We must commit ourselves to protecting our environment and preserving our natural resources for generations to come. Environmental conservation is a fundamental part of Minnesota’s heritage – and it is part of my own family’s heritage, too. Like most Minnesotans, I grew up in a family that values the outdoors. My grandfather from northern Minnesota was an avid hunter. My dad is a bicyclist, mountain climber, and all-around outdoorsman, and my mom always liked to fish and hike. When I was growing up, we never took a family vacation that didn’t involve a tent or a cabin!
As your senator, I believe a major part of my job includes ensuring that we have the right policies to protect the natural resources we enjoy in Minnesota – our lakes, rivers, and wetlands, our forests and prairies, our wildlife habitats, and abundant farmland. It is our responsibility to pass on this Minnesota way of life to future generations with responsible conservation of our national resources and smart policies that allow our outdoor recreation, fishing, and hunting industries to thrive. That is why I am dedicated to promoting policies that address the urgent climate crisis, preserve our farmlands, reduce flooding dangers, and keep our air and water clean.
The climate crisis is happening right now and we need to confront it with a sense of urgency. Reports from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. Government’s Fourth National Climate Assessment make clear that action is needed immediately. In Minnesota and across the country, we have seen stronger and more frequent storms lead to flooding and other climate-related natural disasters that cause displacement and destruction. We cannot wait 50 or 100 years to address the climate impacts that threaten the livelihoods of our farmers, our businesses, our infrastructure, and our national security.
We must chart a new energy future that puts us on a path to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This will require reductions in greenhouse gases from our energy sector, but also must include homegrown energy sources, new energy technologies, and energy efficiency measures. In Minnesota, we have the talent and know-how to innovate and the natural resources to propel our economy forward. By transitioning to a renewable energy future, I believe we can meet our nation’s energy demands, better protect our environment, and promote economic development across America.
By harnessing our homegrown energy potential and preserving the natural resources that make Minnesota such a special place for everyone, our state can continue to be a shining example for the rest of the country, showing that strong energy and environmental policies can go hand-in hand with a strong economy.
As Minnesota’s U.S. senator, I will continue to focus on these priorities:
- Taking immediate action to address climate change. We have received warning after warning about the devastating consequences of climate change that are coming much sooner than expected. There is scientific consensus that climate change is having a negative impact on our world and it is clear that inaction is not an option for our economy, for our environment, for our country, and for our world. We must work toward achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This will require reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting the development of energy efficient technologies, and utilizing homegrown energy resources. As a member of the Senate Climate Action Taskforce, I am fighting to ensure that efforts to address the threat of climate change are a part of our nation’s energy and environmental policy. I strongly support the Paris Climate Agreement and have pushed the Administration to rejoin the Agreement. I also believe that we must reinstate and strengthen the Clean Power Plan rules, which set emissions standards for states, and fuel economy standards, which reduce emissions from cars and light trucks. I have opposed this Administration’s efforts to overturn, roll back, or weaken these standards. In addition, I have opposed cabinet members who doubt the science and deny climate change is occurring.
- Keeping our air and water clean. Minnesota has some of the strongest pollution control standards in the country. Residents across our state are concerned about the negative impacts of water pollutants that affect our public health and natural resources. Because pollution does not stop at state lines, we need strong federal standards to match Minnesota’s leadership and that is why I have opposed this Administration’s attempts to roll back clean air and water rules. I have supported legislation to repeal this Administration’s anti-environmental rules that have weakened standards for methane pollution, fuel economy standards, and energy efficiency standards for appliances and light bulbs.
- Strengthening our water infrastructure. Providing communities with clean drinking water and flood protection is critical. Many rural communities across Minnesota are unable to shoulder the financial burden of upgrading or reconstructing key infrastructure projects. We need to invest in the proper infrastructure to keep communities strong and help them continue to grow. I have supported legislation to provide additional support for communities to maintain, upgrade, and improve their drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, including to make them more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
- Preserving open spaces and native wildlife. Outdoor recreation contributes billions of dollars to Minnesota’s economy. We need policies that preserve our open spaces, farmlands, and hunting lands, while protecting vital wetlands so that we can maintain important wildlife habitats and reduce flooding dangers. I have worked to permanently authorize and fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which has helped to conserve thousands of acres of land for public use across the United States. I have opposed this Administration’s proposals to weaken existing laws that protect our wildlife like the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
- Protecting the Great Lakes. Minnesota is home to Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes and the largest freshwater lake in the world. Lake Superior and the Great Lakes as a whole are vital to Minnesota’s environment and economy. As one of the Vice Chairs of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, I will continue pursuing responsible policies that keep our waters clean and clear of invasive species like invasive carp and zebra mussels, while also supporting our shipping, boating, fishing, and outdoor recreational industries. I have consistently worked to restore funding cuts proposed by this Administration for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and have worked to increase authorized funding for this critical program, which helps accelerate projects that protect and restore the Great Lakes ecosystem.
