Friday, November 19, 2010

Watch/Read: Inhofe Speech: Climategate, One Year Later

In a Senate Floor speech on Thursday, Senator Inhofe discussed the very latest on global warming policy, warning that, despite its defeat this year in Congress, "backdoor" cap-and-trade is "alive and well" at the EPA. The speech recounts events over the last year that led to the defeat of the thousand-page Waxman-Markey bill in the Senate, including the failure in Copenhagen, Climategate, and the Obama Administration's admission of the futility of unilateral U.S. climate action.  Watch the speech here.  

The following are excerpts from the speech:

"It was one year ago today that I gave a speech, right here on the Senate floor, noting that the tide had turned decisively against global warming alarmism. 

"Then, just two days later, Climategate exploded into view, as thousands of emails were released that showed...that the very scientific spokesmen for alarmism were scheming to block open and honest assessments of their work. 

"The damage has been done, to say the least.  And so I think the chapter on the climate science wars has closed.  Of course, Climategate scientists and their allies want to keep fighting.  They are practically begging us to bring them before committees to question their work.  But we won't - because they are irrelevant. 

"We are going to talk about jobs, and competitiveness, and manufacturing, and small businesses, and real people who will have to pay more for electricity, food, and gasoline. 

"What Sen. Reid said about cap-and-trade-that it's dead for next Congress - may be true for the massive, thousand-page bills filled with mandates, taxes, regulations, bureaucracy, and much else. 

"But it's not true for the more subtle strain of cap-and-trade now moving through the Environmental Protection Agency.   That's right: this is backdoor cap-and-trade, hidden behind an administrative curtain. 

"So we need to address this, because employers and small businesses are afraid to hire and expand in large part because of EPA's global warming regulations.  To get this economy moving again, and create jobs for those who need them, we need to stop EPA.

"I also want my colleagues to know that EPA is moving in all directions-beyond just implementing job-killing global warming regulations.  EPA is threatening jobs on a host of fronts. 

"My sincere hope is that EPA will pull back, revise, reform, and balance its regulatory agenda to protect jobs as well as the environment.   If EPA persists on moving down a more extreme path, then our 9.6 % unemployment rate won't look much better in 2012."

(Link to Full Speech)

Inhofe Co-Sponsors Bill to Continue Diesel Emissions Reduction

Senator Inhofe was pleased this week to join Senators George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), Tom Carper (D-Del.), and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif), to introduce the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act of 2010 (DERA). The bill is a five-year reauthorization of their popular 2005 legislation that established a voluntary national and state-level grant and loan program to reduce diesel emissions. The original DERA legislation authored by Sens. Voinovich and Carper enjoyed strong bipartisan support; passing by a vote of 92 to 1 on the Senate floor, it was included in the final version of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. 

"As an original cosponsor of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, I have seen firsthand the economic and public health benefits of this voluntary program in my state of Oklahoma," Sen. Inhofe said. "This reauthorization keeps the 2005 levels in place but builds on the success of this targeted and cost- effective initiative. With the EPA preparing to make national ozone and particulate matter standards more stringent, local communities will need every tool possible to comply with them. This program is one of many that will help them reach that goal."

A uniquely broad coalition of 539 environmental, science-based, public health, industry, labor and state and local government groups support a reauthorization of DERA during the lame-duck session (see attached letters to U.S. Senate and House leaders). Its current authorization expires in fiscal year 2011.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has linked diesel emissions to premature death, aggravation of symptoms associated with asthma, and numerous other health impacts every year. The agency estimates there are 11 million diesel engines in America lacking the latest pollution control technology. Retrofitting diesel engines provides enormous environmental benefits, yet there are few direct economic incentives for vehicle and equipment owners to do so. The financial incentives provided by DERA support voluntary rather than regulatory efforts to protect public health and help states meet EPA air quality standards.

DERA 2010 is also co-sponsored by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

In the News... Tulsa World Editorial: Fight on

Tulsa World  

Editorial: Fight on

Congressional earmarks battle rages

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Link to Editorial 

Love him or hate him, Oklahomans have to admire U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe's tenacity when it comes to the fraudulent war on earmarks being waged by some of his fellow lawmakers.

The Oklahoma Republican has vowed to vigorously fight a proposed Senate moratorium on earmarks, using as one of his strongest arguments the blatant hypocrisy of the anti-earmark crusade.

