U.S. Senate Confirms EPA Nominee Advances Commerce Nominee CSPAN February 17, 2017 1:59am-4:00am EST
quorum call: a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. ms. cantwell: mr. president, i ask the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. cantwell: mr. president, i could to the floor this morning to join my colleagues on speaking on the nomination of scott pruitt to be administrator of the e.p.a. like my colleagues who have been out here tonight, the great senator from the state of illinois, senator duckworth and my colleague from hawaii that preceded her, we're here to talk about the importance of our environment and what a critical
-- each of our regions of the united states. certainly you can say for the state of washington, the environment is our economy, the beautiful aspects of our clean water, the resources of our beautiful mountains, and wonderful streams. puget sound itself, our mountains that so many of my colleagues ask me about. these are all assets that make washington state a great place to live and work and recreate in. and our companies would tell you that one of the great things they have in recruiting people to the state of washington is that it is a competitive advantage to say our business is located in washington. people understand what that means to the quality of life and to the opportunities for those workers. so it is with that in mind that i rise in strong opposition to this nomination. i had a chance earlier today or i should say yesterday to
discuss mr. pruitt and to discuss some of my concerns that i have with his role as administrator in oklahoma in the attorney general's slot. and also his nomination process which many of my colleagues tonight -- this morning i should say have brought up his record, what that record represents, and their concerns about his answers to very important questions. mr. president, this is about stewardship and stewardship is about how we're going to manage our resources and apply the law of clean air and clean water to protect not just this generation of americans but future generations of americans. and mr. pruitt's poor environmental record in my opinion he's choosing to side with those companies that have been polluters of clean water and failed to protect in an aggressive way the important
public health issues that were before people in his state. obviously there's a big discussion tonight, my colleagues have been out here discussing it, whether there is a transparent fashion in oklahoma about his ability to discuss with them his failures or his successes, if you will, in a public process. that's why people have been demanding these e-mails because these important cases are things that not only now the people of oklahoma deserve a right to have answers to but people here in the united states senate as we consider his nomination. so i join my colleague from hawaii in saying what's the rush? what's the rush to push forward somebody on a director for something that is about the stewardship of our air and water, something that is going to be important not to just our generation but future generati generations, and we want an e.p.a. director who is going to
protect that. that's what we want to know. are you going to be an aggressive steward for future generations? you know, i had an opportunity a couple of years ago to hear one of the great authors who's written all these books about economics, and he was talking about the great implosion of the economy in 2008, 2009. and his point was that was going to cost future generations, not just this generation, but maybe three generations of americans were going to be affected by that big great recession of our economy. well, mr. president, it's the same issue tonight. our future environment is going to be impacted not just for today but future generations by what the next e.p.a. administrator does, because it is so critical that we recognize the important need for clean air and clean water now and take
steps to be aggressive about it. this is something that's important to our state because it's affecting us economically. it's affecting us with water and ocean acidification, challenging our seafood industry and our food chain, and it's challenging us with wildfires. so we want to make sure that we have an e.p.a. director who's going to do their job. and in my opinion mr. pruitt has ignored big polluters and discharge and drinking water in oklahoma. he has in my opinion not been strong enough on the big oil and big mining companies in an attempt to undermine what is e.p.a. law. that is as attorney general tried to undermine the laws that are already on the federal books so it leaves my colleagues and i questioning how would he ever stand up for those laws if he spent so much time trying to undermine them. and he's helped organize strategies in discussions about
how to over i guess aggressively stop the e.p.a. from doing its job. and they used an example of the pebble mine. the pebble mine is a mine that companies are proposing in alaska at the headwaters of the largest sock eye salmon run in the world or one of the most important sock eye salmon -- sockeye salmon runs in the world. as an e.p.a. director when you're supposed to be protectioning water, is he going to side with the mining companies? is he going to be the kind of person that's going to help us stand up for clean water so we can have salmon in the west coast or is he going to join with those who think that you can degradate the environment and still preserve these incredible resources? so i know that people think that mr. pruitt in his statements about climate change are
important. i agree because part of that stewardship on clean air is basically implementing and carrying forward on strategies to make sure that polluters reduce pollution in our air quality and that we come up with a plan to diversify off of that pollution. i should say his job is not that but it's clearly to call out what the supreme court has said is implementation of the clean air act. so my colleagues i think are failing to recognize that mr. pruitt's hesitancy on this issue is really going to cause problems or challenges for us here in the united states senate. it's going to cause challenges for us to move ahead when we are seeing so much impact. i know my colleague from maine and i, senator collins, have asked the g.a.o. for analysis of
what climate is costing us. what's the impacts of climate change costing us? why did we ask for that letter almost a year ago? because we are seeing devastating impacts in the shellfish industry, in the timber industry, in various as pets of our economy as it relates to that. so i know that the tulsa world basically has said that scientists -- that this is what mr. pruitt has said, that scientists have continued to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connections to the actions of mankind. that's what he said in the newspaper in oklahoma. i know several of my colleagues tonight have further discussed exactly this issue. but the u.s. has made great strides to reduce carbon dioxide and we need to have someone
who's going to be aggressive about doing more work. these consequences for us have been everything from extreme weather patterns to impact on water quality which causes impacts to our salmon, to drought conditions which a lot of legislation through various committees have been discussing exactly what to do about the drought situation in washington, oregon, california. i'm sure it's going to continue into many other states. and it's impacting even the chemistry of puget sound, something i'll get into in a minute with ocean acidification. so to have somebody who doesn't get how aggressive that we have to be on addressing these issues is very problematic. it is an economic issue. i'd like to say as i mentioned earlier it's about just good stewardship because it's about
future generations and whether someone did their job in leaving this place to the next generation, but it is also about economic issues. mr. pruitt failed to be accountable as attorney general in releasing e-mails that is so much of the discussion today about his nomination. during his confirmation hearing, he repeatedly failed to answer questions and he told senators submit an open request to the attorney general's office, his own office. so it's as if mr. pruitt is taunting our colleagues not answering the questions about his policy hoping that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle and on this side of the aisle will support him, even though he won't give us answers on his policies and then say, well, if you want to know, you can submit an open records request.
