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Updates from Sen. Schatz (Nov. 13-20)

MEDIA RELEASE

President Barack Obama has announced new executive actions to address the nation’s broken immigration system. The executive actions, which have been used by every president since the 1950’s, will make sure our immigration enforcement efforts are used to secure the border, prevent threats to national security, and protect public safety – instead of wasting our resources deporting law-abiding immigrants who have lived in the country for years.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) commended the announcement which would keep families together and enable immigrants who pass criminal background checks to work legally and pay taxes.

“For decades, our broken immigration system has separated families and forced millions to live in the shadows. That is why I was proud to help pass bipartisan immigration reform legislation in the Senate last year. But since then, House Republicans have refused to take up the bill and have offered no realistic solutions,” Schatz said. “I commend President Obama for taking measured steps to address our broken system. This will bring some welcome relief for the many undocumented families hoping to live the American Dream, but we need a permanent solution from Congress.”

In June 2013, Schatz voted to pass the Bipartisan Immigration Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act which would create an accountable path to citizenship and make investments in infrastructure, technology, and personnel to secure our borders.

The bill passed with a strong bipartisan Senate majority and has awaited action from the House of Representatives for more than a year.

SENS. WHITEHOUSE, SCHATZ INTRODUCE CARBON FEE LEGISLATION

As President Obama and Senate Democrats continue to make clear that they are not backing off in the fight against climate change following the election, U.S. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) unveiled legislation that would reduce carbon pollution and generate as much as $2 trillion dollars over ten years – all of which would be returned to the American people.

The American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act offers solutions to correct the market failure that currently allows polluters to push the costs of their pollution onto everyday Americans and their families.

“With this bill we can take control of our economic future. This is one of the most straightforward solutions to climate change, and has growing support across the ideological spectrum,” said Schatz. “Republicans in the Congress are going to take some time to warm up to this proposal, but I am confident that they will listen to their consciences and their constituents, and join us on the right side of history.”

“Right now we are subsidizing big polluters to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars annually by allowing them to pollute for free,” said Whitehouse. “We all pay the costs of this subsidy through higher health costs, property damage from rising seas, warming waters that affect our fishing industry, and more. This legislation will put the costs of carbon pollution back on the polluters, and in doing so, will generate significant revenue – all of which will be returned to the American people.”

The American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act would require polluters to pay a fee for every ton of carbon pollution they emit. The fee would start at $42 per ton in 2015 and increase annually by an inflation-adjusted 2 percent.

The price of the fee follows the Obama Administration’s central estimate of the “social cost of carbon,” the value of the harms caused by carbon pollution including falling agricultural productivity, human health hazards, and property damages from flooding.

The fee would be assessed on all coal, oil, and natural gas produced in or imported to the U.S. and cover large emitters of non-carbon greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide from non-fossil-fuel sources.

The U.S. Department of Treasury would assess and collect the fee, working with the Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Information Administration to ensure the best research methods and data are used.

A study from Resources for the Future, a non-partisan think tank, estimates that a carbon fee tracking the social cost of carbon would reduce carbon pollution by about 50% within a decade from the electricity sector alone compared to business-as-usual. The electricity sector is the largest source of carbon pollution, emitting about 40% of annual emissions.

All revenue generated by the carbon pollution fee – which could exceed $2 trillion over ten years – would be credited to an American Opportunity Fund to be returned to the American people.

SCHATZ VOTES AGAINST KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) voted against S.2880, a bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would carry 830,000 barrels per day of dirty tar sands oil bound for global markets from Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast.

The U.S. Senate failed to reach the 60 vote threshold to advance the bill, voting 59-41. The House of Representatives passed their version of the bill on Friday by a vote of 252-161.

“Encouraging the production of Canadian tar sands – some of the dirtiest oil in the world – is not in America’s national interest,” Schatz said. “Congress should be focused on transitioning to clean energy and working on things that will have a positive impact on the economy rather than trying to approve an unnecessary pipeline.”

In his floor speech, Schatz cited four reasons for voting against the Keystone XL Pipeline:

· The oil from tar sands is exceptionally dirty, and cannot be justified because of its negative impacts on health and climate change. The acquisition and use of oil from tar sands puts far more carbon pollution in the atmosphere than conventional oil.

· The pipeline will have a direct, negative impact on the people and communities that live in its path. The 875 mile route of this proposed pipeline has over 50 river crossings, including the Yellowstone River in Montana, which is still recovering from a major crude oil leak by an ExxonMobil pipeline in 2011.

