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Statement by Senator Dianne Feinstein In Opposition to Arctic Drilling and Other Provisions Added to Defense Bill

by Pamela Leavey

Senator Dianne Feinstein today announced her intent to vote against cloture on the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill because of the inclusion of provisions in violation of Senate Rules to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and to grant unprecedented liability protection to vaccine manufacturers

The following is Senator Feinstein’s floor statement on the bill:

Mr. President, I rise today to state my opposition to this cynical effort to add a very controversial provision to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and also adds a provision to grant unprecedented liability protection to vaccine manufacturers to a critical Defense Appropriations Bill.

Holding funding for our troops and relief for Hurricane Katrina victims hostage in this manner is just plain wrong and a violation of at least two Senate rules (28 and a budget point of order) and cynical.

Rule 28 prevents Senators from adding provisions that have not been included in either the House or Senate bill from being added to the conference report. Neither the House nor the Senate included any language on ANWR, so according to the Senate rules, it should not have been included in the conference report.

The provision also appears to violate Section 311 of the Budget Act. The Budget Resolution which we passed in April assumed that the Treasury Department would raise about $2 billion from opening the Arctic for drilling. Yet the appropriations bill spends $5 billion of revenue from ANWR.

As far as I know, opening ANWR to drilling has not been re-scored, so the score from earlier this year is still in effect. As a result, this provision is subject to a Budget Point of Order.

It makes a mockery of the rules and procedures of the Senate and strikes a blow at the heart of collegiality.

The ANWR provision was originally added to the Budget Reconciliation bill. Courageous House Republicans stood up and said no. So when this route was closed, it was added to this important appropriations bill, in violation of at least one Senate Rule and the Budget Act.

To make matters worse, the vaccine proposal was added to the bill after the House-Senate Conference Committee concluded its meeting. This is outrageous.

I believe it is all being done with a cynical attitude that says unless we accept it, we’re going to run the risk that we will vote against a major bill which funds all military operations at a critical time in our history.

ANWR

ANWR is an issue that arouses great passion on both sides of the issue. There are strong arguments that underlie the belief that the opening of these critical 1.5 million acres of pristine wilderness is small from an oil production perspective and damaging environmentally.

· Environmental Arguments

First, the Artic Refuge’s coastal plain, where the drilling would occur, is the ecological heart of the refuge.

It is the center of wildlife activity, and the home of nearly 200 wildlife species, including polar bears, musk oxen, and porcupine caribou.

If ANWR were opened up for drilling, the wilderness would be crisscrossed by roads, pipelines, power plants, and other infrastructure.

In fact, the Department of the Interior estimated that 12,500 acres would be directly impacted by drilling.

I believe that destroying this wilderness does very little to reduce energy costs nor does it do it very much for oil independence.

· Economic and Oil Consumption Arguments:

I also believe deeply that we cannot drill our way out of our nation’s over-dependence on oil.

ANWR will produce too little oil to have a real impact on prices or overall supply. And it would offer a number of false hopes:

First, to those seeking lower gasoline prices: opening the Refuge would only lower gasoline prices only one cent per gallon 20 years from now. (Department of Energy).

Second, to those seeking a major boost in oil supply: the U.S. now consumes 20 million barrels of oil per day, a number that will climb every year unless we learn to conserve and recognize that we must find alternatives to fossil fuels.

On average, ANWR is expected to produce about 800,000 barrels per day. And in 2025, this 800,000 barrels per day would represent only 3% of the projected 25 million barrel a day U.S. daily consumption. (Energy Information Administration).

So, in essence, we would be sacrificing this cherished wilderness to obtain about 10.4 billion barrels of oil over the 35-year projected ANWR lifetime. This amounts to a little more than one year’s supply of oil for the U.S.

· IMPORTANT ALTERNATIVES:

There are other things we can do to meet our energy needs, including raising fuel economy standards and drilling at alternative sites.

First, just changing the mileage of SUVs and light trucks from 21 to 27.5 miles per gallon would save the U.S. 1 million barrels of oil a day and reduce our dependence on oil imports by 10 percent.

