Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Environment

In February 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading international network of scientists, for the first time concluded that global warming is "unequivocal" and that human activity is the main driver of it, causing most of the rise in temperatures since 1950. Specifically, deforestation and an overdependence on fossil fuels have played a large part in the decline of our atmosphere and the loss of numerous natural resources. The Nature Conservancy reports that deforestation is responsible for 20-25 percent of all carbon emissions. Another 20 percent stem from automobiles and trucks.

Recently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a report that expounds upon the IPCC findings and claims that climate change is undeniable and is the reason why the past decade is the warmest in the history of record-keeping.  The report notes unmistakable upward trends in air temperatures from more than 7,000 weather stations all over the world.

Corporate interests have spent millions of dollars espousing mistruths about climate change and presenting a false choice to the American people - the idea that efforts to preserve our planet and ensure our own survival will destroy the American economy.  However, this Congress has exposed these claims for what they really are - lies.  The 111th Congress passed some of the most extensive and ambitious environmental legislation this country has seen since the 1970's.  Furthermore, this Congress has proven that we can indeed strengthen the American economy and ensure that all Americans can breathe cleaner air and drink cleaner water.  I am honored and proud to be a part of such a historic effort.

As a Member of Congress, I have supported numerous legislative initiatives and efforts aimed at addressing climate change and preserving our natural resources:

The Gulf Oil Spill

On April 20th, the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded killing eleven crew members and creating an oil spill that has now become the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history.  I commend the President Obama and his Administration for doing everything possible, in the face of incredibly adversity, to minimize the damage of the spill on both the economy and environment of the Gulf Region.

The Deepwater Horizon Rig activities were considered by all to be a low risk drilling exploration, a classification that scares me given the countless riskier drilling ventures occurring along the coasts of this great nation. This tragedy demonstrates that no matter how technologically advanced we become, we can never guarantee the safety of our environment and our citizens when it comes to dangerous and dirty energy sources like oil and coal.  In the months of March and April 2010, we have seen 42 people die in dirty energy accidents - 29 in the Massey coal mine incident, 11 in the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, and another two miners in an accident in Kentucky.

We have also witnessed the ecological and economic damage an incident like the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill can have on dozens of species and thousands of small businesses. It is time for America to develop clean, safe energy sources that create millions of well-paying, safe jobs and enhance the environment rather than destroy it.

114th Legislative Highlights:

I voted against S.1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act. Congress approved the bill over Congressman Cohen’s objection before it was vetoed by President Obama.  Congressman Cohen voted against overriding the President’s veto, and the veto was ultimately sustained.

I have been a staunch supporter of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.   The Clean Power Plan establishes the first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution from power plants. The final Clean Power Plan sets flexible and achievable standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, 9 percent more ambitious than the proposal.

I am a cosponsor of Climate Solutions Act of 2015 (H.R. 1971). This bill cuts carbon pollution to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2035, and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.  Further, the bill empowers the Department of Energy to set a high national energy efficiency standard as well as a renewable energy portfolio goal of 4 percent of all electric energy from renewable sources by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.

I am a cosponsor of Saving America’s Pollinators Act of 2015 (H.R. 1284). This bill requires the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take swift action to prevent future mass die-offs of pollinators and protect the health of honey bees and other critical pollinators by suspending the use of certain bee-toxic insecticides, known as neonicotinoids. It also requires the Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the Administrator of the EPA, to monitor the health of native bee populations and to identify and publicly report the likely causes of bee kills.

Other legislative highlights:

H.R. 5821 - The 10 Million Solar Roofs Act

Recently, I introduced, along with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the 10 Million Solar Roofs Act.  If enacted, this legislation would be the single largest investment in solar technology in U.S. history.  Even though the United States invented the solar cell, other nations such as Germany and Spain have outpaced us in terms of solar energy deployment.  Scaling up production in the United States has been difficult because the initial costs of solar remain a large barrier to entry.