- Promoting the development of homegrown renewable energy. Minnesota is at the forefront of ethanol, biodiesel, and wind energy production and led the nation in 2007 by adopting a renewable energy standard that requires electric utilities to obtain 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like wind, solar, and biomass by the year 2025. We have already met this goal as more than 25 percent of Minnesota’s electricity now comes from renewable sources. This policy has helped stimulate renewable development throughout Minnesota, bringing in new investment and opportunities to both rural and urban areas. Our nation needs to follow Minnesota’s lead by adopting national standards for renewable energy and by providing consumers more choices at the gas pump. I support the use of tax credits—including the biodiesel tax credit, the Production Tax Credit, and the Investment Tax Credit—all of which help support continued production of and investment in clean sources of energy.
- Increasing energy efficiency. As former Energy Secretary Steven Chu noted, improving efficiency in vehicles, buildings, and appliances isn’t just the “low-hanging fruit” – it’s the fruit that’s rolling on the ground. Promoting energy efficiency is good for business, good for consumers, and good for our economy. One example is my Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Act that I’ve worked on with Senator Hoeven from North Dakota. The bill empowers the nonprofit community to make energy-efficiency improvements and help both our environment and our local communities by promoting greater energy savings and efficiency.
Since coming to the Senate, I have fought for new energy policies and strong measures to protect our environment and natural resources:
Protecting our Environment and Natural Resources
- Immediately Combating Climate Change. I support a policy approach that transforms our energy sector and puts us on a path to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This will require significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting the development of energy efficient technologies, and utilizing homegrown energy sources. As a member of the Senate Climate Action Taskforce, I am fighting to ensure that efforts to address the threat of climate change are at the forefront of our nation’s energy and environmental policy. I strongly supported the Paris Climate Agreement and have criticized this Administration’s decision to leave that agreement. I also believe that we must reinstate and strengthen the Clean Power Plan rules and fuel economy standards that have been reversed or frozen by this Administration. I have introduced and supported several bills that would reduce greenhouse gases, and I am leading legislation to identify and incentivize American manufacturers using sustainable practices to help mitigate climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout global supply chains while supporting good jobs. I have also led legislation to increase the deployment of clean energy technologies like energy storage and microgrids. I have opposed Trump Administration nominees who deny the science of climate change. The first bill I ever introduced required businesses to record and make public their carbon emissions. That’s because I wanted to make one important point: climate change legislation must be a major priority. The cause has grown even more urgent.
- Promoting research on green technologies. To fully address the scope and scale of the climate crisis, I have worked to invest resources into federal research for the development of new renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. I have advocated for fully funding federal research at the Department of Energy and our National Laboratories, as well as for grant funding for extramural research at university and non-profit research partners.
- Improving our water infrastructure. In 2014, 2016, and 2018, I supported the reauthorization of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act that included provisions vital to Minnesota. This legislation makes crucial investments in our ports and harbors, such as the Port of Duluth, upgrades the locks and dams on the inland waterway system, and moves forward with critical flood protection, including for Fargo-Moorhead and Roseau. The 2016 reauthorization included my legislation to reauthorize and fund the Great Lakes Fish & Wildlife Restoration Act which provides research, restoration, and conservation of fish and wildlife resources and their habitats in the Great Lakes basin. The 2014 Farm Bill also included an amendment I led with Senators Hoeven and Heitkamp to provide an additional $100 million to help address the backlog of water and wastewater projects for rural communities at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- Protecting the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi River watershed. As one of the Vice Chairs of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, enhancing the economic and environmental health of the Great Lakes is one of my top priorities. I was an original cosponsor of the Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2008, which bolstered pollution clean-up efforts in the Great Lakes. I am also an original cosponsor of the Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act, which will build on and continue the successful clean-up efforts established by the Great Lakes Legacy Act. And I have authored the Upper Mississippi River Protection Act, which aims to help reduce pollution in the Upper Mississippi River. I introduced legislation to reauthorize and increase funding levels for an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant program that provides assistance to state and local governments to develop and implement their own programs to address nonpoint sources of water pollution, or pollution from runoff. I have consistently worked to restore funding cuts proposed by this Administration for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and have worked to increase authorized funding for this critical program, which helps accelerate projects that protect and restore the Great Lakes ecosystem.
