July 25, 2019

Casten Delivers Climate Policy Proposals to House Energy and Commerce Committee

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Sean Casten (IL-06) testified before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce on his proposals and ideas to combat climate change and urged the Committee to pass key legislation he introduced, including his Promoting Grid Storage Act of 2019. The bipartisan legislation, introduced with U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN), would boost research and development of cutting-edge technologies to increase energy storage capabilities for America's electric grid and enable the expanded use of clean energy.

Casten's proposals build on or improve upon policies that are already in place such as the Federal Power Act and the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards. Casten proposed improving CAFE Standards by considering other policies like a feebates program that could reward consumers who buy more efficient, cleaner vehicles.

A video of Congressman Casten's testimony can be found here.

Congressman Casten testifies before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee

A full transcript of his remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

Chairman Pallone, Chairman Tonko, Ranking Members of the Committee, thank you for providing members the opportunity to share our thoughts as you consider your priorities this Congress. This Subcommittee has perhaps a more important role than almost any other. The work this Subcommittee does this Congress will be pivotal in addressing the greatest existential threat to life on Earth, the climate crisis.

I appreciate your leadership and dedication in addressing this crisis head-on. I have been encouraged by the Committee's work to hold this administration and the EPA accountable for upholding existing climate policies, including the CAFE Standards. I also thank Chairman Tonko for his work developing his climate principles – an integral first step toward finding consensus within our caucus and across this chamber and I believe the document lays out many important ideas currently missing from conversations regarding climate policy.

If we are going to address the climate crisis, we must acknowledge certain facts that are politically difficult, but that must guide the course of action we take.

The first is that the climate crisis is urgent. We do not have time to debate settled science, and we cannot avoid this issue. The climate crisis is here. The climate crisis is now. And every day we fail to act, the consequences of our inaction become more costly and more dire. This is a threat to the survival of our species. History will judge us, not by how we messaged to our political base, but rather how we rose to this challenge.

But that does not mean the necessary changes our energy and environmental policies are simple. Our standard of living, our economy, our social safety nets, and our government itself depend on energy access. It is the height of naiveité to assume those systems have simple fixes. We cannot allow ourselves to become deluded into thinking that because the problem is urgent, any action will solve the problem. Ignoring the urgency is suicidal. But ignoring the complexity is irresponsible. We must account for both.

We cannot simply issue edicts from on high. We cannot shy away from expertise. And we cannot act with the purpose of scoring easy political points. These things may make us feel good but do so at our own peril. The urgency of this crisis demands we act with seriousness, determination, and in a measured and deliberative manner. If I can only persuade you to do one thing today, it is this: unleash the nerds.

Those nerd-driven solutions may not be exciting, sexy, or ready-made for primetime news headlines. Many of the solutions are already known. And many solutions are low-hanging fruit that we could enact tomorrow. But that's a good thing and a great opportunity.

Some of these solutions build upon policies that are already working. For example, while CAFE Standards have helped increase the average fuel economy of our light-duty vehicle fleet, this committee should consider other policies like a feebates program that could build upon this success by rewarding consumers who buy more efficient, cleaner vehicles. The Committee should also consider complementary policies to help get less efficient vehicles off the road – such as a cash for clunkers program.

Other climate policies have broad bipartisan support. For instance, members of both parties have agreed that we should prioritize the deployment and development of grid-scale energy storage technologies. These technologies will not only lower electricity costs for consumers, but will make our grid more resilient and efficient, all while lowering greenhouse gas emissions. That is why I was proud to introduce H.R. 2909, the bipartisan and bicameral Promoting Grid Storage Act, alongside many members of the Energy & Commerce Committee. I'd urge the committee to take up and pass this measure.

Other solutions require we look back at existing laws with renewed scrutiny for how they have worked in practice. The Federal Power Act, for instance, makes clear that FERC should ensure that electricity rates are just and reasonable – and yet rates across the country fail to account for the costs of carbon pollution. FERC has been hesitant to act to address this massive externality because some there believe they do not have the authority. This cannot be what Congress intended. And we should say so. Loudly.

Of course, economy-wide measures should be undertaken to address the full scope of this issue. These policies should be technology neutral, place goals before paths and embrace climate action as a once in a generation investment opportunity. In my 20 years as an entrepreneur in the clean energy space, I made $200 million of investments that covered CO2 emissions and saved energy costs. In Washington, we score that as a lost to be paid for. For the rest of the world, it is an investment to be embraced. Let's seize that opportunity and let's do it now.

Not all of the solutions I have mentioned today fall solely within the jurisdiction of this Subcommittee or even the Energy & Commerce Committee as a whole. Yet, each illustrates the kinds of tasks we must be willing to take on if we are going to address the climate crisis. This task is urgent. This task is complex.

I hope the Committee will consider some of the proposals I have mentioned here today. And I look forward to working with any of you in any way I can to combat this crisis. Thank you again for having me here today and thank you all for your leadership.