Friday, April 15, 2011

Inhofe Welcomes Local Hearings on EPAs Rejection of Oklahoma Haze Plan

Senator Inhofe applauded the hearings held this week in Tulsa and Oklahoma City to address the concerns raised by Oklahomans about the Environmental Protection Agency's recent decision to reject Oklahoma's reasonable and affordable plan to reduce regional haze and improve visibility in national parks in favor of more costly federal regulations.  This decision could result in higher monthly electricity bills for Oklahomans, without any additional environmental benefits.  In response, Senator Inhofe also released draft legislation Thursday to address these concerns.  Senator Inhofe said,

"I applaud the Environmental Protection Agency for convening hearings in Oklahoma City and Tulsa this week on its rejection of Oklahoma's regional haze plan. EPA's decision could cost state utilities $2 billion, and Oklahoma families, farmers and manufacturers would undoubtedly foot the bill.

"Today I am releasing draft legislation that will provide a solution for Oklahoma and other states dealing with the same regulatory concerns.  My bill will ensure that policies to reduce regional haze and improve visibility in national parks, which affect local families, farmers, and businesses, are made by local governments to the greatest extent possible.  Importantly, the discussion draft will only affect the federal-state relationship on visibility regulations; it will not affect any regulations directly related to public health. 

"I have released a 'discussion draft' so that I can consider the comments delivered at the public hearings, and incorporate those comments into the legislation accordingly.  I look forward to working with Oklahomans to ensure that the state's concerns are heard in Washington, D.C.   

"The bottom line is that states can achieve affordable energy while continuing progress on reducing emissions - and they can do it without an EPA takeover.  I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to empower states and rein in the EPA bureaucracy."

Link to Discussion Draft

Link to Inhofe Op Ed: State, not EPA, should address regional haze power costs (Tulsa World)  

Inhofe Welcomes Testimony from Oklahoman Jeff Cloud on Hydraulic Fracturing

Senator Inhofe was pleased to thank the Honorable Jeff Cloud, Vice Chairman of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, for his testimony on Tuesday before the EPW Committee on how Oklahoma is regulating hydraulic fracturing. 

 

Jeff Cloud, Vice Chairman, Oklahoma Corporation Commission

Link to Cloud Opening Statement (Video)

Link to Inhofe Questions Cloud and Neslin (Video)

Link to Inhofe Opening Statement (Video)

Link to Facebook Photos 

Link to Tulsa World: 'Fracking' is termed eco-safe at hearing

Link to Oklahoman: Senate committee holds hearing on fracking

Senator Inhofe said:  

"I was pleased to welcome the Vice Chairman of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission before the EPW Committee today to discuss Oklahoma's long and successful history of regulating hydraulic fracturing. Jeff's experience and expertise as a state regulator are invaluable as Congress considers the role of the federal government in regulating hydraulic fracturing.  I believe Jeff put it best today when he said, ‘Oklahoma's record makes it clear that state regulation is the best way' to ensure that our water and environment are protected, without impeding access to the vital resources that we need to strengthen our energy security and our economy.'"

"Jeff's testimony, along with Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Director David Neslin, provided our Committee with great insight into the effectiveness of State regulation."

Oklahoma has long been a leader in natural gas production, and hydraulic fracturing plays a key role in providing affordable, domestic energy."

Senator Cardin (D-Maryland), who chaired the joint Full-Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife hearing, complemented Oklahoma and Colorado for their leadership in developing state regulatory programs. Senator Cardin said, "I do want to compliment the states of Colorado and states of Oklahoma who have taken aggressive action to protect the public health of their citizens. I think we need to learn from best practices and we have seen some of that catch on from other states."

Background:

Since the first use of hydraulic fracturing on March 17, 1949 near Duncan Oklahoma, states have been regulating the process effectively and efficiently, and there has not been one confirmed case of groundwater contamination.  As Vice Chairman Cloud explained,

Hydraulic fracturing has been used for over 60 years in Oklahoma, and more than 100,000 Oklahoma wells have been hydraulically fractured over that period. Over that more than half century of hydraulic frac experience, there has not been a single documented instance of contamination to groundwater or drinking water as result of hydraulic fracturing.

Vice Chairman Cloud also explained the robust and meticulous process in place for the state regulation of fracking to ensure that water supplies are safe:

To say we take protection of our water quality seriously would be an understatement. Our rules are constantly reviewed and updated with that in mind. Our rules include a general prohibition against pollution of any surface or subsurface fresh water from well completion activities [....] Without the need for any federal intervention, the City of Oklahoma City, the regulated oil and gas industry and the State worked together to come up with acceptable protections because we all realize that it is in our mutual best interest to ensure proper and practical water and environmental protections without cutting off access to critical resources.

