Friday, July 15, 2011

Inhofe Scores Another Victory on EPA's Lead Based Paint Rule

Senator Inhofe welcomed an announcement made Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that current lead-safe work practices and clean up requirements will protect people from lead dust hazards and it is not necessary to impose lead-dust clearance testing requirements in the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (LRRP).

EPA's decision addresses the concerns voiced in an April 15 letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in which Senator Inhofe, along with eleven other senators, expressed deep concerns about the Agency's proposed amendments to LRRP, which would have required "clearance testing" to prove the presence or absence of lead following a project's completion. These additional requirements would have created confusion and complications for renovators who have already completed their lead-based paint training and imposed significant additional costs.

While Senator Inhofe supports the intent of the rule, which is to protect pregnant women and children from lead dust hazards, he has been a staunch critic of EPA's implementation.  On April 22, 2010, LRRP went into effect even though EPA only had 204 training providers nationwide.  This meant that contractors did not have enough access to the training programs required to achieve compliance with the rule.  In response, Senator Inhofe and Senator Collins introduced an amendment to the supplemental appropriations bill, which blocks funds from being used to "levy against any person any fine, or to hold any person liable for construction or renovation work performed by the person."  The amendment, which passed by a vote of 60 to 37, sent a clear bipartisan message to the EPA that it must alleviate the widespread confusion over the rule's implementation.  By May 2010, EPA announced a memorandum extending the LRRP deadline for renovators to enroll in training classes to September 30, 2010; it also extended the deadline for contractors to complete training to December 31, 2010.  Most importantly, the Agency agreed to work to provide additional trainers in areas of need.

Senator Inhofe:  "I am pleased that common-sense has once again prevailed at the EPA regarding the lead-based paint rule. The intent of the rule, public health protection especially for children and pregnant women, is something everyone supports, but it needs to happen in a way that does not place costly or confusing burdens on those trying to implement it. I applaud the Agency for responding to our concerns and making the right decision, which will provide maximum benefits for all. " 

Senator Snowe: "Today's ruling is a major victory for small business owners nationwide saddled with needlessly onerous regulations that are stifling their ability to grow and prosper during these difficult economic times. As we learned during its initial implementation back in 2009, this well-intentioned effort to protect pregnant women and children from lead exposure presented significant unintended consequences and undue burdens for renovators and homeowners alike.  It is essential that agencies account for the impact new federal regulations will have on the economy, families and small businesses before rules are promulgated.  I am pleased that, in this instance, EPA has withdrawn a proposed regulation deemed unnecessary and urge the agency to continue its stringent evaluations to mitigate the effects of rules that impose government costs and burdens where they are not necessary."

Senator Alexander: "As Tennesseans paint, remodel, and repair their homes, especially those affected by this summer's bad storms, I'm pleased that the EPA is doing what I urged them to do in deciding against adding to homeowners' burdens all this unnecessary, complicated and costly testing."

Related

Link to Press Release: Senators Say EPA Continues to Botch Lead-Based Paint Rule

Link to EPW Press Blog: EPA Responds to Inhofe Lead-Based Paint Implementation Concerns 

Tulsa World: EPA paint policy foes take fight to second agency

Tulsa World: EPA pressed on paint rules

Oklahoman: Agency accused of trying to kill states coal mining industry

Oklahoman

Agency accused of trying to kill state's coal mining industry

By JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau

July 15, 2011

Link to Article

Link to Press Release: OK Delegation Demands Obama Administration Stop Regulatory Regime That Will Shut Down State's Coal Industry 

WASHINGTON - Oklahoma's congressional delegation accused a federal agency on Thursday of trying to kill the state's coal mining industry.

In a letter to Joseph Pizarchik, director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, the lawmakers explain their growing sense of concern.

"OSM has taken two actions recently that seem to unfairly single out Oklahoma," their letter states.

"These two actions threaten an entire industry, its employees, and the state regulatory authority."

