Friday, November 12, 2010

EPW GOP Members Want Hearing on Browners Editing of Moratorium Report

Senators James Inhofe, John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and David Vitter (R-La.), Republican Members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, today demanded openness and accountability from Carol Browner, the President's top climate change policy official, and architect of the Obama cap-and-trade agenda. 

Also See: The Hill: Senate Republicans seek hearing on White House changes to drilling report

Inhofe, Barrasso, and Vitter called on EPW Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to hold a hearing on findings by the Interior Department's Inspector General that an official in Browner's office edited the Interior Department's report on the Obama Administration's Gulf drilling moratorium.  The official edited the report to say that independent scientists who reviewed it agreed with the moratorium when in fact they did not.

In 2008, Sen. Boxer convened a hearing examining allegations that Bush White House officials interfered with decisions at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Center for Disease Control.   Senators Inhofe, Barrasso, and Vitter strongly urge Sen. Boxer to pursue similar oversight of Carol Browner and her staff.

Sen. Barrasso, Ranking Member of the EPW Subcommittee on Oversight:

"Under Carol Browner's watch, politics is trumping science.  Congress must investigate the editing of scientific reports and secret meetings where nothing was put into writing.  As the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Oversight, I will demand that hearings be held immediately.  This ‘Czar' should be accountable to the people, not the other way around."

Sen. Inhofe, Ranking Member of the EPW Committee:

"For two years, Democrats refused to conduct oversight of the Obama Administration, while congratulating themselves this Administration would be different - that it would be open, transparent, and rely on the best available science.  Yet we know otherwise: conducting negotiations on global warming regulations in secret, hiding the costs of its green jobs program, and now a sensitive report on the drilling moratorium manipulated to achieve political ends.  This is all part of the Administration's cap-and-trade agenda, designed to raise energy prices for consumers and destroy jobs.  It's time the American people fully understand what the architect of that agenda, Carol Browner, is doing with taxpayer dollars.  To help with that, Sen. Boxer should conduct real oversight."

Sen. Vitter, Ranking Member of the EPW Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety:

"This blatant disregard by Administration officials to push their job-crushing moratorium on the people of the Gulf Coast absolutely must be further investigated.  The IG report that I requested in June and that was released this week revealed that the recommendations to move forward with the moratorium were directed by politics-not science or expertise. The Administration should explain themselves before Congress so the thousands of impacted Louisianians can hear why politics was put before their best interests."

Inhofe: EPA Increases Uncertainty with BACT Guidance, Putting Jobs at Risk

Sen. Inhofe Wednesday released the following statement on EPA's guidance on determining best available control technology (BACT) for greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. 

Also see: Wash. Examiner Editorial:  New EPA regs would kill jobs, stall economy

"With unemployment hovering near 10 percent, and businesses reluctant to hire workers and expand operations due to regulatory uncertainty in Washington, EPA's BACT guidance only exacerbates that uncertainty, which spells disaster for those desperately seeking work," Sen. Inhofe said.  "Employers were looking for a clear path forward that would inspire confidence that permits would be granted, and in a timely manner.  They won't find it here.

"Make no mistake: this is an important part of the Obama Administration's backdoor cap-and-trade agenda, which seeks to impose the very rules and regulations that will make electricity more expensive, jobs more scarce, and keep the economy mired in stagnation.  And these are the very rules and regulations that can't pass Congress, and that the voters, especially those most impacted by them, resoundingly rejected."    

Jaczko Delayed NRC Yucca Vote By Two Months

Link to Letter from Chairman Jaczko

Link to Letters from other NRC Commissioners

Energy Daily

Jaczko Delayed NRC Yucca Vote By Two Months

By Jeff Beattie

Tuesday November 09, 2010


In a disclosure that could fuel allegations that his handling of the issue has been politically motivated, Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko has acknowledged that he substantially delayed a commission ruling on whether the Energy Department had authority to withdraw a license application before the NRC on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

While a federal appeals court stayed litigation with the expectation that the NRC would expedite its decision on the controversy, newly released documents show that Jackzo initially voted on the Yucca matter in August, but then withdrew his vote and waited more than two months to resubmit it in late October—ensuring the matter would not be decided before the November 3 elections. 

