Friday, May 11, 2007

Senate Begins Consideration of the Water Resource Development Act of 2007

Senator Inhofe's Floor Statement from Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Senate today is considering the Water Resources Development Act of 2007.  As the world's leading maritime and trading nation, the United States relies on an efficient Maritime Transportation System to maintain its role as a global power.  The bill we debate today is the cornerstone of that system.

Before I get into the particulars of the pending committee substitute, I want to clarify that the bill as reported by the Environment and Public Works Committee has been adjusted to make it no larger than the House passed bill of $15 billion.   Chairwoman Boxer and I agreed that any bill considered by the Senate should be no larger than the House passed bill.

With that said, I would like to briefly describe for members the bill we are considering.  Water Resources Development Act or WRDA sets out the federal policy and procedure for the United States Army Corps of Engineers to maintain and build our inland and intracoastal waterway system, which carries one-sixth of the Nation’s volume of intercity cargo.  In addition, the Corps is responsible for maintaining appropriate channel depths in ports along our coasts and the Great Lakes to handle significant portions of foreign trade into and out of the country.  In fact, more than 67% of all consumer goods pass through harbors maintained by the Corps of Engineers. 

Inland and intracostal waterways, which serve states on the Atlantic seaboard, the Gulf Coast and the Pacific Northwest, move about 630 million tons of cargo valued at over $70 billion annually.  Furthermore, it is estimated that the average transportation cost savings to users of the system is $10.67 per ton or $7 billion annually over other modes of transportation.  

The nearly 12,000 miles of inland and intracostal waterways include 192 commercially active lock and dam sites.  Over 50 percent of the locks and dams operated by the Corps are more than 50 years old and consequently, are approaching the end of their design life and are in need of modernization or major rehabilitation.  This bill authorizes ongoing work to modernize and rehabilitate our inland and intracostal waterway system.

WRDA also authorizes the Corps to work with communities on various flood damage reduction and hurricane and storm damage reduction projects designed to protect human life and property.

In the 1800's, the Corps was first called upon to address flood problems along the Mississippi River.  Since then, the Corps has continued to provide flood damage reduction along the Mississippi River and other in regions of the country.  These efforts range from small, local protection projects, such as levees or nonstructural measures, to major dams.  Today most of the structures are owned by sponsoring cities, towns, and agricultural districts.  Although the Corps cannot prevent all damage from floods, the Corps efforts do significantly reduce the cost of flood events.   To illustrate this point consider that during the 10 years from 1991 through 2000, the country suffered $45 billion in property damage from floods.  If Corps flood damage reduction measures had not been in place, however, that figure would have been more than $208 billion in damage.  Clearly, flood control is a wise investment.

Similarly, the Corps also participates in, and this bill authorizes, hurricane and storm damage reduction projects along our nation's coasts, as well as projects to combat shoreline erosion.

The third core mission of the Corps of Engineers is ecosystem restoration.  Working with non-Federal sponsors, the Corps implements single purpose ecosystem restoration projects, multi-purpose projects with ecosystem restoration components, or projects for flood protection or navigation that incorporate environmental features as good engineering.  The Corps has restored, created, and protected over 500,000 acres of wetland and other habitats between 1988 and 2004.  In some cases, existing water resources projects are modified to achieve restoration benefits.  This bill includes authorization of several such projects, including three major restoration projects in Louisiana, Florida and the Upper Mississippi River basin.

Unfortunately, like other infrastructure bills, WRDA has been derided by some as nothing more than a "pork" bill.  During the debate here in the Senate, we may hear this.  As one of the primary authors of the bill, allow me to explain why this charge, if raised, is not accurate.

First, contrary to popular belief, this bill is not just project authorizations; it also contains significant policy changes designed to ensure an efficient and effective process for addressing our nation's water resources needs. 

The bill does have project authorizations.  It is an unfortunate fact of life that when infrastructure bills are debated, we first have to battle back the charge that all we are doing is funding unneeded projects.  Let's look at the facts.  According to the American Society of Civil Engineers 2005 Report Card on America's Infrastructure, none of the nation's primary infrastructure, such as roads, airports, drinking water facilities, wastewater managements systems, get above a C and most receive a D.  We are quickly approaching a crisis that if ignored will dramatically stunt continued economic growth.