well, we have. people have. we want the answers and a court today has said let's give people those answers. so question don't have those answers today and yet my colleagues want to rush to have his nomination pushed through when something as important as the environment is at stake. on average oklahoma state government agencies complied with their open records request within 68 days. that was the average. yet mr. pruitt as attorney general took over two years. so a few weeks ago when a lawsuit was filed against mr. pruitt on this very issue, the suit requested that he respond to nine open records requesting for as many as 3,000 e-mails. and as i just said, yesterday a judge said that he has to turn over those records, those
documents and has to do so by tuesday. so it's not a long time to wait. it's not a long time to discuss the concerns that our colleagues have with this position. in fact, i'd be happy to come back on wednesday and make sure we have consideration then, giving people time till tuesday. but people are pushing us to vote for this nomination tomorrow. or i should say today at this hour. so what do my colleagues not want to see in the pruitt e-mails? what is it that they don't want to know? attorney general pruitt has been part of close to 30
antienvironmental legal actions. is that what they don't want to see? i know one of my colleagues has said he's going to make polluters pay. he's going to assure that these issues are implemented. he sued the federal e.p.a. 14 times. he fought the cross state air pollution rule. he fought the regional haze rule. he fought the clean air standards for oil and gas production sites. he fought the clean water rule. he fought the mercury rule twice. and he fought the clean power plan four times. so are my colleagues interested in giving this job to someone who has fought the e.p.a. and tried to stop them from making sure take polluters pay? this is what the responsibility of the environmental protection agency is, to make sure that we
have good stewardship. in one case attorney general pruitt failed to pursue philip 66 refinery in an oklahoma city which the e.p.a. found was one of the worst polluting refineries in the entire country. philip 66 in this case impacted ground water. that was the pollution in this case. and yet scott pruitt failed to enforce the environmental laws there. as attorney general scott pruitt has been i think absent in other cases. there was a ground water case, pollution by halliburton. where was the attorney general in that case? in another case in bethany, the city's water wells were impacted by a toxic plume of chemicals
that impacted access to safe drinking water. this case is still going on but the attorney general failed to step in and protect those citizens. so this is what we want to understand, given what attorney general pruitt said in his testimony, ask for request, get the e-mails, see the positions. so that's what we have done. and as we can see from his record, he knew very well it took a long time, that he had every tool to make this a very hard process for people to get the answers. and yet, we now are within days of having those answers, and my colleagues want to go ahead and vote. during his confirmation hearing, mr. pruitt was asked to identify lawsuits he filed against private companies in oklahoma for violation of pollution laws. and despite these, mr. pruitt could think of these examples i
just mentioned. mr. pruitt could think of only one specific instance in which he filed the settlement after his predecessor completed an investigation in how a dozen or so poultry producers illegally disposed of animal waste. so let's take a closer look at that case. the poultry companies in the northeast corner of oklahoma were not properly disposing of 300,000 tons of animal waste per year. the attorney general pruitt's predecessor had sued the companies for damages caused by pollution and forced the companies to change disposal practices, but mr. pruitt in this case rather than advocating for the judge to make a ruling, he negotiated an agreement with the companies to do a study on the appropriate levels of
phosphorous in the illinois river. so while some might say, well, isn't that a good step, he let the agreement expire that was already in place to reduce that waste and did not seek a former extension. he shut down the environmental unit that helped start the lawsuit against those companies. this unit was in charge of making sure that agriculture waste cleanup millions of dollars to clean up those toxic sites were in place, and yet, he'd let that expire. so i have great concerns whether he is going to be aggressive about these issues all across the united states. is he going to work to make sure that these laws that are on the books already are continued to be implemented?
is he going to fight to make sure that clean air and clean water, the rights of the citizens here in our country, are preserved and preserved for future generations? now, i noticed in oklahoma, there was question 777, a ballot, a ballot measure. and on that ballot measure was oklahoma's right to farm statute that was proposed by the oklahoma legislature. if the voters in oklahoma approved it, it would have created an amendment to the oklahoma constitution prohibiting the legislature from enacting laws restricting agriculture production unless laws were needed to advance a compelling state interest. i think this is a very interesting demonstration of how people are trying to use a process just like the house colleagues are sending us over a reg reform bill that they're
going to hide behind regulatory reform when in reality they are trying to curtail clean water and clean air rules. well, the people of oklahoma were a little smarter than that. right to farm laws are not uncommon, and they are currently variations in 50 states, but many such statutes, including oklahoma's current law, protect farmers and ranchers from nuisance claims as long as they operate in acceptable practices. so this question that was put on the ballot to oklahomans went further than the right to farm law. it would have amended their state constitution. the state constitution holds a higher authority than these state statutes. so if that initiative was enacted, it would have guaranteed that agriculture can engage in farming practices without interference from the legislature, and it would even have prohibited the public from
suits. can you imagine that? i know that that's what some of these proponents of these issues want. they want to do whatever they want on the land, whether it impacts the neighbors or it impacts clean air or clean water, and they just want to keep moving it forward. so mr. pruitt was in support of question 777, and he talked about the intrusive rules, quote, intrusive rules from government regulators that often fail to achieve the stated health, safety and environmental goals. well, we know that we want to have a balance. we can have jobs, we can have agriculture, and we can have environmental stewardship. and i think that we in
washington work very hard to achieve that. drought issues like we are experiencing in the yakima basin got everybody to the table. farmers, native americans, fishermen, everybody instead of trying to pass initiatives like this, which, by the way, failed in oklahoma, people have said we need to work together in these challenging times of a changing climate and work in which we can preserve what's most important to all of us, and they have done a good job in doing that. so what we're looking for is an administrator who's going to help in that process. we're going to continue to make sure that we live up to these laws that are on the books and
help in what is a challenging time of drought and environmental impact. of attorney general pruitt's 14 cases against e.p.a., 13 of those suits were joined by the fossil fuel industry. so the attorney general had been known to send letters to federal agencies that basically were identical to what the fossil fuel industry letters were. that is as attorney general he wasn't making his case, he was just making the case for the fossil fuel industry. so the c.e.o. of continental resources, a top oil producer in the united states, even their organizations basically are
trying to push mr. pruitt during his time as attorney general instead of standing up for clean air and clean water, and we want to know that what he's going to do in this new job is work with members here in the united states senate on continuing to implement the law. now, one of the best examples of what i would expect him to do is to continue the good work of the federal government in protecting salmon. of particular importance, as i mentioned earlier, the issue of pebble mine. during his time as attorney general, scott pruitt, as i said, planned the, quote, summit on federalism and the future of fossil fuels.
that's a pretty interesting task to take if you were the attorney general of a state, the summit on federalism and the future of fossil fuels. that summit brought together energy executives with the attorney general to strategize against what they thought was so-called e.p.a. regulation and how to defeat it. and one of the key examples they brought up was the environmental protection agency's efforts to protect bristol bay, alaska, from a proposed mine that is called pebble mine. pebble mine is a proposed large hard rock mine, as i mentioned earlier, in the headwaters of bristol bay. each year, nearly 40 million sockeye salmon return to bristol bay, and in total, bristol bay supports 29 species of fish,
including five north american salmon species. that is why bristol bay is called one of the greatest fisheries on earth. bristol bay supports $1.5 million of sockeye salmon fisheries which provide 14,000 jobs throughout the pacific northwest. even my colleague, the late ted stevens, was opposed to the pebble mine. i think he knew the great resource and the importance of bristol bay. this fishery and the people in that fishery and the tribes of bristol bay petitioned the e.p.a. to evaluate the impact of the proposed pebble mine and what it could do to salmon. in 2014, after years of research, e.p.a. finalized a
science-based assessment of the pebble mine called the bristol bay watershed assessment. and this assessment found that pebble mine posed a direct threat to bristol bay salmon. i'm not sure this is a picture of bristol bay salmon, but this is definitely an iconic symbol of what we're talking about here tonight. the thousands of jobs in our state rely on salmon and the subsistent culture of native americans also rely on bristol bay salmon. that's why so many people weighed in at meetings with e.p.a. and agencies in various parts of the northwest to talk about this issue, because so many jobs would be impacted. that mine would destroy up to 9g
