A picture of Senator Barbara Boxer
Barbara B.
Democrat CA

About Sen. Barbara
  • The Economy and Keystone Pipeline

    by Senator Barbara Boxer

    Posted on 2015-01-12

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    BOXER. I thank the majority leader for allowing me this time to proceed. It is one thing to rewrite history a few years after it passes. It is another thing to rewrite it while you are still living through it. To say that this economic recovery is a Republican recovery is kind of funny and strange.

    In fact, the year 2014 was the best year for job creation since 1999, and it could have been a lot better in 2014 and in prior years if our Republican friends had not filibustered every single job proposal that President Obama put forward. It is sad because we could have gotten here much quicker.

    The economy added almost 3 million jobs in 2014, averaging almost 250,000 jobs a month. The unemployment rate has fallen to 5.6 percent, and most of that decline--and here is the good news--came from long- term unemployed workers getting back to work. The GDP growth has accelerated, reaching an annualized rate of 5 percent in the third quarter of 2014. This is the best GDP growth we have seen in over 10 years.

    Our economic recovery has been long, it has been tough, but it is happening and I thank the President for his leadership. We have added 11.2 million private sector jobs since February of 2010. That is the longest streak of recorded private sector job gains in American history.

    The stock market has bounced back from the crash and added more than 10,000 points, reaching an all-time high of over 18,000 points. Our annual deficit has been reduced by almost two-thirds.

    I think it is important to put into context the job growth under Presidents Democratic and Republican. I think we need to look at private sector job growth. This is an extraordinary chart. Under George Herbert Walker Bush, there were 1.5 million jobs created in his term of office. In Bill Clinton's term of office, there were 21.2 million jobs created. I have seen that number up to 23 million, but that is probably including the public sector. But during Bill Clinton's term, there were 21.2 million private sector jobs. Under George W. Bush, there was a loss of 460,000 jobs. Under President Obama, there is a gain so far of 7 million, and he has 2 years to go, and we are just moving forward.

    To me this says that we Democrats know what we are doing, and if you want to look at deficits, that is another day's speech. It was Bill Clinton who balanced the budget. It was George W. Bush who unbalanced it, put two wars on a credit card, gave a tax cut to the rich, and we had terrible deficits. Barack Obama has now reduced this deficit by two-thirds.

    So I say all this leading up to my discussion of the Keystone Pipeline. How does that even connect? I will tell you. When a new majority takes over in Congress you know the first bill they take up symbolizes their priorities. Out of all the things that they pick, all the things that they pick, they pick a bill that in terms of permanent job creation will be thirty-five jobs. And that [[Page S156]] is proven by the State Department--35 long-term jobs.

    One has to wonder, Why are they doing this? I believe I know the answer. This is really a big hug and a big kiss to big oil and Canadian interests. That is what it is about. Otherwise, why wouldn't we turn to the highway bill? I think the Presiding Officer and I know we have worked across partisan lines on that issue, and it means good jobs for America--good jobs, long-lasting jobs, rebuilding our bridges and our roads and making sure we have transit systems that work. We have a terrible record in terms of the condition of our bridges today. Thousands and thousands--tens of thousands of bridges are not in good shape, and we have seen bridges fail, and we know the outcome. Why are we pursuing a project for Canadian oil business interests that they will make billions off of instead of pursuing projects for America-- America--such as building our infrastructure? This bill isn't about helping American workers or families. Let's be very clear. It does nothing. Again, when I say 35 permanent jobs, I am not making that up. That is in the final supplemental environmental impact statement which I believe the Republicans want to make final, so they are accepting it. The Republicans are accepting the fact that there are 35 permanent jobs, because they, in their language, say, We approve of the final supplemental environmental impact statement, which is where it says there will be 35 permanent jobs.

    Now, yes, there are temporary jobs for 2 years--a couple thousand-- but the fact is we can have millions of jobs when we rebuild our infrastructure. We have 400 new jobs coming to the Imperial Valley in my home State because we have lithium there and they are going to start producing it. So 400 jobs, just one little project. This is 35 jobs for Americans. They have to be kidding. This is what they have for us, after all that blood, sweat, and tears during the election? I think that wasting another minute on the tar sands project doesn't make any sense.