Inhofe believes his solid bona fides as a stalwart conservative will lend credence to his battle.

But it will be an uphill battle. "Earmarks" has become a dirty word in the political arena, ranking almost up there with the "T" word and the "L" word. (For the uninitiated, that's taxes and liberals.)

The House already has imposed an earmarks moratorium and now senators realize there is much political hay to be harvested by hopping on that wagon.

Earmarks, also referred to as pork spending, are line-item appropriations that typically are authorized through the committee process but not included in any agency or department budget. They account for a tiny fraction of federal spending - only 1.5 percent of discretionary spending - and their dollar numbers have been dwindling in recent years, thanks to all the negative publicity.

That publicity also has prompted reforms, including a new requirement that sponsoring lawmakers must attach their names to earmark proposals and an explanation justifying the project. Most House members and senators now have extensive vetting procedures to ensure that earmarks they seek to fund are worthwhile.

But the most significant argument against an earmark moratorium is the fact it won't save taxpayers a single dime, Inhofe notes. If earmarks are done away with, the funding they would receive would revert to agency budgets, and bureaucrats would get to decide how to spend it.

So while eliminating earmarks sounds good to constituents, it does nothing to bring down the level of federal spending.

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

Inhofe has floated a plan for further reducing earmark spending by tightening up what would be deemed an earmark, but his proposal has not gotten any traction.

For a poor state like Oklahoma, earmarks have provided significant improvements that would not have been undertaken otherwise: projects like Interstate 44 improvements, the Tar Creek Superfund site relocations, numerous military base projects, and low-water dams for the Arkansas River.

Still think earmarks are so awful?

Inhofe's right. If conservative leaders really want to do something about runaway federal spending, they should look somewhere else.

In the News... Seattle Times Editorial: End the NRC Stalling on Yucca Mountain Decision

The Seattle Times

Editorial: End the NRC Stalling on Yucca Mountain Decision

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Link to Editorial

Also See: Energy Daily: Jaczko Delayed NRC Yucca Vote By Two Months

IT'S confirmed. Four Nuclear Regulatory Commission members cast their votes months ago on the question of whether the Obama administration can unilaterally cancel the nation's deep geological nuclear-waste repository. But the votes have been kept secret apparently for political reasons.

Attribute the holdup to NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko, who seems to have done everything he can to game the process and keep the question about Yucca Mountain from a more credible proceeding in federal court.

Congress designated the site 100 miles from Las Vegas as the destination for the nation's commercial nuclear waste and high-level defense waste, such as that now at Hanford in Southeastern Washington.

The NRC's own licensing board in June ruled that, no indeed, the Obama administration cannot flout the will of Congress. The question before the NRC is whether to affirm or overturn that ruling - a decision needed before the Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals will take up related litigation.

Washington state, South Carolina and others have sued.

The bizarre political maneuverings at the NRC have given the agency long renowned for its straight-shooting credibility a black eye. Though the vote remains secret, Jaczko has ordered repository scientists to stop a near-complete study. The agency's inspector general says he's looking into the matter at the behest of a former commissioner.

Four of the commissioners - a fifth recused himself - voted by Sept. 15, as they each confirmed in recent letters to Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. Jaczko, who voted Aug. 26, said he withdrew his vote and revoted Oct. 29 - just days before his patron, former boss and fervent opponent of Yucca Mountain, Sen. Harry Reid, barely fended off a tough Nov. 2 challenge.

Speculation is rampant the NRC vote did not go Jaczko's way. We can't help but think that if it had, the public would have been notified by a breathless news release around Sept. 15. Heck, Reid could have touted it in his campaign brochures.

Enough stalling, Chairman Jaczko. Time to publish this opinion so this very serious national matter can be settled in a more credible venue.

In the News... Oklahoman Editorial: Inhofe Comfortable Fighting Lonely Battles

The Oklahoman

Editorial: Inhofe Comfortable Fighting Lonely Battles

November 19, 2010

Link to Editorial

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe reportedly was the only member of the Senate's Republican caucus who voted this week against a moratorium on earmarks - the process by which members of Congress designate federal spending on specific projects in their states and districts. Sen. Lisa Murkowski missed the vote because she was in Alaska awaiting the conclusion of her re-election race, but says she would have voted against the ban if she had been around.

