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Habeas Corpus

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

HABEAS CORPUS -- (Senate - June 12, 2008)


Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, before my friend from Ohio leaves the floor, I want to tell him, through the Chair, that he has his finger on the right issue. There are so many of us here in this Chamber on both sides of the aisle who recognize that the fiscal house of America is in a disastrous condition, and how we move forward when we get a new President in 2009 is going to be very important in terms of how we address the fiscal reality and fiscal challenges we face.

I think the recklessness we have seen with respect to this mountain of debt, which my good friend from Ohio has pointed out is now nearing the $10 trillion mark, is something we have a moral obligation to address. I know among colleagues on both sides, including Senator Conrad and Senator Gregg, there have been conversations about how we might be able to develop a process to try to get our fiscal house back in order. And I appreciate the leadership of my friend from Ohio on this issue.

Mr. President, I come to the floor to talk about an issue which has been talked about here quite a bit over the last several days. It has to do with what people think is an easy solution that will deal with the gas price and energy crisis we face here in America.

I have heard several of my colleagues come to the floor saying we have a panacea here--just develop the oil shale of the West, just develop 2 trillion barrels of oil that are locked up in the shale of the United States of America, 80 percent of which is in Colorado, and somehow we are going to wave a magic wand and that magic wand will automatically start creating these billions and trillions of barrels of oil that all of a sudden will bring about this abrupt decline in the price of gasoline and the price of oil.

There is a lot of hot air in those statements that are being made because the reality of it is that oil shale development in Colorado is still a long way away. That is because the research and development program, which we approved in this Congress, in the Senate, in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, contemplated that we would enter into a research and development phase to determine whether oil shale could be commercially developed.

Why is that so important? It is important, first of all, because for 100 years people have been looking at the possibility of developing the oil that is locked up in the shales of mostly Colorado and some in Utah and some in Wyoming, and they haven't been successful. We have had the largest economic bust of the West and in western Colorado in 1980s, as major companies tried to develop oil shale and found out, after investing billions of dollars, that they simply could not under those technologies.

It is easy to understand why. It is because when you look at where the kerogen is, which is the oil substance, it is locked up in the rock. It is shale. There is a reason why they call it oil shale. It is not kerogen. It is shale. It is rock.

So when my friends come to the floor on the other side and say: Hey, here is a panacea to deal with the high gas prices of today, I would ask them all, with all due respect, to simply look at the reality of oil shale and its potential and also to look at its limitations.

Chevron, which is one of the largest oil companies in the world and a company that has been interested in looking at the possibility of oil shale development, in submitting its own comments to the Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management, as they moved forward with their programmatic environmental impact statement on commercial oil shale development a few months ago, said:

Chevron believes that a full scale commercial leasing program should not proceed at this time without clear demonstration of commercial technologies.

That was a statement by Chevron on March 20, 2008. Yet there are myths being spread across the country. There are people who are talking to newspaper editorial boards and all around the country saying that all we have to do in America is go to Colorado, go to the western slope, go get the trillion barrels of oil locked up in that rock and, hey, we will solve all of our gas problems in America. That is simply not true.

I want to first go through what I think are some myths with respect to oil shale development, myths that have been propagated by some who, frankly, have the financial interest and concerns of only the oil companies, not the interests of the environment and of developing real solutions to the energy problems we face.

Myth No. 1 is that we on this side, including myself and other Democratic colleagues, are in fact stopping oil shale from being developed. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In 2005, under legislation that we offered out of the Energy Committee in a bipartisan way, with the leadership of Senator Domenici and Senator Bingaman, we included oil shale provisions which I helped to write. Those oil shale provisions created an orderly process for us to move forward with oil shale development. That legislation, which came out of committee and which came out of this Chamber, included sponsors: Senators Hatch, Allard, myself, Domenici, and Bingaman. What that legislation asked the Secretary of Interior to do--in fact, it did not ask; it directed the Secretary of Interior--was to enter into a research, development, and demonstration program on oil shale.

Since that time, not so long ago, 2005--we can still remember that, just a few years ago--six of these leases have already been issued. Five of them are in Colorado. Three of them have been issued to one company, the Shell Exploration and Production Company.

Under the provisions of the law that we included in that legislation, it is also important to remember that with the 160-acre research and development lease, these companies also have the right to convert those research and development leases to 5,000 acres.

