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Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and I, Co-chairs of the Senate Climate Action Task Force, spearheaded a letter signed by 26 Senators offering support for the People’s Climate March.  The March, which is expected to be one of the largest demonstrations about climate change in history, is taking place in New York City this weekend.  See the letter below.

Dear Climate March Participants,

We commend all the citizens, business leaders, unions, faith groups, schools, social justice groups, environmental organizations and others from across the nation who have gathered in New York City for the People’s Climate March this weekend. Although we cannot all be with you, we want you to know that your participation sends a strong signal to the U.S. Congress and leaders around the globe about the need for action to protect our communities and families from the impacts of climate change.

As you know, climate change is real.  It’s happening all around us. According to the most recent National Climate Assessment, we could see a 10 degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature by the end of the century if we do not act to limit dangerous carbon pollution now. Failing to reduce harmful carbon pollution, which 97% of scientists agree is leading to dangerous climate change, threatens the health and economic well-being of our country and those around the world.

We know that climate change and rising temperatures are already contributing to increased ground level ozone and smog, which worsen respiratory illnesses like asthma, and will lead to more heat-related deaths.  Carbon pollution is wreaking havoc on our oceans where we see rising seas, unprecedented acidification, and warming temperatures. And the economic costs are mounting from the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events associated with climate change.

Fortunately, it is not too late to act. By reducing carbon pollution, we can avert the most calamitous impacts.

Climate change deniers need to pull their heads out of the sand and stop obstructing efforts to address climate change. Poll after poll shows the American people want our leaders to protect their families and future generations from the effects of dangerous climate change and to support federal limits on carbon pollution.  

The call for action from concerned citizens like you is one of the reasons why the Senate Climate Action Task Force was formed.  It’s a way for us to use our bully pulpit to “Wake up Congress” about the serious threat posed by climate change and to push leaders across the globe to do more to address this problem.  

Thank you for participating in the People’s Climate March and for making your voices heard on the need for action.  Your vision and commitment is truly inspiring.


Barbara Boxer, Co-Chair                                         Sheldon Whitehouse, Co-Chair
U.S. Senate Climate Action Task Force                     U.S. Senate Climate Action Task Force

Patrick Leahy                                                         Dianne Feinstein

Patty Murray                                                          Ron Wyden

Jack Reed                                                              Charles E. Schumer

Maria Cantwell                                                       Robert Menendez

Benjamin L. Cardin                                                 Bernard Sanders

Amy Klobuchar                                                      Tom Udall

Jeff Merkley                                                          Kirsten Gillibrand

Christopher Coons                                                 Richard Blumenthal

Brian Schatz                                                         Tammy Baldwin

Christopher Murphy                                               Mazie Hirono

Martin Heinrich                                                     Elizabeth Warren

Edward J. Markey                                                 Cory Booker


You have an opportunity to make your voices heard on the Keystone XL pipeline, and it is critical that you take a stand today.  We are in the final days of the public comment period for the National Interest Determination (NID) by the U.S. Department of State, and I urge you to write Secretary John Kerry to express your opposition to the tar sands pipeline.  

I have said repeatedly that the pipeline is bad for the environment, will worsen the impacts of climate change, and will provide only 35 permanent jobs according to the Environmental Impact Statement.  Another reason I oppose the pipeline is because tar sands is one of the filthiest kinds of oil on our planet and is already causing health miseries to those communities impacted.  
The health impacts of tar sands oil have been largely ignored.  Last month, the State Department released the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Keystone XL pipeline, and it lays out some of the reasons why the pipeline would worsen climate change, including that operation of the pipeline would be the equivalent of adding 300,000 more cars on our roads each year.  But the EIS was woefully inadequate when it came to exploring the human health impacts of the tar sands oil.  

That is why Senator Whitehouse and I wrote to Secretary Kerry last week asking that the Obama Administration analyze the public health risks to our communities from the pipeline.  I asked the Obama Administration to complete a comprehensive Health Impacts Study and give us the time we need to analyze it.  

Recently I held a press conference where doctors and community representatives discussed how health impacts follow the tar sands process – from extraction to transport to refining to waste disposal.  

We heard from a doctor in Alberta, Canada, who told us that patients in his small community, which is located near a tar sands extraction site, have been diagnosed with cancer at a rate 30 percent higher than average.

We heard from a University of Michigan Professor about research showing significantly higher levels of dangerous air pollutants and carcinogens downwind from a tar sands refinery near Alberta, where people are suffering higher rates of leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

A community representative from the Gulf Coast community of Port Arthur, Texas, told us how residents living near tar sands refineries suffer from asthma, respiratory ailments, skin irritations, and cancer.  

Another community representative told us about a Chicago neighborhood that experienced billowing clouds of black grit blowing off mountains of pet coke, which is the byproduct of tar sands, that forced little league players to quickly run off the baseball field and take cover.  

If the Keystone XL pipeline is approved, tar sands will be transported through communities in environmentally sensitive areas in 6 states.  We know from experience how harmful this can be, because tar sands oil is very difficult to clean up when a spill occurs – just ask residents living near Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.  A 2010 pipeline rupture that spilled over a million gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River still has not been cleaned up.