EPW Hearing Highlights Problems with Corn Ethanol Mandate

Sen. Inhofe welcomed Wednesday's EPW Committee hearing on federal ethanol policy, which was held at his request. 

Link to Inhofe Hearing Statement and Video

"I want to thank Chairman Boxer for holding this important oversight hearing today on federal ethanol policy," Senator Inhofe said. "I requested this hearing to address concerns raised by my constituents in Oklahoma about the lack of access to ethanol-free gasoline. Their concerns are valid: certain blends of ethanol in gasoline may cause engine damage and decrease fuel economy.

"With the passage of the 2007 energy bill, Congress pushed too much corn ethanol too fast.  Due to the 15 billion gallon corn ethanol mandate, many gas stations are now no longer able to sell clear gasoline, which many consumers prefer.  In response, I will be introducing legislation soon that, in part, allows a state to use so-called clear gasoline instead of corn-based ethanol.  My bill would allow for fuel producers to respond to market demands-specifically, when and where consumers prefer clear gas. 

"As I have noted on several occasions, Oklahoma - and the Noble foundation in particular - is well known for its work on cellulosic biofuels.  My bill would not affect other portions of the renewable fuel standard affecting cellulosic or advanced biofuels."

Link to Inhofe EPW Webpage: Providing Responsible Oversight of Federal Ethanol Policy

Watch: Inhofe Hearing Statement: Consumers Deserve Ethanol-Free Gasoline Choice at the Pump

Watch: Inhofe Discusses Need for Ethanol-Free Gasoline At Senate Hearing

In the News...Tulsa World: State transportation secretary blasts EPA proposal; highway agency

At an EPW hearing entitled, "Issues for Surface Transportation Authorization" on Thursday, Senator Inhofe thanked the Honorable Gary Ridley, Secretary of Transportation for the State of Oklahoma for his testimony on how to streamline transportation projects while protecting the environment. 

Senator Inhofe welcomes Secretary Ridley at the EPW hearing

Link to Inhofe Opening Statement: Issues for Surface Transportation Authorization

Watch: Sec. Ridley Opening Statement

Watch: Inhofe/Ridley Discuss Ways To Keep Highway Dollars Focused on Roads/Bridges

Read about Ridley's testimony and the hearing in the Tulsa World:  

Tulsa World

State transportation secretary blasts EPA proposal; highway agency

By Jim Myers

April 14, 2011

Link to Article  

WASHINGTON -- Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley on Thursday accused one federal agency of running amok by dismissing sound engineering judgment and another one of pushing an agenda that will leave Tulsa and other areas on the dirty air list.

Testifying before a U.S. Senate committee, Ridley also took off the gloves when discussing the impact of a number of federal laws and policies on the state. [Ridley Testimony/Video]

The goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act, he said, can be supported without the abandonment of common sense.

Ridley used his oral testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to take on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, whose recent actions have made it a top target of Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe and other Republicans.

Ridley called for air quality standards that both states and the private sector consider reasonable in response to EPA's current efforts that could lead to beefing up ozone standards, a process that has faced multiple delays.

In his written testimony, Ridley also took on the Federal Highway Administration and its changes in a manual that he says blocks states from using "sound engineering judgment.''

The highway administration "is running amok," he wrote, adding the agency's changes are not only unacceptable but will invite litigation.

Asked later about his testimony, which sounded much more aggressive than his statements in previous appearances before Congress, Ridley spoke of the growing frustrations states face in moving transportation projects along.

As the top Republican on the committee, Inhofe is a major player on transportation and environment issues in Congress.

He repeated his concerns over EPA's ozone proposal.

"This creates tremendous confusion for state and local communities and businesses that have to meet the requirements," Inhofe said, accusing the Obama administration of making a political decision to seek a revision of current ozone standards.

EPA has insisted its process is based on science.

Several of the senators used Thursday's hearing to address funding issues that are expected to impact the next rewrite of a massive transportation law.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who chaired the hearing, raised the possibility that Congress could end up with a two-year revision instead of the more traditional six-year approach, which would be viewed as a setback for Oklahoma and other states that historically support the longer period for planning purposes.

"I encourage all of us to step up,'' Baucus said, challenging the witnesses to get involved in helping Congress find a way to fund a six-year version.

When specifically asked for his opinion, Ridley declined, saying he did not think he should tell Congress how to fund a transportation measure.

