Friday, May 20, 2011

The Week Ahead...EPW Committee To Hold Nominations Hearing

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing on the nominations of William Ostendorff to be a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Richard Howorth to be a member of the Tennessee Valley Authority, and Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick to be Chief of Engineers/Commanding General of the United States Army Corps of Engineers. 

The reconfirmation of NRC Commissioner Ostendorff is especially important.  Not only is Ostendorff an expert in the field of nuclear power, he also has extensive knowledge of the national security issues surrounding it.  He has served his country both in military and civilian capacities as an engineer, legal counsel, policy advisor and naval officer. In his current role as an NRC Commissioner, Ostendorff contributes knowledge of reactor operations and nuclear security issues that is unmatched among his colleagues. Failure to reconfirm him would deprive the Commission of one of its most distinguished members-and the only one with significant reactor operations experience.

The hearing will take place on Wednesday, May 25 at 10 AM in room 406 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.  

Hearings are open to the public and are streamed live on the EPW website:  http://www.epw.senate.gov/.

Inhofe Supports Legislation To Help Bring Down Prices at the Pump

Link to Video of Floor Speech: Inhofe weighs in on Energy Debate  

Senator Inhofe gave the following statement after the Senate voted on a bill sponsored by Republican Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Offshore Production and Safety Act, which would increase production of America's abundant resources and help bring down prices at the pump. Democrats blocked the bill from full consideration by a vote of 42 to 57: 

"Today I joined my Republican colleagues to vote for legislation that would allow us to produce more energy here at home, bring down the price of gasoline, decrease our dependence on foreign oil, and create thousands of good-paying American jobs," Senator Inhofe said.  "Unfortunately, my Democratic colleagues flat-out rejected the proposal-and this comes just days after President Obama admitted that increased domestic drilling would help reduce gas prices. 

"The solution to skyrocketing gas prices is simple: increase supply.  And, as the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reports, the United States has the largest recoverable resources of oil, gas and coal of any nation on the planet. The only thing standing in the way of developing these resources is politics in Washington.

"Democrats have made it very clear that they have no plan to reduce gas prices.  In fact, by diminishing supply - through the Administration's de facto moratorium on deepwater permitting in the Gulf of Mexico, its restrictions on production on federal lands, and its regulatory agenda - prices have only gone up.

"The bottom line is that we can produce our way to energy security, create thousands of American jobs, and bring down prices at the pump. Washington just needs to get out of the way."

Democrats Effort to Increase Taxes on Oil and Gas Defeated Third Time in a Year

 

Link to Video of Inhofe Floor Speech on Dems Oil and Gas Tax Increase Bill: Dems Have No Answer to Higher Gas Prices  

On Tuesday, Senator Inhofe voted against a Democratic proposal to increase energy taxes. The bill, S. 940, was defeated by a bipartisan vote of 52 to 48. The bill required 60 votes to proceed to full consideration. This is the third time in one year that similar legislation has been defeated, and Senator Inhofe has been a leading voice in opposition.

"For the third time in less than a year, the United States Senate rejected a Democratic proposal to increase energy taxes," Senator Inhofe said. "Today's effort was purely an attempt to distract the public from what has become abundantly clear: Democrats have no solution to high gas prices. Even sponsors of the bill admitted from the start that, ‘Nobody has made the claim that this bill is about reducing gas prices.' But they do have a plan to make prices go higher.  In fact, the Democrats' regulatory agenda is specifically designed to make gas and energy more expensive for American consumers.

"There is a simple solution to bringing down prices at the pump-we must develop our own resources.  We certainly have plenty of them: according to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS), America's combined supply of oil, coal, and natural gas is the largest on Earth. In fact, we have enough supply to make us independent of the Middle East. It's just that this Administration and the Democrats don't want us to get to it.

"With no answers on gas prices, the Democrats claim their bill is about deficit reduction-a tough sell coming from supporters of an Administration that adds $4 billion a day to the nation's deficit.  They say that this energy tax will cut the deficit by $2 billion-that's worth one half day of deficit for this Administration.  So not only would this bill have destroyed jobs and raised energy prices, it would have done nothing to solve our deficit problem.

"It's clear that Senate Democrats have no plan to cut the deficit or reduce gas prices. It's time to overturn the Obama Administration's regulatory obstacles to new production and start developing more of America's abundant resources.  Doing so will mean more jobs, a stronger economy, and lower prices at the pump."  

