Friday, June 15, 2007

DEMOCRATS REJECT INHOFE AMENDMENT TO BRING DOWN PRICE OF GAS AT PUMP

June 13, 2007

Senator Inhofe commented Wednesday on the Democrats rejection of the Inhofe Gas PRICE Act Amendment (1505) to the energy bill.

"Passage of my amendment, the Gas PRICE Act, would have gone a long way in decreasing America’s dependence on foreign oil and help bring down prices at the pump," Senator Inhofe said. "Unfortunately, Democrats chose to play politics with the pocket books of American consumers and rejected this common sense amendment.

"Today, the Democrats rejected an amendment that would have significantly helped reduce the cost of gas at the pump -- an issue that is sure to dominate in the 2008 presidential election. Americans are paying more at the pump today because we do not have the domestic capacity to produce domestic fuels consumers demand. The American public is starving for affordable energy and it appears the Democrats' only answer is to tell them to go on a diet. It is imperative for the national security of this country that we increase production at home. Despite the rhetoric by some Democratic leaders about energy independence, they continue to oppose measures that would address key factors in helping America achieve that goal. This will come back to haunt the Democrats as a major issue in 2008.

"My home state of Oklahoma has long been a leader in oil and gas supply, and today it is also a leader in innovating and providing transportation fuels for the future. Passage of my amendment would have promoted building of coal-to-liquids and commercial scale cellulosic ethanol facilities in Oklahoma and across the country."

Background:

The Gas PRICE Act which is designed to ease America’s soaring gas prices, address true energy independence and increase refinery capacity, was first introduced on May 24, 2007 by Senator Inhofe. The Gas Price Act would improve the permitting process for the expansion of existing and construction of new domestic fuels facilities, as well as encourage and fund the development of future fuels including coal-to-liquids and cellulosic biomass ethanol. In addition, the Act would provide for a more stable and certain regulatory environment and it would have numerous economic benefits including locating refineries in distressed communities.

INHOFE AMENDMENT TO ENERGY BILL SEEKS TO INCREASE DOMESTIC REFINING CAPACITY

June 12, 2007

On Tuesday, Senator Inhofe filed the Gas Petroleum Refiner Improvement and Community Empowerment Act of 2007, or the Gas Price Act, as an amendment to the energy bill currently before the Senate. The Gas Price Act, which is designed to ease America’s soaring gas prices, address true energy independence and increase refinery capacity, was first introduced on May 24, 2007 by Senator Inhofe. 

The Gas Price Act would improve the permitting process for the expansion of existing and construction of new domestic fuels facilities, as well as encourage and fund the development of future fuels including coal-to-liquids and cellulosic biomass ethanol. In addition, the Act would provide for a more stable and certain regulatory environment and it would have numerous economic benefits including locating refineries in distressed communities.

Senator Inhofe introduced the amendment on the Senate Floor today; a vote is expected on the amendment tomorrow. The following remarks are from Senator Inhofe’s Floor statement:

"I was pleased to hear that the majority leader recognized that the US has become too reliant on foreign sources of energy, Senator Inhofe said. "Unfortunately, the majority’s bill – at present - does not improve the situation, and indeed could worsen it. The fact is that Americans are paying more at the pump because we do not have the domestic capacity to refine the fuels consumers demand…"

"Americans are starving for affordable energy. The majority’s bill tells them to go on a diet. The good news is that it’s not too late to do something to improve the situation. And it is in that good faith to improve the energy security position of our country that we are offering the Gas PRICE Act…"

"The federal government should provide incentives rather than mandates on local communities. Increasing clean domestic fuel supplies is in the nation’s security interest, but those facilities can also provide high paying jobs to people and towns in need. Our amendment provides financial incentives to the two most economically distressed communities in the nation – towns affected by BRAC and Indian tribes – to consider building coal-to-liquids and commercial scale cellulosic ethanol facilities."

Full Inhofe Floor Statement

I was pleased to hear that the majority leader recognized that the US has become too reliant on foreign sources of energy.