EPW Sends Boxer-Inhofe Jobs Bill to Senate Floor

Senator Inhofe worked with Senator Barbara Boxer to pass S. 782, the Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011 - bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Economic Development Administration (EDA) - out of committee on Thursday.  Senator Inhofe said,

"I am pleased to work with Chairman Boxer to reauthorize the Economic Development Administration.  EDA has proven to be helpful in promoting job creation, especially in communities where jobs and economic opportunities are scarce.  For years, EDA has leveraged federal dollars with private investment, with positive returns for the American taxpayer.  I look forward to passing this bill and continuing the success of EDA for Oklahoma and the nation." 

Background:

The current multi-year authorization for the Economic Development Administration expired on September 30, 2009. The Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011 would authorize EDA for 2011 through 2015 at $500 million per year.  EDA has a proven track record of job creation and leveraging investment.  Between 2005 and 2010, EDA awarded $1.2 billion in construction-related and revolving loan fund projects.  The investments are expected to create more than 314,000 jobs, and each dollar of EDA funding is expected to attract nearly seven dollars in private sector investment.  S. 782 makes important changes to EDA programs to ensure funding reaches communities with the most severe needs in a timely manner. 

Inhofe Op-Ed: Less federal control over state waters (The Hill)

The Hill 

Op-Ed: Less federal control over state waters

By Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.)

April 14, 2011 

Link to Op-Ed

If you spend time in Washington, you will hear endless chatter about global warming, creating the impression that Americans are clamoring for action. But according to a Gallup poll released in March, despite the tens of millions of dollars spent promoting cap-and-trade, global warming ranked lowest on the list of environmental concerns.

Congress should work on what Americans have expressed, according to the Gallup poll, as their top environmental priority: protecting water.

One way to do that is to strengthen state authority over state waterways. When it passed the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1970, Congress recognized the pivotal role of states in protecting water bodies. The CWA clearly states that "it is the policy of Congress to recognize, preserve, and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of States to prevent, reduce, and eliminate pollution."

State officials have intimate familiarity with their water bodies, and understand their economic and recreational uses. Yet states are being overtaken by the Obama Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is tilting the federal-state balance under the Clean Water Act decidedly in favor of Washington.

Last April, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson arranged a forum to "reinvigorate" the Clean Water Act. "I want to see a huge leap forward in water quality like we saw in the '70s after the passage of the Clean Water Act," she said. I couldn't agree more. Of course, we disagree on how that goal should be achieved. EPA has proposed to "increase the regulatory universe" to accelerate progress in clean water. This fits into EPA's regulatory mindset, which holds that greater federal regulation necessarily produces greater environmental benefits. This is simply wrong.

For example, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission has found that "the voluntary aspect" of the non-point source program is "critical to its success in Oklahoma." A regulatory program "to police all the diverse, potentially significant sources of non-point source pollution," the commission found, "would be exceptionally difficult and expensive to implement."

Also consider EPA's plan to regulate the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, which could impede agriculture's substantial progress in reducing pollution. A draft report by the National Resource Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that, due to nutrient management practices, farmers have cut sediment contributions from cultivated cropland to the bay's rivers and streams by 64 percent, nitrogen by 36 percent, and phosphorus by 43 percent.

In recent testimony before the House Agriculture Committee, Carl Shaffer, president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, said: "Farmers in the Bay Watershed have been working diligently for years, if not decades, with local and state governments and other organizations, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, to improve farming practices in order to clean up the bay." But EPA's unnecessary restrictions, Shaffer stated, could upset these partnerships and "fundamentally change the face of agriculture."

One-size-fits-all regulations issued by EPA can be counterproductive and costly. Yet this is exactly the approach EPA is taking, with help from allies in Congress. Consider the Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA), introduced last Congress. This bill, which the Obama administration supports, would strip states of their regulatory flexibility and impose EPA's blanket jurisdiction over nearly all water bodies.

The CWRA was introduced in response to two Supreme Court decisions, dubbed Rapanos and SWANCC (Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County). Those decisions in some measure helped define and restrict federal control over state waters. Supporters of the CWRA oppose these decisions on precisely those grounds - they contend the federal government should have no restrictions on the water bodies it can regulate.

Recent draft guidance from EPA reflects the intent of the CWRA, and shows the agency is ignoring Rapanos and SWANCC. According to the guidance, drafted along with the Army Corps of Engineers, "the Agencies expect that the numbers of waters found to be subject to CWA jurisdiction will increase significantly compared to practices under the 2003 SWANCC guidance and the 2008 Rapanos guidance."

This guidance is reason enough for legislation that restricts the federal government's regulatory reach into state waters. I plan to introduce such legislation in the near future. By clearly delineating the federal government's appropriate role in protecting water, Congress can reset the effective balance between state and federal authority - a balance that has spurred substantial progress in protecting clean water.