streams, devastate up to 5,000 acres of wetlands, create $10 billion in toxic mine waste. so you can imagine my concern when the attorney general of oklahoma decided he was going to take a very lenient attitude on animal waste and holds a session trying to basically figure out ways to disrupt e.p.a.'s questioning and assertion about bristol bay, how far he's going to go as e.p.a. administrator to basically have a negative impact on our salmon economy. he could have said it was just a session and i support e.p.a.'s actions, but that's not the message we're receiving. the toxic mine waste that would exist at bristol bay would contaminate massive amounts of
areas behind the second largest dam in the area, and that mine waste would be there in perpetuity in bristol bay. so the science was really clear. the pebble mine was in the wrong place and it was the wrong idea. large mining companies have come to that same con collusion, and just a few weeks ago a report was issued that said pebble mine is not, quote, commercially viable, end quote. that's because of the tremendous costs that are associated with it, the risks associated with it. and after the e.p.a. assessment found that salmon were at risk from the pebble mine, i definitely want to make sure that bristol bay salmon are protected forever. and the e.p.a. had the authority to basically use a section of
the clean water act to make sure those bristol bay salmon were protected. that's what i expect. that's what i expect after public hearings, an open process, using the authority. why would it be a good idea to let a mine be located at the headwaters of one of the most important salmon runs in the world? why would we do that? and yet, mr. pruitt took time to join an effort to say how can we overturn e.p.a.'s efforts here? i need an e.p.a. administrator who is going to stand up for our environment in the pacific northwest and protect us on clean air and clean water. it's critical that those individuals who were proposing
this mine continue to be thwarted. and while the e.p.a. has been close to making sure there is permanent protection, i'm very concerned that this e.p.a. administrator could start all over again. that's something we can't afford. we cannot have an e.p.a. administrator who is on the wrong side of the pebble mine issue. they need to protect northwest salmon. now, i'd also like to talk about another threat to our environment, to our fishing economy, that is certainly happening today and why, why we need an e.p.a. administrator not to be spending their time joining forces with polluters figuring out ways to avoid law but figuring out ways to implement the clean air act that
the supreme court says we must follow through on. last year attorney general pruitt stated that there is a disagreement about whether or not human activity has had an impact on climate, and when he was pressed on this issue during his hearing, he continued to question scientific facts. he said he believed that climate change is irrelevant to his role as e.p.a. administrator. well, i disagree. climate change is not a future hypothetical issue. we are seeing it today and we are seeing it in our state. now, our fishermen want to continue the great legacy that
we have had in our fishing traditions. and we're going to get to why this picture is affected by what i'm going to talk about next. but we want to continue to have a northwest fishery. we want to continue to have the quality of our environment and food chain that is going to allow us to have a robust fishery in the northwest. i think our fisheries can be cited as some of the best managed fisheries in the entire world. that's how good we are at it. that's how scientific we are at it. that's how collaborative we are at it. that's how much hard work has been put in to stewardship and mapging the resource -- managing the resource and making sure that the job still exists. i will match that with any other part of the united states or this planet, the northwest fisheries is managed well. but they are being challenged. they are being challenged by the
fact that our climate is changing and take the oceans absorb 25% of the carbon dioxide emissions which has resulted basically in the changing of the chemistry in our waterways. i don't know if we have that number. that's right. the oceans absorb 25% of the carbon emissions. so basically they become this sink for the emissions. we have scientists who are out on the peninsula studying this very issue, studying what -- not for us in the fort west. they're -- northwest. they're studying it for the entire united states. it's part of our national laboratory system. they're looking at this very important issue and the challenges that we face from it. the fact that this -- the oceans have become this sink for that carbon has made the rate of
ocean acidification ten times faster than anything we've seen on earth in the last 50 years. in puget sound, that means that ocean acidification has resulted in massive die offs of young oysters, juvenile shellfish cannot survive if these corrosive waters, and their shells actually dissolve. i don't know -- we have a picture of that. so this economy for us is in the hundreds of millions of dollars, the shellfish industry. and a few years ago we were successful in getting some very minor -- i think it was in the -- definitely, definitely thousands of dollars to make sure that we helped that industry figure out what was happening because the shells
weren't forming. and we were able to see that ocean acidification was having such a corrosive impact, we helped the industry figure out what a better time for seeding was to get to a point where those extreme conditions weren't having their most devastating impact. but this dieoff in 2005 caused major plummeting of the shellfish industry. and it employs over 3,000 people in the state of washington. i have met shellfish growers that are fourth generation shellfish growers in our state. and so this way of life around puget sound is important to us. you can go here to probably a dozen restaurants -- i'm sure you could go across the street to johnny's half shell and order a product if washington state --
from washington state. it would be one of the premier products on the menu. but we have to fight to keep this industry. we have to make smart decisions about our environment. we have to make good stewardship decisions or those four generations of shellfish growers are not growing to be here anymore. and the pollution that is coming from carbon into our water is creating a big deal. how big a deal is it? well, it's a big enough deal to put on the front page of the saddle times above -- seattle times above the fold and probably not just once. probably several times. why? because we live and have a huge population around the shores of something called puget sound. so almost everyone, everyone there understands the importance of clean water and a healthy environment to protect this
maritime economy and to make the right decisions moving forward. so we don't want to see what happened in 2005 and in 2006. we don't want to see that. we want to see more of our shellfish actually be able to survive in the seeding process. and we want to continue to be smart about this. this is where the science question comes in. if we have an e.p.a. administrator that doesn't believe that this impact is happening, if he's going to thwart efforts to do the research and use the science, if he's going to spend more time trying to thwart these laws than implement strategies for the impact of climate change, we're not going to be successful economically. we need censors. why were we successful in
turning the situation around with the shellfish industry and making sure? it's because we were able to locate buoys in the water to give us data information about these warming temperatures, what problems it was causing, and come up with a strategy to lessen the impact of acidification. they measured our waters and how to modify growing practices. that's basically what they did. but if you're de denying that ts is even happening or it's having this impact and you're not planning for it, you're not going to go out and help our growers strategize for the future. they use that real time information to increase the production from the 20% that it was to 70%. without that data in collaboration with places like noaa, our shellfish industry would have continued to just decline. so i need an e.p.a. administrator who is going to support monitoring, that they
are going to understand this impact and do something about it. why did i have that other picture? i'm not asking that we bring it back up but why did i have the other picture? because ocean acidification as i mentioned basically dissolves the shells of those important prey she shes we call -- species we call tara pods. not only if i talking about the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars associated with the shell industry, if you have so much carbon sinking into our waters that you destroying this part of the food chain, it impacts the rest of the food chain. it impacts all the way up the species, including salmon, herring, mackerel, and other species. so this is why we have to have an e.p.a. administrator who is going to follow science and be
aggressive at protecting these issues. last month a new study published by scientists at the university of washington and noaa found that even done done dungeonous b are at risk because of these tarapods. i think that might have been -- yeah, that's what it says right there, scientists fear ocean acidification will drive the collapse of alaska's iconic crab fishery. thank you. thank you, "seattle times." that's what this is about. are we going to leave it up to the newspapers of america to describe the scientific impact of what's happening so that we can force people whose job it is to be the stewards here to do their jobs? they should be the leaders, the people we put in this position. they should be the ones who lead
our nation in protecting our most valuable resources and making sure that these pristine areas that we need for our economy, for our quality of life, for our recreation are there. and we need an e.p.a. director who's going to be aggressive about that. so that's a little preview of this issue and what it looks like in the state of washington but this climate issue as i mentioned my colleague from maine and i joined forces -- actually we joined forces probably six or seven years ago on this issue when the senator from maine was aggressive about pushing legislation asking federal agencies to make sure that they had a response to climate change. i think the senator from maine probably saw then how important this issue was and it was legislation we actually passed out of the commerce committee.