Read More:

Democrats' Gas Tax Out of Step With American Consumers - and the Facts

A Real Gas Price Solution: Produce More American Energy, Overturn Obama EPA's Cap-and-Trade Agenda

Video: Democrats Have No Plan to Bring Down Rising Gas Prices, But They Do Have a Plan to Make Them Go Up

Inhofe Op-Ed: Actually, we can drill our way to energy security (Daily Caller) 

Dems Admit Bill Not Meant to Reduce Gas Prices

Senate Overwhelmingly Rejects Democrat-Led Effort Against Domestic Energy Jobs

Inhofe Secures FWS Nominee Visit to Oklahoma To Discuss Potential Listing of Lesser Prairie Chicken

Senator Inhofe welcomed an agreement on Thursday with Dan Ashe, nominee to be Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), that he will travel to Oklahoma to address key issues that directly impact the state and the nation.

Due to concerns over the potential listing of the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the role of the FWS with regard to climate policy, Senator Inhofe voted against Ashe's nomination in the EPW Committee and expressed a desire to follow up with him on these issues. After meeting with Dan Ashe and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Senator Inhofe was satisfied that his concerns were addressed and he will not hold up Ashe's nomination. The details of the agreement between Senator Inhofe and Dan Ashe are contained in a letter dated May 17, 2011, in which Ashe pledged to hold meetings with stakeholders in Oklahoma to discuss the problems surrounding the potential ESA listing of the lesser prairie chicken.

Link to May 17 Letter from Dan Ashe to Senator Inhofe

"I appreciate Dan Ashe's commitment to address my concerns and I see no reason to hold up his nomination to be Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service," Senator Inhofe said. 

"Ashe's agreement to hold listening sessions in Oklahoma if he is confirmed is most welcome.  The potential listing of the lesser prairie chicken could have unnecessarily negative impacts on jobs and economic development, and Oklahomans will greatly benefit from the chance to express their concerns.  I hope we can work together to give voluntary partnerships - especially the Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances - a chance to produce results.  These sorts of public - private partnerships are the best way to achieve a healthy balance between conservation efforts and our economy.

"Ashe also addressed my objection to the FWS's ‘Strategic plan for Responding to Accelerating Climate Change' which states that the agency should ‘examine everything we do, every decision we make and every dollar we spend through the lens of climate change.' In response, Ashe pledged to clarify to FWS staff that ‘climate change is not the overarching consideration driving the Service's day-to-day decision-making process' and went on to say that they ‘do not believe that the FWS is responsible for the regulation of greenhouse gases, nor is it the Service's role to address these causative factors through any of its statutory or regulatory authorities.'  I will hold him to that pledge.

I have great respect for Dan Ashe and appreciate his 16 years of service in the FWS.  I look forward to working with him, should he be confirmed."

Inhofe: EPA effort puts ecosystem at risk

Tulsa World 

Inhofe: EPA effort puts ecosystem at risk 

by: JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau
Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Link to Article 

Link to Press Release  


WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe said Monday that a federal agency's efforts to limit prescribed burns that are used to preserve tallgrass prairies actually is putting the ecosystem in Oklahoma at risk. 

Working with a Kansas senator on a bill that covers Tulsa, Washington and Osage counties, the Oklahoma Republican accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of pitting two separate and unrelated issues against each other. 

"The EPA's efforts to limit prescribed burns in this region fail to take into account the fact that they play a key role in protecting our tallgrass prairies,'' Inhofe said. 

"This bill will provide a simple solution that balances our states' environmental and economic needs.'' 

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who introduced the legislation, called the Flint Hills Preservation Act, would protect landowners' ability to use fire as a tool to preserve the tall-grass prairie ecosystem. 

"Rather than have to worry about a schedule dictated by the EPA, this legislation will allow landowners to manage prescribed burning around the forces of weather and other factors impacting safe conditions, while at the same time, preserve a unique ecosystem," he said. 

According to Moran, the regions in Kansas and Oklahoma that would be covered by his legislation contain the world's largest share of remaining tallgrass prairie and are the only place where that habitat exists in landscape proportions. 

Only 4 percent of North America's presettlement tallgrass prairie survives to this day. 

Each year, ranchers, landowners and conservation groups use prescribed fires to mimic the seasonal fires that have shaped the tallgrass prairie for thousands of years. 

Prescribed burning is an essential management practice for protecting the ecosystem, and it helps ranchers keep pastures free from invasive species, its advocates say. 

According to Moran, a condensed time frame for grassland burning has caused heightened air-quality readings in Kansas City, Kan., and Wichita, Kan. 