That is 5,000 acres of our public lands for R&D lease. That is 5 times 5, 25,000 acres that can convert over into full-scale commercial development, if they should so wish. So we have a program that is already underway.

Now, the Bureau of Land Management has decided to move forward with a commercial oil shale leasing program under provisions that were stuck in, in the dark of night, in the conference committee over in the House of Representatives that seem to direct the Bureau of Land Management to move forward with a commercial oil shale leasing program.

I do not believe, nor do many of the leaders in my State of Colorado, including our Governor of Colorado, that this is the way we ought to move. Governor Freudenthal in Wyoming does not believe this is the way we should move forward on the possibility of oil shale development. They support the legislation I have introduced on how we move forward with oil shale development. It is very simple legislation. I introduced this legislation that would clarify the process for us to look at how we move forward with oil shale development.

Let me simply walk through what the five steps would be.

First, the BLM would have 1 year to complete an environmental review of a commercial oil shale leasing program. That is a good amount of time for the BLM to look at completing the environmental review of something which is going to be so impactful to the Western Slope and to the State of Colorado.

Second of all, because we believe in making sure the States are providing us input on these Federal lands, which is so important to us in the West--it is so important to us in the West in large part because a third of my State is owned by the Federal Government. The Federal Government is the largest landlord we have in our State. So it has always been important for us to make sure the States and local governments are having input into the development of the resources that are on those Federal lands. My legislation would allow the Governors of the affected States to have 90 days--90 days is not a lot of time--to comment on a commercial oil shale leasing program.

Third, the legislation would give the BLM a year to develop a commercial leasing program and to propose the regulations to accompany it--all, I think, very reasonable pieces of the legislation.

Fourth, the Department of the Interior and the National Academy of Sciences would prepare reports to Congress on the technology and the proposed plan for oil shale development.

Finally, oil shale development would have to comply with our already existing environmental laws--a very simple, straightforward process for us to look at how we can develop oil shale.

There are people out there who are saying we in Colorado oppose oil shale development or that Democrats have opposed it. That is simply not the case. We did not oppose it in 2005, and we do not oppose it today. We simply say we want to move forward in a thoughtful and responsible way as we look at the possibility of developing oil shale.

So myth No. 1--that we are opposed to oil shale--is simply false. It is a myth. It is not true.

Secondly, there is another myth out there that says the current moratorium which is in place as a result of legislation which the Congress adopted last year on commercial leasing regulations is somehow preventing energy companies from developing oil shale, that we are somehow preventing the oil companies from developing oil shale today. Again, that is a myth. It is not true.

The reality is, the BLM has clearly stated that the current moratorium on issuing commercial leasing regulations will have no effect--no effect--on U.S. energy supply or on when commercial oil shale production could begin.

I have here a part of a transcript of a hearing we had in the Energy Committee not too long ago, where we had the Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Secretary Allred, come before our committee and testify about the potential of oil shale. It debunks the myths that somehow we are going to wave this magic wand and all of a sudden, this year or next year or the following year, we are going to have all this oil flowing from oil shale in the West.

I asked Secretary Allred:

When I look at your chart on oil shale development on public lands, you have at some point on that chart this little brown dot that says ``project completion: phase 3--commercial.'' When do you think that will happen? What year?

Assistant Secretary Allred responded:

Senator, it's hard to predict that because .....

I asked him the question:


Secretary Allred's response:

Oh no, I think, I think .....

I then asked Secretary Allred:


Secretary Allred responded:

Probably in the latter half of, say, 2015 and beyond.

``2015 and beyond.'' So that is what the Assistant Secretary of the Interior, responsible for this program, is actually saying, that we would be ready possibly to move forward with commercial development of oil shale in the year 2015--7 years from now.

Why, therefore, is there such a rush to move forward headlong today and to complete the development of commercial oil shale regulations before the end of the Bush administration? Why is that the case? I do not understand it because it is not going to produce any oil that will help us deal with the energy crisis we face in the Nation today or tomorrow or the next year. So we have to keep asking those questions.

There is another part of the myth with respect to oil shale, and that is that we need to understand that even companies such as Chevron and others do not know what kind of technology ultimately is going to be viable for us in the development of oil shale. Even Jill Davis from Royal Dutch Shell Corporation, in the Rocky Mountain News, is quoted as saying:

The thing is we have to determine whether it works on a commercial scale.