i don't think it actually it was implemented into law but it was a very good directive at saying to agencies this is going to impact us and what is your mitigation plan. we in the commerce committee had held a hearing about this because what we were finding is that a huge part of the u.s. economy definitely was a very high number, maybe as much as 50% was driven by states with coastal economies. a report was issued about how all of these changes impact sea level rising, impact in ocean acidification, all of these things were going to impact these coastal economies and thereby have a dramatic effect on the u.s. economy. and just because it might not be front and center, for example, for somebody from oklahoma, it was going to become very front and center for the u.s. economy
if we didn't have a mitigation plan and do something about it. and this report was a heralding call for the u.s. to wake up to this issue. and i'll never forget that hearing because the actress sigourney weaver was there to testify. she was there to testify because she really wanted to make the point about how important these issues were as it related to our waters and the impact. and you would think a brilliant actress like sigourney weaver would steal the show. you would think her testimony before commerce committee would be -- that would be it. that would be the news of the day. that's what would be written about. but it was actually a particularrerman from a southern coastal -- fisherman from a southern coastal state who stole the show because he spoke about how his job was threatened, how
fisheries were threatened, how if we don't protect our oceans and our air, how we are going to have devastating effects on our fisheries, and this gentleman whose family and livelihood was depended upon it spoke in such an unbelievable meaningful way he upstained her -- upstaged her. so this isn't something we're just coming at because president trump has nominated scott pruitt. this is something we're going to fight for every single day because it's important that our nation have a response to it. and so my colleague from maine was on it a long time ago. she said let's make sure that every agency is going to have a plan for what we're going to do about mitigation and impact as a result of climate. so as i mentioned just recently
in the last year or so, she and i joined and sent a letter to g.a.o. asking them to actually give us an estimate across the whole federal government. what is going to be the cost and impact of these changes to climate on our economy and the federal government? this is a very important answer to have from the g.a.o. because my guess is they're going to show that it costs a lot of money. it's not surprising to me because i have seen it in my own state with catastrophic wildfires that have burned up hundreds of thousands of acres of land and had an unbelievable cost to the federal government. we're trying to come up with a better separate just. we can't get our house colleagues to engage in a serious energy bill process. hopefully someday we will get them to understand that the senate in a bipartisan fashion did its homework and had a
proposal. but these issues aren't going away. next summer, there will be some part of the united states that will be in the hot spot again, and instead of making sure that we're addressing that, some of our colleagues just want to ignore it just like they're ignoring mr. pruitt's e-mails or his answers to these important questions. that's a northwest view. let's look at other parts of the country on ocean acidification. here's an example of a reef, coral reef in the state of florida. in 2016, the university of miami published a study which found that biscayne bay coral reefs are already suffering the impacts of ocean acidification. well, i would expect that coral reefs in florida are probably as important to their economy as
salmon is to our economy. i say that just because i know people go to visit those coral reefs. actually, they are reefs, according to economic analysis, are worth over $7.6 billion. $7.6 billion. that's what coral reefs are worth, apparently, due to their importance in recreational and commercial fisheries and tourism. $7.6 billion. everybody wants to stand up for the fossil fuel industry because they have jobs, but they forget the jobs that are related because of our environment and how important it is to our economy. so in this particular picture, we are seeing the devastating impacts and changes of this coral reef in just a very short period of time. this upper picture is taken in 1976.
a very vibrant coral reef. i think this is an area where there has been a lot of discussion about. i'm not exactly sure where carysfort reef is, but i think there has been a lot of discussion here in the senate about making sure people have access to it or what ways in which the public can enjoy this particular site. but when i look at this picture and i look at the devastating impact that we see on this coral reef, i -- i question what our strategy is to preserve what is an important recreational and commercial asset to florida. what is our strategy? and when i think about an e.p.a. administrator, are they going to act now in balancing this issue and making sure that things like the clean power plan that is saying to polluters you must
reduce pollution, are they going to do that so the fishermen and so the recreators and those who believe in the beauty of the coral reefs in florida are just like the washingtonians in my state that go out and recreate on puget sound and want to fish salmon and want to make sure that our fishing economy stays strong. are they going to have an administrator who is going to do this? i can tell you next summer i guarantee you there are going to be unbelievable discussions about fishing in the pacific northwest. why? because there is going to be an impact on salmon, and everybody's going to want to fish. commercial fishermen, sports fishermen, everybody's going to want to fish. and unless we have an e.p.a. administrator and a noaa administrator and people who are implementing great strategies, we are not going to be successful because these events of pollution are impacting our areas. and i can see here that it's
impacting florida's economy the same way. so, mr. president, during an interview with scott pruitt's pretty assessor, the former attorney general, drew edmondson who served until 2001, stated, quote, under his tenure as attorney general, i don't think environmental crimes have disappeared. i'm sorry. quote, this is what he's saying, under his tenure as attorney general, i don't think environmental crimes have just disappeared. it is just the filing of cases alleging environmental crimes that have disappeared. end quote. so i think that's somebody who knows something about this. i have constituents, though, who are also writing and
communicating to me about these issues, about whether they think mr. pruitt is the right person to be e.p.a. administrator. and one of my constituents -- too many charts. too many charts. it's not surprising that i'm -- that we have a quote here from one of my constituents from poulsbo, washington, because i just talked about the puget sound economy. i just talked about this economy. puget sound is town after town of communities with fishermen who go out and take advantage of
that economy within our waters and also go as far away as alaska to fish. and so i'm not surprised that somebody from kitsap county has written in to "the kitsap sun" and basically said i voted for trump but i certainly did not vote for a government takedown of my state's most important asset, our water and our economy. that doesn't surprise me that that's what somebody in kitsap county said. not somebody in poulsbo. you should just go look it up, if people are listening. if anybody is there listening tonight to this from other parts of the united states. go look up poulsbo, washington. a beautiful community that is all about what puget sound can deliver for us. and they will be the first part of our state to tell you what ocean acidification is doing in
hood cam to impact our fisheries. they'll be the first people. they know, because this has been part of their livelihood. so, mr. president, i want to close tonight -- this morning, i should say, with just saying i hope our colleagues will at least consider the facts that we are raising concerns because we have great concerns about our economy of the future, and that economy of the future depends on clean air and clean water and an administrator who is going to fight to implement the law. we need an administrator that is going to be there, not on the side of the polluters but on the side of the people. in dealing with some of the thorniest environmental problems because of the change in climate that this country has ever seen.
and we want someone who is going to use that science and information to help provide the stewardship for future generations. i don't think that is mr. pruitt, and i ask my colleagues to help turn down his nomination and to move forward forward -- at least look at his e-mails so we know exactly what we're dealing with and can make sure that our country is going to continue to be committed to these men and women who work in this resource economy and depend so much on clean water. i thank the president, and i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
mr. whitehouse: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the pending quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. whitehouse: thank you, mr. president. there is a lot that we don't know about scott pruitt. we know that thousands of
e-mails between this man and the industry that he is supposed to be regulating as e.p.a. administrator have been suppressed by him for years. we know that just yesterday, a court found that suppression of his e-mails unreasonable, an abject failure of his duties under the law to disclose. those ought to be alarm bells for the side of the aisle that is forcing, jamming this nomination through. he told us that he couldn't get these e-mails releaseed for more than two years, and the court
ordered him to release the first chunk tuesday, just days from now. the second big chunk, ten days from now. so clearly, there has been some mischief here, when on the one hand this office pretends that it can't get the e-mails out for more than two years and a court looks at the situation and says no, you make them available tuesday. that's not a sign of good things. the second is that this is a guy who as part of his political money operation, a political money operation that was heavily funded by big fossil fuel industry players, about whose carbon emissions he will be making vital decisions as e.p.a.
