Providing for Congressional Disapproval Under Chapter 8 of Title United States Code, of the Rule Submitted By the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Relating to ``Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Lesser Prairie-Chicken; Threatened Status with Section 4(D) Rule for the Northern Distinct Population Segment and Endangered Status for the Southern Distinct Population Segment''

Floor Speech

Date: May 3, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CARPER. Madam President, I want to start off by thanking you for your good work on this subject--this important subject--at issue.

I rise today because our critical work to combat the harmful effects of climate change is at risk. I am particularly concerned about the efforts some of our colleagues are undertaking to make even more dire the situation that our planet already faces, make it worse.

Every day that goes by, we hear about the horrific scenes that are caused by natural disasters--wildfires in the West and in the Northeast; flooding and hurricanes in the South; tornadoes like the ones we had just last month in Sussex County, DE--the southern part of our State--that took a life; along with countless tornadoes across the Northwest. The list goes on and on and on.

These disasters are devastating families not just in my State, not just in your State, but also in States across our country, and wreaking havoc on our economy.

Over 3.3 million Americans were displaced due to natural disasters last year.

Let me say that again. Over 3.3 million Americans were displaced due to natural disasters.

On top of that, billions of dollars are spent every year--billions of dollars spent every year--in the aftermath of these disasters. That is double the number of people in Montana and Vermont combined.

Let me say that again. That is double the number of people in Montana and Vermont combined.

We cannot sit idly by, like some of our colleagues today would have us do, or allow for a reversal of the policies that are working to mitigate this devastation.

As we all know, the solar industry has been critical in helping us combat the effects of climate change. By transitioning to cleaner energy solutions, we are taking the necessary steps to reduce our impact--the human impact--on our warming planet.

The solar industry is not just good for our planet; it is good for American workers--a lot of them. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created right here on our own American soil to grow the solar energy and strengthen our supply chain.

The Inflation Reduction Act took these efforts one step further, allocating the largest investment we have ever made in the solar industry. The Inflation Reduction Act is already creating more jobs for more Americans across our country, while expanding our domestic solar manufacturing capacity.

With the commitment of the Biden administration, we are on track to increase domestic solar panel manufacturing capacity eightfold by the end of next year, generating up to $40 billion in new investments.

Let me say that again. We can increase our domestic solar panel manufacturing eightfold by the end of next year.

Why would we get in the way of that progress? We can only ensure that this outcome is possible if we overcome the significant challenge presented here today.

As you might remember, last year, the U.S. Department of Commerce's investigation into solar tariffs imposed on countries in Southeast Asia paralyzed the industry and halted the supply chains of critical materials for American solar deployment. Rightly, the Biden administration stepped in and announced the suspension of these tariffs. This action saved tens of thousands of jobs, allowing our transition to cleaner energy solutions to continue as demand for solar products continues to increase exponentially.

Today, we are once again facing the same threats to American jobs that we faced a year ago. It is unimaginable. At least it is unimaginable to me that we would be willing to make an unforced error-- an unforced error--in our commitment to protecting our planet.

We shouldn't be fighting the Biden administration's work to preserve the trade balance. We simply can't afford to make mistakes that would halt solar employment and cost us a whole ton of American jobs.

With current U.S. solar manufacturing, we are only able to meet one- third of domestic demand--one-third. It is imperative that we protect this industry and the tens of thousands of jobs it produces.

If the pause on solar tariffs were to end, the consequences would be devastating. Let's take a minute just to walk through what Americans would face. Here is what they would face:

First of all, 30,000 good-paying jobs would be eliminated this year-- not next year or the year after that; this year, 30,000. Of that 30,000, 4,000 are manufacturing jobs stemming from a $4.2 billion domestic investment in the solar industry from legislation like the bipartisan Infrastructure Act and the Inflation Reduction Act.

Second, CO2 emissions would increase by 42 million metric tons. That is about the same amount of emissions generated by the electricity use of 8 million homes in a year. This would undermine our progress on solar deployment and starve the solar market of the critical panels and cells that cannot be obtained in the United States at this time.

Third, our efforts to strengthen the supply chain by developing our own manufacturing would be severely harmed. The retroactive solar tariffs on materials that are currently not available in the United States would directly undercut our own efforts and send the supply chain into a downward spiral.

Fourth, roughly 14 percent of the industry's anticipated projects would be canceled.

I will say that again. Roughly 14 percent of the industry's anticipated projects would be canceled, significantly setting back our transition to a green energy economy.

We cannot afford to let this happen. We need to do everything in our power to lift up innovators in the solar industry, to boldly cut emissions from our power sector, and to attack this climate crisis head-on, all while continuing to create good-paying jobs.

Heaven forbid that the future generations look back and see that our own hand--our very own hand--forced this error.

I want to thank you, our Presiding Officer, Senator Rosen, for your wonderful leadership on this issue.

I want to urge all of our colleagues to vote no on this resolution for the good of our country, for the good of our planet, for the good of the people who inhabit this planet with all of us, and also for generations to come, our kids and their kids.

I will be back in 1 minute. Don't go away.

Mr. CARPER. Madam President, I rise for a second time today and this time in opposition to S.J. Res. 9, a Congressional Review Act resolution to disapprove of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's rule protecting a bird known as the lesser prairie-chicken under the Endangered Species Act.

Before I explain why my colleagues should reject this resolution, let me first answer two basic questions. Some who may be watching this debate could be asking: First, what is a lesser prairie-chicken? And, second, why do we need to protect it?

Those are two pretty good questions.

Native to the southern Great Plains, the lesser prairie-chicken has long been considered an indicator for healthy grasslands and prairies upon which hundreds of species depend. If the lesser prairie-chicken is in peril, in time, other species could be in peril, as well.

