Friday, May 15, 2009

Inhofe Bi-Partisan Water Bill Advances to Senate Floor

Senator Inhofe, along with U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Water and Wildlife Subcommittee Chairman, and subcommittee ranking member Mike Crapo (R-ID), applauded Committee passage of The Water Infrastructure Financing Act, which provides the foundation for our nation's drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. 

The bill, which passed the Committee today with overwhelming bipartisan support, makes important reforms and increases investment in the Clean Water State Revolving fund, which has not been reauthorized in 22 years, and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which has not been reauthorized since 1996.

The bill contains authorizations for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, expands eligibility for funding for projects including storm water management, water conservation, or efficiency projects, reuse and recycling projects.   

"The overwhelming bi-partisan vote today for our water infrastructure bill shows that we have a good chance of passing it on the Senate Floor," Senator Inhofe said. "Through my leadership position on the EPW Committee, I have made reauthorization of the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) one of my top priorities. I am pleased to have worked closely with Senators Cardin, Crapo and Boxer to pass our bill that balances the needs of all states, especially rural states like Oklahoma. Addressing our nation's water needs must be one of our top priorities.  For far too long the federal government has burdened state and local governments with unfunded mandates. This bi-partisan bill will go a long way in helping our state and local communities meet their water needs."

 Senator Boxer said, "The Water Infrastructure Financing Act is a historic milestone in protecting the health of American families from coast to coast.  Thanks to the partnership among the four key leaders from both parties on the Committee, we have reported a bill that invests in protecting the health of American families, that creates jobs and encourages communities to use the latest green technologies.  It has been over 20 years since we have reauthorized the Clean Water Revolving Fund, and more than 12 years since we reauthorized the Drinking Water Revolving Fund - I look forward to working with my colleagues to move this important legislation forward."

"The highest priorities of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee are to ensure that all Americans have clean and safe drinking water and that our aging national water infrastructure can handle all that we ask of it. The health and safety of our citizens, our rivers and streams, and our economy depend on clean, flowing water," said Senator Cardin.  "I appreciate the bipartisan support from Chairman Boxer, Senators Inhofe and Crapo, in crafting legislation that allows us to reinvest in America, providing thousands of new jobs and meeting our basic water quality needs."

"Today marks a significant breakthrough for clean water in this country, which I believe is amongst the highest priority environmental issues of our time," Senator Crapo said.  "The bipartisan, collaborative effort taken made this bill reality.  This has been an issue that preceded my election to the Senate in 1998.  Since that time, we tried several times, to no avail, to come to agreement on this much-needed legislation.   And today we have finally achieved that long-sought after goal.  I am particularly pleased that my efforts on behalf of small states like Idaho paid off, and this bill will dramatically raise the amount of money that Idaho and other small states can receive for the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund.  I applaud Senators Boxer, Inhofe and Cardin for their hard work on this bill, and I look forward continuing our work on this in order to get this done for Idaho and the nation."

Inhofe Delivers Floor Speech on White House Smoking Gun Memo

On Thursday, Senator Inhofe delivered a floor speech on the Obama Administration’s recent proposed endangerment finding for greenhouse gases and the revelation of a White House OMB memo warning of the dire economic consequences of regulating CO2 under the Clean Air Act. On May 12, the Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee learned of a White House document marked ‘privileged and confidential’ buried deep within the docket of the proposed rule.  At an EPW hearing on Tuesday, Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) exposed the "smoking gun" White House memo to Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The memo warns that Clean Air Act regulation will have "serious economic consequences" for small businesses and the overall economy.


Below is Senator Inhofe’s full speech as prepared for delivery:


On April 17th, the Administration set in motion a ticking time bomb with its release of a proposed endangerment finding for carbon dioxide and 5 other greenhouse gases.   This proposal finds that carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant that threatens the public health and welfare and therefore must be regulated under the Clean Air Act. This so-called "endangerment finding" sets the clock ticking on a vast array of taxes and regulation that EPA can impose across the economy, and all with little or no political debate or Congressional control.


