Keystone XL Pipeline, Human Health Impacts and National Nurses United
March 13, 2014
(As prepared for delivery)
Today, we are joined by nurses from National Nurses United -- the nation's largest professional association of registered nurses - with 185,000 nurses. They are here to talk about the health impacts that the Keystone XL pipeline and its tar sands oil would have on our nation. They will also tell us about their plans for action on this issue.
When you ask the American people which professionals do they trust the most, they put nurses at the top of the list.
A recent Gallup poll found 82% of the public say nurses have high or very high honesty and ethical standards. It was the twelfth year in a row that the public rated nursing as the most trusted profession. In the interest of full disclosure, members of Congress come in at 8%.
Two weeks ago, I held a press conference with doctors and community representatives from Canada and the US, and they told us about how their communities have been or would be harmed along each step of the toxic tar sands oil process -- from the extraction to the transport to the refining to the waste disposal. They connected the dots between tar sands and health miseries along the pipeline's path -- from Alberta, Canada, through communities in America's heartland down to the Gulf Coast.
The Keystone XL pipeline would transport tar sands oil, which is one of the filthiest kinds of oil on the planet, through communities in environmentally sensitive areas in 6 states to refineries along the Gulf Coast. Today, we will hear from nurses from the affected states.
One of the states the Keystone XL pipeline will travel through is Kansas, and we will hear from a nurse from that state. Another nurse with us today is from Chicago, where open piles of the tar sands waste byproduct, known as "pet coke," have exposed her community to blowing clouds black dust. This type of soot pollution, which contains concentrated heavy metals, can increase the number and severity of asthma attacks, cause or aggravate bronchitis, and contribute to other lung diseases.
Nurses from Houston and Oakland, California, will also tell us about their health concerns posed by the tar sands refineries.
In January, the State Department issued the Keystone XL pipeline's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and it was woefully inadequate when it came to exploring the human health impacts. That is why Senator Whitehouse and I wrote to Secretary Kerry two weeks ago asking for a comprehensive human health impacts analysis of the XL pipeline. Since that time, the State Department has received over 2 million comments from the public opposing the pipeline.
I want to make it clear again that we need a comprehensive health analysis - anything less is unacceptable. I appreciate nurses being here today to underscore the importance of health impacts of the pipeline.
I am pleased to tell you that the 185,000 registered nurses of National Nurses United are calling on the State Department to address the failure to fully consider the health impacts of the pipeline. You will hear more about that from the Co-President of National Nurses United.
The permitting decision will be based on whether the Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest. I believe, along with many others, that exposing more Americans to pollutants linked to cancer and respiratory illnesses is not in the national interest.
Don't just take my word, or that of the peer reviewed science on this issue . . . take the word of America's most trusted professionals -- nurses.