- Keeping aquatic invasive species out of Minnesota’s rivers and lakes. I was an original cosponsor of bipartisan legislation, signed into law in December of 2011, which prohibited the importation and transportation of invasive carp. In 2014, I introduced and passed the Upper Mississippi CARP Act that fought the spread of invasive carp in Minnesota’s waterways by authorizing the Army Corps of Engineers to close the St. Anthony Falls Dam if invasive carp are found in certain areas. I have supported funding critical research and educational efforts to develop new methods and techniques to prevent the rapid spread of invasive species in our lakes and rivers. I also joined senators in introducing legislation to help the Army Corps of Engineers evaluate a hydrologic barrier to block the spread of invasive carp in the waterways connecting the Great Lakes and alternatives for boating traffic.
- Strengthening the Clean Air Act. Air pollutants like methane are potent greenhouse gases and have severe climate impacts. That’s why I have opposed this Administration’s attempts to delay and reverse oil and gas methane pollution standards. I was an original cosponsor of the bipartisan Clean Air Act Amendments of 2010 that would require power plants to cut air pollution – such as mercury and ozone emissions – by 50 to 90 percent over the next five years. I also voted against an amendment that would have blocked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from moving forward with the Cross State Air Pollution rule that helps protect Minnesotans from power plant pollution from other states. I also fought against attempts in the Senate to undermine the Clean Air Act and invalidate the standards that reduce pollution from mercury and other hazardous chemicals.
- Expanding our nation’s wilderness areas. I pushed for passage of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 that constituted the largest expansion of our nation’s wilderness in 15 years. Through this legislation, we protected two million more acres of national Wilderness Areas and more than 1,000 miles of national Wild and Scenic Rivers. I have also cosponsored legislation to permanently authorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and have worked to expand service-learning opportunities that help restore America’s natural, recreational, and scenic resources. I strongly oppose this Administration’s proposed budget cuts to the LWCF and the Department of the Interior. I also strongly oppose efforts by this Administration to roll back federal land protections, including reductions to the size of certain national monuments. These cuts hurt rural communities and the protection of our public parks and lands.
- Conserving our natural resources. Conservation programs in the Farm Bill provide the tools for farmers and ranchers in Minnesota to conserve sensitive lands and promote farming practices that reduce soil erosion and improve air and water quality. Minnesota consistently ranks as one of the top states in the country for conservation program enrollment. The Farm Bill protects the important programs Minnesota producers use to keep our soil healthy and our water clean. As a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, I am committed to strengthening our conservation programs and have worked to provide significant new investments in conservation of working and retired lands. That’s why I introduced legislation with Senator Thune from South Dakota to protect native prairie by making changes to the crop insurance program to reduce the incentive to grow crops for the first time on native prairie. In the 2018 Farm Bill, I worked to increase the acreage in the Conservation Reserve Program to 27 million acres and included a mandated reporting requirement on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conservation data, which will allow farmers to better assess how conservation practices can improve soil health, reduce risk, and apply conservation practices in an effective way to improve the environment. I also support efforts to invest in conservation innovation, including new programs that would promote soil health and sequester carbon.
- Supporting Minnesota tourism and outdoor recreation. Tourism, including outdoor recreation, is Minnesota’s fifth largest industry generating $12.5 billion in sales and nearly 11 percent of the state’s total private sector employment. As co-chair of the Senate Tourism Caucus and the former chair of the Senate subcommittee that oversees the U.S. tourism industry, I’ve fought to cut red tape and reduce delays to help promote tourism. I pushed to pass the Travel Promotion Act of 2010 into law which created Brand USA, a public-private partnership that promotes international travel to the United States. In 2016, Brand USA generated more than 1 million additional visitors who spent an estimated $4 billion, strengthening local businesses and boosting economic growth. I led the bipartisan effort to successfully reauthorize Brand USA in 2014 and again in 2019 so that it can continue to build on its progress through 2027.
- Protecting consumers from unsafe wood imports and supporting our timber producers. I authored the bipartisan Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Act, signed into law in 2009, to protect consumers from potentially hazardous levels of formaldehyde in composite wood products and to ensure the U.S. timber industry is on a level playing field with foreign competitors. I continue to push the Environmental Protection Agency to fully implement this law and hold importers accountable and keep our families safe. I introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Daines from Montana to improve the health of our nation’s forests and reduce the risk of wildfire on federal, state, county, tribal, and private lands in proximity to one another. This bill will improve water quality, protect wildlife habitat, and enhance opportunities for the production of wood products.
- Reforming our nation’s toxic chemicals policy. Our country’s primary law regulating the production and use of chemicals hadn’t been updated since its passage in 1976. I supported reforms that would keep our children and families safe from toxic substances while providing businesses clear standards for developing new products. I was a cosponsor of the Senate bill that updated the Toxic Substances Control Act, which was signed into law in June 2016.
