Senator Schatz Voices Opposition and Votes Against Keystone XL Pipeline


Washington, D.C. – Today U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) voted against advancing S.1, a bill to authorize construction of Keystone XL, a pipeline that would transport dirty tar sands oil from Canada to the United States Gulf Coast.  Prior to the vote, Senator Schatz spoke out on the Senate floor to oppose authorization of the pipeline which would undermine efforts to combat climate change and would endanger the health of American families.

“For me, and for many Americans, a vote against this bill is a vote to preserve and protect the air we breathe and the water we drink.  It’s a vote to ensure that we continue to reduce carbon pollution and fight climate change.  It is a vote to leave our children a healthy world,” said Senator Schatz.

While President Obama has vowed to veto any legislation authorizing construction of Keystone XL, the Republican controlled U.S. Senate advanced the bill, voting 63-32.

Full text of speech as prepared for delivery:

Madam President, I rise today in opposition to Senate Bill One, which will circumvent the Administration’s official review process for projects crossing international borders and approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline – a pipeline dedicated to increasing production of some of the dirtiest, most polluting, and most dangerous crude oil in the world.

Supporters of this pipeline in Congress have been relentless.  Over the last two Congresses, they have held 44 votes in the House and Senate intended to approve Keystone XL.

On Tuesday the very first bill that the new Republican majority introduced – traditionally reserved for a party’s highest legislative priority – was the Keystone XL approval bill.

Think about this – here we stand, in what people still call the world’s greatest deliberative body, and the first bill that we are taking up is not infrastructure generally, not national energy policy, and not even national laws as they relate to our pipeline infrastructure.

No, we are legislating about a specific pipeline which will move oil from Canada, through the United States, to be primarily exported from our southern border.

I understand that there are people of good will and good faith who are on both sides of the issue, but it is hard to imagine why this should be the first thing that we take up.

We have yet to seriously consider or clarify our policy with respect to the Islamic State. Income inequality is gutting the middle class. Our national infrastructure needs a jolt of investments. Our immigration policy is a failure and a mess. I just don’t understand why this bill would be Senate Bill One.

Supporters of this bill have stood up three main arguments in favor of the Keystone pipeline and expanded drilling of tar sands oil reserves in Canada.

One, they say it will increase U.S. energy security.

Two, they say it will lower oil and gasoline prices.

Three, they say that the Keystone XL pipeline is a jobs bill.

Let’s examine these claims, because however tenuous they were, they have been undermined further by facts over the last couple of years.

First, the U.S. has never, during the modern age of global energy trade, been more energy secure. 

We import far less oil from unstable regimes and unfriendly countries than we have in decades and we are continuing to build massive amounts of ever cheaper homegrown clean energy like wind and solar, even as we use energy more efficiently.

The U.S. will add nearly 10 gigawatts of wind and solar capacity in the next year.  Not including hydropower, the United States has over 85,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity and continues to build on that number year after year. 

Prices for solar have dropped 80 percent since 2008 and prices for wind power – already competitive with fossil fuels – have dropped 30 percent since 2008.

And these trends are creating jobs right here at home.  For example, the wind industry has over 500 manufacturing facilities across forty-four states that are responsible for making wind turbines with over 66 percent domestic content.

Second, the recent collapse of crude oil and gasoline prices demonstrates two things:  In my home state of Hawaii energy prices remain far too high, but on the mainland, oil and gas prices are currently very low.

The idea that Keystone would make a significant difference was never based in reality, but now it is just obvious. We have low prices, and the project has not even started.

Gasoline is now two dollars and twenty one cents per gallon.  Crude oil prices have slipped below fifty dollars per barrel.  The last time that gasoline prices were this low was in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

And as a practical matter, it is not clear to me, or to most energy experts, how moving oil from Canada through the United States, and exporting refined crude from the Gulf of Mexico, would significantly reduce energy prices in the U.S.

And finally, this is called a jobs bill by some. 

Madam President, this bill is many things.  It’s an anti-clean air bill, an anti-clean water bill, and an anti-public health bill.  It’s a regulatory earmark.

But it’s not a jobs bill, and it’s not deserving of being the number one priority of the 114th Congress.