Unfortunately, the majority’s bill – at present - does not improve the situation, and indeed could worsen it.

The fact is that Americans are paying more at the pump because we do not have the domestic capacity to refine the fuels consumers demand. Some members’ answer are more hybrids than SUVs, but that ignores the profound impact high fuel prices have on our economy.

According to the Department of Labor’s recent numbers, about three percent of the nation’s inflation is directly attributed to high fuel prices. That means, whether your constituent drives a gas guzzler, a hybrid, or rides a bicycle, they are paying for high fuel prices.

In order to lower those prices, we have two options – increase capacity at home or import more from abroad. The LA Times wrote (May 25, 2007), "Gas supplies are tight because the U.S. lacks refining capacity, and every time a refinery shuts down for maintenance or because of an accident, prices rise."

Americans are starving for affordable energy. The majority’s bill tells them to go on a diet.

The good news is that it’s not too late to do something to improve the situation. And it is in that good faith to improve the energy security position of our country that we are offering the Gas PRICE Act.

The lack of domestic refining capacity is not new to many members, the public, or even the Federal Reserve.

In May 2005, then Chairman Alan Greenspan stated, "The status of world refining capacity has become worrisome" and that the industry is straining to meet markets, "which are increasingly dominated by transportation fuels that must meet ever-more stringent environmental requirements."

While chairman of the committee on environment and public works, I held a series of hearings to look into the issue.

The very same month I held one of those hearings, the senior Senator from California, wrote to her Governor:

"I can see where a cumbersome permitting process, with uncertain outcomes, would make it difficult to plan and implement projects…I encourage you to improve the speed and predictability of the permitting process, and believe that this will allow business and government to focus their limited resources on actions that most benefit the environment."

The amendment that Sen. Thune and I are offering today will improve the energy security of the United States and it will do so in complete compliance with environmental laws and in concert with state interests.

In her letter to Governor Schwarzenegger, the senior Senator from California was correct in recognizing that much of the permitting decisions are by states and not the federal government. That is why we worked very hard to recognize the importance of state and local groups in making these decisions.

The Environmental Council of States – who represents state Departments of Environmental Quality said as much – as well as noting that, "the Gas PRICE Act does not weaken environmental laws."

Similarly, the National Association of Counties stated, "It goes a long way in addressing the concerns of local governments during a refinery siting, ranging from the importance of considering local needs, concerns, and honoring a county’s land use authority."

I think it’s important to point this out because it seems that time and time again some members of this body hide behind vague concerns over the environment in defending their failure to improve US energy security.

After working with a variety of stakeholders – this bill achieves both goals – increases energy while preserving local governments and environmental quality.

The fact of the matter is that, like it or not, the US needs to increase its domestic refining capacity if we are to solve the economic struggles facing every family.

The amendment we are introducing today redefines and broadens our understanding of a "refinery" to be a "domestic fuels facility."

Oil has and will continue to have a role in the US economy, but the future of our domestic transportation fuels system must also include new sources such as ultra-clean syn-fuels derived from coal and cellulosic ethanol derived from home grown grasses and biomass.

Expanding existing domestic fuels facilities or constructing new ones face a maze of environmental permitting challenges. This amendment provides a Governor with the option of requiring the federal EPA to provide the state with financial and technical resources to accomplish the job and establishes a certain permitting process for all parties.

The public demands increasing supplies of transportation fuel, but they also expect that fuel to be good for their health and the environment.

To that end, the amendment requires the EPA to establish a demonstration to assess the use of Fischer-Tropsch (FT) diesel and jet fuel as an emission control strategy. Initial tests have found that FT diesel significantly reduces criteria pollutants over conventional fuels and it can easily be transported with existing infrastructure.

I should note that ongoing tests at Tinker airbase in my home state found that blends of FT aircraft fuel reduced particulates 47-90%, and completely eliminated SOX emissions over fuels in use today.

Good concepts in Washington are bad ideas if no one wants them at home. As a former Mayor of Tulsa, I am a strong believer in local and state control.

