Friday, June 3, 2011

The Week Ahead...

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety and Subcommittee on Children's Health and Environmental Responsibility will hold a hearing entitled, "Air Quality and Children's Health."

The hearing will take place on Wednesday, June 8 at 10 AM in room 406 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Hearings are open to the public and are streamed live on the EPW website:  http://www.epw.senate.gov/.

Inhofe Vows to Block John Bryson Nomination for Commerce

Senator Inhofe commented Tuesday on the announcement that President Obama has selected John Bryson to serve as the next Secretary of Commerce.

"By selecting John Bryson to head the Department of Commerce, President Obama is clearly demonstrating that he has no intention of backing down from his job-killing agenda," Senator Inhofe said. "In fact, it is understandable that President Obama would select John Bryson as his nominee: he is a founder of a radical environmental organization and a member of a United Nations advisory group on climate change.  Mr. Bryson once called the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill 'moderate'.  This is legislation that would cost American taxpayers billions of dollars, destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs, and hurt families and workers by raising the price of gasoline and electricity. I will be working actively to defeat this nomination."   

Link to Video: Obama Commerce Nominee Bryson on Support for "Hidden Carbon Tax" 

Link to Video: Obama Commerce Nominee Bryson on Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill: "Moderate But Acceptable"  

In the News...Tulsa World: State sues EPA over regional haze plan

Tulsa World 

State sues EPA over regional haze plan

By BARBARA HOBEROCK

June 01, 2011

Link to Article 

OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Tuesday sued the Environmental Protection Agency, alleging the federal agency violated its procedures in rejecting a state plan to reduce emissions from three coal-fired power plants.

Pruitt said the EPA is formulating its own plan to reduce regional haze, a move that would be costly to electricity consumers.

"It is estimated the federal implementation plan the EPA is proposing for the state of Oklahoma could potentially cost the state $2 billion to $2.5 billion where we will be required to place scrubbers on every coal-fired plant in the state of Oklahoma," Pruitt said. "If that occurs, our utility rates it is projected in the state of Oklahoma will go up 13 to 20 percent in a three-year period."

Pruitt announced the lawsuit Tuesday during a news conference with Corporation Commission Chairwoman Dana Murphy and Oklahoma Environmental Secretary Gary Sherrer.

The suit was filed in federal court in Oklahoma City. Lisa P. Jackson, EPA administrator, is the defendant.

"While the EPA appreciates the opportunity to comment on the action filed by Oklahoma's attorney general today, we are unable to do so until a thorough review has been completed," the agency said in a statement.

The EPA wants the state's oldest coal-fired power plants to switch to cleaner-burning natural gas or install technology to reduce regional haze.

The three plants are operated by American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma northeast of Tulsa in Oologah and Oklahoma Gas & Electric near Muskogee and in north-central Oklahoma.

"According to the Clean Air Act, it is the responsibility of the state to create a plan to improve visibility and reduce regional haze in wildlife areas, and we are intent on preserving that right," Pruitt said. "By ignoring Oklahoma's plan, the EPA not only usurped the right of Oklahoma to set its own energy policy, but violated the process required by the Regional Haze Rule."

The requirements of the act are aesthetic and not health related, Pruitt said.

Gov. Mary Fallin called the EPA's decision federal overreach.

"I applaud Attorney General Pruitt for drawing this line in the sand and telling Washington that enough is enough," Fallin said.

Murphy said the Corporation Commission ensures reliable electric service at reasonable rates.

The commission has been concerned about potential drastic increases to utility bills because of the proposed federal requirements, she said.

"It is important Oklahoma consumers know when it comes to environmental mandates, the commission is required by law to allow the utility to charge the consumer the cost of meeting such mandates," Murphy said. "Once the environmental mandate is ordered, the commission's hands are tied to a large extent."

In the News...Tulsa World: Inhofe predicts transportation bill will fall short

Tulsa World 

Inhofe predicts transportation bill will fall short

By JIM MYERS

June 01, 2011

Link to Article 

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, despite what another key player called a breakthrough on the next major transportation bill, predicted that effort will fall far short of a much-delayed six-year measure.

"It is going to end up a two-year bill," the Oklahoma Republican said, conceding he shares the disappointment that states and others will no doubt voice.

"We can't do it. The money is just not there."

To even get that scaled-down version through with the support of his fellow Republicans, Inhofe said he had to give in and make elimination of all earmarks part of the announcement issued last week by a group of key transportation players in the Senate.

Inhofe, who refuses to take a backseat to anyone when it comes to conservative principles, again blamed other Republicans for demagoguing the earmark issue and handing a huge victory to the Obama administration, which, he said, now will get to determine which projects get funded.

