(Senate - November 04, 2015)

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[Pages S7772-S7773]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


      By Mr. MERKLEY (for himself, Mr. Cardin, Mr. Sanders, Mrs. Boxer, 
        Mrs. Gillibrand, Mr. Leahy, and Ms. Warren):
  S. 2238. A bill to prohibit drilling in the outer Continental Shelf, 
to prohibit coal leases on Federal land, and for other purposes; to the 
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
  Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, I rise to recognize the damage global 
warming is doing to our beautiful blue-green planet and talk about a 
specific bill, the keep it in the ground bill, that can be part of the 
way we successfully address global warming. There is no doubt our 
planet is getting hot: 2014 was the hottest year ever recorded, and 
2015 is on course to be yet hotter and set a new record.
  In fact, the top 10 hottest years have all occurred since 1998. We 
see the evidence of warming everywhere. The Earth is crying out. 
Maine's lobsters are moving North, Pacific oysters are struggling to 
form shells in a more acidic Pacific Ocean, glaciers are disappearing 
from Glacier Park, moose are dying in Minnesota and New Hampshire 
because winters are too warm to kill the ticks that prey on the moose, 
and they are also too warm to kill the pine beetles that kill our 
  Wildfires are raging in the West, towns in Florida are flooding at 
normal high tide, droughts are killing crops, and the most powerful 
storms are doing major damage to communities across our Nation. 
Everywhere the impacts of global warming are substantial. They are 
damaging. Our planet is in danger. So we need to act to keep our planet 
from being destroyed. It is time for our Federal Government to show 
some real leadership on this. Specifically, we need to accelerate the 
transition from a fossil fuel energy economy to a clean energy economy. 
All the damage I was citing, damage to our forestry, damage to our 
farms, damage to our fisheries, all of this is caused by a less-than-1-
degree-Celsius change. The current estimate is about 0.9 Celsius 
  Scientists have said the maximum the planet can tolerate without 
catastrophic damage is 2 degrees Celsius or about 3.6 degrees 
Farenheit. So we have almost used up half of that global warming 
quotient. How much more damage will we see if we get to 2 degrees? The 
answer is, a whole lot more. Scientists say it will be catastrophic for 
our ecosystems, it will be catastrophic for human civilization.
  The simple fact is that carbon dioxide is serving as a blanket on our 
planet making it warmer. The simple fact is that the major culprit for 
carbon dioxide is the burning of fossil fuels. To limit our planet's 
warming to 2 degrees Celsius, we must leave, as human civilization of 
this planet, 80 percent of the identified proven fossil fuel reserves 
in the ground--not to extract it, not to burn it.
  Part of the answer to this challenge is beneath our feet. We, the 
U.S. citizens, own fossil fuel reserves that constitute a substantial 
percentage of the proven reserves on the planet. Various estimates are 
6 to 10 percent. If we must keep it in the ground; that is, keep our 
fossil fuels--80 percent of them--in the ground, then isn't it 
counterproductive to do new leases, leases that will extend production 
not 10 or 15 years but 20 or 30 years on gas and 40 or 50 years on 
coal, into the future? We lock in extraction and burning of fossil 
fuels far into the future, when our planet cannot bear the burden of 
the carbon dioxide from burning that far into the future.
  Shouldn't our public reserve, that citizen-owned reserve, be managed 
for the public benefit and not for private profit? It is said that if 
you find yourself in a hole, quit digging. This is one place where 
literally we must quit digging. That is why today I have introduced, 
with a number of my colleagues, the keep it in the ground bill. A big 
thank-you to my cosponsors: Patrick Leahy, Kirsten Gillibrand, 
Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Ben Cardin, and Barbara Boxer. That 
group of Senators are standing up and saying we must be responsible 
stewards of our ecosystem and particularly we must stop this global 
warming that is doing so much harm to rural America.
  The bill does three things: It stops new leases and ends nonproducing 
leases for coal, oil, gas, oil shale, and tar sands on all Federal 
lands. It stops new leases and ends nonproducing leases for offshore 
drilling in the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico. It prohibits offshore 
drilling in the Arctic and in the Atlantic.

[[Page S7773]]

  This effort is a crucial component of good stewardship of our 
planet--really saving our planet. Our First Nations talk about thinking 
about the seventh generation. In a single generation, we have seen 
substantial impacts occurring right in our local communities. Every 
State can cite the impact. None of us is expecting that there is going 
to be quick action on Capitol Hill. It is grassroots organizing that 
came together and said we should not turn on the tap to the tar sands 
in Canada because it is the dirtiest oil on the planet. It is 
grassroots organizing that has come together and said that drilling in 
the Arctic is the height of irresponsibility. It is going to be 
grassroots efforts across this Nation that come together and say to us 
in the Halls of the Senate and the Halls of the House: Please act. 
Please exercise your responsibility as stewards of our planet. Please 
stop this egregious attack on rural America, on our forests, our 
farming, and our fishing--because on Capitol Hill, the voice heard 
right now is not the voice of common sense, it is not the voice of 
stewardship; it is the voice of those who own the oil and the coal who 
have invested massive amounts in the elections in the House and the 
elections in the Senate.
  They have come up here and said they plan to invest nearly $1 billion 
in the 2016 election. The Citizens United court case has opened the 
door wide open to this corruption of common sense, this corruption of 
stewardship, this corruption of the democratic process. So it is going 
to be grossroots that make a difference, to rally, to keep it in the 
ground. This message is one that should be debated in every 
congressional campaign. It should be debated in every Senate campaign. 
It should be debated in the Presidency. It should be debated in 
December in Paris when nations comes together. It should be debated in 
other nations that have public assets, as they ask how are they going 
to be good public stewards, because we need the international community 
working together.
  Yes, we can work on the demand side--fuel efficiency and better 
insulated buildings--but we need to work on the supply side of keeping 
fossil fuels in the ground as well. We need to attack this problem from 
every direction. In doing so, as we transition from a fossil fuel 
economy to a clean energy economy, we are going to create millions of 
good-paying jobs. In doing so, we need to make sure that in that 
transition we don't leave our workers behind.
  Those working in the fossil fuel industry have spent their lives 
providing the energy that has fueled tremendous growth in our economy, 
often at the expense of their personal family health and their families 
well-being. So this must not be a green-versus-blue transition from 
fossil fuels to clean energy, but it has to be green and blue together, 
side by side fighting for the environment and fighting for our workers. 
We will not leave our workers behind.
  It has been said that we are the first generation who feels the 
impact of global warming, and we are the last generation who can do 
something about it. So the choice is simple. Let us take on the climate 
challenge as policymakers and stewards. Let us take on the climate 
challenge fighting for rural America because of the terrible impact 
warming is having on our forests, our fishing, and our farms.
  Let us make our Federal lands off limits. Let us do the smart thing. 
In terms of those Federal citizen-owned reserves of fossil fuels, let 
us keep it in the ground.