Friday, March 27, 2009

Inhofe: NRDC, Sierra Club Kill Jobs, Weaken Energy Security

Senator Inhofe today commented on the announcement that Baard Energy has decided they will no longer pursue an application with the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Loan Guarantee Program for the Ohio River Clean Fuels project (ORCF) because of litigation filed by environmental groups.

"NRDC and Sierra Club have once again successfully killed a clean coal project that would have created American jobs and strengthened America's energy security," Senator Inhofe said. "Groups like the Sierra Club and NRDC have mastered the art of using litigation to delay and stall projects long enough to ensure they will never proceed. Unfortunately, the greatest cost will be felt by those who are looking for good, well-paying jobs."  

Baard Energy CEO John Baardson stated in a release today, "The people of Ohio should know special interests groups are suing the State of Ohio's EPA claiming that permits were issued to our project unreasonably and unlawfully.  These disruptive activities only serve to delay the creation of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in Ohio.  The Ohio EPA spent more than a year scrutinizing these permits and even incorporated many of the comments received from the NRDC into the final permit terms and conditions.  Although we are confident the Ohio EPA acted within the bounds of the law, we have decided not to pursue this financial guarantee path and are moving on toward a more reasonable strategy." 

Three Mile Island - Looking Back on Thirty Years of Lessons Learned

On Monday, March 24, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on the lessons learned from Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident of 1979. Senator Inhofe delivered the following remarks in his opening statement:  

"The accident at Three Mile Island was a culmination of several mistakes.  As with any mistake, there are lessons to be learned.  Critics of the nuclear industry frequently point to it and say neither the industry nor the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have learned anything from it and plants are just as risky today as Three Mile Island was then.  Mr. Chairman, I strongly disagree.

"My first observation is that this accident validated the defense-in-depth concept which is the basis for nuclear safety.  In spite of equipment malfunctions, design flaws, and human errors, radiation exposure to the public was within regulatory limits and was proven to have produced no discernable health effects.

"My second observation is that 30 years have passed and we haven’t had another accident like this one, which partially melted a nuclear reactor core.  That doesn’t mean that the industry and the Commission can sit back and relax – they can’t.  It is our responsibility in this Committee to ensure that they do NOT become complacent. 

"However, studying the past is useful insofar as it guides improvement for the future. I’m glad that Chairman Carper has chosen to focus this hearing on the constructive ways that the Commission and the industry have addressed those shortcomings rather than simply Monday-morning-quarterbacking a 30-year-old event. 

"Even though there were no discernable health effects, the Three Mile Island accident was a transformational event.  Many analyses of this accident were done, cataloging the various equipment malfunctions, design flaws, human errors, and poor communication.  The analyses formed the basis for the NRC to impose many new regulatory requirements and for the industry to establish a more coordinated effort to improve safety and performance.  The most important lesson is the need for both the industry and the regulator to be vigilant about improving the safety of nuclear energy.  As Sen. Carper is fond of saying, “If it isn’t perfect, make it better.”

"This vigilance is very evident in the effort to license new plants.  The NRC has indicated to this Committee that it will spend approximately 5 years reviewing new reactor designs before granting certifications.  While I’m not thrilled with how long that process takes, the current process will be more predictable and is clearly an improvement over how new plant licensing was conducted in the seventies and eighties.  Modern technology has also yielded great improvements in plant equipment reliability and control rooms that reduce the potential for human error.

"No one should be pleased that the accident happened.  But I AM very pleased that the Commission and the industry have spent the last 30 years improving the safety of our existing plants and preparing to build new reactors that are even safer.  This vigilance will ensure that our country will continue to benefit from clean and reliable nuclear energy for years to come.  This is the true legacy of Three Mile Island."

The Need for Transportation Investment

On Wednesday, March 25, EPW held a full committee hearing to discuss the need for investment in our nation's transportation infrastructure system. Senator Inhofe delivered the following remarks:


"Thank you, Chairman Boxer.  I appreciate the opportunity to examine the investment needs of our nation’s transportation system.  This next bill will be my fourth authorization, and I believe 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 investment levels.

"The link between a robust economy and a strong transportation infrastructure is undeniable, yet when it comes to other spending priorities in the federal government, transportation is often neglected.  We cannot continue to rely on investments made over 50 years ago. 

"Since the Highway Trust Fund has historically maintained high balances, it has become a favorite funding source for all surface transportation activities, while maintaining the highway users as the only revenue stream into the fund. As this Committee addresses growing infrastructure investment needs, with limited resources on hand, we will need to be bold in re-evaluating our highest national transportation priorities.

"I was disappointed that the Stimulus Plan signed last month provided less than 7% of spending for all classes of infrastructure, and highways was only about 3%.  This level of funding for highways in an economic stimulus bill is unacceptable, as it largely ignores the immediate job creation and economic growth associated with infrastructure investment.  In response to this insufficient level of investment, Senator Boxer and I worked together to craft an amendment that, if successfully added to the package, would have provided an additional $50 billion for highways, transit, and clean and safe drinking water without increasing the size of the bill.  Unfortunately, this was blocked. 