The federal government should provide incentives rather than mandates on local communities. Increasing clean domestic fuel supplies is in the nation’s security interest, but those facilities can also provide high paying jobs to people and towns in need.

Our amendment provides financial incentives to the two most economically distressed communities in the nation – towns affected by BRAC and Indian tribes – to consider building coal-to-liquids and commercial scale cellulosic ethanol facilities.

I am very proud that my home state of Oklahoma is a leader in the development of energy crops for cellulosic biofuels. The key now is to promote investment, and nothing would speed the rapid expansion of the cellulosic biofuels industry more than investment by the nation’s traditional providers of liquid transportation fuels.

Many integrated oil companies have formed or substantially expanded their biofuels divisions within the past year to prepare for the eventuality of cost-competitive cellulosic biofuels.

Oil companies invest in exploration because their stock prices are affected by their declared proved reserves. Creating a definition of renewable reserves would create a similar incentive for them to invest in cellulosic biofuels.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 directed the Department of Energy to accelerate the commercial development of oil shale and tar sands. Given the country’s interest in developing renewable alternatives to fossil fuels, it is logical that the SEC would develop criteria for the incorporation of biomass feedstock sources into its hierarchy at the same time.

This is Congress’ least expensive way to jumpstart the cellulosic biofuels industry.

Increasing capacity to produce clean fuels at home is critical in making America more secure. Passing the Gas PRICE Act would be a material and substantive action toward the majority’s stated goal of "energy independence." To vote against it underscores something altogether – they like high prices at the pump

I yield the floor.

SENATOR INHOFE FLOOR STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF SA 1505, THE GAS PRICE ACT

June 13, 2007

On Wednesday, Senator Inhofe made the following remarks on the Senate Floor in support of his amendment, the Gas PRICE Act.

FLOOR STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF SA 1505, THE GAS PRICE ACT

For months the majority has talked about making the United States energy independent.

Let me be very clear – I agree with that goal.

My conviction toward that goal is the reason that we are offering this amendment today.

As it has been stated several times, the US must not rely on unstable parts of the world for its energy.  Rather, it is imperative for the national security of this country that we increase production at home.

If my colleagues do not want to increase domestic production to meet their constituents’ demand, then they are for importing more from the rest of the world.

According to this chart from the Energy Information Administration, the rest of the world is a very dangerous place.  My colleagues who are inclined to vote against this amendment should take a look at who they are voting with.

Improving domestic energy security means increasing the production of clean fuels that consumers demand and do so without sacrificing environmental laws and regulations.

This amendment does just that.  It establishes a state Governor opt-in, preserves the rights of local governments, and safeguards environmental laws and regulations by requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to work with states in accordance with state permitting.

Yesterday, the junior Senator from California, the Chairman of the Environment Committee spoke in opposition to a bill unrelated to the one we are about to vote on. 

Even more surprising, she spoke in favor of the underlying bill – a bill that establishes a fuels program outside of the Clean Air Act and one that is no longer regulated by the Environment Protection Agency. 

If we are really going to improve energy security, then we have to plan for the energy needs of the future by developing and encouraging new and even cleaner transportation fuels.

The two most promising technologies to do just that are coal-to-liquid syn-fuels and cellulosic ethanol.

As I have mentioned several times before, I am proud that my state of Oklahoma is a leader in developing bioenery crops to use in cellulosic ethanol production.

This bill includes several provisions to develop a sustainable cellulosic industry.  Yesterday, I received a letter supporting our amendment from California-based, Ceres – a leader in cellulosic technology.

The letter concludes, “we believe this effort to be good for the cellulosic biofuels industry as are your provisions to provide enhanced economic development assistance for domestic fuels facilities, including cellulosic biomass ethanol facilities.”

A diverse group of interests have called to develop coal-to-liquids, from the Department of Defense for national security reasons to Montana’s Governor Schweitzer for more parochial and environmental reasons.

In his editorial to the New York Times titled, “The Other Black Gold” Governor Schweitzer stated, “We are tired of paying $3 a gallon for gas, tired of watching third-world nations overtake us in energy innovation, and tired of supporting the kind of tyrants that young Americans have spent two centuries fighting and dying to defeat.”