So there are lots of myths.

Myth No. 3 is that the BLM is prepared--I hear some of my colleagues come to the floor and writing letters and making statements in the media--that the BLM is prepared to issue commercial oil shale leasing regulations because the BLM knows the nature and the needs of the development of oil shale, including water and power requirements.

Nothing could be further from the truth. BLM has clearly stated it does not know how much water would be required to implement and carry out a commercial oil shale leasing program. So how can we move forward with a commercial oil shale leasing program when we do not know how much water would be required to develop this oil shale?

In a hearing, again with Assistant Secretary Allred, I asked the following question:

Let me ask you about water availability. Under the Colorado River Compact, as described, there is a significant share of water of the Colorado River between all of the seven States--Upper Basin, Lower Basin--we have a share of water within Colorado that we are entitled under the compacts to consume for Colorado water users. Do you know, today, how much of that water consumption under those compacts would be required to be able to implement a commercial oil shale leasing program?

Secretary Allred's response:

Senator, we do not. And that's part of the ..... that's part of the purpose of the R&D leases--to try to determine that.

So how can we move forward headlong with a commercial oil shale leasing program when we have no idea how much water is going to be consumed in the development of these so-called half a trillion or a trillion barrels of oil? We do not know because we do not know how much water is going to be required based on whatever technology ultimately might be chosen.

Another myth is that the BLM, Department of the Interior, is absolutely ready to move forward with a commercial oil shale leasing program because they know what they are doing with respect to the power requirements.

They do not know what the power requirements are going to be. Producing 100,000 barrels per day of oil shale will require approximately 1.2 gigawatts of dedicated electric generating capacity. The question is, where is that electricity going to come from? Where is that power going to come from? What will its impact be? None of those questions have been answered. Yet the Bureau of Land Management is insistent on completing this commercial oil shale leasing program as fast as they can. I think, again, they are wrong.

There is another myth out there that says without commercial leasing--I hear some of my colleagues say this--without commercial leasing regulations from the Bureau of Land Management, investors may decide to stop risking their capital on oil shale and instead focus on other projects with more certain returns.

That is not true. The reality is the commercial leasing moratorium is giving BLM, investors, energy companies, scientists, Congress, and local communities the time they need to get more information about oil shale development and to allow the technologies to mature before any full-scale operation begins on public land.

Again, as Chevron commented in the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement:

Chevron believes that a full scale commercial leasing program should not proceed at this time without clear demonstration of commercial technologies.

So there are a lot of myths with respect to oil shale development.

Mr. President, I have several more minutes to go, and I see the assistant majority leader has come to the floor, so I will yield to him if he would so choose.

Mr. President, I will continue.

Myth No. 5. Somehow or another, those purveyors and artists of wanting to move forward with oil shale development with all speed ahead are saying this is somehow supported by the State and local governments it affects.

Well, more than half--probably 75 percent--of all the oil shale resources are located in my State of Colorado. The Governor of the State of Colorado, Bill Ritter, says let's go slow and be thoughtful about oil shale development because we know the kind of impact it can have on the vast Western Slope of the State of Colorado. But it is not just the Governor of the State of Colorado who says that, it is also the Governor of Wyoming, Governor Freudenthal, as well.

Within my State of Colorado, there is a whole host of local governments that are very concerned about the Department of the Interior and the BLM moving forward, rushing headlong, moving recklessly to develop oil shale on the Western Slope without knowing yet what they are doing. Joining in stating those concerns are the City of Rifle, the town of Silt, the Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners, the Routt County Board of County Commissioners, the San Miguel County Board of Commissioners, the Front Range Water Users Council, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the Colorado Springs Utilities, Aurora Water, the Board of Water Works of Pueblo--and the list goes on and on.

Even the newspapers in Colorado are saying this. This is an editorial that was written in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel is the newspaper that covers the 20 counties of the Western Slope of Colorado. This is what the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel said:

There is no need to accelerate leasing of federal land for commercial oil shale production. The notion that the one-year moratorium on commercial leasing approved by Congress last year is somehow a barrier to commercial development is nonsense. If anything, that moratorium should be extended.

The real barriers to commercial oil shale production are technological, environmental and financial.