administrator. so far, his relationship with them have been to take their money and to be their lawyer. that's not a good start either. for e.p.a. administrator. but here's the other thing that we don't know. we don't know about his dark money operation. the rule of law defense fund, the whole reason you set up something like that is to hide the source of money that you use in politics. that's why the entity exists. it's to take groups like this and launder their identity right off them so that when money shows up, for instance, at the republican attorney general association, it isn't attached to devon energy, it isn't attached to exxonmobil, it isn't attached to murray energy, to
the koch brothers or their front groups freedom partners or americans for prosperity, it ist atafd to the company whose billionaire president was their finance chairman for their campaign, it isn't attached to continental resources and southern company and other big energy companies. it just comes out o out of rulew defense fund. the identity has been scrubbed a way. it is an identity laundering machine. the relationships that are forged when you're asking people for hundreds of thousands of dollars, a million dollars a year was the budget for rule of law defense fund, if you're asking that kind of money from these people, it's elementary that the senate should know about that. but our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have completely stonewalled this.
zero inquiry into the dark money operation of this individual. why is that? that's pretty unusual. why were we not allowed to get these e-mails? why were we told, oh, you'll have to line up behind everybody else in this foia line that i've maintained for two years. and that was an adequate answer to the majority on the e.p.w. committee. when the judge who took a look at that same situation said, no, you get them tuesday. if the chairman had said, no, you get them tuesday, we wouldn't be having this problem. we would have seen them weeks and weeks and weeksing a. -- weeks and weeks and weeks ago. but all the pressure, all of the pressure from the majority on this nominee has been to cover up this stuff, don't let it in, nothing to see here, folks, move
along, move along. that's not right. that's not the way the senate should behave. that's not consistent with our advice and consent responsibilities. and, frankly, it sets up republican senators, if and when it ultimately does come out that there is significant mischief exposed in those e-mails or there are significant conflicts of interest created by that dark money operation, the senate does not look great for having used its energy and effort in this nomination to cover that stuff up. there is a doctrine called willful blindness, which is the wrongful intention to keep one's self deliberately unaware of something. it's a culpable state of mind in civil and criminal law.
that is the state of mind that is being maintained by the majority with respect to this individual. and one has to wonder why. one has to wonder why. why are there these big things that we don't know about scott pruitt? i.t. not that -- it's not that we didn't ask. it's that we got told by the majority, run along, it doesn't matter. you'll have no support us from. we're going to clear this guy anyway. it doesn't matter if his answers to you make no sense. it doesn't matter if his answers aren't truthful. it doesn't matter if his answers put you at the end of a long foia line. none of that matters. just by one point of evaluation, the differences that when -- the difference is that when the united states senate committee on the environment and public works looked at this, they said run along, nothing here, we're not interested, don't show us a single e-mail. and the judge looking at it said, get them out tuesday.
a local state judge. since when the double standard in which senators are deprived of seeing highly relevant evidence? what's being covered up and why? and why? who is pulling the strings around here so that these obvious questions don't get answered when you put it side by side with a state court proceeding asking the same questions and the questions get answered like that? something is rotten in denmark. well it hasn't fooled rhode islanders. my correspondence is running about 50-1 against scott pruitt, over 1,000 rhode islanders have written in against him. let me just read a couple of
their communications with me. this is from amanda tarswell. as a member of the committee on environment and public works, i urge you to do all you can, all you can, she says, to block mr. pruitt's nomination as the head of the a. -- e.p.a. my grandfather clarence tarswell worked for the e.p.a. and opened the e.p.a. lab in narragansett. narragansett is a rhode island town, mr. president. it's located on tarswell drive in his honor. he's now deceased, but i believe in the work he did. and the necessity to protect our environment and continue to work on climate change. please do everything you can to urge your fellow committee members on both sides of the aisle to do the same. thank you. the next is -- wcialtion her
name is right in the letter. my name is cassie whipple. aim 23-year-old woman with a bachelor of science degree in wildlife and conservation biology from the university of rhode island. i am writing to respectfully demand you vote no on the approval of scott pruitt for administrator of the environmental protection agency. it is extremely clear that pruitt is the wrong -- all caps -- choice to head the e.p.a. as someone with an extensive education in environmental sciences, conservation, wildlife and plant biology, chemistry, and physics, i am deeply concerned with pruitt's capabilities. a climate change skeptic with no formal science-based education, pruitt has zero concept of what it takes to make informed decisions about the current and future states of our environment. rhode island is leading the country in many environmental fields, such as renewable energy, environmental protection, and sustainable
agriculture, and aquaculture. we can't allow a climate change skeptic with a love affair with fossil fuels to make important decisions regarding our precious environment and those working hard to protect it. i urge you to vote no on the approval of scott pruitt for administrator of the environmental protection agency. katherine white wrote in, i have a special concern for the upcoming vote on the e.p.a. director scott pruitt. i know you're on the committee for environment and public works. so you are more informed than most people, although as i just explained, we are deliberately underinformed in some very telling ways. so you are informed than 0 most people and i trust that you are unlikely to vote contrary to the interests of our beautiful and environmentally unique coastal state. among other things i do i am a sailing instructor in edgewood in cranston. cranston is another one of our municipalities, mr. president. i've been sailing in the upper
bay for about 10 years. even in that amount of time, the bay is noticeably cleaner. the water is clearer and there are more birds and fish and crabs and other creatures that signify through my direct experience that the environment is healthier in the upper bay. my anecdotal evidence is confirmed from the university of rhode island over the summer that narragansett bay is cleaner now than it has been in 150 years. wonderful. i would be very sorry to see that trend reversed. i'm old enough to remember what it was like before the e.p.a. and i do not want to go back to smog-filled skies, polluted waters, and tragedies like love canal and woburn's poisoned well water. if it were not for the e.p.a. and groups like save the bay that the upper bay would have become more toxic and polluted due to industrial use, sewage, rainwater runoff, pesticides and
road salt. i believe that the e.p.a. regulations have been good for business. because pollution is ultimately wasteful and counterproductive, clean businesses often are efficient and therefore more successful businesses. look at the careful reutilization of materials by companies like apple and their profitability by going further than required. they are nearly carbon inform neutral at this -- carbon-neutral at this point. clearly they are not afraid of being environmentally responsible. charise wrote in, as a concerned citizen of rhode island and america, regarding president trump nomination of scott pruitt, i believe deeply this is not the person for the job. there is nothing in his background that suggests that he has any interest in protecting american citizens and their health and environment from harm. i have never i think weren any of my congressional representatives until today.