I agree with Montana’s Democratic Governor.  We should be producing more fuel at home – it’s good for security, it’s good for jobs, and it’s good for consumers.  Yet, Governor Schweitzer also correctly points out that it can be good for the environment.  He states, “Synfuels" have remarkable properties: they are high-performing substances that run in existing engines without any technical modifications, and they burn much more cleanly than conventional fuels.”

Noting those observations, we included a provision to require the EPA to demonstrate using these syn-fuels as an emissions control strategy.  Initial tests are encouraging, indeed.

What this amendment does not do is hand out money to corporations of any kind. 

In fact, the only grant provision in the bill only applies to Indian tribes or BRAC communities who consider siting coal-to-liquids or cellulosic ethanol facilities on their land.

I hope that you will join me in taking a modest, but critical step toward improving domestic energy security.  You are about to vote for an amendment that can move us closer to that goal. 

The time for declarations is over.  Now is the time to act

Just think if the American colonies declared independence but never went to war.  

 

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VOTE AGAINST COAL-TO-LIQUIDS EXPOSES SENATORS TRUE POSITION

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Following the Democrats rejection of the Gas PRICE Act Amendment, Senator Inhofe blasted Senators who have previously claimed their support for coal-to-liquids, who today voted against an amendment that sought to improve the permitting process for the construction of coal-to-liquids facilities. Those Senators include: Obama (D-IL); Baucus (D-MT); Tester (D-MT); Landrieu (D-LA); Salazar (D-CO); Conrad (D-ND); Dorgan (D-ND); Byrd (D-WV); Rockefeller (D-WV).

“The record is now clear,” Senator Inhofe said. “Many of my colleagues in the United States Senate have claimed to be proponents of coal-to-liquids technology. Today those Senators were forced to put themselves on record – and they voted against it. Their constituents and the American people are entitled to know how they vote, rather than what they might ‘declare’ in press conferences.”

“Today the Democrats rejected an amendment that would have significantly helped reduce the price of gas at the pump -- an issue that is sure to dominate in the 2008 presidential election. Americans are paying more at the pump today because we do not have the domestic capacity to produce the fuels consumers demand. The American public is starving for affordable energy and it appears the Democrats' only answer is to tell them to go on a diet. It is imperative for the national security of this country that we increase production at home. Despite the rhetoric by some Democratic leaders about energy independence, they continue to oppose measures that would address key factors in helping America achieve that goal. This will come back to haunt the Democrats as the American public learns about the Democrat's opposition to coal.”

The amendment, Senator Inhofe’s Gas PRICE Act, was defeated in the Senate today by a vote of 43-52.

Background:

A diverse group of interests have called to develop coal-to-liquids, from the Department of Defense for national security reasons to Montana’s Governor Schweitzer for more parochial and environmental reasons. In his op-ed in the New York Times titled, “The Other Black Gold” Governor Schweitzer stated, “We are tired of paying $3 a gallon for gas, tired of watching third-world nations overtake us in energy innovation, and tired of supporting the kind of tyrants that young Americans have spent two centuries fighting and dying to defeat.”

Senator Inhofe agrees with Montana’s Democratic Governor.  We should be producing more fuel at home – it’s good for security, it’s good for jobs, and it’s good for consumers.  Yet, Governor Schweitzer also correctly points out that it can be good for the environment.  He states, “Synfuels" have remarkable properties: they are high-performing substances that run in existing engines without any technical modifications, and they burn much more cleanly than conventional fuels.” Noting those observations, Senator Inhofe included a provision to require the EPA to demonstrate using these syn-fuels as an emissions control strategy.  Initial tests are encouraging, indeed.

DEMOCRATS REJECT AMENDMENT TO HELP SPUR CELLULOSIC ETHANOL DEVELOPMENT

Wednesday, June 13, 2007 

Senator Inhofe also blasted Senate Democrats – who have previously claimed their support for cellulosic ethanol – for voting against an amendment that sought to improve the permitting process for the expansion of existing and construction of new domestic fuels facilities, including cellulosic ethanol facilities. Every Democrat present voted against the amendment.

