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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2010

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2010 -- (Senate - July 16, 2009)

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Madam President, I heard the Senator from Massachusetts laying out the scenario we face not just as Americans but as inhabitants of this wonderful planet Earth. I was compelled to come to the floor and talk about what we are doing in Colorado in seizing the opportunities that the Senator from Massachusetts points out.

He described ably and eloquently what I have characterized as a ``no regrets'' policy. We ought to take all of these steps because whether or not climate change materializes--and I am one who believes the science is very powerfully pointing in that direction--all of those steps would result in the benefits he described. Today I want to bring my home State perspective to
this debate over cleaner, safer, and more secure energy sources.

When we make this change, we will improve our national security. We lessen our dependence on foreign oil, we protect our Earth, and we preserve the air we breathe and the water we drink. Most of all, we keep faith with our children. I have long believed that we do not inherit the Earth from our parents; we are actually borrowing it and all its majesty from our children.

Colorado has a unique perspective on this opportunity, and I think America can benefit from our experiences.

For many years, we have been a national leader in developing energy sources that are traditional, such as coal and natural gas. And in recent years, we have begun to lead the Nation in producing renewable energy from the Sun, the wind, and from biomass.

In 2004--the Presiding Officer, who is a former Governor, can understand the symbolism of what we did--I led a campaign along with the Republican speaker of our State house, Lola Spradley, to create a renewable electricity standard for our State. We barnstormed together in our State in that highly partisan 2004 election. We surprised people that a Democrat and Republican were campaigning together. It was not a Republican or Democratic issue; it was a Colorado issue and, more importantly, it was a Colorado opportunity.

There were naysayers who tried to scare our voters by saying the renewable standard would raise energy costs and harm our economy.

But our voters decided to take up the challenge and to commit to generating 10 percent of our electricity from the Sun and from the wind and other clean sources of energy. Our clean energy producers went to work after we passed this measure, and just 3 years later our legislature, realizing we were soon to reach that goal, said: Let's double the standard. So we now have a 20-percent standard we are committing to reach by the year 2020.

We are fortunate to have these ample supplies of clean energy resources in Colorado. But the real key to this has been releasing the ingenuity of our people and then setting goals that create a sustainable future. I wanted to share some examples from Colorado specifically.

Just last week, Tristate, a Colorado utility, joined with a subsidiary of Duke Energy and announced plans to build a wind power facility in Kit Carson, CO, out in our eastern plains.

Vestas--which many are familiar with as the Danish wind turbine supplier--recently broke ground on two new manufacturing plants in the city of Brighton that will eventually employ over 1,300 people. It is also building a $250 million plant in Pueblo that will be the largest facility of its kind and employ 500 people.

Our Governor, Bill Ritter, has estimated that the solar component--we had a solar component in our renewable electricity standard, specifically to generate solar energy activity--has brought over 1,500 new jobs to Colorado.

I think it is fair to say we have wind turbines sprouting and growing like trees on our eastern plains and we have solar farms that are covering the entire San Luis Valley, which is one of our agricultural gems. This is as a direct result of Coloradans setting a goal and saying we are going to meet that goal. I guess I am optimistic enough about America to know that America can follow Colorado's lead. For me, it is when, not if, we commit to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future, we will lead the world in this next great technological revolution.

The Senator from Massachusetts spoke to the awe-inspiring numbers that are potentials--a $6 trillion economy--waiting for us out there if we will only commit to pursuing it. The Union of Concerned Scientists has estimated that a 25-percent renewable electricity standard by 2025 will lead to almost 300,000 new jobs in America, $260-plus billion in new capital investments, $13 billion in income to farmers, ranchers and rural landowners, and $12 billion in local and State tax revenues. Consumers would save $64 billion in lower electricity bills by 2025, while we would reduce the carbon pollution emitted by cars that would be the equivalent of taking 45 million vehicles off of our roads.

I am talking about jobs, Madam President, but it goes much further than that. If, and I say when, we develop a clean energy economy, we will create a new manufacturing base. It will protect our lands and our water, and it will align a policy compass that helps us navigate toward a more prosperous future.

I would like to take a minute and emphasize that the clean energy future I paint doesn't mean the abandonment of traditional sources of energy. We have coal and oil and natural gas in abundance. Nor should it shut the door on nuclear power. Quite the opposite. These sources will remain an essential component of our energy mix for the foreseeable future. I think, as Colorado's experience shows, a balanced energy portfolio will work and that we can find that sweet spot in an energy mix for the future.

We have ample supplies of fossil fuel in Colorado, and we ought to continue to develop those sources. They are crucial to the livelihood of tens of thousands of Coloradans and still comprise the majority of our electric generation. Natural gas, in particular, is a clean and domestic source of energy, and it will be a crucial bridge fuel to the future.

