Friday, September 19, 2008

Inhofe Stresses the Need for Off-Shore Drilling at Hearing

Posted 9/18/2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, today joined several of his Senate Republican colleagues at a hearing focused on bringing down the price of gas at the pump. The Senate Republican Conference invited witnesses to testify to the enormous reserves that the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) holds – 18 billion barrels of oil and 76 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. These oil reserves are equivalent to 33 years’ worth of oil imports from Saudi Arabia and over 36 years’ worth of oil imports from Venezuela.          

“Today I was pleased to join my Republican colleagues in a hearing to discuss the critical issue of increasing our domestic supply of oil and natural gas through expanded offshore development,” Senator Inhofe said. “In addition to opening the OCS, I believe that Congress must allow the moratorium that bars leasing of oil shale to expire; I also believe that we must produce from ANWR as well.    

“Republicans have consistently proposed measures to address high gasoline prices by increasing our domestic production.  A vast majority of Americans now support offshore drilling and greater use of domestic energy resources.  By consistently raising the issue of increased domestic production, now even some Democrats who just a few weeks ago adamantly opposed increased drilling now say they’re for it.  However, proposals to open only small portions of the OCS fall short on an issue the American people support and on which we are making substantial progress.                  

 “America is not running out of oil and gas or running out of places to look for oil and gas.  America is running out of places where we are allowed to look for oil and gas.  The American public is demanding that the Democrats in Congress allow us to produce from our own resources.  I think we are all hearing their message loud and clear.”


Inhofe-Craig-Crapo Offer Amendment to Restore $50M Cut in Defense Contribution for Yucca Mountain Repository Program

Posted 9/17/2008

Link to Amendment 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, together with Senators Larry Craig (R-ID) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) have filed an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill that would restore $50M cut in Defense Contribution for Yucca Mountain Repository Program. The Administration requested $247.4 million, the House included $247.4 in its bill, and the Senate should fully fund this request as well.

Sen. Inhofe: “The United States Senate needs to continue authorizes our contribution to the repository program to cover the costs of defense-related nuclear wastes that require disposal. The request was asked by for the President and included by the House – the Senate needs to do the same. The amendment we filed today would do restore the $50 million dollar cut. Unfortunately, here in the US Senate, politics is once again trumping progress on a facility that is necessary to clean up our Cold War legacy of nuclear wastes. This is a prime example of the repository program struggling to cope with ‘death by a thousand cuts.’  Every year, funding reductions such as this one continually force DOE to stall work on the repository. The repository should have opened in 1998, but instead, it is over 20 years behind schedule.”

Sen. Craig: “Our Nation remains dedicated to developing clean, renewable energy to power the economy of the future, but we are still dealing with a Cold War legacy that requires a national repository,” Senator Larry Craig said. “Congress's failure to fund this project, while energy prices squeeze consumers in nearly every segment of the economy, has set us back at least ten years. Nuclear power is the clean, affordable power source Americans have been searching for, and properly funding the Yucca Mountain repository is a step we cannot delay.”

Sen. Crapo: “Nuclear energy remains a key source in broadening our national energy portfolio and finishing the construction of a national repository for nuclear materials is critical to succeeding in that effort,” Crapo said.  “It is essential we finish work at Yucca Mountain to remove cold war legacy nuclear materials now stored in Idaho.  Yucca is already 10 years behind schedule because of delays largely created by Congress.  It is time to move ahead aggressively on alternative energy sources like nuclear power and opening Yucca is a national priority.”


Just this week, the NRC announced that it will begin its lengthy review of DOE’s license application for authorization to build the repository, a milestone that should have been achieved in the early 90’s. Full funding of the defense contribution is necessary to support the NRC’s review and specific licensing activities related to defense waste and Naval spent fuel from sites in Hanford, Washington; Idaho Falls, Idaho; and Savannah River, South Carolina.

The repository program needs adequate resources to address licensing questions regarding additional defense waste requiring disposal, characterization of those wastes, and the design of the facility that will handle these wastes. Reductions in the defense contribution will likely impede the Department’s ability to respond in a timely manner to NRC requests, possibly delaying the NRC’s review, and ultimately the construction of the repository and acceptance of defense waste for disposal.

We have an obligation to clean up the nuclear wastes that resulted from developing our nuclear deterrent during the Cold War. That requires a nuclear waste repository.  Stalling progress on this facility is irresponsible and unfair to states that have shouldered this patriotic burden. This is certainly not an obligation that should fall prey to petty politics. 

