(Senate - February 02, 2016)

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[Pages S455-S457]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Mrs. BOXER. Madam President, I am on the floor to talk about a 
situation that is occurring in my home State with a leak--a natural gas 
leak that is

[[Page S456]]

creating havoc in one of my communities. But before I do, I wish to 
comment on the issue that my Democratic leader talked about, which is 
the poisoning of children in Flint, MI, due to lead in the drinking 
  Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I believe that when you hurt a child, 
that is the lowest thing you can do. There is nothing lower in life 
than hurting an innocent child. That means if you abuse a child, if you 
taunt a child--but when you poison a child and their brain is damaged 
for the rest of their life--that is the lowest thing an adult can do. 
Any adult who knew that these children were being poisoned and looked 
the other way, in my view, is liable. You don't hurt a child. You don't 
hurt a child--let alone for life--and destroy their mind.
  I know that Senators Stabenow and Peters are working hard with the 
Republicans to come up with something to help the people there, and I 
hope that it will work out. I know that in my committee on the 
environment we have been working with them, along with Senator Inhofe, 
so we can do something. But it is after the fact. It is not as if you 
can make this damage go away.
  What shocked me was that on the heels of this tragedy and travesty in 
Flint, MI, we were marking up a bill, and the Republicans, to a person, 
supported the ability of people spraying pesticides into drinking water 
not to have to get a permit anymore and to take away the authority of 
the EPA to require a permit if you are going to spray harmful 
pesticides with toxins into a drinking water supply.
  This is what my Republican friends did in the environment committee. 
I think they ought to change the name of that committee to the 
pollution committee. What is that? In addition, the underlying bill 
says you can never regulate the lead in fishing tackle under TSCA. 
Lead. Hello? We now know what lead does when it gets into drinking 
water. If there are ways to have less toxic fishing tackle, shouldn't 
we try to make that happen if it is available?
  So here we have a bill called the sportsmen's bill. Lots of things in 
there are wonderful and I support wholeheartedly, but now we are going 
to say you can never regulate the lead in fishing tackle under TSCA? 
Then you are going to say you don't need a permit to spray pesticides 
into a water supply? You have to be kidding.
  We talk a lot about defending the American people. We have to do it 
abroad and at home because dead is dead. It is a serious issue when you 
expose people to toxins. They get cancer. They have brain damage.
  I am hopeful we can do something for the people of Flint and stand 
with them, but I will tell you it is not going to let people off the 
hook. Anybody who knew this was happening and turned away or said: Who 
cares? It is a poor community, they will be punished at some point, 
even if in their own heart. We cannot disconnect from that incident to 
what we are doing today in saying you no longer need a permit to dump 
pesticides into drinking water. What are people thinking? Are we so 
beholden to special moneyed interests that we can't tell them they have 
to have responsibility? Defending our people means having a smart 
policy to defend them from terror, which I support, but it also means 
protecting and defending them with reasonable rules and regulations so 
we don't poison them here at home or hurt the brains of their kids.
  I want to show something that is happening in my State as we speak. 
This is quite a picture. It shows what a gas leak looks like: plumes of 
methane gas above a community. This is an infrared camera. This is what 
is happening from a natural gas leak. It didn't happen yesterday and it 
didn't happen a month ago. It happened on October 23, and it is still 
out of control. I have submitted an amendment on behalf of myself and 
Senator Feinstein today to get some of the brightest minds from the 
Department of Energy--and there are very bright minds over there--to 
take a look at what the heck is happening and why it is that this is 
running amuck. It is now burning longer than the BP oilspill. I 
remember so well because I worked so hard on the committee with all of 
my colleagues, with Senator Landrieu and others, to get to the bottom 
of why it was happening, and we sent Stephen Chu, who was then 
Secretary of Energy. Guess what. In the BP spill, he figured out a 
better way to track the spill and therefore contain it by using gamma 
rays, as I remember.
  As of last week, almost 3,700 households have been relocated to 
hotels and other temporary housing because the residents who live right 
here are experiencing headaches, nausea, dizziness, nose bleeds, and 
other side effects stemming from the rotten egg smell, the chemicals 
that give the natural gas its artificial odor.
  This is Aliso Canyon. Schools have temporarily closed because the 
kids and teachers can't stand the smell all day. People's homes, their 
furniture, everything they have left behind are becoming infused with 
this horrid smell and the chemicals. It is a disaster for these 
residents and for many local businesses struggling to stay afloat. We 
see here, this is the Aliso Canyon leaking well site, but the plume is 
all over this community.
  I want to share a couple of other photos because we know a picture is 
worth a thousand words. These are children, sick of being sick at 
school. This is a mom who is having serious headaches. That is why this 
amendment is so important because this is what is happening and, by the 
way, could happen probably anywhere where there are these natural gas 
storage sites. There are 400 in America--400, in America. This is the 
first, and we had better deal with it and figure out how to deal with 
it because right now it is running amuck.
  One of my constituents said: My husband and I moved there over 3 
years ago. We poured a lot of money into this home, our dream home, 
thinking it was a perfect area to move. I am expecting. We had 
difficulties trying to conceive. The joy has been robbed from us 
because we have had to relocate twice. I am fearful to bring my newborn 
baby back to Porter Ranch.
  That is the community here, Porter Ranch. She said: I am fearful to 
bring my newborn baby back to Porter Ranch when the time comes and they 
say the coast is clear.
  Another one. This particular individual, Scott McClure, was quoted in 
the L.A. Times:

       I can't go outside and play baseball with my sons. I can't 
     go on walks with my family. My youngest son has been moved to 
     another school. My property value has dropped dramatically. I 
     get headaches, stomach 
     aches. . . .

  The California Air Resources Board estimates that more than 86.5 
million kilograms of methane--a powerful greenhouse gas--have been 
emitted into the atmosphere. So we move from a disaster for our 
families--reflected in this woman's face--to a disaster for the 
environment because it is, so far, 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide. 
That is the equivalent of the methane that has poured into the 
atmosphere. That is more greenhouse gas than 468,000 cars emit in 1 
year. Just think, in over 3 months this one leak has emitted as much as 
half a million cars do in an entire year. We have worked so hard across 
party lines here to make sure our cars have good fuel economy and don't 
emit so much of this greenhouse gas, and now we have seen as much as 
half a million cars in an entire year. That is what has come into the 
  This leaking well is 8,600 feet deep. The leak is thought to be 
around 500 feet below the surface. The gas company has unsuccessfully 
attempted to kill the well seven times by plugging it with brine and 
gravel. They are now attempting to drill a relief well down to the 
reservoir and cut the resisting well at its base, but this may not be 
completed in another month. If it isn't successful, they will have to 
start over again.
  So--October 23. We are now starting February, and these people have 
lived with this extraordinary disaster over them. I pray that this 
nightmare will be over and people can move back to their homes and that 
they have the peace of mind that their homes are clean and their air is 
clean and the community will return to normal. In the meantime, we have 
to figure out what caused this leak and how to prevent it from 
happening again at Aliso Canyon and everywhere around the country where 
there are 400 similar sites.
  On January 6, 2016, the Governor of the State of California declared 

