Friday, May 27, 2011

Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation Introduced to Address Ethanol Mandate Concerns

Senator Inhofe, along with Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Congressmen Bilbray (R-CA), Dan Boren (D-OK), Darrell Issa (R-CA), and Jim Moran (D-VA) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation Thursday, which allows for a more sensible implementation of corn-ethanol policy while encouraging greater competition in the pursuit of advanced biofuels. The bill, The Fuel Feedstock Freedom Act (S. 1085), gives individual States the option not to participate in the corn ethanol portion of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  It also expands the cellulosic biofuel carve-out to include algae and any non-ethanol renewable fuel derived from renewable biomass. This new feedstock-neutral definition will encourage the use of renewable feedstocks such as algae, while promoting the production of drop-in fuels, which are both engine friendly and can be readily blended and transported in the nation's existing distribution infrastructure.

Link to Fuel Feedstock Freedom Act 

Senator Inhofe: "I am pleased to introduce this bill which allows fuel markets to respond to consumer demand for ethanol free gasoline where it exists.  The ethanol portion of the RFS has been a top concern in my home state of Oklahoma: ethanol decreases fuel economy and in some instances can cause engine damage.  This bill provides a common-sense solution.  With strong bipartisan, bicameral support, I hope the Fuel Feedstock Freedom Act will have a good chance of success, and I look forward to joining my colleagues as we work to pass this bill."

Senator Snowe: "While I strongly support cost-effective methods to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, our policies must reflect the practical geographical restrictions of federal corn-ethanol mandates as well as the opportunities for advanced biofuels.  I appreciate Ranking Member Inhofe's leadership in ensuring that the states are also involved in energy decisions that significantly affect fuel consumers throughout the country and I look forward to working with my colleagues to improve the Renewable Fuel Standard by passing this legislation into law."  

Rep. Bilbray: "This bi-partisan bill will allow states to get out from under a crushing federal mandate that pollutes our environment and picks our pockets at the gas pump and grocery store. Rather than government picking winners and losers, this legislation allows our most promising clean fuel technologies of today and tomorrow to participate in the Renewable Fuel Standard."

Rep. Issa: "Taxpayers have paid billions for the federal government's fixation on corn-based energy. And what have we to show for it? Higher prices at the grocery store. This legislation provides states with the flexibility to opt out of government's inefficient, costly ethanol mandate without being penalized. It's a solution long overdue, and its necessity is yet another reminder that the American people, not the federal government, are in the best position to decide which energy solutions work best for them."

Rep. Moran: "The ethanol industry has long benefited from favorable tax treatment, an import tariff and most recently a renewable fuel mandate. The federal government plays a critical role in developing cleaner, alternative sources of energy, but the corn-based ethanol mandate in the 2005 and 2007 energy bills went too far. This bill offers a reasonable state-based option to pull back while promoting the growing field of advanced biofuels."

Rep. Boren: "I am honored to join Senators Inhofe and Snowe, and my colleagues in the U.S. House, to introduce this legislation.  It is a responsible and reasonable solution that provides the states with a greater role in determining how they meet the renewable fuel standard.  I look forward to working with each of them to pass this legislation."

Fuel Feedstock Freedom Act: Section Analysis

Section 1.  Broadens eligibility of the Cellulosic Biofuels Carve Out.  The bill redefines "Cellulosic Biofuels" as "Next Generation Biofuels."  The previously defined "Cellulosic Biofuel" carve out is expanded to include any non-ethanol renewable fuel derived from renewable biomass as well as ethanol derived from algae.  This new feedstock neutral definition maintains the same volumetric and environmental performance requirements as currently applied to cellulosic biofuels.

Section 2. 

Allows State Option of Non-participation.  The bill allows a State the choice to not participate in the corn ethanol portion of the Renewable Fuel Standard mandate.  If a State's legislature passes a bill in which the state elects to not participate in the corn ethanol portion of the RFS, and this bill is signed into law by the Governor, the EPA would then reduce the national volumetric mandate of corn ethanol by the percentage which reflects the national gasoline consumption that is attributable to that State.   This option of non-participation would only apply to the corn portion of the RFS and would not affect any of the volumetric requirements for advanced biofuels.

