Friday, April 8, 2011

What It All Means

The moment of truth arrived this past week: 64 senators voted Wednesday night, in various ways, against EPA's cap-and-trade agenda.  The House passed Upton-Inhofe, 255 to 172, as 19 Democrats voted to repeal that agenda on Thursday.  So what happens next?

The debate is surely not over-EPA will press ahead and the Energy Tax Prevention Act will come up again-so it's useful to recount what happened and why.  Here's a brief list of the major issues, and how they played out:

It's Not About Kids with Asthma: In countless speeches and meretricious ad campaigns, EPA's cap-and-trade supporters, desperate for some compelling basis for their position, cast the debate as protecting kids with asthma or protecting "dangerous" carbon "polluters."  Support for the Energy Tax Prevention Act, they said, was tantamount to "gutting" the Clean Air Act.  Of course such tripe made little headway, and the reason was obvious to the sane: carbon dioxide poses no threat to public health and the bill in no way affects federal laws governing real pollutants and toxic emissions.  Not to mention the inconvenient fact that carbon emissions (and ozone) have declined while cases of childhood asthma have increased. (See chart here)  Green activists overplayed their hand, and erased whatever shred of credibility they possessed.

Repudiation of the Tailoring Rule: The tailoring rule was EPA's trump card, pulled to answer charges that its regulations would trample small businesses.  But now it's dead. 

Tailoring emerged so EPA could avoid the self-described "absurd results" from regulating GHGs under the Clean Air Act, i.e. requiring churches and schools to get PSD permits before expanding.  So tailoring exempted small sources-temporarily.  But the rule blatantly violates Clean Air Act, and the DC Circuit will likely defenestrate it. 

EPA's cap-and-trade supporters threatened to vote on the rule, daring Republicans to oppose "regulatory relief" for small businesses.  They did so yesterday, in the form of the Baucus amendment, which would have codified tailoring.  Yet the American Farm Bureau opposed it, on grounds that a limited permitting exemption would not exempt farmers and ranchers from the higher electricity, diesel, gasoline, and fertilizer costs caused by EPA regulation of refineries and power plants.  And by voting for Baucus, one would have voted for EPA's cap-and-trade agenda, albeit in modified form.  The Farm Bureau, and many others, said "no deal."

Combined with Democrats opposed to any restriction on EPA, and Republicans who know the tailoring rule is a sham, the Baucus tailoring amendment suffered an ignominious defeat, losing 93 to 7.

Doing Away with the Rockefeller Two-Year Delay: It was dubbed the compromise measure, but was filled with holes, and would have delayed news jobs, new construction, and economic expansion.  By a vote 88 to 12, the Rockefeller two-year delay is no more. 

The bill ultimately foundered on its inconsistent logic.  As articulated by its sponsor, the purpose of the bill was to rein in EPA's GHG regulatory authority, which, he said, is "broad and potentially far-reaching," and which could "touch nearly every facet of this Nation's economy, putting unnecessary burdens on industry and driving many businesses overseas through policies that have been implemented purely at the discretion of the executive branch and absent a clearly stated intent of the Congress."  If that's the case, one wonders, why a two-year delay and not repeal? 

The American Lung Association comically expressed concern that Rockefeller would "interfere with EPA's ability to implement the Clean Air Act."  It would not; on the other hand, it would not categorically block EPA's ability to implement GHG regulations.  For both of these reasons, Rockefeller went down, and it won't rise again.

Nowhere to Hide: Many members have publicly aligned themselves with concerned constituents, say manufacturers or farmers, who oppose EPA's GHG regulations.  One Democratic senator, for example, wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in February, arguing that "any approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions must recognize the unique situation of energy-intensive manufacturers."  Of course, EPA's regulations don't, and can't: "It is disconcerting," the senator wrote, "that, to my knowledge, the EPA has neither a plan in place nor the authority to provide these protections to U.S. manufacturing, a sector of the economy critical to the continued economic recovery of my state and so many others." 

Well put.  Yet this senator voted against the Energy Tax Prevention Act, the only solution to fully address the aforementioned concerns.  He fails to grasp that delays, carve-outs, and exemptions won't solve the underlying problem: EPA will raise energy prices and send manufacturers overseas.  Now this senator and others will have to explain why, with their vote, they stood by and let it happen.