i remember the air quality in rhode island in the late 1960's and through the 1970's plus. those visible brown clouds, especially in the summer. as pollution and smog drifted from new york over connecticut towards rhode island. i remember the pollution in our beautiful narragansett bay. i see the changes ocean rise has already effected. climate change is real and it is scientifically accepted across the world. i'm deeply troubled by mr. pruitt's statements and legal actions he has instigated against this agency. i'm asking you to take a stand for the health of the citizens of rhode island and the american people. please vote no when the votes are called for mr. scott pruitt's nomination. and here's the last one i'll read from judith gray. as a retired federal scientist, meteorologist, i am deeply concerned that the e.p.a. continue to be an agency that makes decisions about our
environment that are based on the best science available. scott pruitt has a record of supporting policies that are pro-business at the expense of the environment, despite what the science shows. how can he possibly be considered as the voice that will fight for clean air and clean water? despite excellent progress over my lifetime, pollution continues to be a major problem for the air we breathe and the water that sustains us. please join the voices on the hill that block the appointment of scott pruitt as e.p.a. administrator. thank you. well, i wish we could block the appointment of scott pruitt as e.p.a. administrator. it is really rare to see a nominee for a federal agency who is as unqualified, indeed as disqualified by conflict of interest as this individual. and the idea that he is being jammed through, just as
thousands of e-mails are going to be released about him -- between him and his big funders and the groups that they funded him through -- something is wrong, mr. president. this isn't the way the senate should behave. and the people on that side who are being asked to vote, taking all of this mystery, all of this mischief, all of the e-mails, all of the dark money and being told, don't even look at that? i could promise you that if the shoe were on the other foot, republicans would be clamoring for e-mails. this is a grim day for this chamber. what we are doing here, knowing this man's record, knowing his
record of shutting down the environmental agency in his home state while attacking the environmental agency of the federal government while pretending that his concern is federalism, right -- he has pretended that he thinks that the enforcement responsibility shouldn't be at the federal level, it should be down at the state level. but if that were even remotely sincere, he wouldn't have shut down his own office office's environmental enforcement unit as attorney general of oklahoma. the common thread here is he doesn't want any environmental enforcement at the federal level, and he doesn't want any environmental enforcement at the state level. he shut down the unit. he zeroed out the budget. he gave us a bunch of soft soap about how actually he moved the environmental unit into something called a federalism
unit. but if you look at his own web site for the federalism unit, the word "environmentalism" or "environment" doesn't appear. it's news that that's his environmental enforcement section because it doesn't say so on his own web site. that was an invention. and when you look at his own budget, the amount he budgets for environmental enforcement disappears. it's gone to zero. and when you look at the environmental enforcement task force that his office's environmental unit had participated in under the previous attorney general drew edmondson, that's disappeared, too. he has gotten rid of every element of environmental enforcement that he controlled at the state level while taking money from all of the big polluters. while having the c.e.o. of continental resources, a billionaire, as his fundraising chair.
he took money from the fossil fuel industry through all of these different entities, from his leadership pac, liberty 2.0, from his campaign, pruitt for attorney general. through the rule of law defense fund, which is his dark money operation. just, by the way, what every attorney general needs is a dark money operation. really? through the republican attorney generals association which he raised money for. and who knows, who knows what else? this guy is fully fossil fuel funded. and in his entire career, he has dedicated himself to getting rid of and attacking environmental enforcement wherever he finds it, state and federal level.
you can't beat shutting down the environmental unit in your own office. so that's what we're looking at. and when you look at that combination and throw in the secrecy about the dark money operation and this mad rush to get this guy through before the week is out in which these e-mails come out, it stinks, mr. president. what we are doing here is a deliberate act of sabotage of the orderly and honest operation of an agency of our government. we are putting in a person who can demonstrably be shown to be incapable of and disqualified for those duties, and i think
that's actually not a bug in this program. that's the feature, that's the feature because these same forces that have been behind scott pruitt all his life as he has fought all environmental enforcements state and federal, are awfully powerful in this chamber as well. and they're obviously calling the shots at the white house where a nominee like this would come for. we are in the process of deliberately sabotaging the orderly and honest operation of an agency of the united states government not at the behest of a foreign power but of a special interest. the biggest and in my view the foulest special interest in the world today, the fossil fuel
industry. the fossil fuel industry has become so big and so powerful and so mercenary that it has decided its best investment is no longer in oil fields or coal seams or fossil fuel processing plants but in acquiring a controlling interest in the government of the united states. and it turns out we come pretty cheap. according to the international monetary fund, we give the fossil fuel industry a subsidy every year in the united states alone of $700 billion. that is a more valuable prize than any drilling rights or any mining lease. to protect it, to protect $700 billion a year, acquiring a
controlling interest in the united states government is a bargain. one fossil fuel front group spent $750 million in the last election. that's a one to 1,000 payback. a 1,000 times r.o.i. each year that they keep the $700 billion subsidy, if they keep plowing $700 million a year into politics to produce results like this nominee for e.p.a. you get benefits once you have acquired that controlling interest. only one republican has publicly taken a stand against scott pruitt. the most compromised and corrupted nominee in memory,
with huge holes of secrecy still around his relationship with the industry he's supposed to regulate. nobody else, just the one. no senators from states whose big cities are flooded by rising seas on sunny days. no senator from states whose historic native villages are washing into the sea. no senators from states who are losing ancient forests to pine beetles and wildfires. nor from states whose farmers see unprecedented extremes of flood and drought and whose home state universities assign responsibility for those new extremes to climate change, caused by carbon emissions from companies like these. none from the states whose fisheries are imperiled by warming and acidifying seas, no
one. just that one senator. how well this industry is succeeding. this e.p.a. nominee may be compromised and corrupted, but he's compromised and corrupted by the fossil fuel industry, so there is no talking about it on that side. everybody just studies the ceiling tiles when the subject comes up. nobody will help us find out about the thousands of stone walled e-mails with his fossil fuel patrons. nobody will help us inquire into the nominee's fossil fuel-funded dark money operation. nobody challenges his nonsense answers in the confirmation process. he answered, he answered. let's move along. let's move along. the dark hand of the fossil fuel industry is all over this nomination. this is the wolf being deliberately incerted into the
lamb hold. from the fossil fuel money that fueled his politics, unknown fully because we refused to shine the senate's light into its dark money operation, to the thousands of e-mails between him and his fossil fuel industry patrons, only a fraction of which have been brought to light throughout our confirmation process, and which were only uncorked after his office was sued, not because of any effort on our side in the confirmation process, to the fossil fuel front groups that have come out supporting this nominee and are spending millions to push him through. think about that. these groups are funding ad campaigns to push this guy through. obviously, they have expectations about how well they're going to be treated by him. through all of this, the stink of this industry's influence is
profound. just reflect on that last point. a dark money operation is being cranked up by polluters to ram the e.p.a. nominee through. here is a headline. energy executives, secretive nonprofit raise money to back pruitt. the new group warns that e.p.a. nominee's confirmation is not a certainty, and millions of dollars are needed for the fight. there would have been a time when it would have been disqualifying when polluters were raising millions of dollars needed for a fight to ram
through an e.p.a. nominee. this is conflict of interest in plain day. but it's a conflict of interest with the right folks around here, i guess, and so we don't consider it conflict of interest any longer. who do you suppose most of the dark money is? well, we don't know because it's dark money, but who is it usually? well, the fossil fuel industry, the koch brothers and their front groups. and what do you suppose they want to spend millions of dollars for? what could be better for them? the biggest polluters on the planet and a little minion to run the e.p.a. as every polluter's ally. in any sane world, the fact that
all this dark and dirty money is being spent to ram through an e.p.a. nominee would be disqualifying all by itself. but not here. not now. not in a congress that is so compliant to the fossil fuel industry that this alarm bell doesn't even register. fossil fuel front groups sent a joint letter of support for their little minion pruitt. here's the letter with all these various groups, who i think are united in their dependence on fossil fuel money. here's the legendary heartland institute. they're that classy group that compared climate scientists to
the unabomber. that's been their contribution to the discussion about climate change. competitive enterprise institute, americans for tax reform, groups from the state policy network. a lot of these folks turn up somewhere else. they turn up in the research of academics who are actually studying the climate denial operation, because it is an operation. you can follow the money from the fossil fuel industry out into an array of front groups. front groups by the dozen, whose sole purpose in life is to make them look like they're not fossil fuel industry front groups, so they have names like the heartland institute or the george c. marshall institute. which, by the way, has nothing to do with george c. marshall or
his family. they just took the name because everybody knows what a respected individual george c. marshall was. they just took the name. and went to work phonying up the climate change debate under the name of george c. marshall. that's a pretty shameful act when you think what george c. marshall did for this country, but these are not people for whom shame has much affect. if you look at dr. brulle's analysis, he is one of the academics who looks at this array of front groups that are fossil fuel funded, this group of people, of entities that signed the letter for this guy, they show up here, too. huh, small world. well, i wonder who they thought that letter would convince. i don't think they expected that it would convince many democrats
many of us on the democratic side have gone to the floor of the senate to call out these fossil fuel funded dark money driven front groups as the fossil fuel funded dark money front groups that they are. so i don't think democrats are very plausible targets for that letter. so why the letter? well, my view is that this was done because everyone in this building knows that the koch brothers' political operation is behind all of these groups. many wiggly tentacles of the same fossil fuel polluter hydra. behind this letter is the same koch brothers political operation that warned republicans of the political peril -- not my word, their word be in if they crossed this industry, of how severely
disadvantaged, another quote from the industry folks, how severely disadvantaged they would be if they dared to do anything on climate change. that's what this letter is. it is a signal. it's the political maled fist of the koch brothers in a front group glove giving its marching orders. in any sane and normal world, this letter by itself from all these polluter front groups would be disqualifying. but it appears that this body will obediently turn the environmental agency of our government over to the minion of the polluters to join an administration dead-set to destroy science with politics. and it's like everyone on the other side has been sworn to secrecy while this happens in plain view.