Generates Credits to Hold Fuel Sales Harmless.  To mitigate disincentives caused by the corn portion of the RFS mandate toward providing clear gasoline in nonparticipating States, this bill allows for the generation of credits to hold harmless the delivery of clear gasoline in nonparticipating States.  The EPA Administrator would provide for the generation of credits for all gasoline (regardless of whether the gasoline is blended) provided through fuel terminals in the nonparticipating State to be calculated as though the gasoline were blended with the maximum allowable ethanol content of gasoline allowed in that State.  These credits would then be available to be applied toward the volumetric requirements of the corn portion of the RFS. 

Inhofe Welcomes Boxer Agreement to Hold Hearings on EPA Clean Air Regulations

Senator Inhofe welcomed Chairman Boxer's agreement to hold hearings in June on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) clean air regulations. In a letter sent Thursday, he thanked Senator Boxer for her commitment and asked that these hearings specifically address the most onerous air regulations planned by the Obama EPA, which are commonly known as the "EPA train wreck." Since the 112th Congress commenced, the EPW Committee has yet to hold an oversight hearing on these forthcoming rules. 

Link to letter from Senator Inhofe to Senator Boxer 

"I am pleased that Senator Boxer has agreed to my request to conduct critical oversight hearings on the Obama Administration's clean air regulations," Senator Inhofe said.  "In a letter to Senator Boxer today, I requested that these hearings focus specifically on those regulations that are projected to threaten the economic viability of America's manufacturing base and put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk.  These rules deserve the full scrutiny of our Committee.

"EPA is clearly moving too far too fast and is in dire need of oversight.  I hope the outcome of these hearings will be that we can rein in this regulatory train wreck and get on the right track to achieving a clean air policy that balances environmental progress and economic growth." 

Boxer, Inhofe, Baucus, and Vitter Joint Statement on Transportation Authorization Legislation

On Wednesday, Senator Inhofe joined Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, and Senator David Vitter (R-LA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, to issue a statement regarding draft legislation to reauthorize the nation's surface transportation programs, entitled Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21).

Senators Boxer, Inhofe, Baucus and Vitter said: "We are pleased to announce the great progress we have made on a new transportation authorization bill. Throughout the 25 transportation hearings convened by this Committee, including an unprecedented joint appearance by Tom Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO, we heard that there is tremendous support from businesses, workers, and the American people for a transportation bill that leverages our federal dollars while maintaining a responsible fiscal path.

It is no secret that the four of us represent very different political views, but we have found common ground in the belief that building highways, bridges, and transportation systems is an important responsibility of the federal government, in cooperation with state and local governments and the private sector.

We are working to maximize states' ability to plan long term and make wise infrastructure investments. Here are some of the highlights of our legislation:

• Funds programs at current levels to maintain and modernize our critical transportation infrastructure;

• Eliminates earmarks;

• Consolidates numerous programs to focus resources on key national goals and reduce duplicative and wasteful programs;

• Consolidates numerous programs into a more focused freight program that will improve the movement of goods;

• Creates a new section called America Fast Forward, which strengthens the TIFIA program to stretch federal dollars further than they have been stretched before; and

• Expedites project delivery without sacrificing the environment or the rights of people to be heard.

We know there is still much work to do, but we believe this is a very important step. In cooperation with the Finance Committee, we are exploring a wide range of options to support and sustain the Highway Trust Fund. Our goal is to attain the optimum achievable authorization length depending on the resources available. It is critical that this be done in a way that does not increase the deficit and can achieve bipartisan support."

EPA Jackson Not Aware of Any Proven Case Where the Fracking Process Itself Has Affected Water

Senator Inhofe welcomed a statement given by Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, in which she testified, "I'm not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water..."

Video: EPA Lisa Jackson Not Aware of Any Proven Case of Water Contamination From Hydraulic Fracturing  

"I have great respect for Lisa Jackson and I always appreciate her honesty," Senator Inhofe said. "Although we disagree on most issues, when you ask her a question she gives you an honest answer.  Over the past two years, I have asked various Obama Administration officials if they know of a single confirmed case of groundwater contamination from these fracked formations and every time the answer is no.  Lisa Jackson's statement today that she does not know of any proven case of water contamination further demonstrates that States are regulating hydraulic fracturing effectively and efficiently, and there is no need for the federal government to step in."


