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Remarks at the 2013 Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference

April 17, 2013

[as prepared]

I’m so happy to be here today and so proud of the movement you are leading.  This alliance is proof that we don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy planet.  We can provide good jobs in the green economy.  We can pursue a path using the power of American manufacturing to secure America’s energy independence.

I know you just heard from a panel about amazing work at the state level.  As a Minnesotan, I’m proud of the progress in my state as well. In St. Paul, District Energy is great example of innovative and efficient energy production and distribution. It grew from a demonstration project that was invested in by our downtown businesses, the state of Minnesota, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The work by the states and our private industries needs to be supported and reinforced at the national level with smart investments and targeted tax credits.  But it will be hard work to get that support because we’re fighting against the most anti-worker and anti-environment Congress in modern history. 

House Republicans have voted to: eliminate our federal investments in clean energy, block any effort to address climate change, and undermine the National Labor Relations Act.  House Republicans are committed to rewarding polluters and profiteers, and punishing innovators in new green technology and infrastructure.  The national Republican agenda takes us backwards.

So thank you for your efforts fighting for our future.  Your determination, your innovations, and your agenda are what we need to hear in Washington and all across America!  You are leading the way and delivering a much needed wake-up call!  You are showing what can be achieved  when we bring the best technology  to solving America’s energy problems and the crisis of climate change.  You are showing us the power of partnering!

Everyone in this room has stories of what happens when local, state and federal powers come together.  You know the power of combining public, private and non-profit funds. This conference is spreading a strong message that combines your energy and passion for our environment and our working families.

Now, I’m thrilled to be your partner in these efforts anytime.  But some of my colleagues are so focused on cutting now that they aren’t thinking about how federal investments impact our ability to grow in the long-term!  Even as we’re dealing with reckless sequestration cuts Republicans have doubled-down with a budget that slashes funding for education, energy, infrastructure, and research.

That is NOT what our families and our country need!

We need to be focused on reinvesting in the foundation of what has made this a great nation!  This is the time to make a major reinvestment in infrastructure and a modern smart power grid.  If you want to diagnose our condition, you could say American workers built the bones of this country, but at this point we’re in need of a hip replacement!

The American Recovery Act invest billions in green energy and created a million jobs.  Thank you all for your vocal support of the Recovery Act!  We have the ability to rebuild our country and rebuild our economy.  It’s time to strengthen those investments!  We need to be looking at where America can go next.  We need to lead the world in clean energy innovation.  Making those smart investments will put Americans back to work.  They can create good paying jobs.  They can create union jobs.

Looking around this room, I know you are all poised and ready to make America a powerhouse in the green economy.  Our responsibility as federal legislators is to create an environment that encourages that growth.  If we want homegrown energy and homegrown jobs, we need to plant the seeds!  Now, I’m from Minnesota, so I’m a member of the Democratic Farmer-Labor party.   And we know that seeds need good soil and fresh air and sunlight.  In other words, they need a healthy environment!  

Republicans in the House of Representatives don’t seem to get that!  They have made hundreds of attempts since they gained the Majority to gut the EPA and to undermine the protections offered by the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

I don’t want our growth to come at the cost of our health.  Have you seen what unregulated growth is doing to China?  The pollution in China’s major cities has created an environment that is literally toxic and lethal.  The price of ignoring environmental impact is a reduced quality of life.  It’s a price paid by families and communities as they struggle with the fallout of pollution and climate change. 

That is why the work of the BlueGreen Alliance is so crucial.  You’re uniting around jobs that will provide stability for America’s working families.  You’re coming together to speak for the health and safety of those same families.  We can’t have healthy families without a healthy planet.  We all know that climate change is a reality, and we cannot afford to ignore its consequences.

Taking climate change seriously requires us to find ways to reduce our emissions and slow the buildup of greenhouse gases. But it also requires us to meet the reality of change as it is happening.  We have to prepare for it by investing in green infrastructure.  We are vulnerable.  Our nation’s infrastructure is crumbling, and the added stress of climate change threatens our economy and our safety.

But the pressing need to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure also presents us with the opportunity to grow in an eco-conscious way.  

  • More effective water management systems
  • Green spaces in urban renewal
  • Investments in public transportation
  • Constructing roads, buildings, and power grids to withstand extreme weather threats

Undertaking this major reinvestment in our workers and our economy will require some creativity and new models.  One great model we can look to is the United States Department of Defense.  The DOD gets it.   They know that investments in green energy are going to make them more efficient and make us all more secure.  That’s why they are aiming at goals like 100 percent renewable energy on some bases!  This month, the Army will begin the largest renewable energy project in U.S. military history at Fort Bliss in Texas. 

As a member of the Appropriations committee, I will be fighting hard for green energy and infrastructure funds in the DOD and all our federal agencies.  My door is always open to you, and I’m here to work with you.  But we need to get more Members of Congress on board!  You need to spread the message.

Tell Members how green investments are making a difference in their districts.  Tell them about the private funds leveraged by these federal dollars.  Let them know about the critical need to extend the Wind Production Tax Credit long-term!  Show them how many jobs have been saved and how many more could be created by investments in the green economy.

You are the real teachers here, the real leaders because you know the work being done on the ground.  You’ve been blazing the trails, and now you are coming together to show us the path forward. 

Again, thank you and continue to lead the way!