The Denver Post, the State's largest statewide newspaper, said the following:

Given that oil from shale isn't just around the corner, and given the vital questions of water and energy, shale development deserves the most careful--and lengthy, if necessary--study possible.

Developing oil shale has been a dream since the early 20th century. But careful planning is needed to make sure the dream doesn't turn into a nightmare.

In conclusion, what I want to say is I think Chevron is correct today, that it is a mistake for the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management to want to push forward to complete the implementation of the Bush-Cheney agenda with respect to oil and gas and oil shale development.

They want to rush head long to get this done before the end of the administration when we know that there are so many technological barriers and so much we do not yet know about how we are going to develop oil shale. So Chevron is correct when it says we are not ready to move forward with a full-scale oil shale program.

Let me conclude by simply saying this: For me, as a longtime farmer and rancher and as a person who has spent my life fighting to protect the beauty of Colorado, fighting for the land and water of that State, it is important for me always, as a Senator, to remember that the planet we have and the great State of Colorado I have is something I need to protect for my children and for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren for generations to come. It would be a mistake for us, in my view, for the State of Colorado or the United States of America to move forward with a program that is going to create significant problems to that legacy we are attempting to give to our children and to our grandchildren. I hope we could work together in a bipartisan basis to look at the possibility of the development of the oil shale resource but to do it in a thoughtful and deliberate way so we don't destroy the environment along the way.

Mr. President, I thank the Chair and I yield the floor.



Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I thank my colleague from Colorado for his statement on oil shale. I wish to tell him a little story that goes back many years. When I first was involved in political life, in 1966 as a college student I worked for a Senator from Illinois named Paul Douglas who used to give speeches about oil shale, saying there is a great untapped natural and national resource of oil shale in the Rockies, in Colorado, and in other areas. Yours is the first comment I can remember on the floor of the Senate in all of those years relating to this issue again. I am glad the Senator from Colorado not only brought it up but put it in perspective in terms of our national energy needs and the impact of oil shale exploration and production in the Senator's State. I think he has every right to be careful in what he does.

I hear many colleagues, particularly from the Republican side of the aisle and from the White House, suggesting the reason we have our gasoline prices today and high crude oil prices is because we are not drilling for oil in ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I, for instance, personally think that is an oversimplification, that that one potential source of oil could in no way solve our problems in terms of what it could produce.

I might call the attention of my friend and colleague from Colorado to some information that was given to me today. I hope the Senator from Colorado is aware there are 44 million offshore acres, off the shores of the United States of America, that have been leased by oil companies--44 million. Of those, only 10.5 million have been put into production. One-fourth of all of the leased offshore acreage oil companies currently hold--land that the Federal Government has a right to--is being actually explored and utilized. Of the 47.5 million onshore acres under lease for oil and gas production, only 13 million are in production; again, about a fourth. So three-fourths of all of the land offshore and on shore owned by the Federal Government and the taxpayers, leased by oil companies for the potential production of oil and gas, is actually in production. Only one-fourth. Combined, oil and gas companies hold leases to 68 million acres of Federal land in waters they are not producing any oil and gas on--68 million. That is compared to 1.5 million acres in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

So those who come to the floor and say: ``You know the problem here? We are just not opening up enough area for oil and gas exploration,'' ignore the obvious. Oil and gas companies spend money to obtain them and then sit on them and then come back to us when we complain America needs a national energy policy and say the real problem is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. ``If we could just have a crack at those 1.5 million acres,'' after they have taken 68 million acres, put them under lease, and are not utilizing them.

I might add that Congressman Rahm Emanuel from my State of Illinois and Congressman Dodd are working on legislation that would say to these oil and gas companies: If you are going to lease this land and not use it, the cost of the annual lease is going to keep going up. Let someone else lease it who might use it. I think that is reasonable. They are suggesting that money from the leases should be dedicated to wind and solar energy--energy-efficient buildings; LIHEAP--which I know would be a good idea for the Senator who is now presiding who is from New England; weatherization assistance, and a number of other areas.

I thank the Senator from Colorado for his thoughtful reflection on what we are facing here.

Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, will the Senator from Illinois yield for a question?

Mr. DURBIN. I am happy to yield.

