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Updates from Sen. Schatz (Jan. 12-27)

MEDIA RELEASE

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) submitted video testimony opposing proposed reductions to Army personnel in Hawaii. In video remarks to be delivered at the U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii’s community listening session in Honolulu, Schatz underscored Hawaii’s important role in the nation’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific and highlighted the deep ties the Army has cultivated with the state.

“I am strongly opposed to the cuts to United States Army Garrison-Hawaii,” said Schatz. “The Army cannot allow the budget to drive its strategy in this critically important region. The people of Hawaii and the soldiers here have always worked together to support our national defense and will continue to do so.”

Last year, in anticipation of extreme budget cuts, the Army outlined a proposal to eliminate nearly 20,000 soldiers and civilian employees at Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter as part of its 2020 force structure realignment. The second community listening session is scheduled to take place tomorrow, January 28 at Leilehua High School.

Full text of remarks follow:

Aloha and good evening.

My duties in the Senate prevented me from being with you to deliver these remarks in person tonight, but I welcome the opportunity to provide this testimony as the Army considers decisions affecting the future of the force here in Hawaii.

I am strongly opposed to the cuts to United States Army Garrison-Hawaii. Hawaii is the last place the Army should consider cutting soldiers in light of America’s commitment to rebalance to the Asia Pacific. There is bipartisan consensus that this rebalance is right for our country. If resourced correctly the Army can play a strategic role, with Hawaii as the foundation for its engagement in the region.

After U.S. Army Korea, Hawaii is home to the Army’s most forward soldiers, capable of responding to crises in a fraction of the time compared to those in Washington and California. Our tropical environment is the perfect training location to prepare the Army for the Asia Pacific, making soldiers here more ready for this region than forces based on the mainland. And our mountain and desert training areas ensure that these soldiers are prepared to deploy anywhere in the world.

The Army faces hard choices as it shrinks to 450,000 soldiers after more than a decade of open-ended war. And Congress is making these choices harder as it continues to threaten sequestration that could force the Army to shrink even further. Congress must remove the threat of these arbitrary, across-the-board spending cuts so that Army leaders can improve their planning and avoid these strategically unwise decisions.

Today’s world increasingly demands that the military be prepared to operate as a joint force and there are few places that are better suited for training to operate together than Hawaii. When soldiers on Oahu deploy for training exercises in the region, they often do so with support from the Air Force. Marines train alongside the Army at Schofield Barracks and at the Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island. All of this helps develop the discipline that makes it easier to work together in the real world.

To support the Army in Hawaii, community leaders have worked closely with the garrison to accommodate its training requirements. These relationships took decades to develop and have not been without tension on contentious issues, particularly over the use of historically, culturally, and environmentally sensitive land for training. But these relationships have matured into a close partnership that has helped to ensure that training is in balance with local needs, like at the Pohakuloa Training Area, where there is a now a staff dedicated to preserving and protecting endangered plants and Native Hawaiian cultural resources.

The Army cannot allow the budget to drive its strategy in this critically important region. The people of Hawaii and the soldiers here have always worked together to support our national defense and will continue to do so. Mahalo.

SCHATZ NAMED TO LEADERSHIP POSITION ON SENATE COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE

Schatz was chosen to serve as Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet.

“I am looking forward to serving as the lead Democrat on this subcommittee,” said Schatz. “Innovation and technology are some of the biggest drivers of our economy and can help solve some of today’s toughest challenges. In my new role, one of my top priorities will be increasing access to broadband across the country and throughout Hawaii. Open and fast internet access is critical for residents and businesses across the islands and will create high quality jobs and help Hawaii diversify its economy.”

The Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet oversees matters relating to the telecommunications industry. Agencies within the Committee’s jurisdiction include the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

SCHATZ, CARDIN INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO GIVE FEDERAL WORKERS A WELL-DESERVED RAISE

Schatz and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) introduced legislation to provide a 3.8 percent pay raise to federal workers in calendar year 2016. Federal employees have lost over a billion dollars in salary and benefits due to sequestration and a three-year pay freeze from January 2011 to December 2013.

“Hawaii’s federal employees are some of the hardest working public servants in the country,” said Schatz. “In recent years, our federal workers have endured pay freezes, furloughs, and a government shutdown. Our bill recognizes the service of working families and gives them a well-deserved raise.”

“We have continued to place an increasing burden on federal workers, who now represent the lowest percentage of the total American workforce in the three-quarters of a century that reliable records have been kept,” said Cardin. “The knowledge, expertise, skill and commitment of our public sector workforce are some of this country’s greatest assets. No other nation can match our public workforce’s professionalism and level of accomplishment. Yet all too often, public servants are disparaged, denigrated and forced to bear the brunt of deficit reduction. We need to strengthen and encourage our public workforce. In Maryland and across the nation, these public servants deserve recognition and thanks for their hard work and dedication.”