All the other NRC commissioners had voted on the matter by mid-September, according to documents delivered to Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) last week. (Link to Full Article)


E&E News

NRC chairman reveals Yucca vote; still no timeline for decision


Katherine Ling, E&E reporter


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman's vote is in on whether the Energy Department can withdraw its license application to build a repository at Yucca Mountain, Nev., but there is still no timeline for an NRC decision on the matter.

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko today said he first voted in August on whether DOE has authority to withdraw the repository application, then withdrew that vote and "continued active consultation with my colleagues before re-voting on October 29, 2010."

The amount of time it has taken NRC to come to a final decision on DOE's authority to withdraw the license has been criticized by Republicans, the nuclear industry and state regulators. At a minimum, they are asking NRC to finish a review of DOE's application to help inform future repository applications, if not to preserve it as an option as a repository location for future administrations. (Link to Full Article)

Also See: Las Vegas Review Journal: Vote timing nettles repository backers

Inhofe Op-Ed: The Secret about Earmarks


The Secret about Earmarks

By Sen. Jim Inhofe

November 12, 2010

Link to Op-Ed

Shhhh! There's a secret about earmarks: Eliminating them won't save taxpayers one dime. Instead, the money gets turned back to President Barack Obama so he can direct spending as he sees fit.

In light of this, it is no wonder that Obama is willing to support the ban and join the Republicans senators who for years have demagogued about congressional earmarks. On Election Day the American people sent the message to Washington that it is time to reduce government spending, repeal Obamacare and cut taxes. A moratorium on earmarks would only serve to increase the amount of money Obama has to spend.

This year, the House in its earmark ban, defined "earmarks" as authorizations and appropriations - precisely what Article I Section 9 of the Constitution states Congress is supposed to do.

So a ban on earmarks doesn't save one dime. It does, however, do three things: 1) It trashes the Constitution and violates our oath of office; 2) It cedes Congress's power to authorize and appropriate to the president, and 3) It gives cover to big spending.

For many years now, there have been some members of Congress who have decried earmarks to hide their real voting record on fiscal issues. In other words, they vote for huge spending increases and then blast earmarks. As a result of their incessant demagoguery, just the term "earmark" has become a dirty word for many voters.

It is hard to imagine that our founders were misguided when they gave Congress, those closest to the will of the people, the power of the purse under Article 1 of the Constitution.

An across-the-board ban has the unintended consequence of eliminating useful spending. Improved armor for our soldiers and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles like the Predator Drone are just a few examples of worthy congressional earmarks that have improved our national defenses and would have never been funded by any administration.

To be clear, there are many earmarks that should be defeated. But we should defeat them based on the substance - not because they are earmarks.

Others call earmarks a gateway drug that needs to be eliminated to demonstrate that we are serious about fiscal restraint. There is just one problem with that: It's not true.

Earmarks have steadily decreased over the past few years, according to the Office of Management and Budget and federal spending watchdog groups.

So while the total number of earmarks and the overall dollar amount of earmarks has been declining, no one argues with the fact that the Obama deficit has ballooned to $3 trillion in 2 years. Earmarks, then, are hardly a gateway drug, a symptom of federal spending run amuck or even an underlying cause to our fiscal problems.

It is inconceivable that newly elected conservatives would decide to cede Congress' authority to Obama. The last time Congress did this was with the stimulus bill. With no congressional earmarks, the stimulus bill still resulted in hundreds of outrageous expenditures that were doled out through presidential earmarks by unelected government officials.

At Obama's direction, millions in federal dollars were spent, literally, for a clown show in Pennsylvania, a deer underpass in Wyoming, a Colorado dragon boat festival and a storytelling festival in Utah - just to name a few.

