Looking into Climate Change and Water Availability in the West
Climate change in the Northwest is melting glaciers, reducing our annual snowpack, and causing seasonal runoff to start earlier every year. These changes pose a threat to the economic vitality of our region and will force us to adapt how we manage irrigation, agriculture, hydropower, salmon recovery, municipal water supplies, and flood control.
Last week, I chaired a Water and Power Subcommittee hearing on the impact of climate change on water supplies in western states. According to the Washington State Department of Ecology, snowpack in the North Cascades has declined at nearly 75 percent of sites studied, and spring runoff occurs earlier each year across the state. As a result of decreasing water flows in the Columbia River Basin , we could see a 5 percent revenue loss for dams, totaling $166 million per year. The cost of offsetting the decline in guaranteed water for the City of Seattle alone could rise above $8 million per year by 2020, and other communities in the state could face similar problems. Our agriculture industry could also be hit hard.
The hearing I chaired was an important step toward developing a real strategy that will keep our region strong in the face of changing water supplies. This is an issue of vital importance to our region, and one I will continue to tackle as part of our overall efforts to take on global warming.
Opening the Door to Lifesaving Stem Cell Research
Last Thursday, Congress passed a bill to remove restrictions and open the door to federal support of stem cell research. Specifically, the legislation would permit the use of federal funds to study stem cells from eggs donated to in vitro fertilization clinics, provided the donors give full consent. This is similar to legislation we passed last year that the president later vetoed. A veto this year would once again deny hope to millions of Americans who suffer everyday from ailments like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and spinal cord injuries . Congress came together across party lines to pass a solid bill that gives real hope to millions. Current restrictions on this vital science limit research to the point where nearly all remaining options have been exhausted. This leaves many scientists unable to investigate promising new treatments with the potential to produce groundbreaking cures. We should lift these restrictions without anymore delays, and I will work to override any veto of this lifesaving proposal.
Tackling Energy Issues on the Senate Floor
This week, the Senate will begin consideration of comprehensive legislation to reduce our country's consumption of foreign oil, reduce our fossil fuel dependence, and invest in new, renewable, more efficient energy sources. Throughout this debate, I will work to make sure Congress passes aggressive legislation that boosts our economy, cuts pollution, and eases the burden that high, unstable prices place on families and businesses. This includes measures to protect consumers, improve the fuel efficiency of new cars and trucks, develop affordable sources of biofuels, and encourage private investment in more energy efficient technologies and renewable energy.