 
“Many of my colleagues on the Democratic side of the aisle in the Senate have claimed to support cellulosic ethanol,” Senator Inhofe said.Today Democrats were forced to put themselves on record – and every Democrat present voted against the amendment. Their constituents and the American people are entitled to know how they vote, rather than what they might ‘declare’ in press conferences.”
 
“Today the Democrats rejected an amendment that would have significantly helped reduce the price of gas at the pump -- an issue that is sure to dominate in the 2008 presidential election. Americans are paying more at the pump today because we do not have the domestic capacity to produce the fuels consumers demand. The American public is starving for affordable energy and it appears the Democrats' only answer is to tell them to go on a diet. It is imperative for the national security of this country that we increase production at home. Despite the rhetoric by some Democratic leaders about energy independence, they continue to oppose measures that would address key factors in helping America achieve that goal.”
 
Senator Inhofe noted in his Floor statement on Wednesday that he received a letter supporting the amendment from California-based, Ceres – a leader in cellulosic technology. The letter concludes,
 
“we believe this effort to be good for the cellulosic biofuels industry as are your provisions to provide enhanced economic development assistance for domestic fuels facilities, including cellulosic biomass ethanol facilities.”
 

BOXER MAKES INACCURATE CLAIMS ABOUT GAS PRICE ACT AMENDMENT

June 12, 2007

Senator Inhofe responded to Senator Boxer assertions regarding the the Gas PRICE Act amendment t on Tuesday night.

“It’s unfortunate that Senator Boxer chose to make wild unsubstantiated claims against my Gas Price Act amendment which if passed would help decrease our dependence on foreign refined products and therefore reduce costs to the consumer,” Senator Inhofe said.

“It’s even more unfortunate that Senator Boxer has wasted six month’s of the Environment and Public Works Committee’s time on useless climate hearings that don’t even address current legislative proposals. A more productive use of the committee’s time would have been to address the factors which will make America more energy independent.”

Fact vs. Fiction on Senator Boxer Claims

Senator Boxer claimed the Gas PRICE Act amendment will “shortcut many environmental laws.”

FACT:  The association representing the environmental concerns of every state – the Environmental Council of States (ECOS) – who represents state Departments of Environmental Quality -- clearly stated “the Gas PRICE Act does not weaken environmental laws.” In fact, ECOS and the National Association of Counties acknowledge that the Gas PRICE Act’s streamlining provisions are in compliance with states and local governments. The National Association of Counties stated, “It goes a long way in addressing the concerns of local governments during a refinery siting, ranging from the importance of considering local needs, concerns, and honoring a county’s land use authority.” 

Senator Boxer claimed the Economic Development Administration (EDA) grants would be “a taxpayer giveaway to the oil companies.”

FACT: The EDA portion provides grants to local communities, not to companies.  An October 25, 2005 letter from the EDA’s Chief Counsel to Senator Inhofe clearly stated: “No for-profit entity is eligible to receive EDA assistance.”  Further, the funds seek to promote the development of future fuels – coal-to-liquids and cellulosic biomass ethanol, not oil.

Senator Boxer claimed the amendment will do nothing to increase energy independence:

FACT: The reason why the US is in a vulnerable position is because we do not have adequate supply to meet demand.  Reducing demand is only one part of the equation; without a corresponding and robust domestic production increase, the US will never become more energy independent.

Note: about 25 percent of the Eastern US’s finished products are imported from Europe.  This year, European stocks are down by about 11 percent, and therefore have less to export in the case of a domestic disruption. 

Senator Boxer claimed that the amendment “doesn’t do one thing to expand energy supply” or increase domestic refinery capacity:

FACT:  First, this amendment looks beyond traditional oil refiners and focuses on domestic fuels facilities – facilities that will produce cellulosic biomass ethanol, coal-to-liquids, as well as petroleum.  Second, experts and members such as Sen. Feinstein have found that an uncertain regulatory environment contributes to the lack of refining capacity.  Sen. Feinstein wrote in a May 14, 2004 letter to the governor of California: “I can see where a cumbersome permitting process, with uncertain outcomes, would make it difficult to plan and implement projects...I encourage you to improve the speed and predictability of the permitting process, and believe that this will allow business and government to focus their limited resources on actions that most benefit the environment.”  

