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Congressional Record2017/03/01Senate | House | Extensions

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[Pages S1511-S1513]
From the Congressional Record Online through GPO




                           EXECUTIVE SESSION

                                 ______
                                 

                           EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will proceed to executive session to resume consideration of the following nomination, which the clerk will report.

The senior assistant legislative clerk read the nomination of Ryan Zinke, of Montana, to be Secretary of the Interior.

Under the previous order, there will now be 20 minutes of debate, equally divided.

The Senator from Montana.

Mr. DAINES. Mr. President, what a historic day for Montana. As a fellow Montanan, as a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, I look forward to working with Ryan Zinke in his new role as the Secretary of the Interior.

Serving at the helm of the Department of the Interior, I know he will be a strong advocate for our public lands. He will uphold the Federal trust responsibility to Indian tribes, and he will help unleash American energy and will strengthen our water infrastructure.

I have heard all week some friends on the other side of the aisle speak against my good friend from Montana, Ryan Zinke. I can tell you, I am perplexed. They are concerned that Ryan Zinke may not uphold the important roles of the Department of Interior--and that is to protect the public interests in land and mineral management--that he will take shortcuts to extract minerals. Let me tell you what Ryan Zinke will do, and I have known Ryan Zinke for 38 years. He will finally restore balance to the use and management of Federal land.

Do you know that in Montana we have more recoverable coal than any State in the United States? Yet the Obama administration had planned to block our ability, Montana's ability, to develop these resources. A moratorium is not a responsible policy. It is reckless. It is misguided, leaving the States and the tribes to be reliant on mineral royalties, to lose out on these revenues, and lose out on the good- paying jobs that coal supports. Ryan Zinke will take a fresh look at our coal programs and see how we can access these untapped resources in an environmentally responsible way.

Let me remind my colleagues that Ryan Zinke was born and raised in Montana. It is a State where we like to say we get to work where we also like to play. He will restore that balance to the Department so Montanans can gain better access to our public lands.

He will also ensure our public lands work for those who live closest to them, and that means our States and our tribes. Ryan is a Montanan. He grew up in America's public lands. He grew up in the shadows of Glacier National Park. I grew up in the shadows of Yellowstone National Park. He knows we must strike this balance between conservation and responsible energy development, and he understands better than anybody I know that one-size-fits-all policies of Washington, DC, never work for real America.

I look forward to voting for my friend, my colleague, a Navy SEAL for 23 years, and our next Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke. Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I will vote against confirming Representative Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior, and I would like to take this opportunity to explain why. To put the matter succinctly, Representative Zinke--if he is confirmed--will be charged with implementing the Trump administration's “energy independence plan,” which includes maximizing energy production on Federal lands, including the outer continental shelf, [[Page S1512]] OCS. I oppose oil and gas drilling off the coast of Maryland and the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. There is too little to gain and too much to lose.

Last November, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, BOEM, wisely did not include any parcels in the Atlantic in the 2017 to 2022 plan to lease offshore land the Federal Government controls. In December, then- President Obama used his authority under section 12(a) of the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953 to withdraw unleased OCS lands from future lease sales, too.

This makes sense. According to BOEM, the entire Atlantic OCS, from Maine all the way to Florida, has 1.15 billion barrels of “undiscovered technically recoverable” oil and 12.80 trillion cubic feet of “undiscovered technically recoverable” natural gas. These sums sound large, but let's put them in context. The Gulf of Mexico OCS has more than 40 times as much oil and 10 times as much natural gas.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological Survey, USGS, recently determined that the midland basin of the Wolfcamp Shale area in the Permian Basin has 20 billion barrels of oil and the natural gas equivalent of another 1.6 billion barrels. The oilfield stretches over 118 miles from Lubbock to Midland. It is the largest “continuous oil” discovery in the United States, according to the USGS, three times larger than the assessment of the oil in the mammoth Bakken formation in North Dakota.

It doesn't make any sense to jeopardize the marine life and the fishing and tourism industries along the Maryland coast and Chesapeake Bay when there is so much more oil and gas in other parts of the country.

Deepwater Horizon was a state-of-the-art rig, but it failed, causing the largest oil spill in U.S. waters. Eleven crewman were killed. An oil spill entering the Chesapeake Bay would be a disaster.

An even bigger threat to Maryland and other coastal States is climate change and rising sea levels. We need to accelerate our transition from fossil fuels, not our dependence on them. Two years ago, Oceana concluded that modest levels of offshore wind development over the next 20 years could produce about twice the amount of energy along coastal Atlantic States as offshore drillings and create more than 1.5 times the number of jobs.

There is no provision in the 1953 law that permits President Trump to reverse the Obama administration's section 12(a) OCS withdrawals, but he is determined to try. When Representative Zinke was first asked about lifting the moratoria, he responded, “If I am confirmed, I will work to implement President-elect Trump's policy.”

That is the problem right there.