Mr. SALAZAR. Through the Chair, I ask my friend from Illinois whether it is true that we have already opened huge amounts of offshore resources as well as onshore resources for the potential development of oil and gas and that ultimately, if we are going to get our Nation to have the kind of energy independence and national security that has been talked about now for 30 or 40 years, we need to, yes, develop those potential resources and those 75 percent of those offshore and onshore lands the Senator spoke about, but also to look at a whole new agenda of clean energy that will help us get to our national security, our environmental security, and create an economic opportunity here at home?

Mr. DURBIN. I would respond to the Senator from Colorado and tell him, yes, of course. He has anticipated the reason I came to the floor: to discuss what happened this week in the Senate or, to be more accurate, what didn't happen this week in the Senate. Because on Tuesday, we offered to the Senate, both sides, Democrats and Republicans, an opportunity to debate what the Senator from Colorado suggested, whether we will invest as a nation in energy and job creation. The Senator from Colorado knows what happened as well as I do. The Republicans refused to join us to bring to the floor to debate the bill that would create tax incentives for investments in energy efficiency, renewable, sustainable energy that will not lead to global warming and will not lead to pollution. The frustration that I and other Members on the Democratic side feel comes from the fact that we have tried repeatedly to bring these measures to the floor and we have been stopped time and time again.

I say to my colleague and friend from Colorado, through the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act, we can create incentives we know will work. In my home State of Illinois, and probably in the State of Colorado, we are finding wind turbines being built in massive numbers to generate clean electric power. Near Bloomington, IL, an area I never would have dreamed of as a wind resource area, 240 wind turbines are being built. They will generate enough electricity there to provide all the needs of the two cities of Bloomington and Normal, IL, without pollution, using nature as a source.

Why did this recently happen? Because we created, over the last couple of years, incentives for businesses to do it. Now when we come this week to the floor of the Senate and say to our Republican colleagues: Let's not stop this now; this is a move in the right direction for green energy sources, what did they say? ``We don't want to even debate it.'' They stopped us again.

This week in the Senate--

Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, would the Senator from Illinois yield for a question?

Mr. DURBIN. I am happy to yield.

Mr. SALAZAR. Through the Chair, I ask of my friend from Illinois how important the extension of these energy tax credits is for renewable energy, given the fact that this is not pie-in-the-sky kind of technology we are talking about. As I understand, in my State--and I know there are already three solar powerplants that are functioning--there is a plan in the State of Arizona to put together a 400 or 500-megawatt powerplant that will be powered by the Sun, a 200-megawatt powerplant in the State of California, a whole host of ways in which the Sun can become harnessed for our energy needs.

The same thing is true with respect to wind. As my good friend from Illinois talked about, what is happening in Illinois is happening across America, including in my own home State of Colorado where we have gone from almost no wind production 3 years ago to 1,000 megawatts, and there are three or four coal-fired powerplants in my State.

So how important, I ask my friend from Illinois, would the extension of these tax credits be until 2015, 2016--however we end up finally reaching that number--to continue investing in harnessing the power of the Sun, the power of wind, the power of biofuels?

Mr. DURBIN. I say in response, through the Chair to the Senator from Colorado, if we don't extend these Federal renewable energy tax credits, America could lose 76,000 jobs in the wind industry, 40,000 jobs in the solar industry. The bill the Republicans refuse to allow us to bring to the floor to even debate provides $8.8 billion for research and development investment. This year alone, over 27,000 U.S. businesses would use this tax credit to benefit companies in computers and electronics, chemical manufacturing, information services, and scientific R&D services. The list goes on and on. The Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act, which they would not allow us to bring to the floor to debate this week, includes $18 billion in incentives for clean electricity, alternative transportation fuels, carbon sequestration, and energy efficiency.

I say to my friend from Colorado through the Chair that this is nothing new. So far, during this session of Congress, the Republicans have engaged in 76 filibusters as of today. The record in the Senate for any 2-year period of time was 57 filibusters. A filibuster is every Senator's right to stop any bill, any nomination, for an indefinite period of time, and that filibuster can only be broken if 60 Senators vote to break it. It is called a cloture motion. We tried three times this week to break Republican filibusters, first on a bill dealing with the price of gasoline to try to bring it down and make it more affordable. The Republicans filibustered it. When we had our vote, we couldn't find 60 votes because they wouldn't cross the aisle to join the Democrats in breaking the filibuster and debating specific ways of bringing down the price of gasoline.


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