In the vaulted atrium of the Ronald Reagan Building in downtown Washington, D.C., more than 500 people gathered Tuesday evening for the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund Capital Dinner.
The highlight of the evening, attended by activists, environmentalists and members of Congress, was Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who was given a lifetime achievement award for his efforts in promoting environmental conservation and championing attempts in Congress to address climate change. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who is expected to take over Reid's leadership post in 2017 , presented the award to his colleague on behalf of LCV. Speaking fondly of Reid, Schumer called him a “foxhole buddy.”
“I love the man. We are like brothers,” Schumer said.
He praised Reid’s record on the environment, particularly in Nevada. “His achievements, past, present and future will be felt by all of us, and our children and our grandchildren,” Schumer said.
Reid was soft-spoken and humble on the dais as he recalled the formative experience that made him an environmentalist — witnessing and then vowing to prevent the gradual degradation of Fort Piute, located in Piute Springs in the Mojave National Preserve.
He also called out Republicans for blocking environment-friendly legislation and said, “Our country, our world is in need of repair. We cannot continue as we continue. We have to be bold. We can no longer sit back and listen to the deniers who say it’s not that bad. It is that bad.”
Also addressing the audience was Gina McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who laid plain the Obama administration’s efforts to tackle environmental issues, even quoting a statement of administration policy to say the president would veto the Ratepayer Protection Act if it is passed this week.
She also called attention to an EPA report released Monday on the necessity of global action to address climate change.
“I highly recommend it, especially for all of those who say they are not scientists,” she quipped.
Noting that even Pope Francis had called attention to climate change in his recent encyclical, McCarthy concluded with her sardonic response to people who question the science behind climate change.
“Is climate change real?" she asked rhetorically. "Is the Pope Catholic?”
The program also recognized the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, who were presented with the John Hunting Winning for the Environment Award by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.
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