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Updates from Sen. Schatz (March 12-April 1)

MEDIA RELEASE

U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Angus S. King, Jr. (I-Maine), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sent a letter to Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell urging the Department to solicit information from the public on both the potential climate impact of black carbon pollution and the availability of black carbon pollution control technologies when the Department proposes updated air permitting regulations for offshore drilling activities in Alaska’s coastal waters.

In the letter the senators write, “The Arctic is especially sensitive to black carbon pollution. When it covers highly reflective snow and ice, the darker surface absorbs more heat, accelerating the melting of snow, glaciers, ice sheets, and sea ice. It is critically important that the Department use the opportunity of updating these standards to safeguard the Arctic and the global climate from harmful black carbon pollution.”

Dr. Drew Shindell, a leading expert in climate and black carbon said, “It’s clear from the science that emissions from uncontrolled diesel engines are harmful to the climate, and black carbon emissions would be especially damaging in the Arctic.”

Shindell is a Professor of Climate Sciences at Duke University and was a Coordinating Lead Author on the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC.

The letter comes on the heels of an Interior Department decision that reaffirmed Royal Dutch Shell’s 2008 offshore oil and gas lease north of Alaska, allowing the Department to begin its formal review process of Shell’s plan for drilling in the Chukchi Sea.

Without required controls for black carbon, this decision could result in introducing new avoidable pollution in the fragile Arctic.

In 2012, Congress transferred authority to regulate these emissions from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Department of the Interior, and it is expected that the Department will soon propose new regulations.

The full text of the letter is below and also available upon request.

Dear Secretary Jewell:

We are writing to urge you to ensure that when the Department proposes updated air permitting regulations for offshore drilling activities in Alaska’s coastal waters, the Department solicits information on both the potential climate impact of black carbon pollution and the availability of black carbon pollution control technologies.

In 2012, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which transferred jurisdiction over air quality standards for offshore drilling in Alaska’s coastal waters from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Department of Interior (DOI). At the time, concerns were raised regarding deficiencies in DOI’s approach to overseeing air pollution from offshore drilling. We are pleased that the Department recognized those deficiencies and is undertaking efforts to update its air quality standards.

The Arctic has unique characteristics and vulnerabilities. Black carbon pollution, or soot, a type of particulate matter that results from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, is a significant contributor to global warming. The Arctic is especially sensitive to black carbon pollution. When it covers highly reflective snow and ice, the darker surface absorbs more heat, accelerating the melting of snow, glaciers, ice sheets, and sea ice.

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Arctic sea ice volume has shrunk by 75 percent since the 1980s, and a recent study suggests that black carbon may be responsible for more than 30 percent of recent warming in the Arctic. The National Snow and Ice Data Center recently announced that the sea ice extent maximum in the Arctic likely reached a record low this year. Increased loss of snow and sea ice in the Arctic could have severe impacts, including accelerating warming as reflective sea ice melts into dark ocean waters that absorb more heat, exposing Alaska’s coastal communities to fierce storm surges, sea-level rise and erosion, and undermining subsistence hunting of Alaska Natives. The consequences of a melting Arctic stretch far beyond the region. Melting glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet are major drivers of global sea-level rise, leaving coastal and low-lying areas in the United States and around the world vulnerable to flooding.

Current DOI regulations for air emissions from outer continental shelf operations become less stringent the farther the source is from the shore. Yet this approach does not take into account the harmful effects of black carbon on snow and sea ice in the Arctic far from shore.

Unlike carbon dioxide, which becomes well-mixed in the atmosphere and has a global effect, black carbon pollution warms the atmosphere on a regional basis. Therefore, introducing new sources of black carbon pollution in the Arctic from ships and heavy equipment used to drill for oil and gas would add a new threat to the fragile Arctic. Thankfully, technologies exist to cost effectively reduce black carbon pollution from diesel engines. The United States is on track to reduce black carbon emissions by 52 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, largely because of existing diesel regulations. However, these technologies may not be used in offshore drilling, unless the Department requires them to be used.