It quotes from what was described as a recently leaked draft environmental impact statement on a proposed stream-protection rule that the lawmakers clearly believe would mean an end to the state's coal mining industry.

That quote reads: "The reasonable, foreseeable development scenario for coal production in the United States the (preferred option) is for no new mining activity in (Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma) ...."

The delegation wrote that "our hope is that you will realize that pursuing an option in your proposed stream protection rule that outright eliminates an entire industry is unacceptable."

"Our state cannot afford to lose any more jobs: pursuing policies that will eliminate at least 260 high wage jobs in Oklahoma is unacceptable."

The letter also points out that the agency is attempting to change the rules and override Oklahoma's own enforcement program, which, the lawmakers say, is barred by both law and a bevy of federal court decisions.

"The Obama administration is working overtime to eliminate fossil fuels, and, if successful, the impact would be devastating in Oklahoma," said Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

"Not only are they working aggressively to kill natural gas development; now they are attacking coal mining."

Inhofe said the agency's proposed rule on stream protection clearly states that its goal is to stop new mining activity.

Republican Rep. John Sullivan described the agency's actions as a direct assault on the mining industry in Oklahoma.

"What we are seeing here is just another example of the Obama administration overstepping its bounds and infringing on Oklahoma's authority to develop, issue and enforce regulations for surface coal mining in our state," Sullivan said.

Democratic Rep. Dan Boren said the coal industry is vital to the economy of eastern Oklahoma, adding that the agency's new oversight initiative was unprompted and interferes with the state's ability to regulate its operations effectively.

Also signing the delegation's letter were Republican Sen. Tom Coburn and Republican Reps. Frank Lucas, Tom Cole and James Lankford.

A spokesman for the agency did not provide a comment Thursday and cited the late-afternoon timing of the delegation's statement.

Inhofe Places Hold on John Bryson Nomination

Senator Inhofe announced Tuesday that he will place a hold on the nomination of John Bryson to be the Secretary of Commerce.  The announcement was made at a press conference with the American Conservative Union and Freedom Action.

Link to Video of Press Conference   

"Today I am placing a hold on the nomination of John Bryson to be the Secretary of Commerce," Senator Inhofe said.  "With sky high unemployment and a struggling economy, who does President Obama choose to promote job growth?  The founder of the radical Natural Resources Defense Council, a left-wing environmentalist organization, which in the name of global warming, seeks to increase drastically the price of electricity and gasoline across America.  This is a recipe for disaster for our economy. 

"You don't hear President Obama speak about global warming lately.  He understands that his green agenda is not popular, but his choice of John Bryson to head the Department of Commerce clearly indicates that he has not given up trying to implement it.  Bryson would follow in the footsteps of Obama's green team, which included Carol Browner and Anthony Van Jones, who also supported increasing taxes on America's energy.  But with 9.2% unemployment, there is no question that the President's green agenda has failed miserably.

"On the other hand, in my home state of Oklahoma, oil and natural gas development has led to a tremendous economic boost and the creation of good paying jobs.  In fact, in the first quarter of 2011, Oklahoma's 2.5 percent growth in personal income ranked fifth in the nation.  If Bryson becomes Secretary of Commerce, economic growth in Oklahoma and across the nation could be in jeopardy, and I will be doing everything in my power to block his confirmation."

Link to ACU Press Release: Sen. Inhofe Joins ACU & Freedom Action Campaign to Defeat President Obama’s Commerce Secretary Nominee

Inhofe Comments on NRC 90 Day Post Fukushima Report

On Tuesday, Senator Inhofe commented on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) newly released report, "Near Term Task Force Review of Insights From the Fukushima Daiichi Accident". 