"It is important to note that the $27.5 billion for highways in stimulus is in no way a substitute for the hundreds of billions needed to address our nation’s infrastructure crisis.  In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation calculates that the backlog of projects needed to simply maintain our nation’s current highway and bridge network is $495 billion and growing.

"As we wait for a re-authorization proposal to emerge from the Administration, I would encourage President Obama to prioritize the transportation needs of this country.  Now more than ever, we cannot afford to ignore the needs of our aging highway network."

Endangerment Finding Impacts: Temperature Control

The history behind EPA’s proposed endangerment finding dates back to 1999, when the International Center for Technology Assessment, joined by Greenpeace, the Green Party of Rhode Island, the Earth Day Network, and 15 other organizations, filed a petition with EPA demanding that it regulate greenhouse gas emissions from “new motor vehicles.” (The petition was inspired, we should note, by the “Cannon” memo that said CO2 is a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, and EPA could regulate it.)  These groups urged the “[EPA] Administrator to reduce the effects of global warming by regulating the emission of greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles.”  In the landmark Supreme Court case of Massachusetts v. EPA, they successfully argued that auto emissions were causing global warming, which, in turn, was eroding Massachusetts coastline.  The remedy, they said, was to control greenhouse gas emissions from cars.  All of this begs an obvious question: what effect would EPA regulation of tailpipe emissions actually have on global temperature?   

FACT: In recent testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee on the climate impacts of regulating carbon emissions, Dr. John Christy of the University of Alabama-Huntsville found that such regulations would be “an undoubtedly expensive proposition” and would have “virtually no climate impact.”  As Christy said, “I calculated, using IPCC climate models, that even if the entire country adopts these rules, the net impact would be at most one hundredth of a degree by 2100.   Further, he said, “even if the entire world did the same, the effect would be less than four hundredths of a degree by 2100, an amount so tiny we cannot even measure it with instruments, let alone notice it in any way.” 

Endangerment Finding Impacts: An Historic Day

According to the Washington Post, the Environmental Protection Agency will propose that greenhouse gases, including CO2, a gas necessary to sustaining life on Earth, endanger public health and welfare.  This is a move that, according to the Post, “could have far-reaching implications for the nation’s economy and environment.”  Predictably, environmental groups, which have been agitating for this outcome for years, were gushing with delight over this latest action by EPA.  “This is historic news,” said Clean Air Watch’s Frank O’Donnell.  “It will set the stage for the first-ever national limits on global warming pollution.”  David Bookbinder, an attorney with the Sierra Club, was equally effusive: “They’re making all the right decisions.”


FACT: EPA’s finding is indeed historic news, for the simple fact that it will enlarge EPA’s regulatory reach to an unprecedented degree, extending it into every corner of the US economy, causing enormous economic damage.  According to Peter Glaser, a national legal expert on the Clean Air Act, an endangerment finding will lead to new EPA regulations covering virtually everything, including “office buildings, apartment buildings, warehouse and storage buildings, educational buildings, health care buildings such as hospitals and assisted living facilities, hotels, restaurants, religious worship buildings, public assembly buildings, supermarkets, retail malls, agricultural facilities…and many others.”  An array of new development projects could be delayed, perhaps for several years, causing “an economic train wreck.”  This conclusion was supported recently by the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis, which found that EPA’s new carbon regulations would destroy over 800,000 jobs and result in a cumulative GDP loss of $7 trillion by 2029. 

Endangerment Finding Impacts: Endangering Farmers, the Elderly, and Construction Workers

Once EPA makes a finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare under the Clean Air Act, who, specifically, would be affected?  As EPA’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) makes clear, an endangerment finding would lead to regulations covering nearly every facet of the American economy.  In reading through comments filed in the regulatory docket, one is struck by how broadly the Clean Air Act would apply once an endangerment finding is made—especially to sources that have hitherto never come under the ambit of the Act.  EPA received thousands of public comments from various industries and groups that expressed concern and outright opposition—on issues of cost, competitiveness, jobs, and administrative complexity—to greenhouse gas regulation under the CAA.  The following excerpts, taken from comments filed on the ANPR, speak for themselves:


American Association of Housing Services for the Aging


Link to Letter


“The members of AAHSA ( help millions of individuals and their families every day through mission-driven, not-for-profit organizations dedicated to providing the services that people need, when they need them, in the place they call home. Our 5,700 member organizations, many of which have served their communities for generations, offer the continuum of aging services: adult day services, home health, community services, senior housing, assisted living residences, continuing care retirement communities and nursing homes.

“AAHSA opposes regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act is not suited to regulate greenhouse gases, as the EPA administrator and several other federal agencies have opined. In addition, if the EPA regulates greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, many AAHSA members could be subject to costly and burdensome Clean Air Act programs. For example, health care facilities with 51,000 square feet or greater would be subject to the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permitting requirements. This would require such facilities to get a PSD permit prior to new construction or modifications... Finally, there is also the possibility that health care facilities would need to obtain Title V operating permits from the EPA one year from when greenhouse gases become regulated, which would add to the already stressed budgets of nonprofit health care facilities.”