With a 35 percent pay gap between public and private employees, the Federal Adjustment of Income Rates (FAIR) Act begins to address the pay disparity affecting federal employees. Nearly 2 million federal workers, including more than 20,000 in Hawaii, would benefit from the FAIR Act. The legislation is supported by the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE), the Federal-Postal Coalition (FPC), and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE).

“This bill is an important recognition that federal employees deserve fair raises and the government needs to remain competitive with the private sector to attract the talent our nation requires,” said Colleen M. Kelley, National President of the National Treasury Employees Union. “We appreciate the leadership of Senators Schatz and Cardin in introducing this bill to provide a fair pay raise for federal employees in 2016, and will work to garner support for it.”

“This 3.8% pay increase proposed in the FAIR Act will help restore federal employees’ pay after three years of pay freezes and the past two years of 1% increases which have been well below the recommended baseline increase,” said J. David Cox, National President of the American Federation of Government Employees. “We thank Senator Schatz and Senator Cardin for introducing this important piece of legislation, and for recognizing that federal employee pay is a critical component of recruiting and retaining the quality employees who are VA nursing assistants, Border Patrol agents, civilians in DoD who equip the troops, and those who help the elderly and the disabled obtain their Social Security benefits.”

“I thank Senators Schatz and Cardin and Rep. Connolly and numerous other original cosponsors on this legislation, for their leadership in supporting our nation’s federal employees,” said Richard G. Thissen, President of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. “Providing our public servants adequate compensation is about more than just fairness, it is maintaining an efficient and effective federal government.”

“Like other employers, federal agencies must be in a position to offer competitive salaries and wages for both recruitment and retention purposes,” said Alan Loptain, Chairman of the Federal-Postal Coalition. “Federal workers are presently engaged in thwarting the Ebola outbreak, leading discovery projects on Mars, and ensuring that the nation’s borders remain protected. The FAIR Act ensures that the public’s needs will be met by maintaining a skilled workforce. The Coalition thanks Senators Schatz and Cardin for their unwavering support of federal employees, and for being a strong voice for the federal workforce in the U.S. Senate.”

“After three years of pay freezes, followed by two years of meager one percent raises, this legislation is clearly needed,” said Gregory Junemann, President of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers. “Not only will it bring our nation’s federal workers a respectable pay increase, but it will also help to show potential federal employees that the federal government is committed to bringing federal compensation back to an acceptable level. Make no mistake about it, after five years of federal employees seeing their net pay actually decrease compared to inflation, these workers are deserving of at least a 3.8% pay raise. IFPTE commends Congressman Connolly and Senators Schatz and Cardin for recognizing this and we are pleased to endorse this legislation, and ask other members of Congress to do the same.”

Representative Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and other House members have introduced the companion bill in the House of Representatives.

SCHATZ PRESSES FAA ON DRONE SAFETY

Schatz sent a letter to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta calling for immediate action to address the safety concerns and potential security risks of small unmanned aircraft, also known as drones.

The letter follows a recent report of a drone landing on the White House grounds and reiterates a call for action.

“Yesterday’s report of an unmanned aircraft that landed on White House grounds is alarming and underscores the need to immediately address the safety issues surrounding operating small unmanned aircraft,” Schatz wrote. “According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the agency’s goal is to issue a final rule 16 months following the NPRM, which would mean a final rule would be issued in 2016 or 2017. That is too late to ensure public safety.”

Last November, Schatz sent a letter to the FAA urging Administrator Huerta to issue an emergency rulemaking that addresses the risks of drones, citing recent incidents near commercial airports in New York and Florida.

The full text of the letter to Administrator Huerta follows:

The Honorable Michael P. Huerta
Administrator
Federal Aviation Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591

Dear Administrator Huerta:

In November 2014, I wrote to express my concerns regarding small unmanned aircraft operating in the national airspace system, and urged you to take immediate action by issuing an emergency rulemaking. Yesterday’s report of an unmanned aircraft that landed on White House grounds is alarming and underscores the need to immediately address the safety issues surrounding operating small unmanned aircraft. I again urge you to issue an emergency rulemaking, such as an interim final rule, that would address safety concerns and potential security risks.

I understand that the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to allow operation of small unmanned aircraft in the national airspace is under review and is expected to be issued early this year. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the agency’s goal is to issue a final rule 16 months following the NPRM, which would mean a final rule would be issued in 2016 or 2017. That is too late to ensure public safety. With the numerous reports that the FAA has received of unmanned aircraft near other aircraft and in near-collisions with other aircraft, we must address these safety concerns without further delay.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. Please respond to this letter by February 10, 2015.

