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Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse addresses protesters in Washington Sunday.

In Washington, D.C., where 35,000 or so protesters showed up Sunday to urge President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island spoke to the crowd, just as he speaks every week in the Senate on global warming. In Los Angeles, where hundreds of protesters with the same objective in mind showed up at city hall, Rep. Henry Waxman spoke. The two Democrats have something in common. They formed the bicameral climate task force several weeks ago and Waxman is leader of the newly formed 22-member "Safe Climate Caucus" in the House of Representatives.

The launching of the new caucus may not, however, mean a move to pass, at least immediately, any climate change legislation. Although Sen. Barbara Boxer of California and Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced an excellent comprehensive package of climate change and energy bills, it could be a long time before that legislation makes it to the Senate floor. And when it does, it may well split Democrats in that body, especially red-state Democrats facing reelection in 2014. There are, so far, no commitments to introduce matching legislation in the Republican-controlled House, which is populated by scores of clowns who think climate change is a liberal scam. In fact, no climate legislation of any kind is being proposed in the House.

But some eco-activists see ways around that obstacle, at least for now: co-founder Jamie Henn said legislation is not the group’s biggest priority at the moment.

“Ideally we would see a productive debate in Congress over a climate bill again, but we are not crossing our fingers for things moving quickly with our current Congress, so for now we are much more focused on what the president can do and executive actions on climate,” said Henn, whose group is at the forefront of pressuring the White House to reject the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

Others also are focused on getting the president to take executive actions that don't require congressional approval.

In an interview with Brian Beutler at TPM Friday, Waxman said:

“[If Obama] moves forward in a broad array of measures, that will encourage industry to push the Republicans to legislate. But I don’t think we should have a waiting game for Congress to act or for industries to push Congress. We’ve been in a waiting game for decades … it’s like cutting off your nose to spite your face.” [...]

“The EPA is required to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act,” Waxman said. “They’ve already proposed a rule to limit the pollution from new power plants, and they could also issue regulations dealing with existing power plants, as well as oil refineries. The Department of Energy can issue efficiency standards for household appliances. That would deal with greenhouse gases as well as saving consumers a lot of money.”

The Center for American Progress has put together a list of 10 items that the president could push on climate change. Six of them, including rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, require no congressional action at all.

It's good to see the Safe Climate Caucus initiated, even if it only includes a pitiful five percent of House membership. It's good to see members of the House and Senate showing up at political rallies on climate change. It's good to see, after years of silence, more talk on this subject. But talk is cheap, even when it's a Congressperson doing the talking. And the time for talk on climate change is past. Action is what counts. Action is what is required. Delay is denial.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 09:30 AM PST.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS, DK GreenRoots, and Daily Kos.

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