We have massive quantities of oil shale potential on our western slope, and we should continue to research to see if we can produce it in a commercially viable way and in an environmentally sensitive manner.

Colorado has been able to bridge the divide, literally, between our western slope and our eastern plains and between conventional sources of energy from the last century and the clean sources of the future, and the rest of America must now do the same.

The bottom line, though, Madam President, is we must have a comprehensive energy policy that transitions us to cleaner, safer, and more sustainable sources of energy while making full use of existing sources in a responsible manner.

In Colorado, we have a very tangible interest in America adopting broad clean energy sources and therefore limiting our contribution of carbon into the atmosphere, and I would like to focus on one key element of life on our planet, and that is water.

Water is the lifeblood of the entire West. When you grow up in the desert, as I did, you learn to treasure water. You learn that everything is shaped by it, and it may not always be there when you need it if you don't husband those resources. My constituents know that maintaining our water supply is crucial to the health of their families and to preserving the way of life we so value in the West. We have suffered through water shortages. We have seen drought.

My father's generation--not that far removed from our generation--experienced the great Dust Bowl of the 1930s. That was an ecological disaster that reminds us that while we are smart as a species, and we are industrious, Mother Nature always bats last.

When scientists look at our part of the country, they predict that droughts will get worse and precipitation patterns will decrease in Western States because of our use of and dependence on the traditional sources over the last century. People in Colorado know we can't ignore this threat. We have seen acre after acre of our forests devastated by the mountain pine beetle--an epidemic that was exacerbated by a warming climate that will get worse in the hotter drier conditions to come. When they see that, when I see that, we know that doing nothing is not an option.

The cost of inaction is simply too high, and you see that point of view in all the States in my region of the country, regardless of the leadership at the gubernatorial level, at the legislative level. No matter what part of the country we are from, we have a stake in crafting a new energy policy. Beyond regional interests, members of both political parties know we have to meet this challenge because if we don't, it is not only our economic prosperity that is at stake, our national security is at stake.

I was inspired this week to see that our former colleague, the highly respected, now retired, Senator John Warner, is traveling across the country making the case for a plan to address the threats from climate change. We can debate the causes of climate change, and we should continue to have that debate, but we know what we must do.

First, we must lead the world in a clean energy revolution, and next we must acknowledge that our reliance on foreign sources of oil and fossil fuels isn't a sustainable strategy. Third, we must act soon.

I used to think having a discussion about adapting to the changes being brought about by the emission of carbon was a mistake, and that by looking at adapting we were giving in to the problem. But I have come to realize that we have to be realistic and we have to recognize that the changes that are coming will have real impacts on all of us. If we don't act now, the changes that are coming at us and bearing down on us will have a terrible effect on future generations, and we will be doing those generations a terrible disservice.

The longer we wait, the longer we deny, the longer we spend debating, the harder and, frankly, the more expensive it will be to deal with those changes. So the time to act is now. I urge all of our colleagues to join together to pass a strong, clean energy bill. We can drive America with clean energy.

Madam President, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Madam President, I rise today in support of amendment No. 1511 to S. 1390.

In the midst of my first campaign for Congress in 1998, the Nation was shocked by the tragic death of Matthew Shepard.

We all know well the story of Matthew--a 21-year-old University of Wyoming student who was brutally murdered simply for being gay. He was beaten severely, tied to a fence, and left to die in freezing temperatures. Matthew was taken to a hospital in Fort Collins, CO, where he never regained consciousness.

I was elected to Congress a month after Matthew's murder. And for every year thereafter, I have supported Federal hate crimes legislation that would later be renamed for him--The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Ten years later, in 2008, I asked my fellow Coloradans to entrust me with the honor of representing them in the Senate. During that campaign, I was deeply saddened to learn about another tragic murder this time in my home State of Colorado.

In July of last year, 18-year-old Angie Zapata was beaten to death in the living room of her Greeley apartment. According to press accounts, Angie's attacker claims that he brutally went after her with a fire extinguisher, pummeling her until she could not fight back because of his hatred for transgender and gay people. This case is a sobering reminder that 10 years after Matthew Shepard's murder, vile prejudice based on sexual orientation and gender identity still plagues our society.

Unlike Federal law, Colorado has a strong hate crimes statute. The man accused of killing Angie was the first person in the Nation to be tried and eventually convicted under any State's hate crime law for killing a person because of transgender orientation. I hope that the successful prosecution of Angie's killer in Colorado will be an example for other States and demonstrate to Members of Congress that it is time for the country as a whole to follow our lead.

President Obama has promised to sign into law the expansion of hate crimes statute to include sexual identity, gender identity and disability, which is what the amendment before us today would do. I am a cosponsor and ardent supporter of this amendment because I believe now is the time in remembrance of Matthew and Angie and all other Americans who have been a victim of violent crimes motivated by hate to get this done. It is the right thing to do.

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