SENATE FLOOR VIDEO: Cantwell Details Washington State Impact of Recently Passed Coast Guard Bill
Cantwell in floor speech: ‘This legislation is good news for jobs in Washington state and across the country’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) praised several amendments to the recently passed Coast Guard authorization bill that will protect Washington state’s coastal economy and environment and maintain the nation’s capability to deploy icebreaker vessels. The bill, The Coast Guard Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013 (HR 2838), has already passed the House and now heads to the President’s desk for his signature.
“The Coast Guard is a part of our maritime culture in the Pacific Northwest,” said Cantwell on the Senate floor today. “And this bill helps the Coast Guard watch over our people and our businesses and protect our coastline. This legislation is good news for coastal communities, for jobs in Washington State and across our country.
“With over 165 thousand jobs and nearly $11 billion in our coastal economy from fishing to tourism to various activities, we want to make sure that tsunami debris does not hurt our coastal economies,” Cantwell continued. “All you need to do is ask the Mayor of Long Beach who said an uncoordinated and unmanaged response to marine events is a blow to Long Beach and the Columbia-Pacific region and we cannot endure.
“This legislation is good news for coastal communities, for jobs in Washington State and across our country,” Cantwell concluded. “We have much more work to do. But when we’re down to our waning days of this Congress, it’s important that this legislation has passed and is on its way to the President’s desk.”
Watch a video of Senator Cantwell’s floor speech.
Cantwell wrote and successfully fought to include three amendments to the bill that will have a significant impact on Washington state. These amendments will:
- ICEBREAKERS - Prohibit the Coast Guard from decommissioning the Seattle-based icebreaker Polar Sea unless the Coast Guard conducts a study showing that scrapping the vessel is the most cost-effective option and provides a plan to meet the nation’s need for additional icebreakers;
- TAR SANDS - Require the Coast Guard to conduct a study within 180 days to examine the risk additional tar sands oil supertanker, tanker and barge traffic poses to the Salish Sea and the best way to clean up a spill of tar sands oil;
- TSUNAMI DEBRIS - Create a plan and directs the marine debris interagency task force to coordinate cleanup of tsunami debris, if the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) director finds the level of debris to be a “severe marine debris event.” The NOAA Administrator would have to make this designation within 30 days of the bill being signed into law.
TRANSCRIPT: Senator Cantwell’s remarks as delivered.
Mr. President, I rise today to say what an important day it is for the U.S. Coast Guard.
Our communities who benefit from those services, the men and women who answer the call to serve.
The reason I say that is because we have passed a bill that gives 40 thousand active duty Coast Guard members the support they need.
It is a worthy tribute to a force of men and women that in 2011 alone helped us save over 3,800 lives across the US, confiscated over 166 thousand pounds of cocaine, and secured over 472 vessels before they arrived at our ports.
This legislation will give the Coast Guard the funds that it needs to upgrade equipment and purchase the right vessels for carrying out every mission that they need.
This kind of work exemplifies the heroes like Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne of California.
Officer Horne died in the line of duty last week while chasing drug smugglers off the coast of California. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.
His actions and service remind us of the danger that the tasks that the men and women of the Coast Guard do on a daily basis.
And that’s why it was so important that we passed this reauthorization bill.
We couldn’t have done this reauthorization without the many hours that Senator Begich put in to help it get across the finish line.
And he knows how important the Coast Guard is to the men and women of the Pacific Northwest and to my state of Washington.
The Coast Guard is a part of our maritime culture in the Pacific Northwest.
And this bill helps the Coast Guard watch over our people and our businesses and protect our coastline. And in there I’d like offer, or expound on three provisions that were particularly helpful for us in the Northwest.
One, this legislation helps protect the Polar Sea, an icebreaker based in Seattle.
It helps us clean up tsunami debris that is already hitting the West Coast.
And it analyzes the potential of a tar sands supertanker in our waters off of Washington state.
In October of this year I visited Vigor Shipyards in Seattle, where our heavy duty icebreaker fleet is currently serviced.
These ships are a testament to America’s shipbuilding prowess and ingenuity.
And inspecting them close up you see that they are almost a critical tool for the United States and our economic security and national security when it comes to the Arctic.
You see that the icebreakers mean jobs to Washington state.
And that’s why in this final package, the importance of these ships, these icebreakers, the Polar Sea, was in danger of being scrapped.