In Oklahoma, Inhofe said, state Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley will help in deciding priorities and predicted those would track the projects he would want funded.

The two men have maintained a close working relationship for years.

Last week Sen. Barbara Boxer, chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee; Inhofe, that panel's ranking member; and two other top players on transportation released what Boxer described as a major breakthrough on the next massive authorization measure.

In addition to eliminating all earmarks, the statement also covered consolidation of the numerous programs to focus resources on national goals, an enhanced freight program to improve the movement of goods and reforms to an existing program that provides loans and loan guarantees on projects.

Boxer, not as ready as Inhofe to concede a six-year bill is not possible, laid out a schedule that gets a bill, whatever its size, in front of the committee before the July Fourth holiday.

"We are ready to rock and roll," Boxer, D-Calif., told reporters.

She expressed hope that a six-year approach would authorize around $339 billion, when enhanced by the other reforms, and would come much closer to the total sought by the administration.

Inhofe expressed doubts about just how much the changes would end up boosting the final figure.

Differences also cropped up between the two on projects such as bike paths and walkways.

Boxer said all modes of transportation should be covered, while Inhofe made it clear the committee should keep its focus on projects such as bridges and highways.

"She was not speaking for me," he said.

Oklahoman Editorial: Oklahoma AG sues to stop EPA

Oklahoman Editorial

Oklahoma AG sues to stop EPA's scrubber plan

June 2, 2011

Link to Editorial 

Less than six months after taking office, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is making good on campaign promises to challenge the federal government for legislative and bureaucratic overreach.

An example is the Environmental Protection Agency's rejection of a state mitigation plan regarding the "regional haze" that the EPA claims is adversely affecting federal wildlife refuges. Rather than accepting a plan endorsed by utilities and state environmental officials, the EPA has ordered a harsh and expensive remedy for haze linked to coal-fired power plants.

Rather than bail out of the fight and accept EPA's diktat, Pruitt has sued the agency. Gov. Mary Fallin, a fellow Republican who has a similar anti-federal bureaucracy worldview, praised Pruitt's decision to commit state resources to this battle.

If Pruitt's challenge fails, not only will taxpayers be out the cost of the challenge but electricity consumers - all of us - will be forced to cover the enormous costs ($1 billion plus for OG&E customers alone) of outfitting older coal-fired plants with pollution scrubbers.

The state's plan stressed a gradual conversion of electrical generation to natural gas-fired plants, a cleaner alternative that has the advantage of using gas extracted within the state. The EPA's intransigence means Wyoming coal will continue to make power here.

The anti-business Sierra Club and the EPA care little about the cost to consumers. For them, a billion here and a billion there are worth it to force their narrow agenda on the rest of us.

In the News...E&E News: Inhofe calls for hearings on EPA paint rule

E&E News

Inhofe calls for hearings on EPA paint rule

By Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E reporter

June 1, 2011

Link to Article

Link to Letter 

The top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is calling for oversight hearings on U.S. EPA's implementation of its lead-based paint renovation rule.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and seven other Republican senators sent a letter Friday urging Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to convene a hearing on the agency's Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) regulation.

"We agree that it is vitally important to protect children and pregnant women from exposure to lead-based paint," the letter said. "Unfortunately the implementation has been inconsistent and confusing."

The LRRP rule was finalized in April of last year and requires contractors to obtain certification in lead-safe work practices before renovating properties built before 1978, when lead was banned from use in residences (Greenwire, April 23, 2010).

Lead poses health risks to the central nervous system, particularly in children. Despite the government ban, it is still present in millions of homes built before 1978.

Inhofe also took aim at proposed amendments to the rule that EPA sent to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) this April. One of the proposed measures would require "clearance testing" following renovations to ensure lead is not present in homes.

"EPA is also proposing substantial changes to the rule and it is important that we understand these changes and their effects," the Oklahoman wrote.

Inhofe noted that the flooding on the Mississippi River and April tornadoes provide another reason for closely examining the LRRP rule. "There will be thousands of homes requiring extensive renovation and it is vital that we understand how these EPA rules will affect families and communities trying to rebuild," Inhofe wrote.

The letter also was signed by Republican Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana, Mike Crapo of Idaho, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, John Boozman of Arkansas, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

Inhofe has been a frequent critic of EPA's implementation of the lead rule. In late April, he sent a letter to the White House urging it to reconsider how the agency planned to put the amendments into action (Greenwire, April 28). The Republican also called for hearings last month, arguing that EPA lacked sufficient evidence for the amendments and that they would be costly for contractors (Greenwire, April 19).