What the Future Holds: With 19 House Democrats supporting Upton-Inhofe, and 64 senators on the record in some way against EPA, all eyes are on EPA and the White House.  Will EPA change course?  Will President Obama accept that his cap-and-trade agenda is wildly unpopular, and agree to repeal it?  Don't hold your breath.  That means the debate continues, and the battle over the Energy Tax Prevention Act carries on.  The bill will come to the floor again, and soon, so members will once again have to decide whether they stand with consumers, manufacturers, farmers, and small businesses, or with EPA's barrage of GHG regulations that will harm all of them. 


The Week Ahead...

Four hearings are on the schedule for the EPW Committee next week:

- Tuesday, April 12 at 10:00 am: the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a joint hearing with the Subcommittee onWater and Wildlife entitled,"Natural Gas Drilling: Public Health and Environmental Impacts."

- Tuesday April 12 at 2:45 pm: the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a joint hearing with the Subcommittee onClean Air and Nuclear Safety entitled,"Review of the Nuclear Emergency in Japan and Implications for the U.S."

- Wednesday, April 13 at 10:00 am: the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing entitled,"Oversight Hearing on Domestic Renewable Fuels: From Ethanol to Advanced Biofuels."

- Thursday April 14 at 10:00 am: the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing entitled, "Issues for Surface Transportation Authorization."

These hearings will take place in room 406 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. 

A few minutes before the hearing, there will be a link posted on the website,, for those who wish to view online, and the written testimony for each witness will also be available.

Inhofe Votes Against Nominee to Head Fish and Wildlife Service


Prairie Chicken Comes Between Inhofe and Nominee

By Chris Casteel

April 6, 2011

Link to Blog

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, voted against President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday, in a Senate committee, in part because of Inhofe’s concerns that the Lesser Prairie Chicken may be put on the Endangered Species List, which could block wind power development.

Here’s the senator’s statement about Dan Ashe:

“I have great respect for Mr. Ashe-as a 16-year veteran of the Fish and Wildlife Service, he is undoubtedly a committed public servant. I also appreciate his honesty. Nonetheless, I still have significant concerns with his nomination, which is why I voted ‘no’. And I reserve the right to stop this nomination if my concerns are not addressed. I hope that they will be.

“I remain troubled that Mr. Ashe did not provide sufficient answers about the potential listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken, which affects jobs and economic development in Oklahoma. I believe Candidate Conservation Agreements and other public-private partnerships should run their course before listing is considered. I hope Mr. Ashe comes to share that view.

“The nominee is also committed to the Service’s statement, recently expressed in a strategic plan, that it will examine ‘everything we do, every decision we make, and every dollar we spend, through the lens of climate change.’ The Service also stated, in the same document, that it will address the ‘causative factors’ of climate change. This posture transforms, without Congressional authorization, the basic mission of the agency. Mr. Ashe indicated these statements are merely ‘aspirational.’ That’s fine, but I need a commitment that climate change, whatever one’s view of its underlying causes, will not become the overriding concern governing the agency’s day-to-day affairs. More to the point, the agency must respect the legal bounds clearly established by Congress.”

Inhofe Hearing Statement: State and Local Perspectives on Transportation

Sen.Inhofe on Wednesday released the following statement at a  Full Committee hearing entitled, "State and Local Perspectives on Transportation."

I appreciate the opportunity to hear from state and local leaders about their transportation priorities.  This next highway bill will be my 4th authorization, and I know first-hand that experiences of those outside of Washington have a role in guiding the policy making process. 

Today, the challenges in continuing to provide a safe and free-flowing transportation network have never been greater.  I am sure our witnesses will agree that our nation's transportation needs outpace our current spending levels.

The link between a robust economy and strong transportation infrastructure is undeniable; yet when it comes to other spending priorities at all levels of government, transportation is often neglected.  Complicating matters is that the Highway Trust Fund cannot afford current spending levels.  As I have often said, since the Highway Trust Fund has historically maintained high balances, it has become a favorite funding source for all surface transportation activities, including recreational trails, bike paths, ferry boats, and fixing city streets.

These new responsibilities were added while maintaining essentially the same revenue sources-a user fee on motor fuel.  Simply put, there are not sufficient resources to properly address the core responsibilities of the program, let alone the extra programs we have added over the decades.  If we are serious about a long term re-authorization, we are going to have to re-prioritize the activities the federal highway program currently supports.

According to the Administration, our nation's backlog of deferred road and bridge maintenance is $600 billion and growing.  Typically, spending on roads and bridges at all levels of government is around $80 billion a year, of which the federal government makes up 40%.  Clearly, with limited Highway Trust Fund resources, the federal highway program is only part of the solution. 