As a result, he warned, the EPA is seeking to regulate how and when landowners can burn in the region. 

Inhofe and Moran provided statements from ranchers and livestock groups in support of their legislation. 

The Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association stated that the measure would prevent the EPA from counting smoke from prescribed fires against several counties when determining attainment status under clean-air standards. 

"By their very nature, prescribed burns are not year-round activities; they are quick, short-lived, seasonal events,'' the group stated. "There is ample scientific evidence supporting the use of prescribed burning. Any action from any federal agency which impedes our ability to utilize this tool is unwarranted.'' 

EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks said his agency does not take a stand on pending legislation, but Brooks expressed appreciation that the two senators are participating in the discussion about fire in the region. 

"This is a really important discussion,'' he said. 

The EPA has been working with a number of stakeholders on the issue, Brooks said, adding that an effort was launched and the first burn season just ended. 

Data now will be analyzed to see what should be done, he said. 

The EPA knew it had much to learn about the role of fire in tallgrass prairie management, and others had much to learn about the impact of downwind air, Brooks said. 

"That was a huge accomplishment,'' he said. 

In the News...E&E News: Inhofe Introduces Small Systems Safe Drinking Water Act

E&E News

Inhofe bill aims to cut small drinking water systems a break

Paul Quinlan, E&E reporter

May 17, 2011

Link to Article 

Link to Press Release 

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe wants U.S. EPA to give small drinking water systems, which have fewer customers over which to spread their costs, more of a helping hand in meeting federal requirements.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member introduced a bill yesterday along with Sens. David Vitter (R-La.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) that would require EPA to update the criteria used to determine what waterworks fixes should be considered affordable -- criteria that the agency admitted in 2006 are sometimes unfair to small or low-income communities because of their smaller rate bases.

"Too often federal regulations come with a price tag that is unreasonable for small towns and cities with lower budgets," Inhofe said in a statement. "Forcing systems to raise rates beyond what their ratepayers can afford only causes more damage than good and can be especially harmful for low-income communities or areas facing economic challenges."

EPA currently determines whether meeting a new requirement is affordable for a small community by checking to ensure that the current cost of water in the community plus the estimated additional treatment cost to meet the new standard do not exceed a threshold of about $1,000 per year, or about $83 per month.

Inhofe contends $83 can be too much for many small communities. His bill, called the "Small System Safe Drinking Water Act of 2011," aims to bring more money and flexibility to those drinking water systems.

The legislation, a version of which Inhofe has introduced in every Congress since 2003, would ensure that EPA cannot take enforcement actions against a water system serving fewer than 10,000 people without ensuring the community has the money to pay for the required upgrades.

The bill would also amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to require that EPA check to ensure drinking water standards imposed are no more expensive to small communities, on a per-capita basis, than to large ones. It seeks to divert federally administered drinking water loans to small communities and allows those short on funds to obtain exemptions in cases where communities are "taking all practicable steps" to meet requirements.

The National Rural Water Association applauded the bill for bringing "equity and fairness to small towns," said analyst Mike Keegan, in an email.

"It corrects the status quo," Keegan said, "where thousands of small and rural communities are forced to spend limited public funds for federal regulatory compliance when there is not an identified health risk."

Inhofe Comments on EPAs Decision to Suspend Boiler MACT Rules

On Monday, following the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) announcement that it will suspend the implementation of its "Boiler MACT" rule, Senator Inhofe gave the following statement:

"Given the strong opposition to the Obama-EPA Boiler MACT rules, it is hardly surprising that the administration is suspending their implementation," Senator Inhofe said. "In reality, they had no choice. This rule imposes requirements that are unachievable for, among others, manufacturers, universities, and municipalities that rely on boilers for power and heat. The requirements put thousands of jobs at risk and could force many manufacturing plants to close their doors.

"The Boiler MACT suspension is the latest in a string of regulatory delays. Make no mistake, the Obama-EPA has every intention of implementing its regulatory agenda, but even this administration understands that these rules will significantly damage a weak economy, raise energy prices on consumers, and cost jobs. If President Obama didn't take these steps, he would likely lose his own job.

"As the EPA reconsiders the Boiler MACT rules, I will work to ensure the many problems are addressed.  Congress may still need to weigh in with a legislative fix."