There is no denying that we need to build a new icebreaker fleet for the future and for our Navy Arctic Mission.
But, these highly specialized vessels will take up to 10 years to build.
So in the meantime, we want to make sure that U.S. companies can continue to do business and keep the Arctic operational and running.
And so, it’s very fitting that the icebreakers that work fine now are not dismantled.
So this legislation prevents them from being scrapped and helps us have the resources that we need to serve interests in the Arctic.
This bill stipulates that we won’t junk our current icebreakers and it’s more cost-effective to keep them.
And it will make sure that they stay seaworthy so that the crews don’t go out on faulty equipment.
These ships won’t go away unless it can be proven that it makes financial sense to replace them.
Last January the world watched as the Healy icebreaker successfully cut through a path in the Arctic Sea to deliver fuel to Nome, Alaska.
The Healy is primarily a research vessel but was forced to do the job because our two heavy duty icebreakers were not currently in active status. They were being repaired.
So this bill ensures that the Polar Icebreaking fleet will continue to be based in Seattle and that refurbishing these icebreakers like the Polar Sea, which will roughly take about five years and employ 300 workers, will continue to move forward.
For us this means shipbuilding jobs. It means an impact of keeping smaller shipyards in Washington State busy.
And it means keeping icebreakers that help save places like Nome, Alaska and help us cut paths through the ice when needed.
But that’s not the only thing in this legislation I’m proud that we got a decision on.
Also, our economy in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Hawaii has been threatened by hundreds of thousands of tons of debris washing ashore from the tragic tsunami in Japan nearly two years ago.
That’s why this legislation asks NOAA to take a closer look at the tsunami debris and make sure we are putting an accurate assessment and risk in place to protect the West Coast.
If they decide that it is a ‘severe marine debris event,’ then they will need to present a specific coordination plan, developed to meet that threat and work with local governments, counties and tribes.
And to make sure that there is a coordinated effort to protect our economy and environment from tsunami debris.
We know in the Northwest because we have already seen ships, we’ve seen bridges, we’ve seen various parts float ashore. Often times local communities having to share the burden and expense of cleaning up the tsunami debris.
With over 165 thousand jobs and nearly 11 billion dollars in our coastal economy from fishing to tourism to various activities, we want to make sure that tsunami debris does not hurt our coastal economies.
All you need to do is ask the Mayor of Long Beach who said,
“An uncoordinated and unmanaged response to marine events is a blow to Long Beach and the Columbia-Pacific region and we cannot endure.”
This is about getting a plan in place for local communities to coordinate opportunities to work together and to remove debris as cost effectively as possible.
And third, Mr.President, this legislation has important language protecting Washington waterways in very precious parts of the Pacific Northwest.
Recently, Canada announced that over the next decade they would double the production of the Alberta tar sands and oil fields.
That could be 15 billion gallons of oil already shipped through Washington waters and an increase.
A spill in a heavily populated area or in the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca could cause billions of dollars of damage and harm businesses throughout the region.
We don’t want supertankers navigating through the narrow waters around the San Juan Islands and the Strait of Juan de Fuca with even more oil.
The response can’t be even if the spill occurs in Canadian waters, don’t worry, just call the Americans.
I’m that this legislation looks at the potential threat caused by supertankers whether they are equipped to respond to a spill that would occur from corrosive tar sand oil.
Thanks to this legislation, the Coast Guard will have to prepare a study, analyze how much vessel traffic increase would be seen in the region due to tar sand increases, and whether that movement of tar sand would require navigating through fragile waters, and what an oil response plan in U.S. and Canadian waters would be as a shared response.
They need to identify the tools needed to clean up this kind of an oil spill and estimate the cost and benefits to the public of moving this oil through international waterways.
This assessment has to be complete in 180 days.
So, Mr. President, I want to make sure our fishing fleet, our restaurants, our resort economy, everything that is so important to us in the Northwest is protected.
This legislation is good news for coastal communities, for jobs in Washington State and across our country.
And I’d like to thank both the Chair and the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee and full Committee for making sure that we have given the Coast Guard the resources it needs to protect our economy, keep our public safe, and protect our environment.
We have much more work to do, but in a Congress when we’re down to our waning days of this Congress, it’s important that this legislation has passed and is on it’s way to the President’s desk.
Our legislation is a testament to their service.
I thank the President, and I yield the floor.
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