Last year, Republican criticism of the implementation of the EPA rule led to a Senate vote on legislation that would have temporarily blocked EPA from using funds to fine noncompliant contractors. That measure passed the upper chamber with 60 votes but stalled in the House.

Click here to read the letter.

EPW Roundup: What They Are Saying About Obama Commerce Nominee Bryson

WATCH: FOX Business: Inhofe Discusses Opposition to Commerce Nomination - John Bryson  - Senator Inhofe was on Fox Business Wed night discussing concerns regarding President Obama's nomination of John Byrson to head the Department of Commerce. Read Inhofe's statement on Bryson here.

WATCH: Fox News: Tough Road Ahead for Commerce Nominee Bryson

Washington Examiner: Crony capitalist Bryson should be rejected at Commerce - Several weeks ago, determined Senate Republicans united with conscientious Democrats to defeat President Obama's nomination of Berkeley Law School professor Goodwin Liu to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. As the first Obama judicial nominee to be defeated, the Liu confirmation battle could prove to be the high-water mark of Obama's campaign to put radical left-wing activists in charge of as many federal courts, departments and agencies as possible. Liu failed because senators examined the professor's writing and concluded that he would use the legal system whenever possible to expand federal authority into every nook and cranny of American life. Enough senators were sufficiently disturbed by the prospect that Liu fell eight votes short of the 60 required for confirmation. Now comes John Bryson, chairman, president and CEO of BrightSource Inc. and Obama's pick to head the U.S. Department of Commerce. Despite White House efforts to portray Bryson as an innovative, creative business executive, he is actually, as The Washington Examiner's Tim Carney made clear in yesterday's edition, another in the long list of crony capitalists who share Obama's belief that government should pick winners and losers in the economy. Success in the Obama-Bryson world doesn't come from profitably providing needed goods and services to consumers at affordable prices. Rather, crony capitalists make it by cultivating the right political connections and manipulating government regulations to guarantee profits and limit competition. [...] Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., has vowed to block Bryson. His Senate colleagues would be wise to follow the Oklahoman's lead.  

IBD: A Disaster At Commerce - The nominee for commerce secretary founded an anti-energy group and believes in redistribution of wealth to help poorer nations. At this rate, we'll be one of them. If personnel is policy, there can be no better choice to help implement President Obama's anti-growth energy policy and redistribution of wealth plans than his choice to be the next secretary of commerce, John Bryson. One would think that the former CEO of power company Edison International would have a more practical view of energy development and management. But he's earned Rep. Darrell Issa's description of him as a "green evangelist." Bryson also spent time as an environmental lawyer and co-founder of the National Resources Defense Council, perhaps the most anti-energy, anti-growth progressive group on the planet. He has served as an adviser on energy and climate issues to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at a time when the U.N. was pushing anti-growth climate change treaties based on fraudulent and doctored data.

Wall Street Journal: Secretary of Subsidy - Fortunately for BrightSource, its efforts are sustained by an impressive array of federal, state and local subsidies, including a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, one of the largest solar guarantees on record. The company notes federal provisions providing solar projects with a 30% investment tax credit through 2016, as well as accelerated depreciations of capital costs for solar entities, among other goodies. The risk is that the subsidy spigot could someday be turned off as voters get wise to the high costs, economic inefficiencies and unintended environmental side-effects of renewables. That's a possibility the filing acknowledges, though it adds brightly that it expects demand to "continue to increase as a result of regulatory policies and incentives put in place to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and improve energy security." As an example, it points to California legislation requiring retail energy sellers to "derive 33% of the energy they supply from renewable energy sources by 2020."  Which brings us back to the President's praise for Mr. Bryson as an innovator. All technologies-including those connected to renewables-involve risk, and entrepreneurship means taking chances on innovation. But a core conceit of this Administration's economic policy is that it can achieve better results if government allocates capital to favored companies rather than letting private markets do the job. The results so far have been as underwhelming as the current economic recovery. In nominating Mr. Bryson, Mr. Obama has chosen a man who would appear to believe wholeheartedly in this model of politicized investment. Senators might want to ask the nominee whether he represents a vision of "commerce" that bears any relation to what is supposed to happen in a free market.