Link to Press Release: Republican Leaders Urge EPA to Give American People More Time to Weigh in on New Rules Affecting Electricity Prices

Inhofe USA TODAY Op Ed: All pain, no gain

USA Today Op-Ed   

Inhofe's view: All pain, no gain

By Senator Jim Inhofe

May 16, 2011 

Link to Op Ed 

Not too long ago, President Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress proudly announced that America would lead the fight against global warming by passing a cap-and-trade bill. But despite overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress in 2009, Democrats barely found the votes to get the proposal through the House, and Senate Democrats never even brought it up for a vote.

The reason is simple. Cap-and-trade is designed to make the energy we use more expensive. Consider President Obama's Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who said in 2008, "Somehow, we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." That's about $7 to $8 a gallon.

What the Democrats have since learned is that the American public is more skeptical of the science of global warming than at anytime over the past decade. Frank Newport of Gallup stated earlier this year, "Americans' attitudes toward the environment show a public that over the last two years has become less worried about the threat of global warming, less convinced that its effects are already happening, and more likely to believe that scientists themselves are uncertain about its occurrence."

While skepticism abounds, Americans are fully aware of the impact on their wallets. The Obama cap-and-trade agenda would cost our economy $300 billion to $400 billion annually: It would hurt families, business and farmers - basically anyone who drives a car and flips a light switch.

What would be gained from higher gas prices and staggering taxes? Virtually nothing. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, appointed by President Obama, admitted before the Senate that the U.S. action on global warming would have no impact on global carbon emissions. In fact, as jobs went to places like India, China and Mexico, where they don't have any emissions requirements, cap-and-trade would actually increase worldwide emissions.

For the past 10 years, I have led the fight against the Democrats' attack on affordable energy. This year, 64 senators voted to rein in the Obama administration as it attempts to push its cap-and-trade agenda through EPA regulations. In the end, as the hysteria of global warming continues to fade, so too will the cap-and-trade regime.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., is the senior Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Greens, Dems Split on 2012 Election Strategy

Obama Regs "pushed back until after the election." - "Reid, Greens Spar Behind the Scenes" - "Secretive Huddle"

Inhofe EPW Press News Roundup

Politico Pro: Reid pushes greens to hold friendly fire - Harry Reid made it clear to environmental group big shots on Wednesday that he doesn't want any friendly fire causing problems as he defends his razor-thin majority in 2012. Reid didn't raise his voice during the exchange. That's not the Nevada Democrat's style. Still, he showed he wasn't pleased that the typically nonpartisan League of Women Voters - whose advocacy director Lloyd Leonard was in the room - had targeted Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) with its "People, Not Polluters" ad that depicted a little girl coloring while wearing an oxygen mask. "He was unhappy about that," said a source with knowledge of the meeting with Reid. "He's supposed to be. That's his job."But scarred by their own big loss last year on global warming legislation, the greens countered that playing nice hasn't always worked out so well for them.As they parted ways, they agreed to disagree over the use last month of the hardball ad attacking McCaskill for her floor vote to freeze the EPA's climate change powers for two years.

LA Times Editorial: In the 2012 campaign, environmentalists don't matter: Shortly after his party's "shellacking" in the midterm election, President Obama ordered government agencies to ensure that new regulations took economic growth into consideration and that old ones be revoked if they "stifle job creation or make our economy less competitive." Five months later, it's becoming pretty clear what he meant: The environment and public health will be thrown under a bus for the sake of his reelection in 2012. The latest victim of the administration's new political direction is a proposed Environmental Protection Agency rule to limit emissions from industrial boilers, which power oil refineries, chemical plants and other factories. The EPA indefinitely rescinded the proposal this week, citing Obama's January executive order on regulations and claiming that the agency hadn't had time to properly address industry concerns about the rule since a draft was released in September. The EPA first proposed a version of the boiler rules in 2004, and it has had ample time and input to get it right by now. 

PoliticoPro: Reid, Greens Spar Behind the Scenes - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and environmental groups are at odds over how far greens should go in spanking Democrats who don't vote their way on key issues like the EPA's climate change powers and oil industry tax breaks. Reid and several of his top lieutenants emerged from a meeting Wednesday night with top green group CEOs pledging to protect the Clean Air Act against further assaults from Republicans and even some moderate Democrats. But behind the scenes, the majority leader and the environmentalists don't all see eye to eye on whether in-cycle Democrats deserve to be the target of ad campaigns when they also help make up Reid's razor-thin majority. Driving the debate is a League of Women Voters commercial that slammed Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) after she voted last month to freeze the EPA's rules for two years. Sierra Club CEO Michael Brune dragged the issue into the public spotlight Wednesday when he posted on Twitter the premise of the green group's closed-door meeting with the Democratic leaders. "What do u think about holding D's accountable for votes to gut Cl Air Act/keep oil subsidies?" he tweeted, referring to the EPA votes last month and Tuesday's roll call on legislation to repeal $21 billion in oil industry tax breaks. Democrats Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska and Ben Nelson of Nebraska voted with Republicans to keep the industry incentives in place. In a conference call with Nevada reporters, Reid sounded none too happy about Brune's posting. "I think whoever this is in the Sierra Club had better get his facts right," the majority leader said, according to the Las Vegas Sun. "I don't buy the illogic of the tweet."