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Inhofe Opening Statement: EPW Business Meeting, September 17, 2008

Posted 9/17/2008

Madame Chairman, unfortunately I believe today’s markup is more about political statements than trying to legislate.  Having a markup this late in the session means that very few, in any, of these bills have a chance of being signed into law this year.

I am particularly disturbed that seven of the bills on the agenda were never raised to the minority until this past Friday, the deadline for noticing this markup.  We had no idea until Friday that the Chairman was even considering moving these bills.  I think this action alone demonstrates that the majority either doesn’t want to legislate or isn’t interested in working in a bipartisan fashion.

Regarding the Water Infrastructure, I can support the underlying bill with my amendment to lower the costs across the board, but I will not be able to support the bill if the Davis Bacon amendment is added.  The Davis Bacon amendment is a poison pill which will kill this important legislation for another year.

As I stated last week, I do not support the Bridge Safety Bill.  It is the wrong bill at the wrong time.  This issue should be addressed during the Highway Reauthorization which we should be drafting now, but we aren’t.  In addition, the approach of this bill is to add more red tape to a program in which the states are already swamped with red tape.  That is not the way to fix the problem.


Finally, on EDA, I remain concerned that the clock has already run out.  I asked that the Committee turn to this issue in April, I introduced my own bill in July and requested it be marked up then.  This program expires at the end of September and we had no meetings or discussions on the legislation until last week.  Although I had a promising discussion with Chairman Oberstar last week and he pledged to try and work with me to get it enacted, I now understand they have strong doubts that it can be done in the next ten days and are considering a one-year extension.  While a one-year extension is better than nothing, I regret that the Committee, despite my urging, did not act on this earlier.

A few of the bills also address global warming. I would like to point out that according to the new Farmers’ Almanac released this week and its time-honored, complex calculations that it uses to predict weather, they predict we will be in for a colder than normal winter. In addition, they suggest that based on a study of solar activity and corresponding records on ocean temperatures and climate that we will be in for a cooler, not warmer, climate, for perhaps the next half century.

Thank you, Madame Chairman.  


Inhofe Opening Statement: Oversight Hearing on Cleanup Efforts at Federal Facilities, September 18, 2008

Posted 9/18/2008

Good morning.  Thank you, Chairman Boxer.  Today’s hearing is an oversight hearing on clean-up efforts at federal facilities.  I believe we need to work together to have effective oversight.  What we are doing today is putting the cart in front of the horse and the result will be an incomplete and inconclusive attempt at oversight.  This does not serve the American people in an effective and productive manner. 



 The process that this administration has put in place from its early days and has continuously followed is if there is an interagency dispute, then the two agencies need to work out their differences.  This oversight hearing is attempting to circumvent the process by becoming the jury, judge, and executioner, rather than letting the agencies go through the correct process to negotiate a compromise.  I believe when that is done we should hold an oversight hearing. A hearing before resolution doesn’t help the situation; it hurts it.


I believe that EPA has done and will continue to do a fine job of cleaning up sites on the National Priorities List.  Of the 1,587 final or deleted sites on the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL), 95 percent have undergone construction activity, have been completed, or have been deleted from the NPL.


I want to commend the Department of Defense for their clean-up efforts to date. DOD has 140 installations on the NPL.  129 have signed Federal Facilities Agreements (FFA’s).  11 of the installations on the NPL have not reached an agreement with EPA and do not have an FFA.  Through fiscal year 2007, DOD has spent over $650 million on clean-up efforts at these eleven installations which have an aggregate estimated cost in excess of $1.3 billion.  As we conduct this hearing today, DOD’s clean-up efforts at these sites are ongoing.


I believe that an FFA is an important part of the clean-up process.  However, I do not believe that it is an accurate tool to measure the pace or progress of clean-up at NPL sites.  I say this for two reasons.  First, not all of an NPL site’s clean-up needs are captured by an FFA.  Clean-up efforts at DOD sites without an FFA are ongoing and there are areas that require clean-up measures that are outside of an FFA.  Secondly, as we have seen in DOE’s situation, an FFA lacks the flexibility to address changing circumstances.  So FFA’s need to be redrafted instead of amended.