This amendment will improve that situation.

# # #

INHOFE INTRODUCES BILL TO ENCOURAGE USE OF GEOTHERMAL HEAT PUMPS IN FEDERAL BUILDINGS

June 15, 2007 

Today, Senator Inhofe introduced legislation that encourages the federal government to use geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) for the heating and cooling of federal buildings.  One of the leading manufactures of GHP’s, Climate Master Inc, is located in Oklahoma City and has been focused on enhancing business and home environments around the world for the past fifty years. Senator Inhofe is working with Senate leadership to include this bill, the "Federal Buildings Energy Conservation Act," as an amendment to HR 6, the energy bill currently being considered by the Senate.

“Geothermal heat pumps are a proven, effective, and efficient technology that can meet the General Services Administration’s (GSA) heating and cooling needs while simultaneously saving taxpayer dollars and conserving energy,” Senator Inhofe said. “I am proud to introduce legislation today that encourages the GSA to use GHP technology, when feasible, that could reduce energy costs at each site by up to 40%, and substantially reduce energy demands and pollution resulting from the operation of federal buildings.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues to incorporate this important legislation into the energy bill.”

Dan Ellis, President of ClimateMaster, Inc., praised Senator Inhofe’s bill, saying, “The legislation introduced today by Senator Inhofe is a real step in the direction for enhancing the energy efficiency of the federal sector. We look forward to working with government building officials to make heating and air-conditioning efficient and reliable, and to saving the taxpayers money on the power bills they pay for federal buildings.  Geothermal heat pumps are a promising technology, and this bill should bring needed attention to their effective use.”

GHP technology has been described by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space-conditioning system. EPA found that GHP systems can reduce energy consumption—and corresponding emissions—by more than 40% compared to air source heat pumps and by over 70% compared to electric resistance heating with standard air-conditioning equipment.  The U.S. General Accounting Office estimates that if GHP systems were installed nationwide, the country could save several billion dollars annually in energy costs and substantially reduce pollution.

Further, the Department of Energy has explained that, “Geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) can provide significant energy savings to a wide range of federal facilities including office buildings, housing, medical facilities, schools, training facilities, communications facilities, and court houses.” 

# # #

INHOEF OPENING STATMENT: EXAMINATION OF THE HEALTH EFFECTS OF ASBESTOS AND METHODS OF MITIGATING SUCH IMPACTS

June 12, 2007

Thank you Madame Chair for holding this hearing today. 

The health effects of exposure to certain kinds of asbestos are well known and tragic.  Chest, lung and gastrointestinal cancers are horrible diseases.  On that, there is very little debate.  This is why the United States has essentially eliminated the use of the most dangerous forms of asbestos and our use of the other forms is severely limited to those critical uses for which there is no readily available substitute.   That is also why bipartisan language to ban asbestos has been included in the bills addressing the asbestos liability situation in the last two Congresses.  

It may sound simplistic, but the debate is not over true asbestos minerals and their health effects.  That has been extensively studied and we have an entire legal liability system built around it.  But rather, any debate here, if there is one, has to do with the potential health effects of other types of minerals.  These non-asbestiform minerals have the same chemical makeup as asbestos but have entirely different physical structures.  Similar to coal and diamonds or water and ice.   

However, our primitive, analytical techniques used for indoor remediation of commercially produced asbestos falsely identify these rocks as asbestos.  In fact, the US Geological Survey said that “…the counting criteria developed for analysis of asbestos in the workplace or in commercial products may not be appropriate for direct application to what is currently referred to as naturally occurring asbestos.”