We need answers to questions about how this pipeline is in the national interest.  How are more Americans with asthma in the national interest?  How are more Americans with cancer in the national interest?  How is it in the national interest when kids playing baseball have to duck and cover from dangerous pollution?  

Children and families in the U.S. have a right to know now -- before any decision to approve the Keystone tar sands pipeline -- how it would affect their health.  Please take action today -- write Secretary Kerry and ask for a thorough Health Impacts Study.

Senator Boxer is the Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.


A woman looked out her window in Harbin, China and said "I couldn't see anything outside the window and I thought it was snowing".  Then she realized it wasn't snow but instead it was dangerous, toxic smog.

The fact that the citizens of Harbin could only see about 10 yards in front of them is just part of the story.  Small particle pollution soared to a record 40 times higher than international standards.

China’s top leaders know that air pollution is a serious health problem, and the privileged officials protect their families by using air filtering devices in their homes and offices.

This situation developed because China is burning too much dirty coal.  It is the start of winter there, which coincided with the firing up of so many coal-fired power plants and resulted in a toxic emergency.

It may be easy to dismiss this terrible situation and think it could never happen in the U.S.  But without the foresight of our predecessors, we could be facing similar situations today.

Luckily Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress passed the modern Clean Air Act back in 1970, and strengthened it in 1990.  Before this law was passed, smog levels in many of our cities were dangerously high.

For example, there were years in Los Angeles when many days featured "smog alerts" – meaning people had to be very cautious when they ventured outside.

In 1976, there were 166 days when health advisories were issued in Southern California to urge people with asthma and other people with lung sensitivities to stay indoors.  In 35 years, the number of smog-related health advisories issued in Southern California dropped from 166 days in 1976 to zero days in 2010.  Since 1990, the U.S. has cut fine particulates emissions – the main culprit of China’s toxic smog – by 57 percent.  

When I look at pictures of Chinese citizens wearing masks and looking very worried I am so very grateful to those who made sure we took action to clean up our air.

Just this past week, we learned from the World Health Organization that outdoor air pollution is a cause of cancer.  That means that the American people must stand sentry and not allow anyone to weaken or repeal or undermine our landmark Clean Air Act.

I wish I could tell you we are safe from that -- but we are not.  Just look at the record number of environmental riders that have come at us from the extreme wing of the political spectrum. From 2011 through 2012, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives had 145 votes targeting the Environmental Protection Agency, 95 votes to dismantle the Clean Air Act, and 53 votes to block climate change action.

Here's a small sample of the attacks on the landmark Clean Air Act:
•    Stop the first-ever national mercury and air toxics standards;
•    Overturn the U.S. Supreme Court rulings allowing Environmental Protection Agency to control carbon pollution; and
•    Roll back landmark car and small truck tailpipe standards.

Democrats in the Senate saved the day and stopped every one of these riders, but it is critical for the public to weigh in.  Most of this sneak attack on our air quality goes unnoticed with a few exceptions.

I so appreciate the work of the American Lung Association and many other health and environmental organizations who keep their eye on this serious threat.  What has happened in China is a warning for us.  Let us appreciate and strengthen our landmark environmental laws, and the Environmental Protection Agency which enforces them.

We should not allow the special interests to obscure the fact that environmental safeguards are important when it comes to the health of the American people.  We cannot go backwards and expose our children and families to dangerous air pollution.

The battle is on.  The Obama administration is moving to clean up dangerous pollution from coal-fired plants and other sources.  Many in Congress will fight this.  Reducing conventional air pollutants and carbon pollution go hand in hand and we must stand with the President and support his leadership on these issues. And we must also note that the Keystone XL pipeline is not without problems.  It will carry the dirtiest oil known to man through our country.

Environmental safeguards are not only good for public health, but they are also good for the economy.  Over the last 40 years, air pollution has dropped 68 percent, while our national GDP has grown 212 percent.  And for every dollar we invest in complying with the Clean Air Act, we get more than $40 of benefits in return.

We must choose our path forward.  Let it be the path of clean energy along with the many good jobs that it will bring and let it be away from the kinds of hardships we see with our own eyes in China.

Senator Boxer is the Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.


Kudos to Daily Kos for calling attention to yet another attack on America’s working families.  

As you point out, hidden in H.R. 1135, Republican legislation called the Welfare Reform Act of 2011, is a provision to deny members of working families basic nutrition through federal nutrition programs if one of their family members is out on strike.  Apparently they would rather see innocent children go hungry than middle-class workers stand up for their dignity and rights.

Even the authors of this legislation knew this food stamp provision would be controversial.  That’s why they tried to hide it, slipping it into a deceptively titled bill.

The attack on our families is being waged on many fronts.  The same bill has a provision to raise taxes on those whose insurance covers a full range of reproductive health care, and would require some women who had an abortion to disclose it to the Internal Revenue Service, putting IRS auditors right in the middle of this most personal and private decision.

I am sure you’ve already heard about H.R. 1, the House Republican budget that would deny more than 200,000 kids access to Head Start, cut Pell Grants, slash funding for afterschool programs, stop housing assistance for homeless veterans and eliminate funding for critical cancer screening and other life-saving health services at Planned Parenthood.  

There’s no other way to see this: the Republican agenda isn’t about family values, it’s about attacking America’s families.

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