New Energy Policies
- Expanding the market for homegrown biofuels. As a member of the Senate Commerce and Agriculture Committees, I worked on the bipartisan bill to ensure that the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 included provisions requiring a significant increase in biofuel production by the year 2022. This law also included new provisions to promote biofuel infrastructure and the installation of blender pumps at gas stations across the country, which will provide consumers with the choice of using higher blends of ethanol. USDA announced in 2015 that Minnesota would receive support to install approximately 620 pumps – the third most of all states receiving grant money. The investment will boost local economies across Minnesota, give drivers more choices at the pump and reduce dependence on foreign oil. As a member of the Farm Bill conference committee, I worked to ensure the 2014 Farm Bill included a strong energy title to allow our farmers to continue to develop homegrown energy for our nation. I am also pushing to maintain a strong Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that will help drive innovation and boost Minnesota’s economy while reducing our dependence on foreign oil. In recent years and under both Republican and Democratic administrations the EPA has proposed changes to the RFS that would hurt the biofuels industry by lowering the biofuels targets, discouraging investment and hurting jobs in rural communities across the country. I led meetings between Senators of both parties and former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough to urge the Obama Administration to reverse the changes and maintain a strong RFS. I have consistently led bipartisan letters with Senator Chuck Grassley calling for a strong RFS.
- End the misuse of small refinery waivers. This Administration has been undermining the Renewable Fuel Standard by granting small refinery waivers to multi-billion-dollar oil companies. In its first three years, this Administration has approved 85 waivers, which has reduced demand for more than 4 billion gallons of renewable fuel and caused significant harm to our farmers and our homegrown biofuels market. I have called on the Administration to immediately reallocate the gallons of renewable biofuel lost to these waivers and have cosponsored legislation that would make changes to the small refinery waiver approval process so that the application and decision-making processes are made more transparent.
- Helping our farmers move to the next generation of farm-based biofuels. I have taken the lead in promoting the next generation of biofuel crops through my work on the Senate Agriculture Committee. I successfully included legislation in the 2008 Farm Bill to provide incentives for U.S. farmers to produce cellulosic ethanol made from dedicated energy crops like prairie grass and alfalfa and from agricultural residues and wood chips. I also introduced the Farm-to-Fuel Investment Act, which was included in the energy title of the 2008 Farm Bill, and fought to include a strong energy title in the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills to expand homegrown renewable energy production. These bills provide incentives to produce ethanol made from Minnesota-based biomass and spur innovation that will support the development of third-generation biofuels that will provide our country with an alternative motor fuel, protect our soil and water quality, and provide new wildlife habitats. And I have led amendments to the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills to provide additional funding for the energy title, including for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
- Fighting to strengthen automobile fuel efficiency standards. I was part of a bipartisan group of senators that reached a compromise to pass the 2007 Energy Bill, which provided incentives to develop new, more efficient consumer technologies. From the next generation of hybrid and plug-in vehicles, to higher efficiency standards for appliances, to incentives for the design and construction of high-performance energy-efficient buildings, these initiatives are designed to reduce energy bills and save consumers money. I strongly supported the previous Administration’s updates to the fuel efficiency standards, which would have nearly doubled the efficiency of vehicles to an average of 54 miles per gallon by 2050. I also opposed the proposal by this Administration to freeze the fuel efficiency standards at the current average of 37 miles per gallon.
- Extending home energy tax credits, weatherization, heating assistance, and energy efficient products. The Weatherization Assistance Program is an important tool in reducing home energy costs. According to the National Association for State Community Services Programs, for every dollar spent, the Weatherization Program returns $2.72 in energy and non-energy benefits over the life of the weatherized home.
I supported the inclusion of tax credits for energy-efficient products in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 and again in the Tax Relief Act of 2010. These credits reward homeowners who install energy-efficient products – such as new efficient windows, insulation, doors, roofs, and heating and cooling equipment – as well as credits for hybrid and electric vehicles. I supported the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which extended the Investment Tax Credit for wind and other renewable resources, and the Production Tax Credit, which provides the renewable energy industry with the stability it needs to make long-term investments. I also supported the creation and extension of the biodiesel and renewable diesel incentives.
- Increasing energy efficiency. I introduced the Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Act with Senator John Hoeven. This bipartisan bill empowers the nonprofit community to make energy-efficiency improvements to their buildings and offices, which helps our nonprofits save money through greater energy efficiency and helps the community. I also worked with Senator Hoeven to pass water heater efficiency legislation that enables rural electric power cooperatives and their members to continue to use energy-efficient water heaters in “demand response” conservation programs. This will allow cooperatives to optimize both their own energy management and the environmental benefits of these water heaters.
- Expanding rural access to sustainable energy. I introduced legislation with Senator Jerry Moran to assist rural communities and rural electricity cooperatives overcome the barriers to renewable energy storage and grid improvements by providing access to relevant resources and expertise. This bipartisan legislation will improve energy grid capacity and resiliency while ensuring that communities that want to develop new sustainable energy projects have the technical assistance to do so. The bill was included in legislation that passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in September 2019.