So, let's get serious. Instead of ceding Congress' constitutional authority to the president, we should hold Obama accountable and be responsive to our constituents. I intend to introduce legislation on Nov. 15 to do just that.

Let's address the real problems - the deficit, the debt and Obamacare - and get to work saving America.

LISTEN: Hot Air Exclusive Interview: Inhofe Pushes Back on Earmark Moratorium

Hot Air 

Exclusive interview: Sen. James Inhofe Pushes Back on Earmark Moratorium

November 10, 2010

By Ed Morrissey

LISTEN: Inhofe pushes back on earmark moratorium  

In a wide-ranging interview this morning exclusive to Hot Air with one of the leading conservative voices in Congress, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma explained why he has decided to oppose the earmark moratorium pushed this week by fellow Republicans like Sens. Jim DeMint (SC) and John McCain (AZ).  The moratorium not only contradicts the Constitution, Inhofe argues, but it puts the power of the purse mainly into the hands of the President - and Barack Obama has already shown that he can't be trusted with it after his pork-filled stimulus plan from February 2009.  Inhofe warns that "Obama wins" if the moratorium passes, which is why the President has publicly backed the effort.

The Senator knows that I have been a critic of earmarking and have supported a moratorium in the past, and we debated the issue during our conversation.  He didn't disagree that earmarks have become a cesspool of abuse, but disputed that the moratorium would change anything except authorship.  Inhofe plans to introduce a bill on Monday when the Senate reconvenes that will attempt to stop the abuses, and promises to discuss those provisions further once the bill gets onto the floor.

We also discussed the election, the coming debate on tax increases, and the composition of the incoming freshman class of the GOP. Inhofe says that Democrats are ready to make a deal on the tax rate increases that will automatically take effect if Congress neglects to act, having had their noses bloodied in the election. While he's very happy about the inroads conservatives have made in the midterms, he's a little disappointed about the results in Washington, West Virginia, and Colorado, where he campaigned for the Republican candidates with high hopes of success. I asked him about party switchers, and he and I joked about not naming names from places like Nebraska or Arkansas as a matter of manners, but he has some insight into how and why current members of Congress may feel pressure to move away from Democrats. Be sure to watch it all.

NRO: Inhofe: Eliminating Earmarks is a Phony Issue

National Review Online: The Corner

Op-Ed: Eliminating Earmarks is a Phony Issue

By James M. Inhofe

November 12, 2010

Link to Op-Ed

Americans - especially conservatives - are being taken with a fiscal sleight of hand. Rightly concerned about the future of our country and the out-of-control spending taking place in Washington, these concerned citizens are being duped by the earmark debate. Getting rid of earmarks does not save taxpayers any money, reduces transparency, and gives more power to the Obama administration.

A congressional earmark moratorium won't save a single taxpayer dime. Proponents of the earmark ban like to say that a dollar cut is a dollar saved. Unfortunately, that's just not true. For example, in 2009 the Senate performed the rare action of considering many appropriations bills individually rather than irresponsibly lumping them all into one large bill to consider at the end of the year. The value of considering these bills individually is that it gives senators the opportunity to exercise some oversight of government programs and to monitor how federal departments spend money. Senators could offer amendments to both cut spending and strike particular earmarks if they desired. From July to November that year, there were about 18 votes specifically targeting earmarks. All the amendments failed. But had they succeeded, they would not have reduced the overall amount of money being spent by the federal government. Instead of putting the money back into the pockets of the American people by reducing spending or shrinking the deficit, these efforts to eliminate earmarks would have put more money into the hand of President Obama by allowing his administration to spend the money as he saw fit. At the end of the day, none would have saved money.

In a couple of cases, senators offered amendments to strike funding for C-17 airplanes or other specific military spending and return the money to the Department of Defense's operation-and-maintenance account. In another case, members offered amendments to strike funding out of a program called "Save America's Treasures" for specific art centers throughout the United States, but the money was simply shifted to allow bureaucrats at the National Park Service to spend it. In another case, a member offered an amendment to strike a variety of transportation projects in many states, only to redirect the spending to bureaucrats in the Federal Aviation Administration. I could go on and on.