WATCH: Obama Administration: No Documented Cases of Hydraulic Fracturing Contamination (EPW/December 8, 2009)

Inhofe Provides Reality Check on Obama Regulatory Reform

Senator Inhofe commented Thursday on the Obama administration's retrospective analysis of existing regulations, as announced earlier this year:

"There's no question that regulatory red tape is hurting the economy and stifling job growth," Senator Inhofe said.  "But President Obama's actions are out of step with his talking points.  Let's put this in perspective: over the past two years the Obama administration has unleashed the most aggressive regulatory regime in American history.  From cap and trade regulations to a clean water power grab, Obama is doing through regulation what he could not achieve through legislation.  This agenda has increased costs on every American and put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk.  Any steps to reduce red tape are more than welcome, but if the President truly wants to make a difference to job growth, he can begin by reining in the Environmental Protection Agency's stringent greenhouse gas regulations and water rules, which are unrivaled in the harm they pose to the American economy."

Link to CQ Today Article: White House Regulatory Overhaul Gets Lukewarm Response

Inhofe Welcomes Boxer Agreement to Move NRC Nomination Expeditiously

Senator Inhofe welcomed Chairman Barbara Boxer's (D-Calif.) agreement to move the nominees considered in Wednesday's hearing immediately after the recess. The confirmation of William Ostendorff to serve on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is crucial, especially as the Commission continues to make important decisions regarding nuclear safety.  Only last year, Commissioner Ostendorff was confirmed in the Senate by unanimous consent to serve the remainder of a term, and President Obama has re-nominated him to serve another full, five year term.

"I am pleased that Chairman Boxer agreed during today's hearing to move the nomination of Commissioner Ostendorff expeditiously through the EPW Committee," Senator Inhofe said. "As today's hearing clearly demonstrated, there is strong bipartisan support for the nomination of William Ostendorff to continue to serve on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Not only is Commissioner Ostendorff an expert in the field of nuclear power, he also has extensive knowledge of the national security issues surrounding it.  His perspective is essential as the Commission works to unravel lessons learned from the Fukushima accident and concludes its review of the first new nuclear plant licenses in over 30 years.  The public would be ill-served if politics impedes the confirmation of one of the Commission's most distinguished members - and the only one with significant reactor operations and nuclear security experience. The Senate should move forward with his confirmation as soon as possible."

Democrats Support Quickly Moving Forward with Ostendorff's Confirmation 

Senator Webb (D-Va.): "I again would like to express my gratitude for moving forward with this nomination on a very timely basis and I believe that what Mr. Ostendorff brings to the NRC is going to be extremely valuable as we evaluate our nuclear programs in the future." Link to Video

Senator Murray (D-Wash.): "Given the full slate of issues pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission I believe it is imperative that we have a full set of commissioners and the Senate should quickly reconfirm William Ostendorff." Link to Seattle Times Editorial

Senator Cardin (D-Md.): "[Ostendorff] You come to this hearing with incredible credentials and experience and we look forward to your testimony and we look forward to your continued service." Link

Senator Carper (D-Del.): "Although Commissioner Ostendorff and I don't agree on every single issue...he has shown a commitment to safety and to make the NRC a very strong and impartial regulator and for that we thank him.  At a time when we have so many challenges in the nuclear industry I hope we can quickly move forward on the nomination process for Commissioner Ostendorff and make sure that we have a fully complemented NRC." Link to Video 

In the News...Daily Caller: Inhofe letter asks why EPA requests $1.24 billion in new funding, despite $2 billion on hand

Daily Caller

Inhofe letter asks why EPA requests $1.24 billion in new funding, despite $2 billion on hand

By Paul Conner

May 24, 2011

Link to Article

Link to Press Release 

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe is challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's request for $1.24 billion in new funding when the agency has more than $2 billion at hand left over from the 2011 budget.