"In the wake of the Fukushima accident NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko has assured us repeatedly that our nuclear reactors are safe," Senator Inhofe said. "Jaczko testified before the EPW Committee in April saying, ‘we believe that plants in the United States continue to operate safely' and he reaffirmed this statement again in his testimony in June.  So why has the NRC suddenly recommended sweeping regulatory changes in this report apparently without an adequate technical or regulatory basis to justify these modifications?  Even the task force acknowledges in the report that its understanding of the accident has been constrained by the fact that key information was, "...in many cases, unavailable, unreliable, or ambiguous..."  Only last month, NRC staff admitted that the Fukushima Daiichi spent fuel pools were believed to be intact, contrary to Chairman Jaczko's testimony before Congress March 16 that at least one of the pools had lost most if not all of its water.

"Also, a nuclear accident in Japan should not automatically be viewed as an indictment of U.S. institutional structures and nuclear safety requirements.  Our regulatory systems and culture are fundamentally different, most notably with the establishment in the United States of the NRC early in the industry's history whose sole focus is to regulate the safe use of nuclear materials.  A systematic and methodical regulatory comparison should determine if there are differences that either indicate necessary safety enhancements or provide added confidence that our nuclear safety regime adequately protects public health and safety.  Changes in our system may be necessary, but sweeping revisions are premature without first taking into account the full extent of the differences between the United States' and Japan's nuclear safety regulations. 

"Nuclear energy accounts for roughly 20% of US electricity generation-it is essential for providing reliable, clean energy for America.  As this report comes to light, I am concerned that it will become another weapon in the Obama Administration's attack on affordable energy, or an excuse to unleash a regulatory agenda that will only harm our economy."

Inhofe Asks Jaczko Why Task Force Report Not Focused on Accident in Japan

Senator Inhofe had a conversation Wednesday with Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman, Greg Jaczko, concerning the NRC's report just released publically, "Near Term Task Force Review of Insights From the Fukushima Daiichi Accident".  During the discussion, Senator Inhofe had the opportunity to ask the Chairman about a letter he had sent to him on July 8, in which he asked that the NRC conduct a full and systematic review of the differences in the regulatory systems of the United States and Japan before moving forward with sweeping regulatory changes.  Chairman Jaczko replied that such an endeavor would be "difficult and time consuming." 

Link to July 8 letter from Inhofe to Jaczko 

"I appreciate Chairman Jaczko taking the time to speak to me about the NRC task force report, but after our discussion I am even more concerned about the NRC's regulatory agenda going forward," Senator Inhofe said.  "Up until it was released, I was under the strong impression that the report would focus on lessons for the United States regarding the nuclear accident in Japan-even the report's title suggests this.  Instead it focuses almost completely on potential disasters in the United States and how they might affect our reactors. This is certainly not what we were led to believe it would be, especially considering that our plants are already required to be designed to withstand natural disasters.

"In a letter dated July 8, I asked Chairman Jaczko to make sure that the NRC engages in a thorough study of the fundamental differences between the regulatory systems of Japan and the United States.  But instead, the NRC is poised to overhaul our regulatory system without having the full picture of what happened in Japan and without a clear understanding of our regulatory differences.  When I asked Chairman Jaczko again today if the NRC would be willing to engage in this study, he refused saying that such an undertaking would be 'difficult and time consuming.'

"If safety were truly the priority, the NRC would focus on learning lessons from the accident in Japan to determine whether these recommendations are the right ones.   Instead, it is clear that this is just another case of 'regulate first, ask questions later' in an effort to stifle nuclear power and drive up the cost of energy for all Americans."

Inhofe Hearing Statement: Oversight Hearing on the EPAs Implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Acts Unregulated Drinking Water Contaminants Program

At a Full Committee hearing entitled, "Oversight Hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency's Implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act's Unregulated Drinking Water Contaminants Program" on Tuesday Senator Inhofe gave the following remarks:

Thank you, Madam Chairman, for taking the time today to continue our discussions about federal drinking water programs. I know that everyone in this room agrees that providing clean, safe, affordable drinking water is essential, and should be a national priority.

