PREPARED REMARKS: Sanders Gives Floor Remarks on Climate Disasters and the Mountain Valley Pipeline

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Thursday on the floor of the U.S. Senate gave remarks on the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the catastrophic climate events happening across the world.

Sanders’ remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below and can be watched here.

M. President: I rise this morning to express my strong opposition to the so-called “side-deal” that the fossil fuel industry is pushing to make it easier for them to pollute the environment and destroy the planet.

But before I do, let me put my opposition to this disastrous side-deal into a broader context.

M. President: As the father of 4 and the grandfather of 7, I very much wish that I did not have to say this.  But the most serious challenge facing our country and the entire world today far and away is the existential threat of climate change.  That’s not just Bernie Sanders talking.  That’s what the scientific community is telling us in a virtually unanimous voice.

The latest report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is very clear and it is very foreboding.  If the United States, China and the rest of the world do not act extremely aggressively in cutting carbon emissions our planet will face enormous and irreversible damage.  In fact, the world that we will be leaving our children and future generations will be increasingly unhealthy and uninhabitable.

But the truth is we don’t need another study to tell us that. 

The American people and people throughout the world are seeing the devastating impact climate change is having on their communities and their families with their own eyes. And please understand. Everything that we are seeing today will likely become worse, much worse, in the years to come.

Just take a look around at what’s happening right now in the United States and around the world:

  • The past eight years have been the hottest years in recorded history.
  • The western half of the U.S. is experiencing its worst drought in over 1,200 years.
  • Right now California, Nevada and Utah are experiencing record-breaking heat.
  • Historic rainfall and devastating floods took place over a 5-week stretch this summer in eastern Kentucky; eastern Illinois; St. Louis, Missouri; Death Valley, California; and Dallas, Texas.  These are supposed to be one in a thousand year torrential rainfalls.
  • Right now, Europe is experiencing its worst drought in over 500 years.
  • A massive heat wave in Spain and Portugal killed more than 2,000 people in July.
  • Historically hot weather in London and China literally melted bridges, airplane runways and rooftops.  Let me repeat that: the extremely hot weather in London and China this summer literally melted bridges, rooftops and airplane runways.
  • Record-breaking forest fires in Europe have already burned 1.6 million acres of land – 56% more than the previous record set in 2017 – over eight times the size of New York City.
  • Record-breaking drought in China has caused parts of the Yangtze River to completely dry up.  This is the third largest river in the world and the source of drinking water for 400 million people.  
  • Catastrophic rainfall and massive floods have been going on for weeks in Pakistan killing at least 1,200 and displacing 10 million people as one-third of Pakistan is now underwater.
  • And if all of this is not sobering enough, a glacier in Antarctica that scientists have dubbed “the doomsday glacier” has been in “rapid retreat” and is melting much faster than previous predictions.  Without this glacier and its supporting ice shelves, sea levels could rise by three to ten feet which could cause entire coastal communities to flood and go under water forever.  We are talking here about major, major cities around the United States and across the globe that could be underwater in the coming decades.  Think about the mass dislocation, turmoil and international tensions that these migrations will have.

And on and on it goes.

M. President: In the past, a series of climate disasters like these might have seemed like a silly plot in a bad movie about the apocalypse.  Unfortunately, however, this is not a movie. This is reality. This is what we are experiencing right in front of us.  And, again, this entire scenario will likely become worse, much, much worse if the United Sates, China and the rest of the world do not act together to break our dependence on fossil fuel.

Let us be clear: If the entire planet, led by the largest economy in the world the United States of America, does not get its act together, we will see more devastating and extreme heat. We will see more floods, more rising sea levels, more extreme weather disturbances, more ocean acidification, more drought, more famine, more disease, and more human suffering.

And today, to all of my colleagues who have children and grandchildren, I ask you to think about what they will say when they look you in the eyes and ask why did you allow this to happen?

We know that climate change is real. We know that climate change is caused by carbon emissions. We know that climate change is already causing devastating destruction throughout the world.  We know that if we don’t rapidly transform our energy system away from fossil fuels towards energy efficiency and renewable energy the situation will only become worse, much worse and our planet will face irreparable and irreversible harm.

That is the reality that we face today. And yet, given all that we know, given all that the scientists are telling us, what is the United States Congress about to do?

M. President: It is seriously considering legislation to provide a huge giveaway to Big Oil to drill, produce and sell more fossil fuels.