FOX News: Delay as Political Cover for 2012? -  Some critics have charged that this is a pre-election political move that will give President Obama some leverage against criticism he's allowing the EPA to run amok over private industry. Dave Conover, a former deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Energy and now senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, agrees it helps the Obama administration but added, "if EPA hadn't issued the reconsideration, the Boiler MACT rule would have been challenged in court ... if not by Congress first." So it's a "win-win" situation for the White House, he points out. He added the Obama administration, "would be smart to, and likely will, revisit schedules for regulations with softer deadlines, given both the current political and economic climate." The EPA has set a July 15 deadline for any more public submissions on the proposed regulations.

Politico: Expect More Delays Coming for 2012 - But Obama's team probably is going to have to wait on many other top green priorities. Regulations for coal ash, a potentially toxic leftover from coal-fired power plants, probably will be pushed back until after the election. EPA's most anticipated new climate regulations for power plants and other major industrial sources are due in final form next spring. But with congressional Republicans making the rules a centerpiece of their legislative attack strategy, sources within and outside the administration expect that EPA's efforts will ultimately get punted beyond November 2012.

E&E News: Environmentalists and Senate Dems in Secretive Huddle at Capitol - A small group of Democratic senators led by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) met yesterday with leading environmentalists for what both sides characterized as a routine check-in on policy matters. But all participants maintained a studious silence about the specifics of the meeting's agenda, refusing to answer press inquiries before and after the event. Reid spokesman Jon Summers was vague. "Sen. Reid meets with environmental groups -- and other constituency groups -- a few times a year," he said in an email. "They will talk about our job-creating clean energy agenda and discuss any other concerns the groups may bring up." Hours before the gathering in the majority leader's Capitol office, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune hinted at a different purpose, however. "Mtg w Reid and other Dem leadership today," he tweeted to followers. "What do u think about holding D's accountable for votes to gut Cl Air Act/keep oil subsidies?" The meeting between the leaders of national environmental groups and Democratic leadership came one month after the Senate defeated four amendments -- three sponsored by Democrats -- that would have stripped or modified U.S. EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. All four amendments had at least some Democratic support -- including one by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), which attracted "yes" votes from Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Manchin and Nelson -- neither of whom are close to the environmental community -- are facing tough re-election fights next year.

PoliticoPro:  Another EPA Delay Renews Green Fears - Green groups and public health advocates fear the Obama administration won't go to the mat to defend major environmental rules that are getting hammered by industry and GOP lawmakers. Earlier this week, the EPA announced it would stall its controversial air toxics rules for industrial boilers - the latest in a string of rule delays that have ruffled feathers among the administration's supporters. Now, environmental advocates fear the agency will back down on a range of other major rules that have come under fire. "It's clearly a situation where the agency is making its decision based on political expedience, not principle," said Earthjustice attorney Jim Pew. "And once you get onto that slippery slope, where do you stop?" Greens are concerned that a trend is developing after the EPA last year punted on a controversial rule to curb ozone pollution and appears likely to push final coal ash regulations until after the 2012 election. The EPA announced Monday that it would reconsider the final boiler rule issued in February, saying the public did not have sufficient time to comment before the rule was issued. The EPA also postponed the standard in the meantime. [...] The EPA's critics in Congress haven't shown any signs of letting up. Top Republicans in both chambers took a victory lap Monday following EPA's announcement, congratulating the agency for backing down. "The decision to halt their implementation and allow for reconsideration, which will include further public comment, is welcome news," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton said in a statement. Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans are planning legislation to delay EPA's air toxics regulations for boilers, utilities and cement plants. Upton said those efforts will continue despite the EPA delay. "We will continue to consider additional legislative action to address these and related EPA rules more comprehensively to ensure that they are achievable and do not impede economic growth or job creation," he said.