mr. president, this is a hear heartbreaking speech for me. i perhaps need to start with a little personal background to explain. last year we commemorated the 75th anniversary of the pearl harbor attack. after pearl harbor was attacked, boys across america rushed to sign up for the service of their country. my father and my uncle were two of those boys. both became pilots in the pacific theater. my dad was a marine corps dive bomber pilot. my uncle was a carr -- carrier-d
navy pilot. my uncle was killed over the philippines. he was under john mccain's grandfather's command. small world. i doubt that he knew who ensign whitehouse was. my father came home from the war and he served our country all his life, first as a c.i.a. officer and then as a decorated career diplomat. i believe he won every award the state department has to offer, and he served in difficult, challenging, poor and war-torn countries his whole life. at the end, he came out of retirement to set up special operations command in the pentagon for president ronald reagan. i was raised in that life. we were often in dangerous and
war-torn places, and we were surrounded by american families who faced the discomforts, the diseases, and the dangers of those faraway postings because, to them, something mattered. something mattered to take your femme a place where if your child was sick, there was no decent hospital. something mattered to take your family to a place that if your child was bit by a dog, there was a good chance the dog was rabid. something mattered to take your family to places where the electricity wasn't reliable, the water wasn't clean, the people weren't friendly, and diseases abounded. these folks didn't talk about it a lot. today a lot of people wear their patriotism on their sleeve.
it was not really a topic of conversation. but it was a thread through their lives that showed that in their choices, something mattered. they didn't wear their patriotism on their sleeves. they lived it. the american government that they served and that my uncle died serving was to them an ideal. did america sometimes fall short of that ideal? sure in but i tell you what, every other country in the world knew the difference between america and everybody else. we stood out for what we stood for. across our agencies of government for decades many americans have worked quietly and honorably to advance that
american ideal. at the heart of that ideal is a duty, and the duty is to put country first, to put the american people first, even before your own family's comfort and safety. that honor and that duty running through the lives and service of millions of public servants are the core heart strings of american democracy. and into that government, this trump administration has nominated as administrator at the e.p.a. a tool of the fossil fuel industry. a man who demonstrably will not
take his government responsibilities seriously because he never has. he has never taken e.p.a.'s responsibility seriously. he has done nothing but sue them. he has never taken his state's environmental responsibilities seriously. he has shut down the enforcement arm that his office had. he will represent with the biggest conflict of interest in history a polluting industry whose regulation is actually now the e.p.a.'s primary public duty. this isn't some fringe question of conflict of interest about some question that may emerge. this is the biggest stinking conflict of interest i think we've ever seen in this body about the issue that is at the
center of the environmental protection agency's responsibilities. with the most important task before the e.p.a. being to control carbon emissions before we push this planet over the climate cliff, the industry in question will now rule the regulator. well, mr. president, this hits home. i have fishermen in rhode island who need honest environmental policy to protect our seas. it is not my grandfather's ocean, they have told me. things are getting weird out there. people who have fished since childhood have told me. moreover, rhode island is a downwind state from the midwestern smokestacks and a downstream state from out-of
out-of-state water pollution. rhode island needs a strong e.p.a. to enforce clean air and clean water laws from harm starting outside our boundaries. my attorney general has not shut down his environmental unit, and my department of environmental management is doing our best to keep rhode island clean and livable. but they can't do much about out-of-state polluters. that's where the e.p.a. comes in. and for a man who so plainly disbelieves in and deprecates the e.p.a.'s mission, it's an alarming picture for rhode island. we're a coastal state and a small one. we don't have a lot to give back to rising seas.
and i've got to say, i am sick of having to comfort people whose homes have been washed away into the sea. that's a picture i took not too longing a. colleagues who've been here a while might remember this individual. he was the governor at the time, but he was my predecessor in my seat in the senate, lincoln chafee. his father served here with enormous distinction for many being many years and was actually a republican chairman of the environment and public works committee who cared about the environment. he was an environmental republican leader. these are houses that have washed into the sea. 's a as the result -- as the result of a storm. and sea level rise has raised
the level of the ocean so that storms throw their water farther in, and they take little houses like these that have been beachfront houses for many years, and they just pull them into the ocean. i spoke to the lady who i think owned that house. she washings i would say, in her 70's. and she had childhood mammogramries of that house. she would come to visit as a little girl and what she remembers as little girl was she would come out of that house and in front of the house there was a little lawn. it was big enough to put up a net and play volleyball or badminton, and across from their lawn was a little road, just a
sand and gravel road. but it allowed cars to come down and park near the beach. and on the other side of the road was a little parking area where the cars could pull in. and beyond the lawn and the road and the parking area was the beach. and her memories of the beach were of sunny days with the sun beating down on the sand, and she'd get across the lawn and across the road and across the parking lot, and then she'd just have to scam per as fast as she could on her little feet across the hot sand, and she described to me remembering what a long run that felt like for her to rush down to the ocean where she could put her feet into the cool atlantic waters and swim. that beach, that parking area, that road and that lawn and now
her house are all gone. these are the things that are happening in my state that the republicans in this building could not care less about. could not care less about. and the math is obvious. when you add heat into the atmosphere, the ocean absorbs the heat. indeed, the ocean has absorbed almost all of the heat of climate change. god bless the oceans. because if it weren't for them, we wouldn't be worried about hitting two degrees increase in temperature. we'd be worried about hitting 30 degrees increase in global
temperature. because of all the heat that's been piled up, it's gone into the oceans, 93.4%. you know how much that is? that's like setting off more than two hiroshima bombs in the ocean every second. every second. think of the heat of a nuclear explosion of the level that destroyed hiroshima. think of the -- whatever it would be -- terajewels of heat energy that gets set off by nuclear explosion. our oceans are absorbing heat. if you measure the last 20 years how much heat they've absorbed, they're absorbing heat at the rate of multiple hiroshima nuclear explosions happening in the ocean every second for 20 years. and you wonder why senator
cantwell was talking about strange things going on in the oceans. you wonder why my fishermen are saying it's getting weird out there. but when all that heat goes into the oceans, there's a law called the law of thermal expansion. that's not the kind of law that we debate around here. that's one of nature's laws. that's one of god's laws. that's one of the laws of physics and chemistry that we so ignore around here because we're paying attention to the laws of politics and the golden rule, who's got the gold rules. but these are laws that we don't get to repeal or amend. and what they are doing is swelling the seas with that heat. and then on top of that, in comes the water from melting glaciers and there's your sea
level rise. 10 inches of sea level rise that we have measured at naval station newport. to the point where we face scenes like this, a man in a kayak going down in front of the seaman's church institute in newport, rhode island. thses not water in t -- in the ordinary course. this is a place where tourists walk. that's a storefront with water coming through the doorway. this was the storm surge, the tide that came in with sandy, which missed us, by the way. we have a coastal resources management council that defends our shores and our university of rhode island and our coastal resources management council work together to see what's coming. they have developed new computer tools to determine which houses are going to be lost in what kind of storms. how often this scene is going to
have to repeat itself in rhode island. we are anticipating, mr. president, nine feet of sea level rise by the end of this century. my colleagues may think that's funny, that this is all just part of some amusing hoax that we can talk about, but any state whose coasts are threatened with nine feet of sea level rise, any representative of that state has a responsibility to come here and fight to try to defend that state. and when the adversary is the big special interests that is causing that and that has mounted the vast campaign of lies that i talked about earlier to try to cover its $700 billion in subsidy every year, then that's an adversary worth going after because that's a dirty and
wrongful adversary. and when their representative is going to run the e.p.a., that is a disgusting state of affairs. if rhode island had to suffer this to save our country for some great goal, if rhode islanders had to go off to war again like my father and uncle and rhode islanders have since the first battles in portsmouth, rhode island, in the revolutionary war, we would saddle up. sign us up to take on whatever we need to defend this great country, but don't ask us to take a hit like this to protect a big special interest. the arrogance and the greed of the fossil fuel industry and the dirty things that it's willing to do to advance its interests, know no bounds.