At the cornerstone of the Safe Drinking Water Act is the idea that we should be controlling those substances that pose risks to public health. Unfortunately, the system that EPA uses to determine health risks, the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), has a decade's long issues in crafting risk assessments. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has recently pointed out that IRIS assessments have suffered from a lack of transparency, inconsistency, and problems with evaluating studies and the weight of evidence. These problems continue to persist in the face of NAS and Congress repeatedly imploring EPA to correct these issues. Without having a good foundation and sound science practices, all areas of EPA's regulatory system suffer, including drinking water.

Unbiased, high-quality, scientific analyses are important foundations for making drinking water decisions. When the risk assessments that EPA is producing are unable to maintain the highest possible standards for scientific quality and integrity, every decision that follows is called into question. Sen. Vitter and I are trying to get EPA to explain how they plan to address the systematic concerns with IRIS that were raised in the recent NAS review of Formaldehyde, a chemical we have decades of experience and information to draw upon. If the IRIS review for a chemical that we have great history on is so fundamentally flawed, it is hard to imagine how we will end up with good science on chemicals of emerging concern. I am looking forward to hearing from EPA about how they plan to address these concerns soon.

As analytical techniques continue to improve, we are able to detect constituents at increasingly lower levels. This ever increasing ability to detect will allow the numbers of chemicals in our water to increase infinitely. However, it is important that we do not associate any detection with risk. In nearly every case, the extremely low levels we are detecting are well below the dosage that would affect public health. To be perfectly clear, exposure does not mean there is risk. This is just one more example of the importance of getting robust science to guide our policy decisions and to help correctly communicate to the public what the risk associated with a particular contaminant is. It is no surprise that nearly half of Americans are concerned about the quality of their drinking water when headlines and talking points are filled with alarmist stories of chemical detection with no information about what that means to their health.

Furthermore, it makes no sense to continue to tighten drinking water standards and send drinking water down an aging and failing infrastructure system. EPA estimates that just to keep up with the current drinking water requirements over the next twenty years, eligible drinking water systems will need over $300 billion in infrastructure investments. We need to improve our nation's drinking water facilities by reauthorizing the State Revolving Loan Fund programs, both for drinking water and waste water.

I was extremely disappointed by EPA's cuts of almost $950 million to the SRF program.  By making these cuts, EPA is increasing unfunded mandates on water providers throughout the country. We cannot expect our communities to continue to provide safe drinking water if they do not have the resources to meet their infrastructure needs. We have the responsibility to ensure clean, safe, and affordable water for our country by providing the necessary resources to our states and local governments.

Finally, Madam Chairman, I would like to request that the record for this hearing be kept open for two weeks, so that both outside groups and our witnesses here today, have the opportunity to review this GAO report on Unregulated Contaminants, which has been unavailable to the public until now, and provide a more robust understanding of the recommendations and suggestions for the committee record.

I look forward to hearing from all of our witnesses today, especially Dr. Patierno, who will share his expertise in chromium-6, something of interest to me and to my constituents in Norman, OK, Dr. Cotruvo, who can share his lengthy public health and drinking water experience, and Deputy Administrator Perciasepe. Thank you.

Senator Inhofe Praises Naming of Courthouse After Senator Kit Bond

Senator Inhofe welcomed the passage in the EPW business meeting on Wednesday of S.846, a bill that designates the United States Courthouse located at 80 Lafayette Street in Jefferson City, Missouri, as the Christopher S. (Kit) Bond United States Courthouse.  The bill now awaits consideration on the Senate Floor.

"I am pleased that the EPW Committee has agreed to name this new Federal Courthouse in Jefferson City, Missouri, after our former colleague and good friend, Senator Kit Bond," Senator Inhofe said.  "Kit was a vibrant member of this committee and a fierce advocate for the people of Missouri.   He began his public service as a State Auditor and became the youngest Governor in the state's history (and the first Republican Governor in 28 years) before he was elected to the Senate where he served for 24 years.  This honor is very fitting and well deserved."