Inhofe is ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Inhofe Hearing Statement: Review of the Nuclear Emergency in Japan and Implications for the U.S

Senator Inhofe gave the following statement on Tuesday at a full committee and subcommittee joint hearing on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety entitled, "Review of the Nuclear Emegency in Japan and Implications for the U.S.":   

Chairman Jaczko, I appreciate your efforts to assure the nation that our nuclear plants here in the U.S. are safe.  Administrator Jackson, I also appreciate your repeated reassurances that traces of radioactive materials that have drifted here from Japan will not impact public health. 

I'm sure we all agree that we need to study the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant and learn from it.  As Chairman Jaczko frequently reminds us, we can't be complacent with regard to nuclear safety.  Even so, we can't allow ourselves to be paralyzed by fear.  Harnessing ANY energy source carries some measure of risk that must be safely managed for our nation to prosper.

Ensuring the safe use of nuclear energy is a very serious job.  In 1974, Congress established an independent commission and charged five individuals with the responsibility to protect public health and safety.  The public is best served by a commission that functions collectively and collegially.  I'm concerned that the public may currently be getting less than it deserves.

I was surprised to learn from my staff that Chairman Jaczko has invoked emergency authority and transferred Commission functions to himself in the wake of the earthquake in Japan, especially after speaking with me personally by telephone and appearing before this Committee in a public briefing-and failing to mention it either time.  The law confers emergency authority on the Chairman in the wake of an emergency at a particular facility or materials regulated by the NRC.  At present, I'm not aware that an emergency condition exists at any U.S. facility.

Chairman Jaczko, I want to work with you as the NRC tries to understand what happened in Japan, and what the United States can learn from it.  But our collaboration-indeed, collaboration with all of us in Congress-can only proceed fruitfully if we have openness and transparency.  That applies to your office.  So as we move forward, I hope you will provide us with full and complete information about your activities, and that you will work with your fellow commissioners in the same spirit. 

In that vein, I look forward to your testimony, and yours Administrator Jackson, and to working with both of you on gaining a full understanding of the impact of the Fukushima accident. 

But, before I yield to my colleague, I'd be remiss if I didn't say I'm anxious to see progress on the renominations of Commissioners Ostendorff and Svinicki which I hope President Obama sends us soon.  Given the scope of issues before the Commission, it is important that the agency continues to benefit from their valuable expertise.

Bill to Reduce Largest Environmental Paperwork Burden Passes Committee, Moves to Senate Floor

Senator Inhofe was pleased to be a cosponsor of the Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act (S.710), introduced by Senator John Thune, which passed out of committee on Thursday. 

For the past 25 years, the Environmental Protection Agency has required carbon copy paper manifests to accompany waste materials when they are transported for ultimate storage or disposal, which is commonly referred to as “cradle to grave” documentation.  This bill will modernize the way the federal government and states track the shipment of hazardous waste.  Thune’s original bipartisan electronic manifest legislation (S.3109) was introduced in the 110th Congress and passed the full Senate in September of 2008, but was never taken up by the House of Representatives. Thune’s recently reintroduced legislation will now be sent to the full Senate for consideration.

Senator Inhofe said, “I am pleased to work with Senator Thune on this important bipartisan bill, which has a long history of bipartisan support. And for good reason: this e-manifest system will improve how the federal government tracks the shipment of hazardous waste. It will lessen the paperwork burden on regulated entities, and improve record keeping and federal oversight over hazardous waste transportation, saving $60 - $80 million a year. I look forward to moving this important legislation through the Senate as soon as possible.”

In the News...The Wall Street Journal Editorial: Cap and Evade

The Wall Street Journal 

Editorial: Cap and Evade

How Senate Democrats maneuvered to kill a bill to rein in the EPA's carbon rule.

April 11, 2011

Link to Editorial

Link to Inhofe-Upton Energy Tax Prevention Page

Why do Americans hate politics? Consider last week's Senate spectacle on whether to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency's plans to regulate carbon dioxide. Democrats deliberately turned the votes into a hall of mirrors, with multiple amendments to dodge accountability.

The maneuvering began after Republican Leader Mitch McConnell introduced an amendment that would have barred the EPA from regulating carbon. Congress has never given the EPA that power, and a Democratic Senate expressly rejected cap and tax last year. But Administrator Lisa Jackson's EPA has claimed that power anyway under the 1970 Clean Air Act and later amendments, even though Michigan Democrat John Dingell says that he and other co-authors never intended to include CO2 as a regulated pollutant.