Regards,

BRIAN SCHATZ
United States Senator

SCHATZ ANNOUNCES MORE THAN $11 MILLION TO HELP HAWAII’S HOMELESS

Schatz announced that Hawaii will receive 45 Continuum of Care (CoC) awards totaling $11.62 million from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“A safe place to sleep at night is a basic necessity that no one should go without,” said Schatz. “These funds will help our state, local, and nonprofit agencies who know Hawaii best make sure that homeless individuals and families have the help they need to get back on their feet and find a place to live.”

HUD’s CoC program promotes community-wide efforts to combat homelessness by providing funding to nonprofit organizations as well as state and local governments that administer programs to re-house homeless individuals and families while facilitating access to the types of programs and resources that promote self-sufficiency.

SCHATZ VOICES OPPOSITION AND VOTES AGAINST KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE

Schatz voted against advancing S.1, a bill to authorize construction of Keystone XL, a pipeline that would transport dirty tar sands oil from Canada to the United States Gulf Coast.

Prior to the vote, Schatz spoke out on the Senate floor to oppose authorization of the pipeline which would undermine efforts to combat climate change and would endanger the health of American families.

“For me, and for many Americans, a vote against this bill is a vote to preserve and protect the air we breathe and the water we drink. It’s a vote to ensure that we continue to reduce carbon pollution and fight climate change. It is a vote to leave our children a healthy world,” said Schatz.

While President Obama has vowed to veto any legislation authorizing construction of Keystone XL, the Republican controlled U.S. Senate advanced the bill, voting 63-32.

Full text of speech as prepared for delivery:

Madam President, I rise today in opposition to Senate Bill One, which will circumvent the Administration’s official review process for projects crossing international borders and approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline – a pipeline dedicated to increasing production of some of the dirtiest, most polluting, and most dangerous crude oil in the world.

Supporters of this pipeline in Congress have been relentless. Over the last two Congresses, they have held 44 votes in the House and Senate intended to approve Keystone XL.

On Tuesday the very first bill that the new Republican majority introduced – traditionally reserved for a party’s highest legislative priority – was the Keystone XL approval bill.

Think about this – here we stand, in what people still call the world’s greatest deliberative body, and the first bill that we are taking up is not infrastructure generally, not national energy policy, and not even national laws as they relate to our pipeline infrastructure.

No, we are legislating about a specific pipeline which will move oil from Canada, through the United States, to be primarily exported from our southern border.

I understand that there are people of good will and good faith who are on both sides of the issue, but it is hard to imagine why this should be the first thing that we take up.

We have yet to seriously consider or clarify our policy with respect to the Islamic State. Income inequality is gutting the middle class. Our national infrastructure needs a jolt of investments. Our immigration policy is a failure and a mess. I just don’t understand why this bill would be Senate Bill One.

Supporters of this bill have stood up three main arguments in favor of the Keystone pipeline and expanded drilling of tar sands oil reserves in Canada.

One, they say it will increase U.S. energy security.

Two, they say it will lower oil and gasoline prices.

Three, they say that the Keystone XL pipeline is a jobs bill.

Let’s examine these claims, because however tenuous they were, they have been undermined further by facts over the last couple of years.

First, the U.S. has never, during the modern age of global energy trade, been more energy secure.

We import far less oil from unstable regimes and unfriendly countries than we have in decades and we are continuing to build massive amounts of ever cheaper homegrown clean energy like wind and solar, even as we use energy more efficiently.

The U.S. will add nearly 10 gigawatts of wind and solar capacity in the next year. Not including hydropower, the United States has over 85,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity and continues to build on that number year after year.

Prices for solar have dropped 80 percent since 2008 and prices for wind power – already competitive with fossil fuels – have dropped 30 percent since 2008.

And these trends are creating jobs right here at home. For example, the wind industry has over 500 manufacturing facilities across forty-four states that are responsible for making wind turbines with over 66 percent domestic content.

Second, the recent collapse of crude oil and gasoline prices demonstrates two things: In my home state of Hawaii energy prices remain far too high, but on the mainland, oil and gas prices are currently very low.

The idea that Keystone would make a significant difference was never based in reality, but now it is just obvious. We have low prices, and the project has not even started.

Gasoline is now two dollars and twenty one cents per gallon. Crude oil prices have slipped below fifty dollars per barrel. The last time that gasoline prices were this low was in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

And as a practical matter, it is not clear to me, or to most energy experts, how moving oil from Canada through the United States, and exporting refined crude from the Gulf of Mexico, would significantly reduce energy prices in the U.S.

