Remarks by U.S. Senator Thomas R. Carper
Senate Environment and Public Works Services Committee
Confirmation hearing for Governor Michael Leavitt
as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
Thursday, September 18th, 2003

Mr. Chairman, Senator Jeffords, and Governor Leavitt.  Good morning.

 

I am pleased to have Governor Leavitt with us this morning and to consider his appointment as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

 

As a governor of Delaware for eight years, I had a chance to work closely with Governor Leavitt when I served as Chair and Vice-Chair of the National Governors Association.  Although we are from different political parties, we nevertheless were able to find consensus on many issues important to the states and the nation.  Governor Leavitt consistently demonstrated a willingness to work closely with governors from both parties to solve a problem, and I am hopeful he will continue to do so once he is confirmed to his new position.   I look forward to continuing our friendship during his tenure as EPA administrator.

 

I had similarly positive things to say about Governor Whitman two and a half years ago during her confirmation hearings.  She did an admirable job of leading the agency, but I often wondered if others in the Administration influenced decisions made by the EPA in ways that were not helpful.  I hope we can work with you, Governor Leavitt, to address these concerns in the future.

 

From my own perspective, the EPA was less than forthcoming earlier this year about its own analysis of clean air legislation I have introduced, the Clean Air Planning Act.  This analysis showed that the bill would produce substantially greater health benefits than the administration’s competing air pollutant bill but would cost virtually the same to implement.  I specifically requested that the EPA release this analysis to me and the bill’s cosponsors.  But the EPA refused to do so, presumably for political reasons.

 

Refusing to cooperate, however, damages the EPA’s reputation as a credible, scientific body, and it hurts the EPA’s relationship with Congress.  This committee, for instance, is currently considering several complex environmental proposals – ranging from water quality standards, ozone standards, chemical plant security, and of course clean air and climate change.  These are complicated, scientifically rigorous matters.  We look to the EPA for help understanding the impact of legislative proposals on these topics.  Regardless of how a particular member may ultimately vote on an issue, members of this committee are entitled to make their own assessments of complex legislation based on the most accurate and unbiased information available.  Given the crucial nature of the issues at stake, I hope that EPA, under your leadership, has a change of heart and decides to be more forthcoming with analyses and information on the matters before this committee. 

 

In a letter to the New York Times on June 21st of this year, Russell Train, who served as EPA Administrator under both Presidents Nixon and Ford, expressed his concern that the independent status of the EPA is being eroded.  When you are confirmed, Gov. Leavitt, I hope you will make it a goal to stop that erosion and return a sense of independence to the Agency. As we look forward to working with you at the EPA, I join my colleagues in asking you to focus on improving the flow of information from the EPA to the Senate, and I urge you to do all that you can to see that the EPA continues to fulfill its primary mission of protecting the nation’s environment. 

 

I also want to take a minute today and ask you to focus on two important questions, one local and one global. 

 

In Delaware, on the Delaware River, in the town of Delaware City is the Motiva oil refinery.  While this refinery has been an important contributor to the state’s economy and the nation’s supply of gasoline and petroleum products for decades, it has also been a significant source of air pollution.  In 2001, 1.5 million tons of pollutants were released, much of that to the air.  In March of 2001, the EPA, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and Motiva signed a consent decree wherein Motiva agreed to substantially reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide by installing modern controls on the two major sources of air pollution by the end next year, 2004. 

 

Earlier this year, we learned that parties to the agreement were considering changes to the decree which would have allowed some of the sulfur removed from the air to be discharged into the Delaware River, along with additional toxic byproducts.  I was very concerned with this news and asked your predecessor, Gov. Whitman, to become involved.  She did and was working with me and the people of Delaware before her departure to help achieve a workable solution.  Since then, the parties have developed a revised consent decree which seems to protect the water but also delays compliance until 2006.  Delawareans, myself included, expect the EPA to uphold the Clean Air Act and not allow diversion of pollutants from one source to another.  I urge you to be proactive in seeing that whatever agreement is ultimately reached is fair to the environment and that any delay in installing the proper equipment occurs only if absolutely necessary. 