As one of the most fiscally conservative members of this body, I have long argued that the two most important functions of the federal government are to provide for the national defense and to develop and improve public infrastructure.  So I am not shy about voting for increased authorization and spending on national defense needs or public infrastructure.  At the same time we have to spend limited taxpayer dollars wisely.   With that in mind, the Committee established a very firm policy of what types of project requests that we would consider.

As an aside, I would note for my colleagues that the one item that my hometown of Tulsa wanted, which is part of the McClellan-Kerr Waterway system, I had to say no to because it did not fit within the parameters of what the Chair and I agreed should be in the bill.  

Finally, some have expressed concern about the size of the bill.  At roughly $15 billion, I understand and appreciate those concerns.   However, I would point out that it has been 7 years since the last WRDA was signed into law.   Traditionally, WRDA is done every two years.   Given the six year lag, what the Senate is being asked to consider represents what would be three WRDAs if we had kept to the two year schedule.   Given that, I believe the cost is reasonable.

For the benefit of those who may not be familiar the Army Corps Civil Works program, allow me to explain how it works.   The program includes the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of water resource projects.  These projects are designed to provide the nation with improved flood damage reduction, hurricane and storm damage reduction (shore protection), navigation, ecosystem restoration, hydroelectric power, recreation and other various water resources needs.  Virtually all water resources projects are cost shared with a local sponsor.  The statutory cost share varies depending on the type of project.

Projects generally originate with a request for assistance from a community or local government entity with a water resource need that is beyond its capability to alleviate.  A study authority allows the Corps to investigate a problem and determine if there is a federal interest in proceeding further.

If the Corps has performed a study in the geographic area before, a new study can be authorized by a resolution of either the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works or the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.  If the Corps has not previously investigated the area, the study needs to be authorized by an act of Congress, typically through a WRDA bill.

Army Corps studies are usually undertaken in two stages.  The first, called a reconnaissance study (or recon study), is a general investigation, including an overview of the problem, identification of potential local sponsors (state, tribal, county, or local agencies or governments or non?profit organizations) and an initial determination of a federal interest.  A recon study is done at full federal expense, usually costs one to two hundred thousand dollars and usually can be completed in about one year.

The second stage is a feasibility study, which is the detailed analysis of alternatives, costs, benefits and environmental and other impacts.  A feasibility study is cost?shared 50?50 with a local sponsor, usually costs upwards of a million dollars and takes up to several years to complete.

Congress must provide authorization for the Corps to begin the recon study, but the Corps can move from the recon to feasibility stage without further authorization.  Based on the results of the study, the Chief of Engineers may sign a final recommendation on the project, known as the Chief's Report.    Accordingly, the Committee has used a favorable Chief's Report as the basis for authorizing projects.

Before I yield the floor to my colleagues, I want to point out one last important provision in the bill.  We are proposing a new National Levee Safety Program designed after the National Dam Safety Program.   The new levee safety program requires that a national inventory be made of all levees and that those levees that protect human life and public safety be inspected.  As with the Dam Safety program, the provision establishes a state grant program to encourage States to establish their own safety program, as these activities are best handled at the local level.

In closing, I urge members to support the bill as amended by the substitute and believe that while not perfect, the bill does achieve important reforms and in a limited way addresses some of our water resources needs.