And finally, this is called a jobs bill by some.

Madam President, this bill is many things. It’s an anti-clean air bill, an anti-clean water bill, and an anti-public health bill. It’s a regulatory earmark.

But it’s not a jobs bill, and it’s not deserving of being the number one priority of the 114th Congress.

We hear estimates ranging as high as 42,000 indirect or induced jobs during the construction phase. We know – everyone agrees – that Keystone XL will employ approximately 35 full-time workers once construction is finished. That’s not 3,500 employees. That’s not 35,000 employees. That’s 35 full-time employees when construction is completed.

If we want to do a real jobs bill worthy of the U.S. Senate, we should do a real jobs bill. An infrastructure bank – a highway bill – Shaheen Portman – all would create orders of magnitude more jobs than this.

The American economy added 353,000 jobs in November alone, which made 2014 the strongest year for job growth since 1999.

If we pass a highway bill, we get millions of jobs. If we pass an infrastructure bank we will get hundreds of thousands of jobs. If we pass the bipartisan Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill, we will get hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Look, even one new job is a good thing; I would never argue otherwise.

But if we want to do a jobs bill, let’s do a jobs bill – there is plenty of room for us to work together on infrastructure, on energy efficiency and create hundreds, thousands or even millions of jobs.

This is an energy bill – and it moves us in the wrong direction.

There are colleagues arguing against this legislation who say that they want to allow the administration’s process to play out, that we shouldn’t supersede the State Department Review – and I agree. And it is fair to say that it is unprecedented, even a little strange, for the Congress to legislate the specifics of a particular infrastructure project.

But I want to be clear — this isn’t a process argument for me. I oppose Keystone because it is a bad idea, whether it is done through the regular order, or in an expedited fashion and whether it is done through the administrative process or by the legislative process.

I oppose any action, whether through legislation, litigation, or administrative action that will enable the extraction of Canadian tar sands oil.

My reasons are very simple: Climate change and math.

Climate change because it is the greatest and most urgent challenge to the health of our families, to the economy, and to our way of life – and I want to preserve the American way of life, not endanger it.

And math because we’ve crunched the numbers and we know that we simply cannot afford to burn the oil from tar sands and put its pollution into the air.

It’s simple. We have a budget. Just as every family in this country must stick to its budget and live within its means – we have to do the same as a planet when it comes to carbon pollution.

A new study published last week in the scientific journal Nature makes this clear. The authors ask the question: if we want to stay within our carbon budget and limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius – which is the limit 167 countries agree we must meet to avoid catastrophic effects of climate change – how much more coal, gas, and oil can we burn?

The study finds that in order to meet this goal, the majority of the world’s known reserves of fossil fuels must stay in the ground between now and 2050, including a third of the world’s current oil reserves and 80 percent of current coal reserves.

It also finds, and this is critical, that “any increase in unconventional oil production,” which includes Canadian tar sands, is “incommensurate with efforts to limit average global warming to two degrees Celsius.”

And as we learn more about climate change amidst a clean energy revolution, we find that moving towards clean energy, taking control of our future, is good for business.

Our economy will do better – it will grow faster and it will be more resilient – if we embrace the technologies and solutions at our fingertips and end our reliance on fossil fuels.

We have a chance to embrace the future here – and our future is not the tar sands oil – our future is wind and solar and geothermal and energy efficiency – our future is not in adding carbon pollution – our future is in innovating our way out of this problem.

Throughout our history, America always leads when we are needed the most – and that is what we have to do – not in the direction of more carbon pollution – but towards a clean energy economy.

A report by the New Climate Economy – a group chaired by former Mexican president Felipe Calderon and including Bank of America Chairman Chad Holliday, among others, marshals quantitative evidence to show that action on climate change is a requirement for future global economic growth.

In other words, those who warn about EPA regulations or prices on carbon killing jobs have it exactly backwards.

The truth is that in order to avoid major disruptions to our economy we’ve got to reduce carbon pollution and work with other countries – like Canada – to ensure they do the same.

Madam President, I am looking forward to the open amendment process on this bill that the majority leader has promised. It will be an opportunity for the American public to see where members of the Senate stand on the facts of climate change.

Madam President, anyone who looks at the facts and does the math ought oppose this bill and oppose construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

For me, and for many Americans, a vote against this bill is a vote to preserve and protect the air we breathe and the water we drink. It’s a vote to ensure that we continue to reduce carbon pollution and fight climate change. It is a vote to leave our children a healthy world.