 

I am also particularly interested in your views on the issue of global warming and humanity’s role in altering the earth’s climate.  When you visited with me earlier this month, you mentioned that you were reading a National Academy of Sciences report on climate change.  I am interested in your latest views on the topic.  In my view, the evidence and the science point to the conclusion that global warming is occurring, and I am also convinced that human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases are increasing the rate at which the earth is warming.  As a result, I think we in Congress should be talking about how we might best start to address such changes.  Instead, we are still debating whether the changes are even occurring or if they are linked to human activity.  People of Utah may not be too concerned with beach erosion as sea level rises, but the people of Delaware are.  People of Utah may not be too concerned with the loss of sugar maple trees as New England warms, but the people of New Hampshire and Vermont are.  People of Utah may not be too concerned with the melting of glaciers and the warming of the permafrost, but the people of Alaska are. 

 

As administrator of the United States EPA, I expect you to be open to examining the issue and working with us to develop the best strategy moving forward.  As I mentioned earlier, I have introduced legislation that takes a significant step forward in addressing CO2 emissions from one contributor – the electricity producers.  I suggest you take a look at its provisions, particularly regarding CO2 controls.  It represents a sensible proposal for how to get started on this problem. 

I would also like to point out an article from this morning’s Wall Street Journal, written by Tom Hamburger, entitled  “Clear Skies Hits Storm Front, Polarized Political Climate Threatens Bush Environmental Plan”.  Mr. Chairman, if there is no objection I would like to have a copy of this article included in the hearing record after my statement, and I would urge Governor Leavitt, as well as the members of this committee, to read it.  I am interested in your thoughts, in light of the points raised in this article, of how we should best proceed on a clean air agenda.

 

In closing, I look forward to joining with you, Mr. Chairman, my colleagues on this Committee, and the Administration to strengthen our nation‘s commitment to clean air, clean water, and to preserving a rich environmental legacy for our children.  While we have made important strides in the past three decades, we have an obligation to try harder, to do better. Whatever the challenge, whether it is global warming, nuclear waste, polluted coastal waters or urban sprawl, we should work together to do what is right.

 

I know members of the committee have questions for Governor Leavitt and I don’t know if we will have time to ask all of them in person today.  If we have to submit questions for response after the hearing, I hope that you will allow sufficient time for the nominee to respond and for members to review his answers before scheduling a vote on his nomination.

 

Mr. Chairman, I look forward to hearing from Governor Leavitt today, and to the opportunity to work with him during the coming years. 

 

 

Clear Skies' Hits Storm Front --- Polarized Political Climate Threatens Bush –

The Wall Street Journal September 23, 2003.  Page A4.  by Tom Hamburger

 

Washington -- WHEN PRESIDENT George H.W. Bush proposed using market incentives to reduce air pollution in 1990, he joined forces with environmentalists and Democrats to win congressional approval. When President George W. Bush last week proposed to expand upon his father's idea, he confronted unified opposition from Democrats and every major environmental group.

 

That opposition threatens to block enactment of what the current administration calls its Clear Skies initiative. More broadly, it represents a case study in the different governing style of the older and younger Messrs. Bush -- and the political polarization the current president engenders.

 

The first President Bush projected a more moderate image and displayed greater willingness to find common ground with Democrats on issues such as the environment and taxes. The second, mindful of the political grief his father suffered as a result, has devoted far more attention to placating the right on those same issues. And he has been more than willing to accept flak from the political left in the process.

 

But resistance to the current president's approach is based on substance as well as style. Mr. Bush angered environmentalists early in his administration by backing away from a 2000 campaign pledge to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions, which scientists say is a significant contributor to global warming. He continues to do so with his Clear Skies proposal: The initiative would curb power-plant emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury, while setting no caps on carbon-dioxide -- a bow to manufacturers, utilities and coal producers who consider those caps a threat to jobs in a sluggish economy. That stance aligns the ideologically conservative president both with blue-collar voters and with business leaders he values as important to his electoral base.

 

While the President's father reached out to environmentalists and moderates to get results, those claiming middle ground in this feud say they haven't heard from the White House.

