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Brian S.
Democrat HI

About Sen. Brian
  • Hire More Heroes Act of 2015—Continued

    by Senator Brian Schatz

    Posted on 2015-07-29

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    SCHATZ. Mr. President, I want to talk a little about the particulars of the Clean Power Plan and address some of the questions that have been raised by some of the opponents.

    I think the first premise has to be that carbon is an airborne pollutant; that the Clean Air Act doesn't just give the EPA the authority to regulate airborne pollutants, it actually requires that all airborne pollutants that can cause a public health risk get regulated. That is the basis of the Supreme Court decision. This doesn't give the EPA the discretion--this doesn't give the Obama administration the discretion to regulate carbon pollution, it requires that they do so. So the only question is not a legal one. The legal one has been settled. The EPA is required to regulate pollution under the Clean Air Act. The only question remaining is, Is carbon a pollutant? I don't think there is anybody credible in this Chamber who thinks carbon is not a pollutant.

    Look, I think we are actually making progress. Over the last 6 to 12 months, we have seen a sea change among Republican Members of Congress who are increasingly concerned, I think, about being on the wrong side of history, about being on the wrong side of science, about being on the wrong side of a whole generation of young voters--Republican, Democratic, and Independent--who understands this is one of the great challenges of our generation. So we are seeing some movement. We are seeing some openness to at least concede that this problem, in fact, exists.

    We have this incredible law in the Clean Air Act. We don't need to pass a new law. Of course, Senator Whitehouse and I have been working very hard with Senator Boxer and others on a carbon fee, but we also have the tools at our disposal to regulate carbon pollution. Like methane and other airborne pollutants, it is causing environmental and health damage.

    The Clean Power Plan is very simple. It is treating this as though it is the pollutant that it is. Originally, I think there were some legitimate concerns about how this thing was going to get administered. I will give a ``for example.'' If you are in a very small rural State and you are going to regulate not a State's total carbon emissions but an individual powerplant's carbon emissions, that is a very tough sell. There are instances where, because of legacy infrastructure, because of distance--for instance, in Hawaii we have remote and relatively small islands. So it is very difficult to ask the island of Lanai, which is running on diesel-fired generators, or the island of Molokai, to, at an individual powerplant level, reduce carbon emissions. That is tough. They can make improvements in efficiency, but they may not be able to meet the standard. So the idea is to allow all of it to aggregate.

    What Hawaii did, we have a Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, recognizing that there are going to be some places that will have incredible challenges economically and in terms of the financing of the projects, incredible challenges complying at the micro level, at the site level, at the power generation level, but if we provide flexibility to States--and I know in California with the Cap-and-Trade Program and the Northeast with the RGGI Program, there is a flexibility regionally or within States of energy systems to say that as long as you, in the aggregate, are making sufficient progress, we are going to allow you to figure out how to make that progress on your own. So we anticipate these rules will provide sufficient flexibility to allow economies to thrive.

    I will make one final point on this before hearing from the great Senator from California; that is, all of the hue and cry, all of the panic, all of the heartburn about what is going to happen to our economy doesn't have to be an abstract question anymore. We have States currently exceeding the anticipated thresholds in the clean powerplants. So we don't have to imagine what is going to happen to various economies if we comply because we have States such as California, we have the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative.

    Two years ago, I was on the floor talking about the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative with a 40-percent renewable portfolio standard, and the legislature in the last 3 or 4 months just passed the first 100 percent clean energy statute in the United States. Our unemployment rate is 4 percent, and we have exceeded our previous goals. California, with its Cap-and-Trade Program, and all the hue and cry and panic about what would happen to our economy--California is booming. Hawaii is doing well. People still have their economic challenges, but it is not because of our desire to drive an innovation economy and to try to solve this great challenge of our time.

    We can create clean energy jobs. We can innovate into the future. America has an incredible opportunity to lead in this space. I am so pleased to be part of that innovation and part of that leadership. We are putting our marker down as a country. We understand this is going to take a global effort, but now America has the credibility to lead on climate.

    Mr. President, I yield the floor to the great Senator from California.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from California.

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