Really? At a time when climate change is threatening the very existence of the planet, why would anybody be talking about substantially increasing carbon emissions and expanding fossil fuel production in the United Sates?  What kind of message does this send to the people of our own country and to suffering people all over the world?

M. President: Like every other member of the Senate I have a pretty good understanding of how politics works. Like every other Senator I understand what campaign contributions are about, what lobbyists do, and the extraordinary power of the fossil fuel industry to push the legislation they want.

But I beg of my colleagues that, at this moment, when the future of the world is literally at stake that we have the courage to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and to tell them, and the politicians they sponsor, that the future of the planet is more important than their short-term profits.

M. President: In the coming weeks and months, the Senate has a fundamental choice to make.

We can listen to the fossil fuel industry and climate deniers who are spending huge amounts of money on lobbying and campaign contributions to pass this dirty side deal.

Or we can listen to the scientists and the environmental community who are telling us loudly and clearly to reject this side deal and eliminate the $15 billion in tax breaks and subsidies Congress is already providing to big oil and gas companies each and every year.

M. President: While the legislative text of this side deal has not been made public, according to a one-page summary that was released last month, this bill would make it easier for the fossil fuel industry to receive permits to complete some of the dirtiest and most polluting oil and gas projects in America.

Specifically, this deal would approve the $6.6 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline – a 303-mile fracked gas pipeline spanning from West Virginia to Virginia and potentially on to North Carolina. We’re talking about a pipeline that would generate emissions equivalent to 37 coal plants or over 27 million cars each and every year.

M. President: It is hard for me to understand why anyone who is concerned about climate change consider for one second voting to approve a pipeline that would be equivalent to putting 27 million more cars on the road each and every year.

On August 24th, over 650 environmental and civil rights organizations wrote a letter to Majority Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi urging them to reject this side deal. This letter was signed by the Sierra Club, the Sunrise Movement, Friends of the Earth, Physicians for Social Responsibility,, Greenpeace, Public Citizen, People’s Action and the NAACP.

And here is what that letter says:

“On behalf of 653 frontline communities and environmental…organizations representing millions of members and supporters nationwide, we are writing to express our strenuous opposition to any additional fossil fuel giveaways. Alarming proposals have been referenced by Senator Manchin, in a short memo, and in legislative language that was clearly drafted in consultation with the American Petroleum Institute (API). It has been reported that Manchin has demanded these handouts to the fossil fuel industry as a further price for his vote on the Inflation Reduction Act, which already included large giveaways to polluters.  We call on you to unequivocally reject any effort to promote fossil fuels, advance unproven technologies, and weaken our core environmental laws…This fossil fuel wish list is a cruel and direct attack on environmental justice communities and the climate. This legislation would truncate and hollow-out the environmental review process, weaken Tribal consultations, and make it far harder for frontline communities to have their voices heard by gutting bedrock protections in the National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act…Supporting this legislation would represent a profound betrayal of frontline communities and constituents across the country who have called on you to…advance a just, renewable energy future.”

M. President: I could not agree more. I ask Unanimous Consent to include this entire letter into the Congressional Record.

M. President: I should also add that at least 59 of our colleagues in the House of Representatives will soon be releasing a letter expressing strong opposition to this side deal.  Let me quote from that letter:

“According to media reports, there is agreement to advance a series of anti-environmental and anti-environmental justice provisions through the House, at the behest of the American Petroleum Institute (API). These destructive provisions will allow polluting manufacturing and energy development projects to be rushed through before the families who are forced to live near them are even aware of the plans…We remain deeply concerned that these serious and detrimental permitting provisions will significantly and disproportionately impact low-income communities, indigenous communities, and communities of color. The inclusion of these provisions in a continuing resolution, or any other must-pass legislation, would silence the voices of frontline and environmental justice communities by insulating them from scrutiny. Such a move would force Members to choose between protecting EJ communities from further pollution or funding the government.  We urge you to ensure that these provisions are kept out of a continuing resolution or any other must-pass legislation this year.”

I ask Unanimous Consent to insert that letter into the Congressional Record.

Today, I am urging all of my colleagues to stand with the 650 organizations and 59 Members of Congress and reject this dirty side deal.

Let me repeat again: For the sake of our children, our grandchildren and future generations we have got to make it clear to the fossil fuel industry that their short-term profits are not more important than the future of our planet.

I thank the president and yield the floor.