 

"If they are reaching out, it has totally eluded me," says Sen. Thomas Carper, a moderate Democrat from Delaware. Mr. Carper has proposed a Clean Air Planning Act that goes further in some respects than Mr. Bush's proposal -- and has won support from some moderate Republicans, utility groups and academic experts on the environment.

 

Like all proposed Clean Air legislation this year, Mr. Carper's plan would allow utilities to decide for themselves how to meet caps for these three pollutants. If a utility reduces emissions below the federal limit, then it would have an emission credit it could sell or use at another facility. But it has a shorter timetable than the president's plan for imposing caps, and includes carbon dioxide as a pollutant subject to limitation.

 

Environmentalists are more drawn to a proposal by independent Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont, which offers the same emissions-trading system with tighter enforcement deadlines and continued pressure on power plants to clean up emissions when they expand or modernize.

 

While the proposal by Mr. Carper falls somewhere between these two, he says the White House has displayed no interest in his proposal and has deliberately kept relevant data -- including a favorable Environmental Protection Agency assessment of his bill -- out of his hands. EPA officials dispute this characterization, saying studies he has requested are still in progress. Lobbyists for the White House Council on Environmental Quality say they have been open to discussion, but have received no calls from Mr. Carper or other Democrats.

 

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's plan has won support from coal companies and executives at coal-fired power plants, even as it has alienated environmentalists. And with coal-producing states critical to the president's 2004 prospects -- as they were in 2000 -- the White House isn't bending.

 

The likely result is legislative stalemate. Even as Mr. Bush talked up his "common sense" amendments to the Clean Air Act in Michigan last week, the legislation was mired on Capitol Hill without backing from Democrats whose support is critical in a closely divided Senate. In the House, a bipartisan group last week introduced their own version of Mr. Carper's bill.

 

Advocates across the political spectrum say the market-based approaches that the first President Bush inaugurated have worked. "This is the approach that has proved effective," says Denny Ellerman, a former coal-industry lobbyist who directs the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, citing gains made under the proposal advanced by the president's father. Mr. Ellerman hails both the administration and Carper approaches for avoiding "command and control" regulation that has made other environmental laws difficult to enforce.

 

But the White House insists it won't join Mr. Carper by including some carbon-dioxide limits. Doing so, they say, would complicate passage of relatively simple legislation that could provide substantive gains in fighting pollution.

 

"Don't hold hostage real progress and health benefits from reducing smog, mercury and acid rain" to the continuing debate on carbon emissions, cautions James Connaughton, head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Mr. Connaughton argues that carbon-dioxide regulation should be debated in the context of a coming vote on a broader proposal offered by Sens. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, and Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, that would establish an economy-wide cap on emission of carbon dioxide.

 

Mr. Connaughton also cautions that limiting such emissions could disrupt the economy by encouraging power plants to switch from abundant coal to more-expensive natural gas. A similar warning comes from Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, where job losses have moved the Buckeye State up on the Democratic Party's 2004 target list.

 

"If you stop burning coal and go to natural gas, you shut down manufacturing in my state and others," Mr. Voinovich says. He cites conversations with Ohio employers who say they would move offshore rather than pay higher costs. If true, that would cost jobs domestically while exporting air pollution and greenhouse-gas emissions.

 

That is why the president's recent speeches have emphasized that his proposals are practical and consistent with job creation. "We can have a pro-growth agenda, a pro-job agenda and pro-environment agenda at the same time," he declared last week at a Michigan power plant.

 

One prominent environmentalist calls the president's opposition to steps to curb global warming "absolutist," even though Mr. Bush rhetorically embraces environmental improvement. "They play a `just-say-no game' with a highly publicized effort to appear to be getting legislation passed, but making no real effort to do so," says David Hawkins, a former EPA assistant administrator who works for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

 

White House officials disagree, citing more than 20 of the administration's global-warming initiatives apart from the carbon-dioxide issue. Only one little-known environmental group was willing to stand alongside the president as he touted Clear Skies last week. The New York-based Adirondack Council says national environmental organizations are just as obstinate as the White House.

 

For its apostasy in supporting Mr. Bush, the Council says, it has lost membership support from one environmental group and has been declared a "clean air villain" by another. "National environmental groups are intent on denying Bush a victory," says John Sheehan, spokesman for the Adirondack Council.