On May 12, we learned of a White House document marked ‘privileged and confidential’ buried deep within the docket of the proposed rule.  It outlines some of the very same concerns shared by me and many of my colleagues, including Senator Barrasso.  


This document, allegedly a compilation of concerns from unnamed officials within the government as part of an inter-agency review of the proposed regulation, raises some very serious criticisms of the endangerment proposal.  Chief among them are questions raised about the link between the EPA's scientific argument for endangerment and its political summary.


It states and I quote “the finding rests heavily on the precautionary principle, but the amount of acknowledged lack of understanding about basic facts surrounding greenhouse gases seem to stretch the precautionary principle to providing for regulation in the face of unprecedented uncertainty.”  In other words, there is a lot we don’t know, yet we’re stretching the science to justify an endangerment finding. 


In addition it states, “there is a concern that EPA is making a finding based on ‘harm’ from substances that have no demonstrated direct health effects, such as respiratory or toxic effects, and that available scientific data that purports to conclusively establish the nature and the extent of the adverse public health and welfare effects are almost exclusively from non-EPA sources.”  In other words, greenhouse gases.


One may ask, what source is the EPA relying on? That source is the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its Fourth Assessment Report, which, as I have documented in speeches before on the Senate floor, is a political and not a science-based body and has no accountability here in the United States.


In addition, this White House memo also warns of a cascade of unintended regulatory consequences if the endangerment finding is finalized. It states and again I quote “Making the decision to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act for the first time is likely to have serious economic consequences for regulated entities throughout the U.S. economy, including small business and small communities.”


For one thing, I am glad to know that we are not alone with our concerns and that several in the Obama administration share views similar to ours on the endangerment finding.  I am hopeful more will come forward.


So what was the Administration’s official response to the release of this memo? Well, it depended on who you asked. One source in the Obama Administration chose again to blame it on the Bush administration, stating it was written by a holdover appointed by George W. Bush.  However, earlier in the day, Peter Orszag, who heads the White House Budget office where the memo allegedly came from, stated that the quotations circulating in the press are from a document in which OMB simply “collated and collected disparate comments from various agencies during the inter-agency review process of the proposed finding. These collected comments were not necessarily internally consistent, since they came from multiple sources, and they do not necessarily represent the views of either OMB or the Administration.”


This begs the question, then: does this document reflect one rogue leftover Bush appointee, who, based on follow-up news reports, actually appears to be a Democrat, or do they reflect a more systematic summary of comments from various agencies who have serious concerns with the proposed finding, as Orszag suggested?  I am hopeful someone from the Administration will come forth with a consistent response.


In either case, I welcome the comments as an open and honest discussion of the potential costs, benefits, and legal justifications for such a finding. Regardless of the Supreme Court decision, the EPA has the discretion to carefully weigh the science, and the causes and effects in its determination of endangerment, and, despite recent claims by Administration officials, is under no court order to find in the affirmative that such greenhouse gases endanger public health or welfare, or cause or contribute to air pollution.


If we are going to have a debate on this issue, let’s have it here in Congress, where the American people deserve open and honest discussion about the costs and alleged benefits, about the effectiveness of such policies, and what it will mean for consumers who will ultimately pay the bill.


This Administration, and this EPA in particular, have claimed they will usher in a new era of transparency.  In April, Administrator Jackson issued a sweeping memo to all EPA employees committing the Agency to an unprecedented level of transparency.  I applaud her for this action. In this memo, the Administrator states:


“The success of our environmental efforts depends on earning and maintaining the trust of the public we serve. The American people will not trust us to protect their health or their environment if they do not trust us to be transparent and inclusive in our decision-making. To earn this trust, we must conduct business with the public openly and fairly. This requires not only that EPA remain open and accessible to those representing all points of view, but also that EPA offices responsible for decisions take affirmative steps to solicit the views of those who will be affected by these



Certainly the allegations in this White House memo make one question whether EPA is open and accessible to all points of view.  For one thing, it was marked privileged and confidential; secondly it was buried deep within the docket, hopefully never to be found.