We understand that the Department will soon propose new regulations to address air pollution from offshore drilling. In this proposal, we urge you to solicit public comment on two critically important questions. First, the Department should seek comment on whether our current understanding of the Arctic warrants a requirement that black carbon pollution be controlled due to its effects on ice, snow, and sea ice. Second, the Department should seek comment on whether there are controls, technologies or approaches that are available, or will be available, to control black carbon pollution from the ships and equipment associated with drilling for oil and gas. It is critically important that the Department use the opportunity of updating these standards to safeguard the Arctic and the global climate from harmful black carbon pollution.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

BRIAN SCHATZ
U.S. Senator

SHELDON WHITEHOUSE
U.S. Senator

ANGUS S. KING, JR.
U.S Senator

EDWARD J. MARKEY
U.S Senator

BARBARA BOXER
U.S Senator

ELIZABETH WARREN
U.S Senator

BERNARD SANDERS
U.S. Senator

SCHATZ, ALEXANDER, COATS, COONS INTRODUCE BILL TO REDUCE FEDERAL AGENCY ENERGY USE AND SAVE TAXPAYER MONEY

U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced bipartisan legislation that would give federal agencies greater ability to reduce energy use and save taxpayer dollars.

The Utility Energy Service Contracts Improvement Act of 2015 would allow federal agencies to enter into long-term contracts with utilities for energy saving services, giving agencies more options to conserve energy and reduce costs.

“As the largest consumer of energy in the country, the federal government needs to do everything it can to save energy and taxpayer dollars,” said Schatz. “Our bipartisan legislation would expand opportunities to invest in energy efficiency and clean energy projects while saving money. I look forward to working with Sens. Alexander, Coats, and Coons to make this practical solution law.”

“This legislation lets the federal government negotiate longer-term contracts with utilities, just as businesses would, to provide more certainty and reduce taxpayers’ energy costs,” said Alexander. “That’s a welcome change from the usual Washington obsessions with burdensome mandates and wasteful taxpayer subsidies that instead increase the cost of energy.”

“This bipartisan legislation is an excellent way to both reduce red tape and increase cost-savings,” said Coats. “By providing necessary clarity and expanding energy options for federal agencies, we can make long-term energy efficiency upgrades that would result in saving taxpayer dollars.”

“Saving energy and taxpayer money at the same time just makes sense,” Coons said. “Our bipartisan bill makes it easier for the federal government to save money while investing in clean energy, energy efficiency, and water conservation projects that are critical to our economic future. This is an issue that should unite us, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move this bill forward.”

The Utility Energy Service Contracts Improvement Act of 2015 clarifies an existing law that allows federal agencies to enter into utility energy service contracts (UESCs) of up to 25 years, provided certain conditions are met.

Renewable energy projects, long-term energy security projects, and large scale energy conservation measures often are simply not cost-effective with a 10-year contract period.

To date, federal agencies have used UESCs to invest approximately $2.7 billion in their facilities, however a much greater potential exists.

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SCHATZ STATEMENT ON COMMITMENT TO CUT CARBON POLLUTION

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) released the following statement after the Obama Administration announced the United States’ commitment to reduce carbon pollution by 28 percent over the next ten years in an effort to combat climate change.

“Today’s commitment by the Administration to cut carbon pollution by 28 percent in the next decade is critical to our fight against climate change. President Obama has laid out a bold and viable plan that will put us on a path to stabilizing the climate. The historic commitments from China and emerging economies such as Mexico to cut carbon pollution have shown us that American leadership on climate change has a real global impact. These targeted goals give us unique opportunities to strengthen our economy, improve public health, and leave a better world for our families and our children.

“Our global partners committed to reducing carbon pollution should know that just last week the U.S. Senate passed an amendment stating that climate change is real, caused by humans, and that we should take action to cut emissions. I and many of my colleagues in Congress are dedicated to supporting the President’s Climate Action Plan and ensuring that the United States is able to not only follow through, but build on the commitments made today.”

SCHATZ STATEMENT ON EXECUTIVE ORDER TO CUT GOVERNMENT CARBON POLLUTION BY 40 PERCENT

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) released the following statement on President Obama’s executive order to cut the federal government’s carbon pollution by 40 percent and increase the use of renewable energy sources to 30 percent of its consumption.

“Today, the Obama Administration took another important step towards cutting carbon pollution and speeding up the transition to clean energy. As the largest consumer of energy in the country with a reach that includes some of the biggest private sector suppliers, a 40 percent reduction in carbon pollution from the federal government can make a significant impact on our national output and begin to change the way the government does business. This is real progress, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to build on this effort and move forward with solutions to climate change.”

SCHATZ AND HEINRICH INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO MODERNIZE ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) introduced the PREPARE Act — Promoting Regional Energy Partnerships for Advancing Resilient Energy Systems Act — legislation that would help states modernize U.S. energy systems to make them cleaner, more efficient, cost-effective, reliable, and resilient.

“In Hawaii, we were able to work collaboratively with the Department of Energy and business and community leaders to develop an energy strategy that has increased clean energy production,” said Schatz. “Hawaii serves as a model, and our bill will empower the Energy Department to give other states and regions the tools they need to modernize their energy infrastructure and build a cleaner, more resilient system.”