· The pipeline would have a significant effect on the warming of our planet, increasing carbon pollution rather than reducing it.

· The bill would circumvent existing executive branch review. Because the Keystone XL pipeline would cross international boundaries, the State Department is responsible for reviewing and deciding if a permit is in the national interest. The bill ignores this review process. This bill could potentially limit state and local siting decisions, as well as some legal challenges.

Full text of speech as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, I rise today to oppose Senate bill 2280, A Bill to Approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, and urge my colleagues to join me in voting no.

The Keystone XL pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels per day of tar sands oil bound for global markets from Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast. It represents a massive endorsement of a fossil fuel economy when we should be focusing on transitioning to a clean energy economy.

There are many reasons to vote against this bill. Since many of my colleagues have already spoken so ably on this topic, I will focus on the four reasons why I oppose this bill, and this pipeline.

The first reason that we must reject this bill is that the oil from tar sands is exceptionally dirty, and we don’t need it enough to justify its impacts on health and climate change. Mining tar sands oil is nothing like setting up a rig and drilling a hole in the ground.

Tar sands are dirty in terms of the land destroyed, dirty in terms of the water wasted and contaminated, and dirty in terms of the amount of energy needed to mine, transport, and process the oil. Getting and using oil from tar sands puts far more carbon pollution in the atmosphere than conventional oil.

When tar sands are near the surface, they are dug up along with all of the surrounding earth, including the boreal forests that sit on top. These are forests that play a critical role in the health of the earth and remain largely untouched. Losing them will contribute to global deforestation, further exacerbating climate change and affecting public health.

Tar sands are a mixture of sand, clay, water, and a gooey form of petroleum that resembles tar. Think of it as a mixture of dirt and molasses, and imagine trying to separate the two. If you think that sounds difficult, you’re right.

After being mined the thick, sludgy mixture that remains is transported to facilities that separate the oil using multiple water and energy intensive rinse-cycles. The water used in this process becomes contaminated with toxins and is no longer suitable for other uses. Oil companies use massive amounts of water to mine the tar sands. In 2011, tar sands mining in Canada used more water than the entire city of Toronto uses annually, representing a massive new strain on freshwater resources.

This is not the direction we want to go in. We need to fight climate change and promote clean energy sources that don’t present a constant danger of harming our health, our drinking water, and our economy. Why are we spending time today trying to approve something that quite literally takes us in the wrong direction?

This brings me to the second reason this pipeline must be rejected: it will have a direct, negative impact on the people and communities that live in its path.

The eight hundred and seventy five mile route of this proposed pipeline has over 50 river crossings, including the Yellowstone River in Montana, which is still recovering from a major crude oil leak by an ExxonMobil pipeline in 2011. That pipeline’s leak contaminated eighty five miles of the river and its floodplain — placing an enormous burden on families and businesses that depend on it.

Pipelines transport oil, but they also leak. Regularly. The existing Keystone pipeline system for Canadian tar sands leaked 14 times during its first year of operation, with one incident leaking 21,000 gallons. In its environmental review, the State Department estimated that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would fail several times each year.

In 2010, a six-foot break in a pipeline carrying oil from tar sands spilled nearly one million gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. This was one of the largest inland oil spills in United States history and also one of the costliest, with clean-up costs totaling over one billion dollars. Households in the area were evacuated and told not to drink their water. Thirty-five miles of the river were contaminated and clean-up continued four years after the spill.

The really troubling thing about this spill, and any future spills coming from the Keystone XL pipeline, is that the companies who own the oil take advantage of a loophole that lets them avoid paying their fair share into the national Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. This trust fund has been in place for nearly 30 years, and the money in it helps respond to and clean up oil spills.

Every barrel of oil produced or imported into the United States is charged 8 cents, and the money goes into the trust fund. It’s like an insurance policy for events where companies are unable to pay for spill cleanup or in emergency response situations. It makes sense, plain and simple.

What doesn’t make sense is that, due to this loophole, the oil from the tar sands in Canada is exempt from that 8-cent fee.

So let me ask my colleagues this – why would you vote for a bill that circumvents executive review of an international pipeline carrying the dirtiest oil in the world – produced in Canada – headed mostly for world markets – a bill that does nothing to close a loophole exempting oil from tar sands from having to pay a small, common-sense fee – a fee that everyone else pays – meant for responding to and cleaning up spills? How is that equitable? How can this bill ask so little of the oil companies, while giving them so much?

A third reason we must reject this bill, and this pipeline, is the effect it will have on the warming of our planet.