My colleagues may criticize the Bush administration for how it handled the endangerment finding, but at least they did not try and bury or hide these types of comments when it proposed its advanced notice of proposed rulemaking last summer. In fact, the previous Administration went so far as to lay all of these comments out in public view, so all sides could be represented. If this latest action is any indication on how the EPA has begun to operate, then the American public should have serious reason to be concerned.


On this CO2 endangerment issue, potentially the largest and most sweeping EPA regulatory effort ever to be proposed, transparency should be a cornerstone of every agency action, and opinions from all sides, pro and con, and certainly from all other agencies, should be weighed equally and fairly, and just as important, openly, in full view for the American people. The American people deserve to know all sides, all costs, and all benefits.


Because of these issues, I am hopeful that the Administrator will commit to a determination on endangerment that would be based on the record of the scientific data and empirical evidence, rather than political or other non-scientific considerations.  It is of the utmost importance that regulatory matters of this of this scope and magnitude are based on the most objective, balanced scientific and empirical data.


While I am still hopeful that ultimately Congress or the Agency will decide to take this option off the table, a full on-the-record examination during any endangerment rulemaking should be a minimum requirement of transparency. 


But with the Administration essentially politicizing the issue by presenting policymakers with a false choice---use an outdated, ill equipped and economically disastrous option under the Clean Air Act, or pick another bad option, cap and trade, that commits us to requirements for which affordable and reliable technology does not exist--they are admitting that this is more about political leverage than science or facts or costs and benefits. This is not a choice I want for my constituents or the country.


Inhofe Statement on Jaczko Becoming New NRC Chairman

Senator Inhofe issued the following statement this week on Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner (NRC) Gregory B. Jaczko, designated today by President Obama to be the new chairman of the NRC. Chairman Jaczko was sworn in as a Commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Jan. 21, 2005. The designation of chairman of NRC does not require Senate confirmation.

"I look forward to working closely with him in his new role as chairman of the NRC," Senator Inhofe said. "Nuclear energy must continue to play an increasingly important role in our nation's domestic energy supply. As we work together toward that goal, I appreciate Chairman Jaczko's commitment to transparency and improving public communication, something I very much agree with.

"Also, I believe the Reactor Oversight Process has worked well, so I am very interested to learn about Chairman Jaczko's suggestions for changing it.  Any potential changes to performance indicators should avoid injecting unnecessary instability into the process."

EPA Responds To Inhofe Letter on Mountaintop Removal

On Monday, Senator Inhofe said that he appreciated the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) timely responses to his April 21 letter on mountaintop mining permits. Senator Inhofe sent a letter on Monday, April 21, 2009 to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson requesting information on the delay of Clean Water Act permits for mountaintop mining projects. The letter was in response to the delayed issuance of six Clean Water Act permits as well as the impending review of 200 additional permits.  


“I appreciate EPA’s timely responses to my questions regarding delays of several mountaintop mining permits,” Senator Inhofe said. “Mountaintop mining is a vitally important economic activity as it provides a significant portion of the coal that contributes nearly 50 percent of the nation’s electricity. Therefore it is important to hear from the administration about its justification for these delays.


Sen. Inhofe expressed concern over the criteria EPA is using to re-evaluate and review pending permits— a fact that provides insight into the agency’s current decision making process.


“I am concerned that these criteria appear to be part of a new process that would add permit requirements, negotiated by EPA on a permit-by permit-basis,” Sen. Inhofe said.  “I am concerned because nothing has changed that would require a new process.   Any changes EPA makes must be consistent with the law.”


“As our nation endures difficult economic times, we must ensure the federal government is helping, not blocking, efforts to put Americans back to work, strengthen energy security, and protect the environment.  In the upcoming weeks, I will continue monitoring EPA’s review of mountaintop mining permits to ensure they are reviewed in a timely fashion and according to law.”