    What we need is a multiyear surface transportation bill. We still have unemployed people in the construction industry. We have 600,000 construction workers who remain out of work. What are we giving them? We are giving them 2,000 temporary jobs and 35 permanent jobs? Let's do a highway bill. By the way, the trust fund is running dry and in 4 months will be completely dry. Let's step up to the plate and do our job, not do the job for the Canadian oil interests.

    I don't get it. I don't think it makes sense, because I know we have worked together on transportation projects. We are worried. Billions of dollars going to our States--whether it is Oklahoma, California, Nevada, east coast, west coast--the funding is going to be delayed or stopped. And all these short-term extensions the House did are absolutely irresponsible. It doesn't provide stability to our local governments, to our businesses.

    So we know what we have to do. We have to invest in our aging infrastructure. No country can be great if we don't have an infrastructure that moves people and moves goods. Again, 50 percent of our Nation's roads are in less than good condition and 63,000 bridges are structurally deficient. Let's do something for America. That is what we are here for; not to do something good for Canadian oil companies. Let's focus on what is good for the people.

    Now let's turn to this infrastructure project, the Keystone Pipeline. I want to say unequivocally--and I don't have any doubts because I resource everything I say--that from extraction to transportation to refining to [waste/waist] storage, misery follows the tar sands. That is the oil that gets put in the pipeline--the dirtiest oil. I think XL stands for extra lethal.

    So a pipeline is a pipeline. Fine. It is what we put in it. This is the filthiest, most polluted kind of oil. Tar sands oil contains levels of toxic pollutants and metals that are much higher than conventional crude oil--11 times more sulfur and nickel, 6 times more nitrogen, 5 times more lead than conventional crude oil. Who is saying that? Is it Barbara Boxer? No. Let me source it: The USGS, the U.S. Geological Survey, the heavy oil and natural bitumen resources in geological basins of the world--documented. Tar sands equal the dirtiest oil.

    Why do some of my Republican friends and some of my Democratic friends--I admit that; I know there are a few--want to rush to bring this filthy oil into our country? The only benefit is to the Canadian oil interests. The fact is we need less pollution, not more pollution.

    Now high levels of dangerous air pollutants and carcinogens have been documented downwind from the tar sands refineries. People in nearby communities are suffering higher rates and types of cancers, such as leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Again, is this me saying it? Some rightwing blog took me to task the last time I said it. They said, Oh, she was on the floor making stuff up. OK. Let's be clear. I am not making stuff up. I am telling the truth, and I am going to document it in every case: Significantly higher levels of volatile compounds and carcinogens were found downwind of tar sands processing facilities. There were elevated rates of cancers linked to these toxic chemicals, including leukemia and non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

    Where does this come from? Simpson, I.J., et al., air quality in the Industrial Heartland of Alberta, Canada and potential impacts on human health. Characterization of trace gases measured over Alberta oil sands mining operations: 76 speciated C2-C10 volatile organic compounds, and they list what they are. This is from two peer-reviewed papers.

    Is this what the Republicans do first? I thought we wanted to make people healthy. It is one thing to want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which now, in my State, has reduced the uninsured by close to 50 percent--that is bad enough. Now they want to bring in this oil and help the Canadian oil people and it is going to bring all of these carcinogens and all of this pollution to our country.

    We already know about the people from Port Arthur, TX, where they have these refineries. Look at this picture. A picture is worth a thousand words. I know that is a cliche, but it is a fact. I could try to explain to my colleagues what happens near the playground when this stuff is refined. One might say, Oh, that is nice, Barbara, but are you really making this up? No. Here it is. Look at it. They suffer asthma, respiratory ailments, skin irritations, and cancer. This is what happens, right near a playground. Now, there are some politicians down there saying, Bring it on. We want it. We like it. But talk to the real people there who live there with children. They have had enough of tar sands. They have had it up to here with them. They want none of it. Let's not forget about the waste. Once they burn all of this stuff, they have waste left over. It is called petcoke, petroleum coke. Look at this. This is what it looks like, as shown in this picture. It is stored in the Midwest. A lot of it is stored in the Midwest. What happens? In this photograph we can see it is not wet, so it can blow in the wind. Billowing black clouds have contaminated our children. They contain heavy metals. Children playing baseball have been forced off the field to seek cover from the clouds of black dust that pelted homes and cars.