Let me show you what I mean.  As you can plainly see, dangerous asbestos minerals consist of fibers that are long, skinny, and very flexible.  Research has shown these fibers are hard for the human lung to eliminate.  They essentially get trapped in the lungs, sometimes causing diseases decades after the initial exposure.  Non-asbestiform minerals, these rocks here, break up into particles called cleavage fragments, which are short, fat and bulky.  Studies have shown that these cleavage fragments do not pose the same health risk as their fibrous asbestos counterparts. 

We do not know if these non-asbestiform minerals have specific health risks but yet they are regulated currently as airborne particles by the US EPA, OSHA and the Mining Safety and Health Administration, thereby protecting against occupational exposure.  But what we do know is that these cleavage fragments do not cause the same diseases as asbestos and therefore, they must be treated differently.  It should be noted that the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health recently began an effort to collect and analyze available data on asbestos and other minerals.  Other agencies are working on this too, including EPA, OSHA, Mining Safety and Health Administration, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the US Geological Survey.   

The previous bipartisan language to ban asbestos recognized these fundamental mineralogical and medical differences and banned the true culprit.  Despite the fact that this language was not debated here in the Environment and Public Works Committee, as it should have been, I have never stood in the way of the substance of that language as it represented a carefully constructed agreement, provided a process for critical use exemptions, and was scientifically sound with respect to the mineralogy of asbestos.  The ban language was supported by the affected industries and negotiated with Senator Murray and her staff and has held intact through two Congresses.  Any legislation that comes through this committee in this Congress should do the same.   I believe there is real potential here for bipartisan compromise if we don’t go beyond what the science shows to be true.   

I look forward to hearing from the witnesses today and to further understanding the various minerals and the differences in their health effects. 

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THE TWO ASBESTOS LITIGATION WITNESSES SEN. BOXER DIDN'T TELL YOU ABOUT

June 13, 2007

During today’s EPW Committee hearing, “Examination of the Health Effects of Asbestos and Methods of Mitigating Such Impacts, Senator Boxer went to great lengths to point out that two of the five witnesses testifying at today’s hearing had testified in asbestos liability litigation.  Senator Boxer said, “Let me be clear, I think it’s important that we be totally honest before the committee,” and “I believe it’s important that this information be stated for the record.”  She went on to say that banning asbestos would put the trial bar out of business. 

FACT: Four of the five witnesses testifying on that panel have testified in asbestos litigation.  Dr. Richard Lemen and Barry Castleman have been retained by plaintiff attorneys in asbestos litigation numerous times. Interestingly, Senator Boxer, in the spirit of being open and honest, failed to make clear today that these two witnesses have also participated in trials.  

The current legislation, as introduced, expands the definition of what is asbestos beyond what is commonly thought of as asbestos.  It bans prismatic rock formations, potentially including the state rock of California.  Both Lemen and Castleman, paid experts of the trial bar, supported the expanded definition.

Expanding the definition of asbestos to include these rock-forming non-asbestiform minerals widens the scope of issues that could be attributed to asbestos, despite the fact that these minerals have never been shown to cause the same asbestos-related diseases.  Thus, we may actually expand the universe of potential defendants and risk further lining the deep pockets of trial lawyers around the country. 

As Senator Inhofe stated in his opening statement at today’s hearing, he believes there is real potential for a bipartisan compromise – if we don’t go beyond what the science shows to be true. 

 

EPW BLOG UPDATE: WATCH FRED BARNES DISCUSSES INHOEF'S GAS PRICE ACT ON FOX NEWS (Special Report with Brit Hume, Fox News Channel, June 13, 2007)

June 13, 2007

On Special Report with Brit Hume on Wednesday night, Fred Barnes discussed the need for Congress to support Senator Inhofe’s Gas PRICE Act in order to increase domestic refining capacity. Charles Krauthammer also weighed in on the energy bill’s major shortcomings. Watch the video on YouTube now. The Senate voted yesterday on the Inhofe bill as an amendment to the energy bill now being considered in the Senate –and every Democrat voted against it.

Watch the video clip on YouTube now
 
Inhofe EPW Press Blog: www.epw.senate.gov/minority/blog