As Markey promotes clean energy in first Senate speech, Ky. Dem replaces him on House panel

Source: Emily Yehle, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sen. Ed Markey laid out an ambitious energy agenda in his first speech on the Senate floor this morning, pledging to introduce legislation setting a 25 percent target for “clean energy and energy efficiency improvements” in the country by 2025.

The Massachusetts Democrat moved to the Senate from his 37-year perch in the House after winning a special election in late June to replace Democratic Sen. John Kerry, who became secretary of State. Markey’s speech today cemented his intention to keep up his long-held focus on energy and environmental issues in the upper chamber, on the same day that the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced that Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) would take Markey’s old spot on the panel.

In a 15-minute address that touched on education, health care and his working-class roots in Massachusetts, Markey emphasized the need to invest in clean energy to both curb climate change and create a new workforce.

“The planet is running a fever. There are no emergency rooms for planets. We must put in place the preventive care of unleashing renewables,” Markey said, later adding: “Our moral duty to future generations calls for us to address climate change.”

In particular, Markey laid out two bills he plans to introduce soon. One will aim to fix the country’s aging natural gas system, making it cleaner and more efficient. The other would call for the country to reach a 25 percent target “of clean energy and energy efficiency improvements” by 2025.

The specifics of the latter bill are not yet available, according to Markey’s office, so it is unclear exactly what the target would measure.

But Markey’s message this morning was clear: The country needs to invest more in innovation. He held up Massachusetts as an example, pointing to plans for the country’s first offshore wind farm and a clean energy industry that he said comprises 5,000 businesses employing 80,000 people.

Continuing in that vein nationwide, he said, would ensure “a new backbone for a new energy economy here in the United States and across the world.”

Yarmuth is lone Ky. Democrat

Back in the House, Yarmuth, the lone Democrat in the Kentucky congressional delegation, is preparing to join the Energy and Commerce Committee, where Markey served for years as a senior member.

In a statement today, Yarmuth said he would use his position on the panel to push for advanced manufacturing jobs, pointing to the committee’s jurisdiction over the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

As a member of the panel, he said, “I will be better positioned to advance federal programs that support the revitalization of manufacturing in Louisville and create new jobs for local residents.”

Yarmuth, a four-term lawmaker, has also fought in recent years for stronger health safety tests for communities near mountaintop-removal coal mining sites.

“Congressman Yarmuth’s leadership has earned him the respect of colleagues and the trust of his constituents,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “From stopping mountaintop removal mining in Kentucky to leading the charge to implement the Affordable Care Act, from advocating for advanced manufacturing in Louisville to building a sustainable future nationwide, he brings an unyielding determination to the task of protecting America’s environment, securing affordable health care for all, and promoting the clean energy jobs of tomorrow.”

Last May, Yarmuth cast one vote that appeared out of character: in favor of a bill that would force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline (E&E Daily, May 23). He corrected his vote to a “no” on the same day, according to the Congressional Record.

By taking a slot on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Yarmuth will leave the Education and the Workforce Committee, but he will retain his seat on the Budget Committee.