Link to EPA Responses




EPW Hearing on EPA Budget for FY 2010

On Tuesday May 12, Senator Inhofe made the following statment at a hearing on the President’s proposed EPA Budget for fiscal year 2010:


Madam Chairman, I look forward to today’s hearing and the chance to discuss EPA’s priorities for the coming year.


Before I begin, though, I want to discuss Administrator Jackson’s recent efforts to promote openness and transparency at EPA.  I applaud Administrator Jackson for establishing clear, precise guidelines on transparency.  According to the Administrator’s April 23rd memo, the Agency will “reach out as broadly as possible for the views of interested parties” when developing regulations.  I trust the Administrator and her staff will honor this principle, especially as the agency considers regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.  We don’t agree on this issue – I am strongly opposed to carbon regulation under the Clean Air Act and I will try to stop it – but at least we can agree that EPA should remain open to a wide variety of viewpoints. 


Also, I was pleased that Administrator Jackson recognized the importance of congressional oversight.  Already I have submitted requests for information on many issues, and I will continue to seek information on issues before the Agency.   Thus far, from my standpoint, the record of the agency has been mixed.  I hope that with future requests, on a more consistent basis, I can receive answers to questions in a timely and substantive manner.  I look forward to working with the Administrator and her staff on this.


Now, on to the budget.  Permit me to put this year’s EPA budget request in context.  

Since January 20, the day President Obama took office, over two million Americans have lost their jobs and one million families have lost their homes to foreclosure.


From January to March of this year, the nation’s Gross Domestic Product dropped by a larger than expected 6.1 percent. 


And yet, since January 20, we have spent $787 billion in an economic stimulus package and increased the public debt by $558 billion. 


Now, in spite of these massive spending increases and economic problems, the president proposes what I can only call a stunning increase in federal spending:  a total of $3.4 trillion.  This is more than the nation has ever spent under any other president.  It will also create a $1.8 trillion federal deficit – the highest ever. 


The President also proposes some budget cuts, to the tune of $17 billion.  Half of those will come from defense spending.  So, according to the President’s budget, and during a time of war no less, we are being asked to cut a number of next-generation weapons systems for our war fighters.  Yet there seems to be enough money to increase EPA’s budget by a staggering 37 percent. 


Now don’t get me wrong: there are legitimate areas of EPA’s budget that deserve funding increases.  The Clean Water State Revolving Loan Funds are a good example.  But we must remember the proper balance between environmental protection and economic growth.  We will not end this recession, or attain a cleaner, healthier environment, by enlarging EPA’s bureaucracy with taxpayer dollars. 


The President made a point of saying recently that he wants his Cabinet to identify $100 million in cuts out of his multi-trillion dollar budget.  I think he can find that extra $100 million in EPA’s bloated budget request alone. 


The President’s EPA budget in many respects fuels a growing bureaucracy and encourages more misguided regulation, both of which threaten jobs, our energy security, and our economic competitiveness, not to mention our citizens’ freedoms. 


Thank you, Madam Chairman.   



In the News... Indiana Says No Thanks to Cap and Trade

Wall Street Journal


Indiana Says No Thanks to Cap and Trade


By: Mitch Daniels, the Governor of Indiana


May 15, 2009


This week Congress is set to release the details of the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act, a bill that purports to combat global warming by setting strict limits on carbon emissions. I'm not a candidate for any office -- now or ever again -- and I've approached the "climate change" debate with an open-mind. But it's clear to me that the nation, and in particular Indiana, my home state, will be terribly disserved by this cap-and-trade policy on the verge of passage in the House. 

The largest scientific and economic questions are being addressed by others, so I will confine myself to reporting about how all this looks from the receiving end of the taxes, restrictions and mandates Congress is now proposing.