We hear estimates ranging as high as 42,000 indirect or induced jobs during the construction phase.  We know – everyone agrees - that Keystone XL will employ approximately 35 full-time workers once construction is finished.  That’s not 3,500 employees.  That’s not 35,000 employees. That’s 35 full-time employees when construction is completed. 

If we want to do a real jobs bill worthy of the U.S. Senate, we should do a real jobs bill. An infrastructure bank – a highway bill – Shaheen Portman – all would create orders of magnitude more jobs than this.

The American economy added 353,000 jobs in November alone, which made 2014 the strongest year for job growth since 1999. 

If we pass a highway bill, we get millions of jobs. If we pass an infrastructure bank we will get hundreds of thousands of jobs. If we pass the bipartisan Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill, we will get hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Look, even one new job is a good thing; I would never argue otherwise. 

But if we want to do a jobs bill, let’s do a jobs bill – there is plenty of room for us to work together on infrastructure, on energy efficiency and create hundreds, thousands or even millions of  jobs.

This is an energy bill – and it moves us in the wrong direction.

There are colleagues arguing against this legislation who say that they want to allow the administration’s process to play out, that we shouldn’t supersede the State Department Review – and I agree. And it is fair to say that it is unprecedented, even a little strange, for the Congress to legislate the specifics of a particular infrastructure project.

But I want to be clear -- this isn’t a process argument for me. I oppose Keystone because it is a bad idea, whether it is done through the regular order, or in an expedited fashion and whether it is done through the administrative process or by the legislative process.

I oppose any action, whether through legislation, litigation, or administrative action that will enable the extraction of Canadian tar sands oil.

My reasons are very simple: Climate change and math.

Climate change because it is the greatest and most urgent challenge to the health of our families, to the economy, and to our way of life – and I want to preserve the American way of life, not endanger it.

And math because we’ve crunched the numbers and we know that we simply cannot afford to burn the oil from tar sands and put its pollution into the air.

It’s simple.  We have a budget.  Just as every family in this country must stick to its budget and live within its means – we have to do the same as a planet when it comes to carbon pollution.   

A new study published last week in the scientific journal Nature makes this clear.  The authors ask the question: if we want to stay within our carbon budget and limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius – which is the limit 167 countries agree we must meet to avoid catastrophic effects of climate change – how much more coal, gas, and oil can we burn?

The study finds that in order to meet this goal, the majority of the world’s known reserves of fossil fuels must stay in the ground between now and 2050, including a third of the world’s current oil reserves and 80 percent of current coal reserves. 

It also finds, and this is critical, that “any increase in unconventional oil production,” which includes Canadian tar sands, is “incommensurate with efforts to limit average global warming to two degrees Celsius.”

And as we learn more about climate change amidst a clean energy revolution, we find that moving towards clean energy, taking control of our future, is good for business.

Our economy will do better – it will grow faster and it will be more resilient – if we embrace the technologies and solutions at our fingertips and end our reliance on fossil fuels.

We have a chance to embrace the future here – and our future is not the tar sands oil – our future is wind and solar and geothermal and energy efficiency - our future is not in adding carbon pollution – our future is in innovating our way out of this problem.

Throughout our history, America always leads when we are needed the most – and that is what we have to do – not in the direction of more carbon pollution – but towards a clean energy economy.

A report by the New Climate Economy – a group chaired by former Mexican president Felipe Calderon and including Bank of America Chairman Chad Holliday, among others, marshals quantitative evidence to show that action on climate change is a requirement for future global economic growth.

In other words, those who warn about EPA regulations or prices on carbon killing jobs have it exactly backwards.

The truth is that in order to avoid major disruptions to our economy we’ve got to reduce carbon pollution and work with other countries – like Canada   – to ensure they do the same.  

Madam President, I am looking forward to the open amendment process on this bill that the majority leader has promised.  It will be an opportunity for the American public to see where members of the Senate stand on the facts of climate change. 

Madam President, anyone who looks at the facts and does the math ought oppose this bill and oppose construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

For me, and for many Americans, a vote against this bill is a vote to preserve and protect the air we breathe and the water we drink.  It’s a vote to ensure that we continue to reduce carbon pollution and fight climate change.  It is a vote to leave our children a healthy world.

I urge my colleagues to oppose cloture on the motion to proceed.  I yield the floor.

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