Banning earmarks has significant unintended consequences. Proponents of the ban like to say that earmarking is bad policy. To say this is to say that it is bad policy to provide improved armor for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan - which has saved lives - or that it is bad policy to have the Predator drone program that has been vital in the War on Terrorism. Both are examples of congressional earmarks that would have never been funded by any administration. An across-the-board ban has the unintended consequence of eliminating useful spending. To be clear, there are many spending proposals that should be defeated. But we should defeat them based on the substance, not simply because they are called earmarks. There are often bad ideas proposed that should not become law, but no one thinks we should ban all legislation.

Earmarks have been part of the congressional process since the founding of our country. As James Madison, the father of the Constitution viewed it, appropriating funds is the job of the legislature. Writing in the Federalist, he noted that Congress holds the power of the purse for the very reason that it is closer to the people. The words of Madison and Article 1 Section 9 of the Constitution say that authorization and appropriations are exclusively the responsibility of the legislative branch. Congress should not cede this authority to the executive branch.

Banning earmarks will result in less accountability and transparency. The flawed Obama stimulus bill famously did not contain a single congressional earmarks, yet, as we found out long after the fact, those tax dollars were spent on hundreds of frivolous items such as a clown show in Pennsylvania, studying the mating decisions of the female cactus bug, and a helicopter able to detect radioactive rabbit droppings, to name a few. What all of these have in common is that they were spent by presidential earmarks, not congressional earmarks. Similarly, as faceless bureaucrats in the executive branch have continually taken greater responsibility over federal expenditures, lobbyists are increasingly turning to them, not Congress, for money. Unlike congressional earmarks, which are posted online prior to the expenditure and approved by representatives who must face the voters, executive spending is in the hands of unaccountable bureaucrats, and we often do not find out about these expenditures until years after the fact.

Demagoguing earmarks provides cover for some of the biggest spenders in Congress. Congressional earmarks, for all their infamous notoriety, are not the cause of trillion-dollar federal deficits (of all the discretionary spending that took place in Washington last year, earmarks made up only 1.5 percent). Nor will an earmark moratorium solve the crisis of wasteful Washington spending run amuck. While anti-earmarkers bloviate about the billions spent through earmarks, many of them supported the trillions of dollars in extra spending for bailouts, stimulus, and foreign aid. Talk about specks versus planks! Over the course of the last several years, the overall number and dollar amount of earmarks has steadily decreased. During that same time, overall spending has ballooned by over $1.3 trillion. In reality, ballyhooing about earmarks has been used as a ruse by some to seem more fiscally responsible than they really are.

Let's stop playing the earmark game, and, for the sake of our kids and grandkids, get serious about using real reforms to save this country from financial ruin.

In the News... Tulsa World: Sen. Jim Inhofe Steps up to Oppose Earmarks Moratorium

Tulsa World 

Sen. Jim Inhofe Steps up to Oppose Earmarks Moratorium

By Jim Myers

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Link to Article  

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, stepping up his campaign against a fellow Republican's proposal to place a moratorium on earmarks, said Wednesday his conservative record gives him credentials to take on the battle.

"I am recognized, and people on the talk shows know I am considered the most conservative member of Congress,'' the Oklahoma Republican said.

"If the most conservative member of Congress can't tell the truth, no one else can.''

As part of a campaign that included weeks of planning, Inhofe vowed to point out the hypocrisy of those pushing for the moratorium and to unveil an alternative proposal that will resolve the earmark problem forever.

That will come in a speech Monday on the Senate floor.

"While they demagogue it and say they want to get rid of earmarks, they don't address the funding problem that we have,'' he said.

"Superfluous earmarks, I am opposed to them. Because in almost every case, those are appropriations that have not been authorized. I voted against them just because they didn't follow the process.''