This would save more oil in one day (1 million barrels) than ANWR would produce in one day (800,000 barrels).

Second, there are other important supplies of domestically produced oil.

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) has reported that there are 36.9 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil that exists in the Gulf of Mexico, much of which would likely be found under the 8,043 already leased blocks in the Gulf.

These already leased blocks can be drilled right now, without delay, if the oil companies were willing.

In addition, there are new technologies to produce oil from ‘depleted’ oil fields throughout the United States.

According to scientists, using enhanced oil recovery could allow the U.S. to produce an additional 32 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil from already existing wells.

The bottom line is that it is hardly worthwhile to damage the nation’s only refuge that encompasses a complete range of arctic ecosystems and provides an essential habitat for many species for less than 1% of the world’s oil output.

Drilling will not give us more energy security, but it will carry huge environmental costs.

We can start to address high energy prices, energy security and global warming by increasing fuel economy standards, encouraging energy efficiency, promoting the development of new and alternative fuels, and supporting the invention and commercialization of new vehicle technologies. Drilling in ANWR is not the answer.

Flu Liability

Before I close, I also want to say a few words about another problematic provision in the bill.

I was quite surprised to discover yesterday that after the Conference on Sunday had been closed, new liability protections for pharmaceutical companies were added to the Conference Report.

Over thirty pages of new language were included that provide essentially complete immunity from civil liability for drug companies and medical device manufacturers even when there is reckless disregard or gross negligence in developing or manufacturing these products – so long as the Secretary of HHS has made a ‘Declaration.’

In addition, pharmaceutical and medical device companies are protected even when there are criminal violations of FDA standards so long as the Administration has not taken action to enforce the violations.

The bill does appear to allow for a law suit if an injured patient can demonstrate willful misconduct on the part of the company.

However, the language is unclear as to whether the Secretary has to first approve regulations before even these suits may go forward.

In addition, the bill literally directs the Secretary to promulgate regulations to further restrict the definition of willful misconduct — a decision that is usually left up to a Court.

Even more disturbing is that none of the Secretary’s decisions are subject to review by a Court, essentially wiping out individual’s access to an impartial forum.

I am also concerned that this legislation pre-empts state laws. If states have stronger laws to protect consumers from defective drugs or devices those laws are pre-empted, as we do in California, those laws are wiped out.

Finally, the bill does create a trust fund to pay patients who cannot meet these severely restrictive standards based on the “Smallpox Emergency Personnel Protection Act.”

However, that Act is meant as a supplemental benefits program for health care workers administering the potentially deadly smallpox vaccine. And more importantly, there is no money for the trust.

I am very disturbed that this egregious provision was added to the Conference Report. I am disturbed both by the process in which it was added, and by the substantive impact it could have if enacted into law.

Conclusion

It is with a heavy heart that I plan to vote against cloture on this bill. I support the military 100 percent. I support our efforts to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina 100 percent. But I cannot support the manner in which this important bill was hijacked in an effort to get several very controversial provisions enacted despite widespread opposition.

In an article that appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Senator Stevens was quoted saying that if a Senate filibuster over ANWR stops this bill, the legislation can be modified and passed so it has no impact on military finances. He said, ‘If we lose, then we’ll reconstitute the conference and ANWR will be out.’ I would hope that is the result. It would be the best course for this Congress and the nation.”

3 Responses to “Statement by Senator Dianne Feinstein In Opposition to Arctic Drilling and Other Provisions Added to Defense Bill”

  1. Glad that Senator Feinstein was watching out for the people’s best interests. I appreciate her watchfulness and bravery against the sneaky tactics that seem to be all over the place in our Congress and Senate.

  2. This is exactly how the Dems need to deal with this situation…have the rational counter and submit it rapidly. Feinstein is absorbing a true leadership role for the people, I hope she is getting help from an active senate base. These Senators need to stick together and keep nipping at the heels of the majority machine, eventually they (“the majority”) will be so tripped up by their lies and incompetence down they go. Keep them on the run…then run em’ out of town

  3. Ben

    Run them out town is darn right! The faster the better!