Washington Examiner: Carney: At Commerce, A Private Hand in the Public Glove - President Obama's choice to lead the Commerce Department is a revolving-door former regulator who has spent his private-sector career earning millions from government-granted monopolies that depend on subsidies for their profits. John Bryson was CEO of Southern California Edison; he's a director at Boeing, Disney, and electric-car maker Coda Automotive; and he's chairman of the board at solar energy giant BrightSource.  All of these businesses rely heavily on government subsidies and government protection. This is a virtue in the eyes of Obama, who said Bryson has "the expertise that will help us create new jobs and make America more competitive in the global economy." Bryson began his career by creating an environmental litigation group, the Natural Resources Defense Council. He parlayed this gig of suing governments and businesses into top appointments in the late 1970s from Gov. Jerry Brown. After a three-year stint as president of California's Public Utility Commission, Bryson cashed out in 1984 to California's largest public utility, Edison International, parent company of Southern California Edison. Edison's CEO, Howard Allen, had handpicked Bryson, grooming him to take over the company, which he did in 1990. Running a regulated utility is pretty different from running any other sort of business: Bryson was operating a monopoly, protected by the government from competition, and with rates set by the government. Southern California Edison didn't need to win over customers by improving its product or lowering prices. Instead, the company's profits depended on its ability to persuade politicians and bureaucrats to approve its rate increases -- not easy, for sure, but hardly the stuff of enterprise. Bryson's other employers aren't government-enforced monopolies, but they are clients of the corporate-welfare state.

ACU: Bryson Nomination Should Be Stopped  - The American Conservative Union called on conservatives in the Senate to oppose the nomination of John Bryson as Secretary of Commerce. ACU Chairman Al Cardenas said  it is "outrageous that a leading proponent of the job-killing cap and trade bill be put in charge of the agency tasked with helping American business create jobs." "The Natural Resources Defense Council, which Bryson co-founded, has worked for 40 years to impose mandates, expand government regulation and impose a national energy tax that has hurt small business and stifled job creation," Cardenas said.  "Putting John Bryson in charge of the Commerce Department is the dictionary definition of putting the fox in charge of the hen house." Cardenas also urged the Senate to look into Bryson's revolving door career moves, including his stint as President of one of the California Public Utilities Commission, then leaving to become an executive and later CEO of the largest utilities under his jurisdiction, Southern California Edison, which later became Edison International. Cardenas praised Senator Jim Inhofe for publicly opposing the Bryson nomination and said ACU will activate its grassroots and social media networks to urge other Senate conservatives to join Inhofe to block confirmation.

Economist: Treehugging and Internationalism  - The choice of John Bryson to be Barack Obama's second commerce secretary has not gone down well with a certain sort of Republican senator, who notes that he embodies two of their pet hates: tree hugging and internationalism. Not only did he co-found the Natural Resources Defence Council, a green lobby group, he sits on an anti-climate-change committee of the, shudder, United Nations. This may make even tougher what was shaping up to be a tricky Senate approval, given earlier talk that Republicans would try to block any appointment as commerce secretary until three agreed bilateral trade deals currently becalmed in Congress are ratified.

Daily Caller: Obama's Commerce Nominee Comes with Green Past  - President Obama's nominee for Commerce secretary, John Bryson, is good news for the environmental community and his nomination could foreshadow a renewed White House push for cap and trade. Bryson has a long history in the environmental community. He was one of the original co-founders of the Natural Resources Defense Council. From 1976 6o 1979, Bryson was chairman of the California State Water Resources Control Board. Then, from 1979 to 1982, he was president of the California Public Utilities Commission. After that, Bryson led the electric utility company Edison International, until his retirement in 2008. He was at the helm of the company when an energy crisis struck the state of California from 2000-2003. The crisis not only forced competitor PG&E into bankruptcy, it created a slew of political troubles for then-Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. Bryson was also present during the 2006 global warming meeting between then-Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The two leaders signed a deal to agree to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat global warming.

NewsBusters: Obama's Commerce Nominee: Cap and Trade Good for ‘Hiding' Carbon Taxes  - John Bryson, President Obama's nominee to head the Commerce Department, told a University of California Berkeley audience in 2010 that a cap and trade system was a good way to hide a carbon tax from the public. Bryson, formerly the CEO of Edison International, said that a carbon tax was the new "third rail" of politics because politicians wouldn't want to tax energy directly. "I think it's still unlikely there'll be a carbon tax bill because I think in the end a very high percentage of the members of Congress think it's kind of the third rail to support a tax, even if it's a carbon tax," Bryson said. "Greenhouse gas legislation, either with a tax or with cap and trade - which is a more complicated way of getting at it but it has the advantage of politically sort of hiding the fact that you have a tax - but that's what you're trying to do," he added. Bryson said that carbon taxes - whether open or hidden in a cap and trade regime - were still not the best way to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gasses. The best way, he said, was a robust system of regulations that penalized energy producers for producing more energy than the government deemed necessary. "In the great debate between economists and others about whether we ought to be proceeding primarily with market signals or regulatory steps, I believe we ought to do both," He said. "But the regulatory steps act right now [with] immediate requirements."