January 12, 2018

Senator Warren Delivers Floor Speech on Trump Expansion of Offshore Drilling

Warren Says Plan Threatens Coastal Economy, Ignores Reality of Climate Change

Video available here (YouTube)

Washington, DC - In a floor speech delivered on the Senate floor, Senator Warren discussed the Trump Administration's plan to expand offshore oil and gas drilling to nearly all United States coastal waters. Raising concerns about the proposal's impact on the environment and American coastal economy, Senator Warren condemned the decision as putting the interests of big oil companies ahead of the health and livelihood of America's coastal families.

The full text of her remarks is available below.

Remarks by Senator Elizabeth Warren
January 11, 2018

Mr. President:

I rise today to discuss the Trump Administration's recent proposal to expand offshore drilling to more than 90% of U.S. waters. This handout to Big Oil executives puts short-term corporate profits ahead of the long-term health and livelihood of America's coastal families and ignores the growing threat posed by climate change.

This Administration is too weak-kneed to stand up for American families, too weak-kneed to say "enough is enough" when Big Oil executives demand more. And Big Oil executives keep demanding more, because they don't like being told any area is off-limits.

Big Oil didn't like being told that the extraordinary natural, cultural, and historical value of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante made them off-limits for fossil fuel development. So, President Trump opened up much of the previously protected land for future drilling and mining.

Big Oil didn't like being told that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - one of America's last untouched expanses of wilderness - was off-limits. So, President Trump and this Republican Congress included a provision in the Republican tax bill to allow drilling for the first time in this pristine reserve.

And Big Oil didn't like being told that our coasts that provide the homes and livelihoods for millions of Americans are off limits. So, the Trump Administration, faithful as ever to whatever Big Oil wants, issued a proposed offshore drilling plan that would allow drilling in more than 90% of U.S. coastal waters.

In doing so, the Trump Administration is threatening the Atlantic Coast with unwanted oil drilling for the first time in more than 30 years;
• threatening to introduce new drilling rigs to the Pacific coast for the first time in 30 years;
• threatening the Eastern Gulf of Mexico with drilling for the first time in more than 10 years;
• and threatening to illegally re-open portions of the Arctic drilling for areas that were permanently protected in 2016.

Our coasts are working waterfronts supporting hardworking families. This unprecedented expansion of offshore drilling endangers hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on the health of our oceans. In Massachusetts, there's shipping in and out of Boston, fishing from Gloucester to New Bedford, and tourism and small businesses on the Cape and the Islands. The ocean is our lifeline, as it is for so many coastal states and towns around the country. The multi-billion-dollar coastal economy has been a key part of the American economy since our nation's founding.

Our coastal communities are united in opposition to an expansion of offshore drilling. They understand the risks that Big Oil imposes on them.

Our coastal communities remember the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill occurred in 2010. One offshore oil-one offshore oil well--blew and caused the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig to explode, killing 11 workers, injuring 17 others, and unleashing one of the worst environmental disasters in human history. Nearly five million barrels of oil gushed into the ocean, contaminating more than 1,300 miles of coastline and nearly 70,000 square miles of surface water. Millions of birds and marine animals died from exposure to the oil and to other toxic chemicals. The Gulf fishing industry lost thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, and the spill devastated the Gulf's coastal tourism economy. The environmental and economic devastation hit working families and small businesses across the entire region.

A commission formed to investigate the BP Oil Spill concluded that there were "such systematic failures in risk management that they place in doubt the safety culture of the entire [offshore drilling] industry." The federal government vowed to crack down on the offshore drilling industry that had been cutting corners at the expense of worker safety and environmental safety. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement studied ways to improve oil rig inspections and issued new rules of the road to try to prioritize safety.

But President Trump has abandoned that safety-first approach. He ignores the lessons of the BP oil spill, instead he listens to his Big Oil friends. Last month the Administration began rescinding key safety regulations designed to protect our coastlines from another BP-scale disaster.

For example, in 2016 the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement implemented new rules to require independent, third-party certification of safety devices on oil rigs. Not a bad idea to get someone independent to take a look at oil rigs before people put their lives at risk and hundreds of thousands of people could lose their livelihoods if an accident occurred. Not a bad idea, but the Trump Administration has said that this commonsense approach is an "unnecessary... burden" on industry. Just to be clear: this so-called burden would amount to less than a penny on the dollar for an industry that already enjoys tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies. Less than a penny on the dollar to protect the livelihoods-and maybe the lives-of people living on our coasts.

The Trump Administration's insistence on padding the pockets of Big Oil while small coastal towns are left carrying all the risk is a perversion of how government is supposed to work. But this is what happens when the Republican Senate allows leadership positions at the Department of the Interior to be filled with industry insiders who reward their past and -- in many cases -their future employers, rather than serving the American people.

American families deserve forward-looking leadership that builds for the future and ensures that America will lead in the necessary fight against climate change. But President Trump thinks leadership is handing over management of our public resources to the Big Oil executives who are looking to stuff their pockets while they can. And he chooses to ignore the writing on the wall:

• Our planet is getting hotter - 16 of the last 17 years were the hottest on record, and our seas are rising at an alarming rate.
• Our coasts are threatened by furious storms that sweep away homes and devastate even our largest cities.
• Many communities are just one bad storm away from complete devastation.
• Our naval bases are under attack - not by enemy ships - but by rising seas.
• Our food supplies and our forests are threatened by an endless barrage of droughts and wildfires.

The effects of man-made climate change are all around us - and things will only continue to get worse at an accelerating pace if we don't do something about it.

Will addressing climate change be tough? You bet it will. We will need to retool, to install offshore wind turbines instead of President Trump's offshore drilling rigs. But there is no country and no workforce in the world that is more willing and more able to tackle the challenge of climate change head-on than the United States of America. Yes, it's hard, but it's what we do. It is who we are.

The American people deserve leadership that knows the strength of the American people.

• Leadership that believes in the innovative resolve of American workers ready to build the clean energy infrastructure of the world.
• Leadership that will deliver a clear message to the Big Oil executives hell-bent on protecting their own short-term profits and who don't like being told a place is off-limits.
• Leadership that will not chain our economy to the fossil fuels of the past.
• Leadership that does not ignore the realities of climate change.
• And leadership that does not put our coastal communities at further risk of another devastating oil spill.

The American people deserve leadership that works for their interests - not for the interests of Big Oil.