programs. 

DeFazio is developing legislation to increase research on regenerative agriculture, provide incentives to agriculture producers to transition to farming and ranching practices that will restore our soil, provide healthy food, and sequester hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon.   

More on Climate Change

Jul 27, 2021 Press Release

Today, Congressman Peter A. DeFazio (OR-04) joined a bipartisan, bicameral effort to secure more relief for farmers, ranchers, and other agriculture producers in the western United States affected by historic wildfires, droughts, and extreme heat. In a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the lawmakers urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to open relief programs up to more producers that have lost crops and livestock to the ongoing droughts, extreme heat, and wildfires.

Jul 7, 2021 Press Release

Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR-04), alongside Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, and Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), Kurt Schrader (D-OR-05) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-01), today announced that the federal government has agreed to pay 100 percent of the costs associated with debris removal and emergency protective measures following last year’s Labor Day fires.

Mar 17, 2021 Press Release

U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR-04), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09), Tom Reed (R-NY-23) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25) today reintroduced the Disaster Savings and Resilient Construction Act, bipartisan legislation that will create a $3,000 tax credit for homes and a $25,000 tax credit for businesses to help their owners rebuild after natural disasters.

Mar 11, 2021 Press Release

Today, Representatives Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Jared Huffman (CA-02), Chair of the Natural Resources Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee and member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, sent a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan urging him to use his authorities granted by the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska, from the disastrous proposed Pebble Mine project.

Jan 22, 2021 Press Release

Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-04) today released the following statement on the Executive Actions on climate change President Joe Biden signed this week:

Jan 22, 2021 Press Release

Today, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) released the following statement applauding President Biden for prioritizing Federal agency scrutiny of the Trump administration’s “Dirty Water Rule” and gutting of the environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as part of the President’s Executive Order titled, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.”

Oct 27, 2020 Press Release

Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) sent a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, expressing his concern with the Trump administration’s rule to roll back limits on discharges of toxic wastewater from coal-fired power plants. 

Jul 15, 2020 Press Release

Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) today condemned the Trump administration for finalizing a rule to gut the environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). For more than 50 years, the NEPA process has been vital to public health and ensuring public participation in major environmental decisions.

May 8, 2020 Press Release

Today, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced the Clean Water for All Act, which would prohibit the implementation of the Trump administration’s Dirty Water Rule – the most draconian rollback of clean water protections in the history of the Clean Water Act. In addition, the bill would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S.