A February report from the Office of Management and Budget showed the agency still had $2.26 billion in unspent funding at the time. The EPA has requested $1.24 billion in additional funding for the 2012 fiscal year.

In a letter sent to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson Tuesday, obtained by The Daily Caller, Inhofe questioned the agency's choice not to spend the unused funds and asked why its budget has grown so much.

"At a time when we are looking for every opportunity to cut spending and reduce the deficit, the EPA must be held accountable for why such a large portion of funds from the FY2011 Superfund budget sat idle and were clearly not used to protect the environment or public health," Inhofe, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, told TheDC.

The $2.26 billion is part of the EPA's "unobligated balance" - funding that has not been designated for a specific purpose. Inhofe asked in the letter why the non-designated funds totaled nearly a quarter of its budget.

"It is not unusual to have an office carry over an unobligated balance from year to year, but it is unusual to have an office carry over an amount that is over one and a half times its total fiscal year request," the letter read.

"To put this in perspective, EPA's FY 2012 Superfund request is $1.24 billion and the budget request for the entire EPA is $8.97 billion-so EPA is holding on to one quarter of its total budget in its Superfund account," Inhofe wrote to Jackson. "OMB estimates that coupled with EPA's FY2012 request that amount will grow to almost half of the EPA's total FY 2012 budget request. The EPA needs to answer to the taxpayer for these actions."

Inhofe is the second Republican to go after the EPA this week. A new report from House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa faulted the agency for coordinating with environmental groups to target energy producers.


On Thursday, Senator Inhofe joined Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), chairman of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and a bipartisan group of 32 additional senators on a letter sent to leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee urging continued support for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds.  A nationwide investment in water infrastructure projects creates jobs, repairs crumbling infrastructure and protects public health.

In the letter to the Appropriations Committee, the Senators stressed the urgent need to revitalize our nation's deteriorating water infrastructure, which poses risks to human health and the environment from broken water and sewer mains and sewage overflows.  The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that over the next 20 years $187.9 billion is needed for wastewater improvements and $334.8 billion is needed to upgrade our nation's drinking water systems.

Link to Letter  

The letter also highlighted the tremendous job-creating potential of water infrastructure investment, which yields significant economic benefits for every dollar spent.  The National Association of Utility Contractors estimates that $1 billion invested in water infrastructure can create more than 26,000 jobs.

Senator Cardin has been a strong advocate for water infrastructure investment that ensures American families have access to clean, safe water and create thousands of new, well-paying jobs.  He has called on President Obama to include water infrastructure in his six-year plan for investing in our nation's infrastructure.

Joining Senators Cardin, Boxer and Inhofe  on the letter to Appropriations Committee are U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mark Begich (D-AK), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), John Boozman (R-AR), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Tim Johnson (D-SD), John Kerry (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Carl Levin (D-MI), Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), John Thune (R-SD), Mark Udall (D-CO), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Dear Chairman Inouye, Vice Chairman Cochran, Chairman Reed and Ranking Member Murkowski:

As the Senate works to reduce the deficit, it is important that we provide continued support to programs like the Clean Water (CWSRF) and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (DWSRF) that create jobs, repair crumbling infrastructure and protect public health.  These programs invest in short- and long-term improvements in states and communities across the nation, providing significant environmental, economic and public health benefits.

Funding for water infrastructure is greatly needed and justified. It is well documented that our nation's water infrastructure is reaching a tipping point.  Each day, the condition of our water infrastructure results in significant losses and damages from broken water and sewer mains, sewage overflows, and other symptoms of water infrastructure that is reaching the end of its useful life cycle.  The American Society of Civil Engineers' latest infrastructure report card gave the nation's water infrastructure a D-, the lowest of any category.  In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates $187.9 billion in wastewater needs and $334.8 billion in drinking water needs over the next 20 years. 