Quite simply, it looks like imperialism. This bill would impose enormous taxes and restrictions on free commerce by wealthy but faltering powers -- California, Massachusetts and New York -- seeking to exploit politically weaker colonies in order to prop up their own decaying economies. Because proceeds from their new taxes, levied mostly on us, will be spent on their social programs while negatively impacting our economy, we Hoosiers decline to submit meekly. 

The Waxman-Markey legislation would more than double electricity bills in Indiana. Years of reform in taxation, regulation and infrastructure-building would be largely erased at a stroke. In recent years, Indiana has led the nation in capturing international investment, repatriating dollars spent on foreign goods or oil and employing Americans with them. Waxman-Markey seems designed to reverse that flow. "Closed: Gone to China" signs would cover Indiana's stores and factories. 

Our state's share of national income has been slipping for decades, but it is offset in part by living costs some 8% lower than the national average. Doubled utility bills for low-income Hoosiers would be an especially cruel consequence of the Waxman bill. Forgive us for not being impressed at danglings of welfare-like repayments to some of those still employed, with some fraction of the dollars extracted from our state. 

And for what? No honest estimate pretends to suggest that a U.S. cap-and-trade regime will move the world's thermometer by so much as a tenth of a degree a half century from now. My fellow citizens are being ordered to accept impoverishment for a policy that won't save a single polar bear. 

We are told that although China, India and others show no signs of joining in this dismal process, we will eventually induce their participation by "setting an example." Watching the impending indigence of the Midwest, and the flow of jobs from our shores to theirs, our friends in Asia and the Third World are far more likely to choose any other path but ours.

Politicians in Washington speak of a reawakened appreciation for manufacturing and American competitiveness. But under their policy, those who make real products will suffer. Already we observe the piranha swarm of green lobbyists wangling special exemptions, subsidies and side deals. The ordinary Hoosier was not invited to this party, and can expect at most only table scraps at the service entrance. 

No one in Indiana is arguing for the status quo: Hoosiers have been eager to pursue a new energy future. We rocketed from nowhere to national leadership in biofuels production in the last four years. We were the No. 1 state in the growth of wind power in 2008. And we have embarked on an aggressive energy-conservation program, indubitably the most cost-effective means of limiting CO2.

Most importantly, we are out to be the world leader in making clean coal -- including the potential for carbon capture and sequestration. The world's first commercial-scale clean coal power plant is under construction in our state, and the first modern coal-to-natural gas plant is coming right behind it. We eagerly accept the responsibility to develop alternatives to the punitive, inequitable taxation of cap and trade.


Our president has commendably committed himself to "government that works." But his imperial climate-change policy is government that cannot work, and we humble colonials out here in the provinces have no choice but to petition for relief from the Crown's impositions.



In the News...They Like Water, and Each Other - Really

Congressional Quarterly

Michael Teitelbaum

May 13, 2009

High-heels and cowboy boots. Fast-talker and steady drawl. One’s a liberal California Democrat; the other a conservative Oklahoma Republican.


In the world of Senate committee leadership, Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer and ranking member James M. Inhofe are about as far apart on the political spectrum as you can get, although they do get along on a personal level, according to aides.


But their dissimilar tastes on policy issues, and pretty much everything else, does cause problems, especially in the committee, where they often brawl over global warming and energy issues.


But those fights haven’t stopped the two from teaming up to cosponsor and push major water legislation (S 1005) this year. The bill would authorize $39.2 billion for a variety of programs, including $20 billion over five years for low-interest loans and grants to local communities for construction of wastewater treatment facilities,


Their Senate measure is somewhat similar to a bill (HR 1262) passed by the House two months ago. Boxer has scheduled a mark up in the Environment and Public Works Committee for Thursday, and chances for passage of the Senate version are pretty good.


It wouldn’t be fair to suggest that the two senators haven’t cooperated on other legislation. They’ve been cosponsors on 10 measures so far this Congress, but not on a piece of legislation introduced directly by one or the other.