The Department of Energy has done an outstanding job of cleaning up 83 of their 108 sites.  All of the DOE NPL sites have FFA’s.  However, most of these have been renegotiated recently due to the fact that DOE either did not request enough money originally when they signed the FFA’s, or they had unforeseen technical problems at the site.  DOE sites are focused on the clean-up of radioactive waste and contamination generated by nuclear energy research and nuclear weapons production.  DOE has been and is performing first-of-its-kind clean-up tasks in highly hazardous work environments.  It is important to note that comparing DOE sites to DOD sites is like comparing apples to oranges. That’s not to say that DOE should not be commended for their clean-up efforts and progress to date.


I believe that there are some positive stories to tell in regards to DOD and DOE.  I believe that there is always room for improvement, but DOD and DOE have taken on larger and more costly sites and have been making positive strides.  I do believe that we should have waited until after these agencies have negotiated their differences to have an oversight hearing on this topic.  I also believe that using FFA’s to measure clean-up progress and pace is inaccurate.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.


Fact of the Day: Democrats Get It Wrong on DOD and DOE Clean-Up

Posted 9/18/2008

 Fact of the Day

Democrats Get It Wrong On DOD And DOE Clean-Up 

At today’s hearing, “Oversight Hearing on Cleanup Efforts at Federal Facilities,” Senate Democrats stated that the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy are not cleaning up their facilities –going so far as to say:  “it is unacceptable delaying cleanup at their sites.  DOD is putting themselves above the law.” 

FACT: DOD has invested over $28 billion on environmental restoration at over 31,000 sites located on more than 1,600 active facilities, 200 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) facilities, and 9,900 Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) properties.  As of the end of fiscal year 2007, over 21,600 sites, sixty-nine percent, have met their cleanup objectives and are response complete. 

The current inter agency debate of the 11 outstanding DOD facilities that do not have Federal Facilities Agreements in place clean up is continuing and will continue regardless of the debate.  Through fiscal year 2007, DOD has spent over $650 million on clean-up efforts at these eleven installations which have an aggregate estimated cost in excess of $1.3 billion. 

The Department of Energy has done an outstanding job of cleaning up 83 of their 108 sites.  They currently have completed 8 national priority list (npl) sites out of their 21 on the NPL list.  DOE sites are focused on the clean-up of radioactive waste and contamination generated by nuclear energy research and nuclear weapons production.  DOE has been and is performing first-of-a-kind clean-up tasks in highly hazardous work environments.  The Department of Energy recently cleaned up two heavily contaminated sites to note.  The first on is the Fernald Environmental Management Project in Ohio.  This site is now a wild life preserve and the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site in Colorado which has also been converted in to a wild life preserve.

Inhofe Opening Statement: Oversight Hearing on EPA's Efforts to Protect Children's Health

Posted 9/16/2008

Today we will again examine the adequacy of EPA’s regulatory process by hearing testimony regarding whether the Agency appropriately considers children’s health concerns. As a father and grandfather, protecting the health and well-being of children is of great personal importance to me.  That is precisely why I believe that EPA’s risk-based regulatory process and science-based review are the best ways to ensure that human health – particularly the health of children – is protected in a way that also protects the way of life enjoyed by the American family.   

This morning, we will hear from the official who directs the science of EPA’s regulatory process, as well as from a representative of the agency tasked with critiquing EPA’s success.  We will also hear from stakeholders with their own views about how best to protect the health of our nation’s children.  I believe in the integrity of EPA’s scientific process, and particularly in the Agency’s ability to evaluate risk and formulate regulations that properly mitigate those risks.    

Whether the concern is air, water, chemicals, or other environmental factors, assessment of risk-based on validated science must rule the day.  Uncertainty, fear, and precaution are not based in science, and actually prevent us from enjoying the benefits of technology and innovation. 

I do believe that it is important for EPA to seek out and consider the advice of non-governmental experts and public opinion.  However, the ultimate responsibility to implement the law falls squarely on the Agency’s doorstep.   EPA is barraged with formal and informal advice from a variety of sources; it is their duty to sort through that information and seek balance among the many competing perspectives.  It is no secret that I have certainly disagreed with some of the Agency’s actions and decisions. However, at the end of the day, I firmly believe that EPA holds the preeminent expertise in evaluating the risks posed to human health from environmental exposures.  That expertise makes EPA most qualified to establish how best to protect the health of every man, women and child.  

I look forward to hearing from each of the witnesses, and I thank you for taking the time to be here and share your perspectives on protecting children – born and unborn – from environmental risks.

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