If the proposal being pushed by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., were passed and followed, Inhofe said senators would give up their constitutional authority over spending and cede it to President Barack Obama.

He underscores that point by repeatedly attaching Obama's name to the DeMint proposal, as if the president were an original sponsor.

A moratorium on earmarks, Inhofe said, would not save taxpayers a single dime because it would give that spending authority to the president and let his administration direct where it goes.

DeMint is expected to seek a vote on his proposal at next week's Senate Republican Conference meeting.

Even if approved, Inhofe said, the proposal will be meaningless and nonbinding.

"It is all for show,'' he said. "He could pass it, and it won't make any difference.''

Inhofe said he would ignore it and continue his current practice of seeking projects such as those for Oklahoma's military bases.

Even though it would be nonbinding, DeMint believes his proposal could unite Senate Republicans with House Republicans, who implemented an earmark moratorium earlier, in taking a stand against "wasteful, pork-barrel spending.''

"Americans want Congress to shut down the earmark favor factory,'' DeMint said in a statement announcing his plans.

Asked about Inhofe's campaign, Wesley Denton, a press spokesman for DeMint, said the senator appreciates Inhofe's friendship and conservative leadership.

"They disagree on this topic but will certainly continue working together on many other issues,'' Denton said.

According to a list from DeMint's office, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is included among those who have signed on as co-sponsors of the proposal.

Coburn declined to comment.

He has opposed the practice of earmarks, describing them as a gateway drug to spending addiction in Washington.

In the News... Oklahoman: Editorial: With Ridleys Guidance, Oklahoma Roads and Bridges Improving

The Oklahoman

Editorial: With Ridley's Guidance, Oklahoma Roads and Bridges Improving

Gary Ridley's first job with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation was as an equipment operator. More than 40 years later, getting things done is still his priority.

November 11, 2010

Link to Editorial

With Ridley's guidance, Oklahoma roads and bridges improving Thanks to Ridley's leadership as director of ODOT, Oklahoma's roads and bridges are improving. Ridley is quick to commend Gov. Brad Henry and members of the Legislature who finally woke up to the agency's needs, but Ridley's direction shouldn't be understated.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, calls him the best transportation director in the country. Ridley's approach is refreshing: "We don't like to be like some forms of government where you throw money at it and you don't get results."

Money was a problem for years at ODOT. The agency was appropriated the same amount every fiscal year from 1985 to 2005 - beyond ridiculous, in hindsight - before change finally came in the form of Republican-led legislation that addressed long-term planning.

Two events helped serve as catalysts - the death of a motorist struck by a chunk of concrete that fell through her windshield from a bridge on Interstate 35, and voters' overwhelming rejection of a proposed fuel tax increase to pay for road and bridge repair. These placed transportation squarely in the public eye.

When fully implemented, legislation will provide ODOT with about $400 million more per year for maintenance than it had in the early part of this decade. Since 2006, more than 500 bridge replacement/repair projects have been completed or started. "I'd venture to say there are very few states that have touched that many bridges," Ridley says. There are 650 more on ODOT's eight-year construction plan that carries into 2018; there were fewer than 200 in the previous eight-year plan.

The current construction plan also includes improvements to shoulders on 485 miles of two-lane highway, surface improvements to major highways, and the additional installation of life-saving cable barriers in medians.

When federal stimulus money became available last year, Ridley's agency was first in line and secured $465 million for state projects. ODOT operates with about 2,400 employees, roughly 800 fewer than 15 years ago. "I would hope to think people are happy with how their money is spent," he says.

Ridley's stewardship in encouraging. When Oklahomans see roads getting fixed and bridges being repaired, as promised, they have reason to believe that perhaps other areas of state government can deliver, too.

Ridley is state transportation secretary as well as ODOT director. The former post is at the pleasure of the governor. Gov.-elect Mary Fallin would be wise to keep him on board, although Ridley won't campaign for it.

"What's important to me is that the plans we have in place move forward," he says.