    This happened. This is why my friend Senator Durbin is so concerned, because it happened to his Little League players in the Chicago area. When inhaled, these particles can increase the number and severity of asthma attacks. They can aggravate bronchitis--I am coughing just at the thought of it--lung disease. They reduce the body's ability to fight infections. Where does that come from? I will say it again. When inhaled, these particles can increase the number and severity of asthma attacks, cause or aggravate bronchitis and other lung diseases, and reduce the body's ability to fight infections. What is the source of that? California Air Resources Board, Air Pollution Particulate Matter brochure dated May 6, 2009.

    So I don't know how exposing Americans to this kind of pollution is in the national interests. I believe instead of waiving all of the environmental reports as my Republican friends do in their bill, they ought to call for more studies on the health impact of the tar sands oil so our families know what they are going to get with this pipeline.

    Also there are spills to worry about. Not only is the Keystone tar sands [[Page S157]] pipeline harmful to human health, it hurts environments and communities located near it, because if there is a spill, it is the toughest kind of oil to clean up. Here is the source for that: The EPA NEPA compliance comment letter, State Department. That is what they talk about.

    We have had spills at the tar sands--spills in Michigan, spills in Arkansas. If my colleagues don't believe me, ask those folks. Do my colleagues know in 2010 a pipeline ruptured and spilled over a million gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan? The local health department ordered the evacuation of 50 households and approximately 100 families were advised not to drink the water. The Michigan spill was the largest inland spill in U.S. history and more than 40 years and $1 billion later, it is not cleaned up.

    So wait a minute. Let's review. Republicans take over and the first bill they give us is the tar sands bill. The only people it helps, in my opinion, backed up by fact, are Canadian oil interests. The only jobs it creates permanently are 35 jobs. What it does to our health is a disaster, because the tar sands oil is the most toxic, dirty type of oil, and if there is a spill, it is the hardest to clean up. Who do we think is paying the $1 billion to clean up a tar sand spill in Michigan? I can tell my colleagues. It is probably most of the government. Maybe we are trying to collect some from the private sector.

    If my colleagues don't believe me about Michigan, let's turn to Mayflower, AR. This is a beautiful neighborhood of homes, as shown in this picture. This is filthy, dirty, disgusting oil and the camera is taking pictures of it. In 2013, 200,000 gallons of tar sands burst from a pipeline, because it is volatile. It burst from the pipeline and spilled into the streets of a subdivision. It forced the evacuation and abandonment of 22 homes--residents who were exposed to high levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, and hydrogen sulfide. People in this community--not some made-up, mystical community or mythical community-- in this community they suffered dizziness, nausea, headaches, respiratory problems, all classic symptoms of exposure to the chemicals found in the tar sands. So remember this picture and remember the picture of the filthy, dirty oil and the petcoke, because a picture tells a thousand words, and that is the picture my friends want to make a reality in America. Their first great bill, their first great contribution to the economy, 35 jobs. Please. We can do better. We can work together on a highway bill, on a transportation bill. We do so well on that. And we can add millions of jobs, especially in the construction industry.

    Now there is the issue of climate change. We know we are dealing with a lot of deniers on the other side of the aisle. They deny climate change is real. It doesn't matter what we tell them. July was the hottest month, August was the hottest month, and September was the hottest month in 2014.

    We know what is happening. The world knows what is happening. We have deniers here, so they deny any problem and they go rush to build the Keystone Pipeline. What will happen is the Keystone Pipeline will undermine our efforts to address climate change. The State Department's own analysis says a barrel of tar sands oil carried by the Keystone tar sands pipeline will create at least 17 percent more carbon pollution than domestic oil.

    Peer-reviewed research estimates that the increase in oil consumption caused by Keystone could result in up to 110 million metric tons of carbon pollution each year--four times the State Department's estimate. So this is even more than the State Department says. The source there is Erickson et al., ``Nature Climate Change.'' That is a peer-reviewed study as well. This is equivalent to carbon pollution adding 23 million new cars to the road or building 29 coal-fired powerplants. So the State Department is very modest in its projection. Even that is too much.