If we are going to adequately address the maintenance backlog, growing congestion and the expansive increase in truck freight, public jurisdictions at all levels must take responsibility.  This means that not only do we need to get the most for our federal highway dollar, but we need to encourage state and local governments and the private sector to invest as much as possible in roads and bridges.   I look forward to hearing from our witness on how they believe the highway program can accomplish this. 

In the News... Politico Pro: Dems Smack Down Obama Climate Rules


Dems smack down Obama climate rules

By Robin Bravender and Darren Samuelsohn


Link to Article 

Angst over the Obama administration's environmental rules is reaching fever pitch on Capitol Hill, where even Democrats are looking to score points by smacking down the EPA.

In a series of Senate votes Wednesday on measures to block or limit EPA climate rules, 17 Democrats broke with their party to support measures to rein in one of the administration's top environmental policy initiatives. Four went so far as to side with a GOP-led effort to nullify EPA's climate rules altogether: Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

In the House, meanwhile, about a dozen Democrats are expected to join a near-unanimous GOP caucus to vote for an almost identical anti-EPA bill on Thursday. In what could be a test vote for final passage, 12 Democrats broke ranks Wednesday to vote in favor of the rule to move forward with the bill, introduced by Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (D-Mich.).

Not long ago, the Obama EPA was riding high after Congress approved the agency's biggest budget in history, and agency officials were hailed for their promises to guide their policies by science, rather than politics. But that was before Republicans were swept into the House majority and made it one of their top priorities to unravel EPA rules they've deemed "job-killers."

As industry and lawmakers have assailed the EPA, and after a host of House Democrats who supported cap-and-trade legislation lost their seats last fall, Democrats in both chambers have become increasingly eager to go on the record opposing the climate regulations.

Rep. Dennis Cardoza, a California Democrat, told POLITICO earlier this week that there's growing opinion among Democrats that EPA is becoming a "rogue agency," adding that the White House needs to take action to curb the agency's power. "I think the president's out of step on this one, and he's going to have to get his agency under control," he said.

In the Senate on Wednesday, even Democrats who are typically backers of the Obama administration - like Max Baucus of Montana, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Carl Levin of Michigan - jumped on the anti-EPA bandwagon to endorse Democratic amendments to curtail the agency's power. Those amendments were aimed at allowing vulnerable Democrats to take slaps at EPA that could protect them in upcoming elections.

EPA is faring far worse in the House, where Upton's bill would block EPA from reining in greenhouse gases while unraveling the agency's scientific finding that climate change poses a threat to public health and welfare. Three House Democrats signed on as co-sponsors: House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Transportation and Infrastructure ranking member Nick Rahall of West Virginia and Dan Boren of Oklahoma.

For now, the Democrat-controlled Senate has proven a formidable obstacle for the EPA's critics - on Wednesday, the chamber headed off all four riders aimed at limiting the agency. And even some Democrats who endorsed the amendments don't seem eager to wage a war with the White House.

"I think this is probably the end of our EPA little session here," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) after the Senate rejected his amendment to stall EPA climate rules for two years. He said he had no plans to continue pushing for his bill to pass "because there's no will in there for it."

Still, he said the vote would send a message to the White House. "I think the message sort of sends itself."

And Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said that while "there's some unhappiness with EPA" on Capitol Hill, "I'm not going to be pushing for another vote."

House and Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are insisting that they've got the administration on its heels, and touted the fact that a majority of senators voted to limit EPA in some fashion.

"A total of 64 senators voted for amendments that, in one form or another, expressed opposition to various aspects of EPA's global warming regulatory schemes," said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), author of the failed GOP amendment. "I will continue to press for votes on my legislation until we get it to the president's desk."

Inhofe told reporters the bill will be "reintroduced in the first thing it's appropriate to put it on."

For now, EPA's backers are content keeping the bill at bay in the Senate.

The White House issued a statement Wednesday applauding the chamber for defending "the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to protect public health under the Clean Air Act."

During the final EPA vote in the Senate, when the Inhofe amendment failed 50-50, Sen. Bernie Sanders wrapped Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in a bear hug.

"I think there was a fear that the vote would worse," the Vermont independent told POLITICO. "So I suppose it is a victory. It amazes me there'd be 50 votes for it. But from what I understand, we did well that it wasn't more."

Darius Dixon and Patrick Reis contributed to this story.