Executive Sessionby Former Senator Mark Begich
Posted on 2013-02-14
BEGICH. Absolutely. I thank my friend from West Virginia. We
built the largest single capital project back in the 1970s when we
brought oil off the North Slope, almost 800 miles through the harshest,
most unpredictable climates one would ever see. I can tell my
colleagues, if we went back to the stories and articles, the sky would
fall, the environment would be destroyed, and the world would come to
an end by us building that pipeline. We are multiple decades past. It
has worked very well. There haven't been those disasters people claimed
On top of that, my friend from Louisiana mentioned the environmental impact and it makes sense that the pipeline is the safest way to move oil.
On top of that, we have a choice--the Senator from North Dakota made it very clear--and that is to get it refined in China or the United States. I don't know about anybody here, but I would bet we all agree that between the environmental standards, we have a better environmental record than China in the refining of oil products, so it makes sense for us to do it.
On top of that, people are traveling to Alaska not just for the jobs and the opportunity but the beauty of Alaska, and we have more visitors who want to see the pipeline, to visit the pipeline. When I went down the Gulkana on a rafting trip, it is unbelievable beauty. But one of the last things people do when they come down and land the raft and begin to pack to go back home, there is the pipeline going right across the Gulkana. Guess what. It hasn't damaged the environment. As a matter of fact, there are plenty of photos of people trying to get their raft underneath the pipeline; trying to get the pipeline and the rapids at the same time. So the Senator's point is a very good one.
The Governor of Nebraska has approved it going through their State, but there is nothing similar to Alaska when it comes to the harsh environment we had to build in. We did it, and we did it when technology was much different. Today, the standards are even greater. Again, I wish to echo the Senator's point.
If I could make one other point. This is unique, the Chamber and labor working together for the common good of this country and the jobs and the groups--we think of the Teamsters and Operating Engineers, the pipeline contractors, the plumbers and pipefitters, they are all part of this agreement to build this pipeline and train workers; as my colleagues know, there is a huge gap in our trades. So we get to utilize a training opportunity, employ thousands of people not only for today but for the future.
So from Alaska's perspective, we like it. We know pipelines. We know we have to build big ones, as we did, and the fact is, as the Senator from North Dakota said, they are going to move this oil one way or another. We have a choice. Do we do it in our country, get [[Page S733]] the jobs that are attached to it, the opportunity to refine it in States with great quality refineries or do we let China do it? This is a no-brainer for my State.