The facts plainly show that we must reduce carbon pollution, not add to it, if we have any hope of preventing major changes to our way of life. We must go forward, not backwards. If we are serious about leaving our children a healthy world, we will vote no on this bill and reject this pipeline.

We know a majority of the public supports bold action to solve climate change. In recent years, no single issue related to fossil fuels and climate change has commanded the level of civic engagement as the Keystone XL pipeline. Countless rallies, public hearings in cities and towns along the proposed route, lawsuits, and debates in Congress reveal how much people care about stopping this pipeline. In fact, the pipeline was booed so loudly when advertised on the jumbo-tron at a Nebraska Cornhusker’s football game that the university cut sponsorship ties with TransCanada – the owner of the pipeline.

Finally, Mr. President, this bill is flawed. Not only because of what it seeks to do, but also because of how it seeks to do it. The bill would circumvent existing executive branch review. Because the Keystone XL pipeline would cross international boundaries, the State Department is responsible for reviewing and deciding if a permit is in the national interest. The bill before us today willfully ignores this review process and goes out of its way to rubber-stamp compliance with important environmental protections.

The way it is currently written, this bill could potentially limit state and local siting decisions, as well as some legal challenges. It attempts to approve a pipeline that doesn’t even have a finalized route, but does have lawsuits pending against it in the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Congress should focus on the things that will have a positive impact on the economy and jobs, rather than trying to circumvent executive review and local processes to approve an unnecessary pipeline. We should address things of real national significance like immigration reform, spending bills, and defense reauthorization before the end of the year. This bill, and this pipeline, doesn’t even crack the top 10 on our to-do list.

Rejecting this pipeline is exactly the type of stand the American people expect from their elected leaders. If we do, our children will fondly remember the day the United States said ‘no’ to this pipeline and yes to clean energy and public health.

I’ll close with the following message to my colleagues: If you are not a climate denier, don’t vote like one. If you believe in protecting the health and well-being of everyday Americans and their children, vote like it. This body is capable of doing the right thing, and today the right thing is to vote “no”.

I yield the floor.

SCHATZ SELECTS 15 STUDENTS FOR SCHATZ SENIORS INTERNSHIP PROGRAM

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) has announced the selection of 15 outstanding Hawaii high school students to participate in this year’s Schatz Seniors Internship Program.

This year’s class represents eight public and seven private schools on Hawaii Island, Kauai, Maui, and Oahu.

“Our Schatz Seniors are some of the most active and community-engaged high school students in our state,” Schatz said. “I look forward to working with this year’s class as they continue to develop useful civic leadership skills that they can apply in their schools and communities.”

The Schatz Seniors internship program provides a hands-on opportunity to high school seniors interested in learning about the U.S. Senate. Students will work with Honolulu outreach staff and help to identify issues of interest in their schools and communities. They also attend and staff special events co-hosted by Schatz.

As part of the program, all students must maintain a 2.0 GPA. Interns were selected based on their community involvement, diversity of interests, and demonstrated leadership qualities.

Selected high school students participating in this year’s Schatz Seniors Internship Program:

Hawaii Island

* Shevalyn Yamaguchi (Pahoa), Kamehameha Schools Hawaii
* Michael Note (Kamuela), Parker School

Kauai
* Kate MacHorek (Kalaheo), Kauai High School

Maui
* Casey Sales-Salcedo (Kihei)
* Henry Perrine Baldwin High School
* Mikayla Lau (Wailuku), Kamehameha Schools Maui

Oahu
* Adrien Magpoc (Kapolei), American Renaissance Academy
* Kenneth Go (Honolulu), Damien Memorial School
* Terry Lam, (Honolulu), ‘Iolani School
* Luc Lavatai (Mililani), ‘Iolani School
* Hannah Miller (Laie), Kahuku High and Intermediate School
* Sharissa Miyasato (Honolulu), Henry J. Kaiser High School
* Jordan Bell (Waianae), Kapolei High School
* Oliana Moe (Waianae), Admiral Arthur W. Radford High School
* Aina Katsikas (Honolulu), Sacred Hearts Academy
* Kiana Paakaula-Reis (Waialua), Waialua High and Intermediate School

Applications for next year’s Schatz Seniors Internship Program will be available at www.schatz.senate.gov in August 2015. High school principals and counselors are welcome to request a presentation for their future seniors interested in participating in the internship program.

Contact the Honolulu Office of Senator Schatz at (808) 523-2061 for more information.

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