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Enviro group calls for Oberstar's support on carbon bill
Duluth News Tribune
Published November 28, 2007

U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar already has sponsored among the most significant global warming legislation of the 2007 Congressional session, but some environmental groups say that’s not enough.

The National Wildlife Federation has placed the Northeastern Minnesota Democrat on their list of 50 House members who the groups say should add their names as sponsors of Congress’ most sweeping carbon-cutting bills.

The “Final 50’’ lawmakers are among those who often back environmental causes but who haven’t signed on to mandatory carbon cuts.

The legislation would demand reductions in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions — namely carbon dioxide and methane — by about 2 percent per year. Most of those cuts would come from reductions in the use of coal and petroleum products for energy and transportation.

One bill, HR 1590 headed by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., would cut emissions 15 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. Another — HR620 by Reps. John Oliver, D-Mass., and Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md. — would cut greenhouse gasses 75 percent by 2050.

U.S. Rep Dave Obey, D-Wis., already is a sponsor on the carbon-cutting legislation. U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., is not and also is on the list of 50 lawmakers targeted by environmentalists to get on board.

Lawmakers who are almost certainly to oppose greenhouse gas cuts, such as Minnesota Republican’s John Kline and Michele Bachmann, are not on the list.

Oberstar’s supporters note that, as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Chisholm native already has sponsored legislation requiring the federal government to invest heavily in solar energy and energy efficiency by making the Department of Energy a major buyer of photovoltaic technology.

“The Transportation Committee has jurisdiction over 367 million square feet of federal office space,’’ Oberstar said in a statement when the bill passed his committee. “Those buildings consume $5.8 billion a year in electricity costs. We can start cutting those costs right now.’’

Oberstar also was one of 15 committee chairman who, in May, sent President Bush a letter urging him to reverse course and support an effort to reduce greenhouse gasses then being considered by the G-8 group of developed nations.

John Schadl, a spokesman for Oberstar’s office, said the congressman so far has waited to see a better system for reducing carbon than the so-called cap-and-trade plans currently proposed, which Oberstar is not convinced will work.

“If they say [Oberstar] doesn’t support reducing greenhouse gasses, they don’t know what he’s already passed through the committee,’’ Schadl said.

Supporters of the climate bill say Oberstar’s efforts will help, and that the congressman been a champion of many environmental causes, such as the Clean Water Act and wetlands.

“These 50 are not people who are anti-environment. These are [lawmakers] who have done many good things, like Rep. Oberstar, but who still need to take the next step and do one really big thing to solve this huge problem,’’ said Jordan Lubetkin, spokesman for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes office, noting lawmakers with poor environmental records aren’t being targeted.

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