Family Dairies USA


 Link to Letter


“Family Dairies USA is a dairy cooperative with 3600 members located in a six state area in the Upper Midwest of the United, States.  Our members are involved in production Agriculture meaning that a majority of them produce the crops that feed the cows that produce the milk which feeds the nation…We are opposed to the current regulations relating to greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act as it relates to production agriculture.

“Title V requires that any entity emitting more than 100 tons per year of regulated pollutant must obtain a permit in order to continue to operate. EPA has no choice but to require these permits once an endangerment finding is made.  USDA has stated that any operation with more than 25 dairy cows emits more than 100 tons of carbon and would have to obtain permits under Title V in order to continue to operate if GHG are regulated. Title V is administered by the states, and permit fees (tax) varies from state to state. EPA sets a "presumptive minimum rate" for permits, and that rate is $43.75 per ton for 2008-2009. For states charging the $43 .75 per ton rate, the cow fee (tax) for dairy would be $175 per cow.

“The cow tax would impose a significant added cost for our dairy farmers that cannot easily be absorbed…Imposition of the tax will cause many operators to go out of business and would likely raise prices for the products they produce.” 

Mark Magney, President, Magney Construction

Link to Letter


“We are a mid-sized construction firm…We employee 30 full time staff and have been in business since 1994. We primarily engage in the construction of Water and Wastewater Treatment Facilities throughout the upper Midwest We believe that the CAA is ill-suited for regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and that EPA should not move forward with a proposed rule or other regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under the CAA.  Doing so could easily delay, if not halt, all future building and highway construction. New construction and renovation are vital to our economy and to future improvement of the environmental performance of our nation's infrastructure, and must be allowed to continue.”

Statement on Cannon Withdrawal from EPA Nomination

Matt Dempsey, Communications Director for Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, commented Wednesday on Jon Cannon’s announcement of his voluntary withdrawal from consideration to be Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.  

“We were surprised to learn today about Jon Cannon’s decision to remove his name from consideration to be Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.  

“At a recent staff meeting, as part of the normal oversight process for nominees, Inhofe committee staff questioned Mr. Cannon regarding an EPA Inspector General report on America’s Clean Water Foundation, on which Mr. Cannon served as a board member.   According to the report, the organization mismanaged $25 million in taxpayer-funded grants.  Through his leadership position on the EPW Committee, Senator Inhofe has long made EPA grant oversight a priority.  

“I want to make clear, however, that at the meeting Inhofe staff expressed to Mr. Cannon that, though the organization committed serious missteps in managing federal grants, it did not warrant opposition to his nomination.”   

Nomination of Thomas L. Strickland

Thursday morning, March 26, 2009, Senator Inhofe delivered this opening statement at the EPW Committee Hearing on the nomination of Thomas Strickland for Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of Interior.


"Good morning. We are here today to consider the nomination of Thomas Strickland for Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of Interior.

"The Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of Interior is responsible for overseeing many important programs at the Department.  Most notable to this Committee is the management of the US Fish and Wildlife Services and the implementation of the Endangered Species Act.

"Mr. Strickland, I am very troubled by the Service’s recent congressional mandate to revise and reissue ESA rules concerning the listing of the polar bear and modifications to the Section 7 consultation process.  My concern is not that reasonable minds disagree about whether these are good rules or about the Department’s authority to properly revisit the rules.  Rather, I am appalled that Congress has given the Services the unusual authority to waive all requirements for public input and allowances for legal objections under the Administrative Procedures Act while dictating that these rules be revised within what is now less than 60 days.

"Given the Majority’s constant complaints to the last Administration about the lack of process, it is at the very least ironic they would be so bold as to willfully set aside rules protecting public input and transparency.  Should you be confirmed, I strongly urge you to use your authority to ensure that guarantees of public process in the APA are followed when revising the polar bear and consultation rules.  Anything less will be taken as an abdication of this Administration’s commitment to transparency and integrity. More importantly, it will certainly start you off on the wrong foot with the Republicans on this Committee.  

"Aside from the controversies associated with ESA, the Fish and Wildlife Service does a great deal of good.  One of the programs I am particularly interested in is the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, which conserves habitat by leveraging federal funds through voluntary private landowner participation. I look forward to working with you on this and other issues.

"I am anxious to hearing your perspectives on the issues that will be raised today.  Most importantly, I welcome you to the Committee.

"I am sorry that Jon Cannon is not here today. I was surprised to learn about his decision to remove his name from consideration to be Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. As part of the oversight process, my staff met with Mr. Cannon and questioned him about grants received by a foundation on which he was a board member. My staff made it clear that though the organization committed serious missteps in managing federal grants, it did not warrant opposition to Mr. Cannon’s nomination. I have long made EPA grant oversight a priority, and I am looking forward to working with the next nominee to be Deputy Administrator."