This legislation would help individuals and businesses overcome the initial cost barrier by providing funds for rebates, loans, and other incentives to eligible individuals or entities for the installation of solar energy systems.  By incentivizing and expanding the adoption of solar technology, this bill would lead to the creation of 30,000 megawatts of new solar energy in the U.S., creating, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the largest solar market in the world in the U.S.  Doing so would create up to 1.35 million green jobs in the next 10 years.

Solar energy is as reliable as the sunrise.  And by harnessing the sun's infinite power, we can create abundant, clean energy to power an even stronger economy.  The legislation I have introduced, if enacted, will create 10 million small power plants located on the roofs of American homes and businesses and more than one million green jobs.  And thanks to Sharp Solar's presence in Memphis, many of these new green jobs will be located in Memphis.  

American Clean Energy and Security Act
 
In the 111th Congress, the U.S. House of Representative passed H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). This legislation includes provisions to lower greenhouse gas emissions, promote renewable energy and decrease our dependence on foreign oil.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the pollution caps proposed in ACES would reduce global warming pollution 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. The additional measures for tropical forest protection will achieve an additional 10 percent in reductions below 2005 levels by 2020. The bill also requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review the latest global warming science and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to review technological advancements and then make recommendations to the Administration.

To make global warming pollution reductions more affordable, H.R. 2454 includes provisions to increase the efficiency of our buildings, lighting and appliances and promote greater efficiency in industry to ensure that we can deploy renewable energy across the country. These improvements will save consumers money, create jobs and lower emissions. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, reports that investing in energy efficiency technology will save the average American household more than $4,000 by 2030. According an analysis by the Center for American Progress, the lowest 28 percent income households in Tennessee's Ninth Congressional district (TN-09) would actually receive an average net benefit of $40.

The bill also helps to create jobs in the new "green" industry that companies like Sharp Solar are poised to create. Also, the bill provides hundreds of millions of dollars for coal companies and oil refineries to help them overhaul and modernize their facilities to create even cheaper sources of electricity for people.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

In Feb. 2009, the U.S. Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5). The Recovery Act seeks in part to spur technological advances in science and health and to invest in environmental protection and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits. The Environmental Protection Agency manages over $7 billion in projects and programs that will help achieve these goals, offers resources to help other agencies "green" a much larger set of Recovery investments, and administers environmental laws that will govern Recovery activities.

Additionally, the United States Army Corps of Engineers released $27,182,000 in funding through the Recovery Act for civil works projects to be completed in the 9th District. These funds will allow Corps the opportunity to accomplish work on ready-to-go water resources projects that will benefit the nation for years to come, such projects include shovel-ready construction operations in Memphis - from dredging and revetment efforts on the Mississippi River to maintenance projects for the Wolf River and Memphis Harbors and creation of dikes off the river. Other initiatives

In April of this year, I sent a letter in support of funding assistance for the Mississippi River Corridor in Tennessee (MRCT) through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Diesel Emissions Reduction Act Emerging Technologies Grant Program. This program will enable the MRCT to partner with professional companies in providing significant reductions in particulate matter from barges operating along the Mississippi River. The MRCT is a non-profit organization based in Memphis and is the leading advocate in the promotion of transportation and improved air quality along the river.

I have also spearheaded a letter to appropriators, requesting that Recovery Act funding be allocated towards zoos and aquariums. Zoos and aquariums are leaders in environmental education. In the last 10 years zoos and aquariums formally trained more than 400,000 teachers. They have enhanced local and regional economies, collectively generating $8.4 billion in annual economic activity and supporting more than 100,000 jobs.

Additionally, during the 111th Congress, I have cosponsored the following pieces of legislation to protect the environment:

H.R. 515, the Radioactive Import Deterrence Act
Prohibits the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from issuing a license authorizing the importation into the United States of: (1) low-level radioactive waste or (2) specific radioactive waste streams exempted from regulation by the NRC.

H.R. 644, Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act
Withdraws acres in the vicinity of Kanab Creek and House Rock Valley from all forms of entry, appropriation and disposal under federal public land laws.

H.R. 669, Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act
Requires the Secretary of the Interior to promulgate regulations establishing a process for assessing the risk of all nonnative wildlife species proposed for importation into the United States.
 