The McConnell amendment scares the incumbency out of Senate Democrats, especially after what happened in last year's election to House Democrats who voted for cap-and-tax regulation. Last week the House voted 255-172 for a bill similar to Mr. McConnell's, and the ayes included 19 Democrats. So what's a nervous liberal to do?

Jumble the categories to confuse the voters. In classic Senate fashion, this means supporting phony alternatives as political cover, then turning around and voting to kill the McConnell amendment.

Democrats weren't taking any chances and offered no fewer than three alternatives. West Virginia's Jay Rockefeller got 12 votes for his proposal to delay the EPA's carbon rule for two years. Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow's bill to exempt agriculture from the rule received seven votes, and Montana's Max Baucus got all of seven votes for his bill that would codify the current EPA rule while also exempting agriculture.

Everyone knew all three would fail overwhelmingly because the GOP leadership and most liberal Democrats opposed them. But the amendments served their political purpose in allowing 13 Democrats to vote for one or another. The Senators will now claim that they, too, voted to rein in the EPA, even as they also whisper to the Sierra Club and other green lobbies that they voted to kill Mr. McConnell's amendment. As Democrats expected, the media ignored all this and merely reported that the effort to limit the EPA had failed. Notice, too, how the green lobbies are keeping quiet lest any crowing embarrass the 13 Democrats.

The McConnell proposal received 50 votes, so it would have reached the 60-vote threshold for passage if those 13 Democrats had voted for it. The nearby table lists the names of those 13 Democrats, along with Maine Republican Susan Collins, who also voted for Mr. Rockefeller's two-year delay but against her own leader's more consequential ban.

It's no coincidence that five of those Democrats are up for re-election in 2012, with Ohio's Sherrod Brown, Pennsylvania's Bob Casey, Missouri's Claire McCaskill, Michigan's Ms. Stabenow and Minnesota's Amy Klobuchar running in states that rely heavily on fossil fuels and would be especially hurt by the EPA rule.

All 13 tacitly acknowledged that the EPA rule will do economic damage because they voted to limit its breadth or delay it for two years. But then they helped to kill the one bill that had the most support and would have done the most to prevent that economic damage.

We have far more respect for Jon Tester, the Montana Democrat who is running for re-election in 2012 and voted against all four bills to limit the EPA. Those votes may hurt him next year, but at least he didn't join the cynics. As for the rest, they are today's reason to hate politics.

In the News...Wash Examiner Editorial: EPAs days as rogue agency are numbered

Washington Examiner

Editorial: EPA's days as 'rogue agency' are numbered

April 9, 2011

Link to Editorial

EPW POLICY BEAT: WHAT IT ALL MEANS

Link to Inhofe-Upton Energy Tax Prevention Page

Lost in the kabuki-dance drama of last week's budget showdown were immensely important votes in the Senate and House on the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to govern through regulation. In the House, 19 Democrats joined the Republican majority in a decisive 255-172 vote to defund the EPA's attempt to circumvent Congress and begin its own cap-and-trade program.

The measure was introduced by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan. A companion measure introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jim Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who is the ranking minority member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, fell just short of the votes needed for passage, despite support from three Democrats.

Supporters of the EPA effort should think twice before cheering the outcome of the Senate vote because, while the regulatory initiative is safe for now, the prospects for its long-term survival are dim, prompting Politico to headline a recent story, "EPA holds on for dear life." The reason the outlook is so grim for the EPA on this issue is the fact that a growing number of congressional Democrats have had enough of being threatened by executive branch political appointees.

The threats started in 2009 when EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson warned that her agency would move with a regulatory version of cap and trade if Congress failed to approve President Obama's legislative version of the program. Predictably, the House, led then by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, approved the Obama bill by a wide margin. But things stalled in the Senate prior to the 2010 midterm congressional election. When Democratic Senate candidate Joe Manchin of West Virginia won election after running a well-publicized TV spot featuring him putting a bullet from a high-powered rifle through a target labeled "cap and trade," Jackson moved to make good on her threat.

Shortly after the House vote last week, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif. -- who opposed the Upton measure -- told Politico that a growing number of his Democratic colleagues were beginning to view the EPA as a "rogue agency." He added, "I think the president's out of step on this one, and he's going to have to get his agency under control."

Despite the setback last week, Inhofe was upbeat because on the four separate votes that were held on his proposal and three alternatives, a total of 64 senators voted to restrain EPA to one degree or another. Inhofe promised to bring the issue back to the Senate in the near future and noted: "When all is said and done, a bipartisan majority in the Senate issued a sobering message to EPA: Its cap-and-trade agenda is wearing thin, suggesting it's time to reverse course to put Congress back in charge of America's energy policy." Obama and Jackson should heed Inhofe's warning.