    Here is more. Here is the State Department. That is the 17 percent quote. And it could add up to an additional 27 million metric tons of carbon pollution each year. That is more of the State Department. This is their modest conclusion. We believe the peer-reviewed study shows it is far worse than even the State Department says.

    If you don't believe climate change is a problem, I am really sorry for your constituency because let me tell you what scientists are saying. And I am saying it is 98 percent of scientists. Let's be clear. Ninety-eight percent of scientists say climate change is real, and 2 percent say: We are not so sure. So my friends side with the 2 percent.

    Suppose one of my friends didn't feel well and went to the doctor, and the doctor said: I am sorry to tell you this, sir, but you have a cancer that is raging over your body, and we need to operate today.

    You say: I want a second opinion.

    That is good. You go get a second opinion.

    The second doctor says: Absolutely, you better get that operation.

    You say: Well, I want a third opinion.

    All right. I understand it. You go for a third opinion. Absolutely, those two doctors were right, but you keep going, and you get nine opinions that all say: Sir, you are a dead man if you don't get this operation. And then you find the 10th, and he says: You know, just go on a vegetarian diet, and you will be fine. If you listen to that one out of 10 doctors, there is something wrong with you.

    It is just like Big Tobacco. They did the same thing. They said: Oh, tobacco is fine, not a problem--until we realized there was a whole campaign by the big tobacco companies to turn us away from the fact that tobacco causes cancer. That is the truth. Guess what we found out. In a Union of Concerned Scientists expose, they found out that the same people who led that fight of tobacco denial are leading the fight of climate denial.

    If this was just going to hurt you, I say to my Republican friends rhetorically, I wouldn't care. I mean, I would be really sad and sorry if one of my friends went to the doctor and didn't listen to the best advice. But you know what. That hurts him. I would be miserable, and I would try to talk him out of it. But this is about my constituents and the people of this country. I have to say this is wrong. This is just wrong.

    This is an opportunity to bring the parties together. We could have done it around so many issues and in particular the highway bill. So common sense tells us this isn't the right thing to do. We are looking at unleashing this dirty, filthy oil. It is going to be harmful to our families' health. It is going to worsen the impact of climate change. It will not create the jobs we need to create.

    Again, I urge my colleagues vote no. It is not ready for prime time. There are going to be amendments that will reveal the fact that if we go forward with this, it is actually going to raise gas prices for Americans because all this stuff is going to be exported. Even the tar sands that are now currently in America--they are going to export it because of the world market. We are going to have amendments that are going to show that.

    This bill doesn't even have a ``Made in America'' amendment to it. We are going to offer that. Why don't we make this deal here? Why don't we put people to work here? That is not in this bill. This bill is not ready. This bill does not help us; this bill hurts us. I know my friends came here to make this country better. I think they think it helps. I don't question that. But if you look at all of the facts--and I have them lined up here, one after the other--whether it is the jobs impact, the health impact, who benefits, who gets hurt, it is pretty clear. It is on the record. All you have to do is look at it. Don't shop around for a doctor who will tell you this is a good deal because they have already spoken. It is not a good deal. We can do so much better.

    Because I think it is going to be a contentious debate, after this I hope we turn to the highway bill. My friend Jim Inhofe and I, who worked so well together, and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and across the Capitol on the other side, the House, can finally come together and do something that will send a strong signal to the American people that the election just ended, now let's govern. But when you bring things before the body that some of us feel are so detrimental to the American people, I am willing to vote on it at midnight. It is OK with me. We will vote at midnight and vote at 1 o'clock in the morning. I don't care what time we vote, but why are we taking this up? This is not what we should be doing.

    [[Page S158]] S. 1--I looked at some of the S. 1 bills the Democrats have put forward, and they mostly have to do with creating a lot of jobs or making sure there is equal pay for equal work or making sure the minimum wage is increased. We could be doing all of those things together.

    It is with pride that I stand here again for my State. It is with no animosity about the election. It was hard-fought and hard-won. But I believe this is an enormous mistake, and I will continue to stand on my feet as long as it takes to make the case as to why I think it is wrong and make the case where I think there is so much else we could do for the good of our people.

    I thank the Presiding Officer for his courtesy.

    I yield the floor.


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