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emergency for Los Angeles County due to the Aliso Canyon natural gas 
leak. State regulators have been working with the gas company and with 
Federal PHMSA and EPA. PHMSA is hazardous pipeline. They check to make 
sure those hazardous pipelines--the pipelines that carry this hazardous 
material--are safe. They have been working as they have been providing 
  I want to say that the working group on climate change called in the 
Federal people who were working in PHMSA and the EPA. They are doing 
conference calls and they are working, but it is not enough. It is not 
enough. We need the best minds--the best minds--and that is why Senator 
Feinstein and I have offered this amendment today. It is at the desk.
  Under the amendment, the Department of Energy Secretary would lead a 
broad review of this leak, including the cause, the response, and the 
impacts on communities and the environment. They will issue a finding 
to all of us, all of our committees, as we listen, and to the 
President, within 6 months, but if they find something in the course of 
their investigation that can solve this leak or prevent another leak--
in the Presiding Officer's State or anybody's State--they would have to 
come forward and make it clear and report that finding.
  The task force includes representatives of PHMSA--the Pipeline and 
Hazardous Materials Safety Administration--Department of Health and 
Human Services, Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Energy 
Regulatory Commission, and the Department of Commerce. We have a small 
task force here. Is it now seven? Seven. The reason is, we don't want 
some big bureaucracy. We want a small task force to meet, headed by 
Secretary Moniz, who is an outstanding scientist, and we want them to 
help solve this crisis and provide relief for the thousands of affected 
residents when they come in with their analysis. We want to make sure--
we want to make sure--this doesn't happen again in anybody's State, 
because when you have a constituent like this in your State who comes 
out and says: My God, I don't know what to do, that is what is on this 
face. I don't know what to do. I am scared. My kids are breathing this. 
I am breathing this. Where do I go? So we need our brightest minds, 
absolutely, dealing with this, and that is what our amendment does.
  Again, we have more than 400 underground natural gas storage 
facilities. We have nine in California. This is a public health and 
public safety issue that is critical for people not only in my State 
but across the Nation.
  Again, we know our most sacred responsibility is to keep our people 
safe. Whenever we say that, people right away think about what is 
happening abroad and homeland security and taking on ISIL and doing 
everything we have to do to keep our people safe. We have the Super 
Bowl coming up in my beautiful State. Believe me, we are focused on 
that. This is a great nation. We know how to take care of our people. 
Therefore, when we see a woman or children like this saying they are 
sick and we see this--and this is what the people of California are 
seeing in their living rooms, the picture of this out-of-control plume 
going on since October 23--we think: Wait a minute. This is the 
greatest country in the world, with the greatest minds in the world, 
the greatest science in the world. We have so many wonderful things, 
and we can't stop this leak? My God. It is ridiculous.
  I was frustrated after I had that meeting because we are very much 
alike in many ways. We want to solve a problem, and we don't want 
bureaucracy to get in the way. We want to get the best people. Who 
cares who gets the credit? Sit around and get it done. When I had this 
meeting with those Federal officials who were on these conference 
calls, I got a clear sense, after all my years of experience--and I 
have had a lot. When I started out, I didn't have all this gray hair.
  The bottom line is, I know from experience that it doesn't feel like 
somebody is truly in charge. That is why Senator Feinstein and I are 
giving this amendment all of our heart and soul. We hope that our 
friends on the other side will sign off on it because I know the 
Democratic side has. I believe they will. We are working with them 
right now on a couple of issues.

  If this passes and becomes the law of the land, we will finally have 
someone in charge here at the Federal level, someone so bright, so 
smart--Secretary Moniz. I have a lot of faith in him. I think a lot of 
us do. He is in it for the right reasons. I think if he goes in there 
and they start to take a look at this, they may well find something 
right away that has been overlooked that could stop this horrific leak.
  I want to close with this: Californians are leaders in so many 
areas--technology, entertainment, and trade. We would be the seventh or 
eighth largest economy in the world.
  I don't want to be a leader showing the way to the future with this 
kind of a travesty. I want to solve the problem. I want to tell my 
friends here in the Senate that we have the technology to solve it; we 
have leak-detection systems to find these problems before they happen. 
This particular yard started in the fifties. If you built a house in 
the fifties, you have to keep making improvements. I don't know the 
history of all of this, and I am not getting into that now. We are 
where we are. But I would suggest that if this natural gas yard was set 
up in the fifties, I don't think there were a lot of homes around at 
that time. Let's be clear. We have to think about these things, where 
we place these facilities. If I were in another State right now--and I 
am going to do this in California: I am going to look at the eight 
other facilities in my State. God forbid, if they have a leak, what is 
going to happen and how can we prevent it? Maybe there is an easy way 
to maintain these pipes in a way that makes sense. If we can find that 
out, we can stop this. We can say: This was horrible. We stopped it, 
and we are going to be able to prevent other explosions like this from 
happening. And if they do happen, we will know how to deal with it.
  We are not going to subject kids to this where they have to go out 
with signs--and, by the way, masks around their necks--that say 
``relocate our school'' and ``sick of being sick at school'' and 
dislocate these kids, and they have been dislocated. They have been 
dislocated from their school. You know how it is for a kid. You have 
your world. Your world is your home. Your world is your school. Your 
world is your family. That is it. When you disrupt that, it is very 
difficult on our children.
  I hope and pray that we will get this done today and that we will get 
the Department of Energy ready to go on this. Even if we pass it here 
and we don't get it quickly to the House and they don't do it quickly, 
I think we will send a signal to the Department of Energy that they can 
look at this now and help in a way where they would have the confidence 
that we would all be behind that here in the Senate.
  I am looking forward to a vote on this. I hope we have a voice vote. 
We don't need a recorded vote on something like this. I am going to 
continue to work with the Republican leaders on this. I hope we can 
move forward.
  I thank you so much for your patience and your time.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. THUNE. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.