I urge my colleagues to oppose cloture on the motion to proceed. I yield the floor.

SENATE TO VOTE ON SCHATZ AMENDMENT TO KEYSTONE RECOGNIZING CLIMATE CHANGE AS REAL, URGENT, AND SOLVABLE

Schatz’s amendment to S.1, the Keystone XL pipeline legislation. The Schatz amendment, the first climate science amendment offered by Senate Democrats, affirms that climate change is real and significantly caused by human activity.

Schatz delivered remarks on the Senate floor calling on his colleagues to acknowledge the facts about climate change and support the amendment.

Full text of remarks follow:

Mr. President, climate change is real and human activity significantly contributes to climate change. It also states that a warmer planet causes large-scale changes, including higher sea levels, changes in precipitation, and altered weather patterns such as increases in more extreme weather events.

This amendment cites for its evidence the findings of national and international scientific institutions, including the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the National Research Council, and the United States Global Change Research Program. All of these organizations are cited and quoted in the State Department’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the Keystone XL pipeline.

This is the same environmental review document that plays a prominent role in the text of the underlying bill, Senate Bill One, and the substitute amendment.

The purpose of this amendment is simply to acknowledge and restate a set of facts. It is not intended to place a value judgment on those facts or to suggest a specific course of action in response to those facts. It’s just a set of facts, derived from decades of careful study of our land, our air, and our water. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment. And I yield the floor.

SCHATZ ANNOUNCES NOMINEES FOR U.S. SERVICE ACADEMIES

Schatz announced the names of 38 students nominated to attend one of our nation’s service academies. The four service academies are: the United States Air Force Academy, the United States Military Academy, the United States Naval Academy and the United States Merchant Marine Academy.

“This year’s U.S. Service Academy nominees represent a new generation of future military leaders, all of whom completed a highly competitive and rigorous selection process,” said Schatz. “I admire these students for their courage and commitment to serve based on the values that make this Nation great.”

Service Academy nominees were selected by a panel that included Allen Hoe, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and current Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for East Hawaii. Applicants were considered based on their ability to successfully meet the rigorous demands for the undergraduate education and training of officers of the United States Armed Forces, as well as their demonstrated leadership skills through athletics and other organizations, and an overall commitment to the military, the community and our country. Nominees will now be considered for appointment by the U.S. Service Academies.

The following students were nominated for consideration by the U.S. Service Academies:

Adam Amosa, Ewa Beach, James Campbell High School
Kristina Ancheta, Ewa Beach, James Campbell High School
Joshua Chae, Honolulu, Henry J. Kaiser High School
Michael Chasen, Kula, Seabury Hall
Ray Cochrane, Kapolei, Moanalua High School
Noah Crabbe, Honolulu, Kamehameha Schools Kapalama
Nathanael Endo, Waianae, Waianae High School
Austin Faulkner, Honolulu, Moanalua High School
Kai‘nū Gantz, Kapolei, Kapolei High School
Kate Greathouse, Honolulu, Moanalua High School
Nicole Grimm, Kailua, Kalaheo High School
Robert Heckman, Kailua, Punahou School
Calen Scot Holt, Kailua, Kamehameha Schools Kapalama
Isaac Hoyohoy, Ewa Beach, James Campbell High School
Alexander Kidani, Honolulu, Punahou School
David Kim, Honolulu, ‘Iolani School
Yu Jin Kim, Honolulu, Moanalua High School
David Kop, Honolulu, Punahou School
Gordon Kowalkowski, Kailua, Punahou School
Alexander Lee, Kailua, ‘Iolani School
Matthew Lee, Honolulu, Punahou School
Christine Lew, Ewa Beach, James Campbell High School
Lowen Joshua Lobaton, Honolulu, Kapolei High School
Russ Macadangdang, Kapolei, Kapolei High School
Matthew Mantanona, Ewa Beach, James Campbell High School
Diana Marquez, Aiea, Aiea High School
Kenji Mori, Honolulu, Punahou School
Iliana Nakamoto, Hilo, Kamehameha Schools Hawaii
Sabrina Ray Olaes, Kapolei, Kapolei High School
Peter Orlich, Aiea, Le Jardin Academy
Angela Lois Ortiz, Honolulu, Kalani High School
Daniel Pagaduan, Honolulu, Radford High School
Mitchell Rumbaoa, Honolulu, Henry J. Kaiser High School
Lael Sommer, Kailua, Punahou School
Noah Toaso, Kailua, Kalaheo High School
Rene Valentine, Honolulu, Damien Memorial School
Benjamin Wuthrich, Kihei, H.P. Baldwin High School
Sarina Wyrick, Hilo, St. Joseph High School

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