“This bill provides an opportunity for states to collaborate on regional approaches for cleaner power generation and transmission — which are critical to reducing carbon pollution and keeping prices low for consumers,” said Heinrich. “New Mexico has a unique role to play in coordinating and siting significant new generation and transmission infrastructure that will be essential for diversifying and growing our economy. This type of regional collaboration will benefit New Mexico’s rapidly transforming energy sector.”

With an aging U.S. energy infrastructure in need of replacement and growing challenges to grid security, the PREPARE Act authorizes the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to enter into regional cooperative agreements with states to provide support and funding that will help them develop strategies and plans that address the unique energy needs of the region.

The PREPARE Act is modeled on the successful Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative — a federal-state-business-NGO partnership. Created in 2008, the partnership provided DOE assistance to the state and helped convene cross-sector working groups and coordinate federal technical assistance.

Since the partnership began, energy from renewable sources has risen to more than 18 percent in Hawaii, saving an estimated 794 GWh of electricity and $1.5 billion on electricity bills since 2009.

Hawaii now ranks 10th in the nation in clean energy jobs.

SCHATZ CONGRATULATES YOUNG, HOLTER ON ADVISORY PANEL APPOINTMENTS

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) congratulated Dr. Jackie Young on her appointment to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) and Lance Holter on his appointment to the Forestry Research Advisory Council.

Schatz wrote letters in strong support of Young and Holter’s nominations as part of the selection process.

Schatz has made it a priority to identify and encourage individuals from Hawaii to serve on federal advisory committees. These committees are created as advisory bodies to collect viewpoints on various policy issues. Historically, they have been created to address a host of issues and can help the government manage and solve complex or divisive issues.

“Jackie and Lance are uniquely qualified, and will bring a strong voice for Hawaii to these key panels whose valuable input on federal policy can have a great impact on our state,” said Schatz. “Making recommendations to key federal advisory committees is one of my most important jobs as a senator, and I congratulate them both on their appointments. I know they will do an excellent job in helping to shape policies that benefit women in our military and to protect our forests.”

Throughout her career, Young has received numerous awards and accolades. Most recently, Young was presented with the 2014 Charles S. Judd, Jr. Humanitarian Award by the Punahou Alumni Association in recognition of her leadership and service to Punahou School and the community. Young holds a master’s degree in education and a doctorate degree in women’s studies.

“I do believe we have the greatest military force in the world and now that women are almost fully integrated, our military will become even greater but the issue of safety in the workplace is huge,” said Young. “I think DACOWITS can continue to apply pressure to ensure that changes are made and institutional support is provided for ensuring the highest level of safety. I am very excited to return to this committee. I welcome the chance to see the consequences of earlier actions and having the opportunity now to participate in making life better for women and men in the military.”

“I’m honored to be chosen as a member of the National Forestry Research Advisory Council by Secretary Thomas Vilsack. I believe Hawaii can share a unique perspective in the management of Forests and Environmental Resources to the Council and I hope to share that and more as a member,” said Lance Holter. “I also want to thank Sen. Schatz for working to make sure Hawaii is well represented on key federal advisory committees including the Forestry Research Advisory Council. I believe it is the first time that the Advisory Council has had a member from Hawaii.”

Holter served in Tunisia as a Peace Corps volunteer focused on developing clean water sources for irrigation and consumption. Since that time, Holter has played an active role in environmental conservation and stewardship, having served as Chair of the Maui Group Executive Committee of the Sierra Club.

BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION TO HELP EXPAND RESPONSIBLE USE OF POLICE BODY CAMERAS

U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), and Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) introduced the Police Creating Accountability by Making Effective Recording Available (Police CAMERA) Act of 2015.

This legislation would create a pilot grant program to assist state and local law enforcement agencies develop safe and effective body-worn camera programs that also protect civilians’ privacy rights.

“The relationship between our communities and the men and women who protect them is based on trust and accountability,” said Schatz. “In communities like Ferguson, we have seen that public trust eroded by reports of racism and use of excessive force by police. Body-worn police cameras are already being used by some police departments and have shown to be effective in keeping our communities safe. Our legislation would help expand the responsible use of body-worn police cameras and help make sure our police officers and law enforcement agencies are more accountable to the communities they serve.”

“Body cameras will benefit the brave men and women who serve in our police force and the people they protect,” said Paul. “The use of body cameras helps officers collect and preserve evidence to solve crimes, while also decreasing the number of complaints against police. The Police CAMERA Act will help state and local police departments access this new tool, while ensuring that the privacy rights of every civilian is respected.”