it lobbies congress mercilessly against any action on climate change, and it has for years. it runs a massive political electioneering operation of dark money and false attacks to prevent any action on climate change, and it has for years. and it operates that giant array of front groups, a multitentacle ed science denial apparatus to put out streams of calculated misinformation. an it does this all to protect what that international monetary fund report identified as a $700 billion annual subsidy. what would big corporations do to protect $700 billion? well, we're finding out. the fossil fuel industry for
years has been deliberately sabotaging the honest and orderly operation of the legislative branch of america's government to protect its subsidy. with this appointment, it would be able to corrupt and sabotage the e.p.a. i used the word corrupt because this is indeed the very definition of corruption in government. this is government corruption in plain view. in the supreme court decision austin versus michigan state chamber of commerce, here's how the united states supreme court described corruption. the court described it as, i quote, the corrosive and distorting effects of immense aggregations of wealth that are accumulated with the help of the
corporate form and that have little or no correlation to the public support for the corporation's political ideas. so back we go to this network of false front operations established by immense aggregations of wealth that are accumulated with help from the corporate forum and that have little or no correlation to the public association ideas. we got some interesting polling -- let's see if i can find -- here we go. the george mason university went out recently and conducted a poll of trump voters. what did trump voters think? turns out more than six in ten
trump voters support taxing and/or regulating the pollution that causes global warming. in general, trump voters were asked which of these two approaches to reducing the pollution that causes global warming do you prefer? well, 16% said well, i don't know. 21% said do nothing. but 13% of trump voters said tax pollution. 18% said regulate pollution. and 31% said tax pollution and regulate pollution. that adds up to more than six out of ten trump voters thinking that the pollution that causes climate change should be taxed
or should be regulated or should be taxed and regulated, so when you go back to the austin v. michigan state chamber of commerce definition of corruption and look at the section that says that the policies pushed by the massive aggregations of wealth accumulated with the help of the corporate forum want to go one way and the public wants to go another way and the corporate powers views have, quote, little or no correlation to the public support for the corporation's political ideas, well, heck, we know democrats support doing stuff by climate change. turns out trump voters do, too. the public is actually happy to get something done. it's this mess that's stopping us. it's groups that spend $700 million in a single
election to influence congress that is the problem, not the american public. teddy roosevelt described corruption this way. he described corruption as a sinister alliance between crooked politics and crooked business which he said has done more than anything else for the corruption of american life against the genuine rule of the people themselves. well, if you look at the influence of big business, particularly the fossil fuel business, it's been something else around here. rifs elect -- i was elected in 2006, i was sworn here in the senate in 2011. when i was first here in those early years, there was a republican climate bill floating around the senate virtually all the time. my recollection is that there
were five republican cosponsored climate bills during my time there. susan collins did a climate bill with senator cantwell. senator john warner of virginia, a republican, did a bill with senator lieberman. senator graham worked on a bill with senator kerry. senator lamar alexander had a bill of his own, and senator mccain supported climate legislation and indeed ran for president of the united states on a strong climate change plat form and then came 2010. then came a decision called citizens united which the fossil fuel industry asked for, expected and immediately acted on when it came out, and it said to the big special interests, go for it, boys. spend all you want in politics.
we five republican appointees to the supreme court are going to make the comically false finding that nothing you can do with unlimited money could possibly ever corrupt american democracy or could possibly even be seen as corrupting by the american public. well, of course, that is such hogwash that right now the supreme court is viewed by people who have been polled on this question as not likely to give a human being a fair shake against a corporation. if i remember correctly, the numbers were 54-6. so in a following group of 100, six americans believe they could get a fair shot in the supreme court against a corporation. 54 believed they could not get as human beings a fair shot in the united states supreme court against a big corporation.
that with the big corporations at the supreme court, the fix was in. not a great police for the court to be when by 9-1, american human beings think they can't get a fair shot in front of that court against a corporation, but they did deliver and they delivered citizens united and opened the floodgates, and the next thing out there was group like americans for prosperity, the front group for the koch brothers, donors trust which launders away the identity of big corporations like exxonmobil and all of these other front groups that we looked at earlier, and they're spending immense amounts of money. and the result is you just -- if there was a heartbeat of activity on climate change with republicans before citizens united, it has been a flat line since. and that's been the story behind this. not only has dark money poisoned our conversation about climate change, this guy actually ran
his own dark money operation. his rule of law defense fund, a 501-c-4 organization that does not disclose its donors has been linked to the koch brothers who run one of the biggest polluting operations in the country, but we don't really know. we don't really know. it's been kept absolutely quiet. there is a black hole of secrecy around this nominee's dark money operation. who he raised it from, what the quid pro quo was, what he did with it. not allowed to know. move along, move along, doesn't matter. this is a question, mr. president. this is a test of the senate. will this nominee ever tell us exactly what his relationship with the fossil fuel industry is? will we get these e-mails in
time to make an informed decision before his nomination is rammed through, one step ahead of the e-mails that the judge said had to be released? can i just can't get over the fact that this guy covered up the e-mails for 750-plus days, for more than two years, and a judge said no, get them out tuesday, and they're going to get them out tuesday. and the second chunk, you've got ten days to get them out. he sat there in our committee and acted as if this was some huge terrible task that he couldn't get done, that with two years to do, he couldn't get a single e-mail out. by the time of our hearing, zero of those thousands of e-mails had come out. a judge took a look at the same situation and said do it tuesday, and they're doing it. we have been so deliberately stonewalled and it's been so painfully and plainly been made clear by what the judge has ordered. so we are not passing this test
of how a senate should act. president-elect trump promised to restore genuine rule of the people themselves. remember teddy roosevelt's quote that the sinister alliance between crooked politics and crooked business has done more than anything else for the corruption of american life against the genuine rule of people themselves. well, president trump promised to restore genuine rule to the people themselves, and yet it's looking more and more like shadowy descri-run groups will really run our government. this is a test also for the rest of corporate america. a lot of corporate america has good climate policy. in fact, most of corporate america has good climate policy, but when are they going to sta