I appreciate Representative Zinke's honorable service to our country, both in uniform as a Navy SEAL and as an elected official in the Montana State Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. He has called himself a “Theodore Roosevelt conservationist” and supports a permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

It is possible Representative Zinke will try to resist the Republicans' zeal for transferring ownership of precious public lands from the Federal Government, although he supported a House rule change at the beginning of this Congress to make it easier. Representative Zinke is an avid sportsman who appears to appreciate the unique role the Federal Government has in managing these resources for multiple uses--not just energy production--and preserving them for future generations.

While these are all positive factors, I am troubled that Representative Zinke has received a 3 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters. He has vacillated on the issue of climate change: in 2010, he was one of nearly 1,200 State legislators who signed a letter to President Obama and Congress calling for “comprehensive clean energy jobs and climate change legislation.” Since then, however, he has repeatedly expressed doubt about anthropogenic climate change. In an October 2014 debate, Representative Zinke stated: “it's not a hoax, but it's not proven science either.” During his confirmation hearing, Representative Zinke said that humans “influence” climate change, but did not acknowledge the scientific consensus that human activity is a dominant cause of climate change. He also supports using the Congressional Review Act to overturn rules agencies have spent months and even years to develop.

For all of these reasons, but particularly out of concern for the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland's beautiful shoreline and coastal communities, I will vote against confirming Representive Zinke as Secretary of the Interior.

Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. President, I oppose the nomination of Representative Ryan Zinke to be Secretary of the Interior.

The Department of the Interior is charged with judicious management of our Nation's public lands. It is responsible for balancing conservation, recreation, and development to ensure that Americans get the best use and best value from our collective natural resources.

President Teddy Roosevelt, one of the greatest stewards of our public lands, once said: “I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.”

The Obama administration took important steps to protect our resources and provide best value to taxpayers. Taking Atlantic Ocean drilling off the table protects our coastal areas and the vital tourism industry up and down the Eastern Shore, including Ocean City. Modernizing the coal leasing process ensures that taxpayers get proper payment for use of common resources. Preventing methane leakage on public lands stops waste of resources and pollution from a potent greenhouse gas.

Representative Zinke's history in Congress casts doubt on his commitment to these important initiatives. He has a mere 3 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters and an F grade from the National Parks Action Fund. I appreciate that he has spoken in opposition to the sale or transfer of public lands to States, but I am deeply concerned about his vote in January in the House of Representatives for a rule change that would make sales and transfers much easier.

As the Sierra Club has said: “Rather than dedicating himself to the preservation of our public lands, Representative Zinke has repeatedly sided with those who would dismantle, degrade, or dispose of them. Mining, drilling, logging, and dirty energy interests have been placed time and again before the public interest”

In an op-ed opposing a Department of the Interior rule to update coal leasing to get better value for American taxpayers, Representative Zinke said that the Obama administration was “fighting a more aggressive war against American coal than they are against ISIS.” This kind of hyperbole does not bode well for Representative Zinke's ability to represent American taxpayers or promote conservation as Secretary of the Interior, should he be confirmed.

In his nomination hearing, Representative Zinke pledged to support Federal public lands, permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and address the National Parks maintenance backlog. These are important promises from any nominee for the Department of the Interior. Unfortunately, Representative Zinke's voting record does not give me confidence in his commitment to fulfill them, and therefore I must vote against his nomination today. I am proud to be a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, and if he is confirmed, I look forward to working with him to protect our public lands and ensure that American taxpayers get a fair deal for our common resources.

Mr. DAINES. I yield back the time on both sides.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

The question is, Will the Senate advise and consent to the Zinke nomination?

Mr. DAINES. Mr. President, I ask for the yeas and nays.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?

There appears to be a sufficient second.

The clerk will call the roll.

The senior assistant legislative clerk called the roll. [[Page S1513]]

Mr. CORNYN. The following Senator is necessarily absent: The Senator from Georgia (Mr. Isakson).

The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Sullivan). Are there any other Senators in the Chamber desiring to vote?

The result was announced--yeas 68, nays 31, as follows: [Rollcall Vote No. 75 Ex.] YEAS--68 Alexander Barrasso Bennet Blunt Boozman Brown Burr Capito Cassidy Cochran Collins Coons Corker Cornyn Cortez Masto Cotton Crapo Cruz Daines Donnelly Enzi Ernst Fischer Flake Gardner Graham Grassley Hatch Heinrich Heitkamp Heller Hoeven Inhofe Johnson Kaine Kennedy King Lankford Lee Manchin McCain McCaskill McConnell Moran Murkowski Murphy Nelson Paul Perdue Portman Risch Roberts Rounds Rubio Sasse Scott Shelby Strange Sullivan Tester Thune Tillis Toomey Udall Warner Wicker Wyden Young NAYS--31 Baldwin Blumenthal Booker Cantwell Cardin Carper Casey Duckworth Durbin Feinstein Franken Gillibrand Harris Hassan Hirono Klobuchar Leahy Markey Menendez Merkley Murray Peters Reed Sanders Schatz Schumer Shaheen Stabenow Van Hollen Warren Whitehouse NOT VOTING--1 Isakson

The nomination was confirmed.

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I move to reconsider the vote on the nomination, and I move to table the motion to reconsider.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is on agreeing to the motion to table.

The motion was agreed to. ____________________



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