H.R. 980, the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act
Designates certain National Forest System lands and public lands in the States of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming as protected wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, wild land recovery areas, and biological connecting corridors.
 
H.R. 1310, the Clean Water Protection Act
Amends the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to clarify that fill material cannot be comprised of waste.
 
H.R. 1666, the Safe Markets Development Act
Establishes an auction and revenue collection mechanism for a carbon market that ensures price stability with environmental integrity.

H.R. 1778, the Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP) Program Act
Provides for the establishment of national energy and environmental building retrofit policies for both residential and commercial buildings.

H.R. 1925, the America's Red Rock Wilderness Act
Designates specified lands in Colorado and Utah as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

More on Environment

July 31, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – In light of yesterday’s announcement that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposal to continue to weaken safeguards for coal ash piles, Congressmen Steve Cohen (TN-09), Bobby Rush (IL-01), John Sarbanes (MD-03), and David Price (NC-04)  wrote a letter to Andrew Wheeler, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), signed by 27 fellow Members of Congress.

May 23, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), and Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01) and Betty McCollum (MN-04) led a letter with 32 other representatives to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler asking for an explanation of why the agency disregarded the advice of its own scientists by issuing a rule restricting but not banning asbestos, a known carcinogen. See the letter here.

The letter reads in part:

May 8, 2019 Press Release

 

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, today wrote to Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler asking for an explanation of why the agency disregarded the advice of its own scientists by issuing a rule restricting but not banning asbestos, a known carcinogen. See the letter here.

The letter reads in part:

May 2, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) voted for, and the House passed, H.R. 9, the Climate Action Now Act, ensuring that the United States honors its commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 and leaves a healthier, safer and more sustainable world for future generations. The vote was 231 to 190.

Congressman Cohen made the following statement:

March 29, 2019 In The News

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen has asked for a congressional hearing on the impacts of coal-burning energy plants and coal ash dumps on health, groundwater, and aquatic life.

Cohen wants the matter heard before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, putting the request in a Monday letter to its ranking members and to members of the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.

March 27, 2019 In The News

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Federal and state lawmakers are calling on the Tennessee Valley Authority to expedite its efforts to clean-up the toxic coal ash in Memphis.

TVA said there are nearly three million cubic yards of coal ash still sitting at the site on President’s Island.

State Senator Brian Kelsey introduced a resolution on Wednesday urging TVA to do more to make ensure the city’s drinking water is protected since there are some toxins near the site that threaten the water supply.

March 26, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) wrote to the outgoing and incoming presidents and CEOs of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) today following their recent meeting with the Tennessee congressional delegation to express his concern that they are not treating the cleanup of the coal ash found in the groundwater at the Allen Fossil Plant in Memphis with sufficient urgency. See the letter here.

Among the points Congressman Cohen makes in the letter:

March 26, 2019 In The News

Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) clean up of the coal ash at its now-idled Allen Fossil Plant could take up to 20 years and Rep. Steve Cohen told TVA leaders Tuesday that's too long.

TVA said it will close its remaining coal ash pond at the Allen plant. The federal agency is now in the process of deciding just how it will deal with the coal ash that remains at the site. Options include sealing the ash and storing it in place and removing the ash.

March 26, 2019 Press Release

 

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) was the only member of the Tennessee Congressional delegation to receive a perfect score on the Defenders of Wildlife Conservation Report Card for the 2nd Session of the 115th Congress.

Congressman Cohen made the following statement:

“I’m proudly working hard to protect our wildlife and its habitat and am encouraged by this acknowledgement of my voting record by Defenders of Wildlife.”

March 12, 2019 In The News

CLARIFICATIONS/CORRECTIONS: This story has been updated to reflect that workers for Jacobs, a contractor hired by the Tennessee Valley Authority to help clean up a 2008 coal ash spill in East Tennessee, say they were misled by supervisors about the dangers of coal ash exposure, citing safety managers who told them they could safely eat a pound of coal ash a day without harm. The company says the statements were not meant to be taken literally.