Today, the lesser prairie-chicken can be found in five States-- Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. We know that this colorful and, some would say, charismatic bird's distinct call was once a familiar part of the prairie soundscape, so much so that it has earned a representation in ceremonial dances of several Native American Tribes and celebration in communities across its multistate habitat.

Sadly, the population of the lesser prairie-chicken has declined by some 97 percent throughout the last century--97 percent. This decline is primarily due to loss of habitat and climate-related drought in the West.

In addition to the cultural and ecological losses that come with a declining lesser prairie-chicken population, there are impacts for communities, as well. For example, a local prairie chicken festival in Roosevelt County, NM, hasn't been held since 2012 because there are no longer enough birds in the area to sustain this tourism.

There are no lesser prairie-chickens in 45 of our 50 States. There are none. Still, we know firsthand the benefits that wildlife tourism can have on local economies. For example, people travel from all across the country--and, actually, around the world--to come to Delaware to see the beloved bird called the red knot. That is a familiar face and welcomed face along the shores of Delaware.

This tiny bird, which is now a threatened species due to climate change, migrates more than 18,000 miles. This tiny little bird migrates more than 18,000 miles on its roundtrip from the southern tip of South America to the tundra of the northern Arctic. Along the way, flocks of red knots stop for lunch, and they stop for lunch in Delaware. They stop for lunch along our beaches in Delaware. They stop and lunch on horseshoe crab eggs, often doubling their weight during this process. It is quite a spectacle.

Horseshoe crabs have been around for millions of years. Every year, during certain parts of the year, they lay their eggs and they lay them along the Delaware beaches, and the red knots come in and swoop them up and go to town, literally, doubling their weight before they head north or head south.

People come from all over the world to witness this. When they come from all over the world, they stay in our hotels. They eat in our restaurants. We have no sales tax. They shop safe with no sales tax. For us, it is a pretty good thing, and it is an even better deal for the red knots. They benefit and, frankly, so do we in our economy.

So while some might suggest that providing Endangered Species Act protections for the lesser prairie-chicken would hinder economic development, given our experience in Delaware, I have a different perspective based on our experience with threatened and endangered species in the First State.

Delaware is not the only State that pays homage to our Nation's iconic birds. In fact, five National Football League teams use birds as their mascot, including the Seattle Seahawks, the Arizona Cardinals, the Atlanta Falcons, the Baltimore Ravens, and the Philadelphia Eagles. Go birds.

In addition, the great State of Louisiana is known as the Pelican State. Today, the distinctive brown pelican is thriving along the Louisiana's coast because of the Endangered Species Act. To the west, the well-loved California condor actually became extinct in the wild in the year 1987. But with the help of the Endangered Species Act, there are now more than 550 condors in the wild. Unfortunately, Endangered Species Act protections for the lesser prairie-chickens have been delayed for decades. Now the species is in serious peril, which is why we should not wait any longer.

Some of our colleagues who oppose this rule for the lesser prairie- chicken have claimed that the Fish and Wildlife Service did not properly account for longstanding voluntary conservation efforts. That is just not true. While I commend the voluntary actions to conserve the lesser prairie-chicken, science shows existing efforts are not nearly enough to protect and recover this species.

That said, even with the data clearly demonstrating the need for enhanced protection for this extraordinary bird, the Fish and Wildlife Service worked hard to create a flexible rule that would mitigate the negative impacts on impacted industries.

Specifically, the many years of volunteer conservation actions are not for naught. Under the Biden rule, those voluntary actions remain the foundation for current habitat and conservation plans to protect lesser prairie-chickens, while allowing continued industry operations.

Under the rule, farmers, ranchers, and energy producers can generally continue their normal activities, as long as they adhere to reasonable conservation plans. That is true even if these activities have a small negative impact on this species. And this flexibility applies to the range for the entire northern population, including all known habitats in Kansas, in Colorado, and in Oklahoma, and about half of the State of Texas.

What is more, the Fish and Wildlife Service delayed the effective date of this rule for 60 days to allow more time to work with partners and to work with stakeholders. Doing so allowed impacted industries to create conservation plans and minimize disruption to activity in the region. The Service also continues to collaborate closely with States to ensure that all interested parties have the tools that they need in order to comply with the rule.

Despite this effort by the Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure a smooth implementation, this CRA resolution would take a sledgehammer to the rule. And this CRA is, indeed, a sledgehammer. If enacted, this resolution would not only invalidate the rule issued by the Fish and Wildlife Services, but it could also prevent the Service from ever issuing a listing for the lesser prairie-chicken in the future.

To put it simply, enacting this resolution could set this species on a path to continued decline and eventual extinction. The resolution also undermines the Endangered Species Act. How is that, you ask? Well, this resolution violates the basic premise that the law should be applied based on science and not politics.

In 2019, an intergovernmental panel issued an alarming report. What did the report say? That report found that roughly 1 million species on our planet are endangered of extinction. Let me just say that again. In 2019--4 years ago--an intergovernmental panel issued an alarming report. What did it report? They found that roughly 1 million species on our planet are in danger of extinction.

We know that preserving our planet diversity is critical for innovation, it is critical for human health, and it is critical for our environment. And the Endangered Species Act is our best tool for protecting species and preserving environment.

Let me conclude this afternoon by offering a reminder of what is at stake here today: Extinction is forever. Let me say that again. Extinction is forever.

Overturning this listing may well mean the permanent loss of an iconic American species. That would harm our planet that we pass on to future generations and the communities and cultures that hold lesser prairie-chickens in high regard.

For all of these reasons, I oppose this resolution, and I strongly urge our colleagues to join me and others in voting no.