The vote by Inhofe, R-Tulsa, was certainly no surprise. As he has explained many times, Inhofe believes the earmark moratorium is little more than a bunch of hot air over a relatively small amount of money (2 percent to 3 percent of total federal spending). And besides, he argues, the legislative branch is constitutionally empowered to appropriate funds.

So he isn't concerned about being a lone wolf on earmarks - nor on other stuff, either. Inhofe was an early opponent to the Obama administration's cap-and-trade bill, and his stalwart and longtime fight against anti-global warming measures has earned plenty of bile from advocates.

No matter. One of Inhofe's favorite stories is about how he jetted to last year's big climate change conference in Denmark, basically parachuting into Copenhagen for a couple of hours to be a one-man band in opposition - surrounded by a sea of people who didn't agree with him.

You need a tough hide to play the role of a voice crying out in the wilderness. Inhofe's most certainly is, and Oklahomans appreciate it, as his 60-plus percent approval rating shows.

Inhofe Hearing Statement on WRDA: Legislative and Policy Proposals

Sen. Inhofe Wednesday made the following opening statement at a Full Committee hearing entitled, "Water Resources Development Act: Legislative and Policy Proposals to Benefit the Economy, Create Jobs, Protect Public Safety and Maintain America’s Water Resources Infrastructure."  

Thank you, Madam Chairman, for holding this hearing, and thank you to all the witnesses for joining us this morning.  We’ve been trying to hold this hearing for several months now, and I’m happy it’s finally happening.  The Chairman and I have worked together to develop a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2010, but it looks like we are not going to have enough time to finish it this Congress.  I hope to continue working in a bipartisan fashion to ensure we pass a WRDA next year.

At our first WRDA hearing in May, we heard from witnesses who spoke of the short- and long-term economic benefits of investments in our water resources infrastructure.  Today’s hearing will focus on legislative and policy recommendations for the next WRDA, including levee safety, investment in our inland waterways system and maintenance of our ports and harbors.

As anyone who has heard me speak before about infrastructure well knows, I strongly support federal investment in public infrastructure.  In fact, I believe it is one of two areas where the federal government should spend money, the other being national defense, of course.  We have significant water resources needs across the country, but we aren’t dedicating the funds necessary to address them.

Let me be clear, though, that I am not advocating for simply increasing overall spending.  Instead, I support making infrastructure spending a greater percentage of overall spending.  I look forward to discussing how we can do that with the witnesses here today.

WRDA 2007 included establishment of a committee on levee safety, to be composed of federal, state, local, tribal and private sector experts and charged with making recommendations on how best to structure a national levee safety program.  In January 2009 that committee made public a report with a number of recommendations that I believe deserve further discussion.  It is important that we get a program started soon, but also important to make sure we don’t rush through the numerous and complex issues involved and that a national levee safety program does not set unrealistic expectations for levels of federal funding. 

Moving to the topic of the inland waterways system, I know I’ve used this example before, but it bears repeating: the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System is very important to the national economy and to the economy of my home state.  Currently, the Tulsa Port of Catoosa alone is the location of more than 60 companies employing nearly 3,000 employees.  We must figure out a way to continue investing in this important aspect of our economy.

The Inland Waterways Users Board, working with the Corps of Engineers, undertook a thorough review of the current process used for investing in our system.  The Board developed a comprehensive set of recommendations aimed at not just increasing our investments, but also at making any level of investment more efficient and effective.  Many of these recommendations may be appropriate for inclusion in the next WRDA.

Maintenance of our ports and harbors is unfortunately another underfunded activity.  I can understand the frustration on this issue since a specific tax is collected to be used to fund these activities.  Instead, approximately half of yearly revenues are spent as intended while the rest is counted as offsetting the deficit.  That is not fair or honest, especially when so much maintenance is left unfunded.

I do have a concern with the legislation introduced to address this issue, however, and that is that it likely would lead to decreased funding for other activities of the Corps that are already underfunded as well.  If we can find a way to address the needs of our ports without negatively impacting our other water resources needs, I would be very supportive.

Before I finish, I want to acknowledge all the work done so far.  I know that a lot of people have put a great deal of time and effort into studying these three issues and developing recommendations.  I want to say thank you to everyone involved.  We still have some work to do, but I look forward to continuing to work together with my colleagues, the witnesses and their colleagues to address these issues during development of the next Water Resources Development Act.