“At a time when the trust between law enforcement and those they were sworn to protect has reached a critical point, the Police CAMERA Act gives us an opportunity to explore and learn best practices for the use of body worn cameras,” said Brown. “Representing Florida, a place that has had its share of issues with transparency and police accountability, the Police CAMERA Act is a positive bi-partisan measure which strengthens trust between law enforcement and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve.”

“After the tragic deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Robert Saylor and Tamir Rice, a stronger bond must be forged between our communities and police forces,” said Ellison. “The pilot program created by the Police CAMERA Act empowers law enforcement officials who want to do better for the people they protect and serve. Body cameras alone won’t stop the next tragedy, but we should take every common-sense step we can to increase accountability and protect both civilians and police officers.”

“To begin to repair the relationship between law enforcement and local communities, we need smart, bipartisan, bicameral solutions like the Police CAMERA Act,” said Cummings. “This bill would help law enforcement agencies get the resources they need to carry out crucial information-gathering on the ground, while also helping identify best practices at the national level. Perhaps most significantly, the Police CAMERA Act brings the public directly into the conversation. It requires recipients to make their body camera policies public, and also requires them to allow individuals to file complaints about the use of these cameras. This is exactly the kind of public accountability we need to carry out effective criminal justice policy.”

Recent incidents of reported use of excess force by police in Ferguson, Missouri; Staten Island, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; and Pasco, Washington have shown a need for greater accountability in our law enforcement agencies. Police departments that have piloted the use of body-worn cameras have seen a drop in incidents of use of excessive force and complaints against police.

The Police CAMERA Act of 2015 would:

* Establish a pilot grant program using existing funding to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies with the purchasing or leasing of body-worn cameras.

* Authorize an impact-study after two years. The study would assess the impact body-worn cameras have on reducing the use of excessive force by police, its effects on officer safety and public safety, and procedures to protect the privacy of individuals who are recorded.

Supporters of the Police CAMERA Act of 2015 include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

“Appalling events illustrating the distrust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, particularly communities of color, continue to manifest day-after-day in neighborhoods across America,” said Kanya A. Bennett, Legislative Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Our hope is the Police CAMERA Act is one of many steps forward in reforms and will prove to be a win-win for both law enforcement and communities by discouraging police misconduct and exonerating officers accused of unsubstantiated wrongdoing. With the right protocols in place, body-worn cameras can promote transparency, accountability, and public safety, all while respecting privacy interests.”

“Decades of distrust between communities of color and law enforcement have been magnified by the recent rash of police violence perpetrated against unarmed African-Americans,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “National activists and advocates have called for changes in the way police interact with civilians, and the Police CAMERA Act will provide needed tools to address unlawful and deadly interactions. While LDF supports this bill, we are under no illusions that it should be the only measure used to ensure responsible policing in communities across the country. Body-worn cameras must be part of a broader reform effort that includes deescalation and racial-bias training, comprehensive data collection, and appropriate responses to police misconduct.”

“The Police CAMERA Act is an important step forward in addressing the deep-seated biases in our justice system that disproportionately harm communities of color and contributed to the tragic deaths of men like Eric Garner and Michael Brown,” said Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “By investing in body-worn cameras for police, the Police CAMERA Act will help protect the rights of all people and contribute to safer and more transparent law enforcement practices. We support the Police CAMERA Act, as one solution among many to these problems. We also need comprehensive training on implicit and explicit bias, strong prohibitions against discriminatory police practices like profiling, and increased data collection and accountability mechanisms for officer misconduct.”

“It is my hope that the benefits of the body-worn camera, as was shown with our pilot program, will be the gateway of creating and manifesting better relationships with our citizens through enhanced service delivery,” said Darryl D. Perry, Chief of Police of the Kauai Police Department. “I sincerely believe that body-worn cameras will provide an open and translucent atmosphere in law enforcement beyond our expectations.”

AMENDMENT SUPPORTING EQUAL TREATMENT OF SAME-SEX SPOUSES IN SOCIAL SECURITY AND VA

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) released the following statement after the passage of the Schatz-Murray-Shaheen Amendment #1063 which would establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund for legislation to ensure all legally married spouses have access to the Social Security and VA benefits their family has earned, including all same-sex couples.

“Gay couples legally married in any state should be entitled to veterans and Social Security benefits identical to any other married couples. Tonight, eleven Republicans joined Democrats in recognizing that gay couples deserve equal treatment, regardless of where they live. We still have work to do to, but this is progress and a win for equal rights. I thank Sen. Murray and Sen. Shaheen for their leadership on this important issue.”

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