Investments in water infrastructure provide significant economic benefits to the economy and enjoy a strong return on investment. The U.S. Conference of Mayors notes that each public dollar invested in water infrastructure increases private long-term GDP output by $6.35.  The National Association of Utility Contractors estimates that one billion dollars invested in water infrastructure can create over 26,000 jobs. In addition, the Department of Commerce estimates that each job created in the local water and sewer industry creates 3.68 jobs in the national economy and each public dollar spent yields $2.62 dollars in economic output in other industries.  As you can see, this is a highly leveraged Federal investment that results in significant job and economic benefits for every dollar spent.

It is critical that the federal government remains a reliable partner in meeting the nation's clean water and safe drinking water needs.  Therefore, we urge your continued support for investments in the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds.

In the News...Seattle Times Editorial: U.S. Senate should confirm William Ostendorff to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Seattle Times Editorial

U.S. Senate should confirm William Ostendorff to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

The U.S. Senate should confirm Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner William Ostendorff's renomination. The Seattle Times columnist Kate Riley urges the Senate to act quickly to help resolve the question of whether Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste repository can proceed.

By Kate Riley

May 24, 2011

Link to Editorial

The nation's nuclear waste may not be a sexy topic, but the political intrigue and manipulation behind federal efforts to kill the nation's official deep-geological nuclear-waste repository has more twists than a season of "General Hospital."

The latest nail-biter is the disposition of the renomination of Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner William C. Ostendorff. A Senate committee hearing is set for Wednesday, oddly late considering his term expires June 30. Ostendorff's status is important because he has been part of the commission's deliberations on the controversial question of whether the Obama administration can unilaterally cancel the Yucca Mountain, Nev., repository that Congress designated in law.

At stake for Washington state is where to dispose of the two-thirds of the nation's dangerous cold-war era nuclear defense wastes now stored at Hanford near the Columbia River in southeastern Washington state. Already 1 million gallons have leached into the ground.

A $12 billion waste-treatment plant is under construction that would treat the waste for storage requirements at Yucca. Without the repository, Hanford would be stuck with about 50 years of the nation's nuclear-defense waste. The nation's spent commercial nuclear waste was also intended for Yucca Mountain.

The Senate should quickly end this part of the drama by confirming Ostendorff so the rest of this important national story can play out.

Though four NRC commissioners have confirmed they voted more than seven months ago, neither their votes nor the ruling have been released even though the administration has started to shut Yucca down. (A fifth recused himself.)

A May 4 Senate hearing of the four commissioners that was part browbeating, part grilling fueled speculation that Ostendorff might be siding against the Obama administration in a 2-2 split.

Fair to say that if the ruling was in the administration's favor, the decision would have been known in time for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, a Yucca opponent, to tout it on the campaign trail in a tough re-election battle last fall.

This month, the Government Accountability Office issued a report confirming the obvious: The Obama administration decided to kill the Yucca project because of politics, "not technical or safety reasons." (In 2008, Candidate Obama promised Nevadans he would not support the project in Reid's home state.)

Further, the GAO reported that many officials believe the termination could "set back the opening of a new geologic repository by at least 20 years and cost billions of dollars."

That's on top of the 30 years and $15 billion already spent.

Washington, South Carolina and others have sued, challenging the administration's action in federal court. The Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to rule soon.

That's not all. In moving to cancel Yucca Mountain, the Obama administration convened a blue-ribbon commission to study alternatives for what to do with the waste. The final report is due in July, but the commission floated the disturbing idea of sending even more waste to Hanford.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire takes a dim view of such talk and has urged the administration not to cancel Yucca Mountain until it has another viable geological repository. Though reprocessing commercial nuclear fuel has been discussed as a way to reduce the waste, there is no technology to reprocess Hanford's legacy defense waste, said Keith Phillips, the governor's environment and energy policy adviser.

All this is why Ostendorff's timely confirmation is important. He knows the issue well, has been part of deliberations on this and other matters, including safety review of U.S. nuclear plants after the Japan nuclear crisis.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., supports Ostendorff's renomination: "Given the full slate of issues pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission I believe it is imperative that we have a full set of commissioners and the Senate should quickly reconfirm William Ostendorff."

The melodrama surrounding Yucca Mountain has not only grown tiresome but is growing more exorbitantly costly and time-wasting. The games must stop.

The Senate should confirm Ostendorff as soon as possible.