Opening Statement: Hearing on Emerging Technologies and Practices for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Wednesday, May 09, 2007
I want to thank the Chairman for having this hearing focusing on technology. I believe that our nation’s pioneering of technology has been a vital component in America’s prosperity and I am fully committed to expanding new technologies in making our nation a better place to live.
What technology paths and goals we choose will help determine if further innovation acts as a catalyst or a drag to future economic growth. Mr. Chairman, clearly we disagree on the state of science. Just last year, we discovered for the first time that trees emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas. This shocking news underscored how little we know about some of the most basic processes of the planet.
And new science is coming out all the time. After Katrina, Gore and some others seized the opportunity to claim global warming is causing more hurricanes. But three weeks ago, a peer-reviewed study found warming will increase wind shear, which reduces both the severity and number of hurricanes. And just last week, another peer-reviewed study by one of our government’s leading scientists, Dr. Christopher Landsea, found that the annual trend in the number of hurricanes since 1900 has, in fact, not increased.
My point is this – our policies should reflect a little humility when it comes to whether or not we are omnipotent. That is why I oppose propping up uncompetitive technologies for the sole purpose of trying to avert an over-hyped catastrophe by mandating a tax on carbon – whether it is in the form of a direct tax or hidden in the guise of a cap and trade scheme.
And make no mistake, the various proposals currently before the Senate are taxes. The Kyoto Protocol would have imposed a cost of $2,700 per family of four. The global warming bills before Congress today are even worse. A new MIT study of the many proposals shows that the Sanders-Boxer bill would impose a tax-equivalent of $366 billion annually, or more than $4,500 per family of four, by 2015. And the Lieberman-McCain bill is not much better, imposing more than $3,500 on families each year.
I would like to submit the report for the record.
And who would bear these costs? According to a Congressional Budget Office study released two weeks ago, a carbon cap and trade would result in a massive wealth redistribution from the poor and working class to wealthier Americans. In short, carbon caps would artificially and needlessly raise the cost of energy the most on the people least able to afford it. It astounds me that any Senator could support such a proposal.
I believe we should focus on approaches that unite, rather than divide. That is why I support the Asia Pacific Partnership and believe it should be fully funded and expanded. This would promote trade and transfers of technology between our nation and developing countries, leading to increasing energy supplies and reduced pollution. Mr. Chairman, it would also help you in your goal of reducing greenhouse gases from countries such as China, which later this year will become the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide on the planet.
Mr. Chairman, while we may disagree on the reasons, I share your view that nuclear energy is a vital component of our energy future. And I applaud that you have recognized its importance in legislative proposals. We need more energy and we need to reduce our reliance on foreign sources. I think nuclear power and hydro – yes, I said hydro – should be a part of this equation. They neither pollute nor emit greenhouse gases.
But we cannot stop there. Our nation is abundant in coal, and we should pursue coal-to-liquid technologies for both energy security and military applications. And, quite frankly, I see little difference between coal-to-liquids refineries and IGCC power plants when it comes to carbon dioxide emissions. And unlike higher ethanol mandates, coal-to-liquids will decrease our reliance on foreign sources.
And that really is the fundamental question: does our nation have a vision of increasing domestically supplied energy, or will we put ourselves on an energy diet and increase our reliance on foreign energy supplies? I hope my colleagues join me in a vision of hope, not defeat.

Clinton, Obama Sign Onto to Boxer's $4500 Climate Tax on American Families

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Senate Environment & Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have proposed the "Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act" aimed at combating climate change. The proposed partisan bill (S.309) is supported by another 15 senators, including: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY); Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL); Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT); Sen. Joseph R. Biden (D-DE); Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI); Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-WI); Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI); Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA); Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ); Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT); Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ); Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI); Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI); Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), and Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD).

FACT: A new MIT study concludes that the Sanders-Boxer approach would impose a tax-equivalent of $366 billion annually, or more than $4,500 per family of four, by 2015. And the annual costs will grow after 2015. [Read full MIT study

The Kyoto Protocol would have imposed an equivalent tax of $300 billion a year, 10 times the size of the Clinton-Gore tax increase of 1993. In addition to the MIT study, a new Congressional Budget Office study released recently, details how a carbon cap-and-trade system would result in massive wealth redistribution from the poor and working class to wealthier Americans. [Read more on CBO study]

Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), EPW Ranking Member, said today: "Carbon caps would artificially and needlessly raise the cost of energy the most on the people least able to afford it. It astounds me that any Senator could support such a proposal."

Read Senator Inhofe's full opening statement from today's EPW subcommittee hearing [Link 

From the Blog: New Study Shows Environmental and Health Advantages of Coal-to-Liquids

A new study released earlier this week, conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL), shows the environmental and public health advantages of coal-to liquids (CTL). The study looked at Baard Energy’s Ohio River Clean Fuels project currently under development in Wellsville, Ohio. Baard Energy’s project will produce ultra-clean liquid transportation fuels through the gasification and processing of domestic coal.

While CTL enjoys bi-partisan support in Congress for energy security reasons, the new study highlights additional reasons for supporting CTL – environmental and public health benefits. According to the study, CTL will reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide by more than 80 percent and cut nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 20 percent. In addition, INL found that Baard’s CTL fuel will reduce particulate matter emissions by nearly 20 percent, slash emissions of volatile organic compounds by close to 20 percent and also reduce emissions of carbon monoxide.

A complete copy of the INL CTL study is available here.  




From the Blog: Newspaper Praises Inhofe's Efforts To Increase Refinery Capacity

A May 9 editorial from Investor’s Business Daily clearly lays out several of the reasons gas prices have recently increased. The editorial notes that Senator Inhofe’s 2005 Gas Price Act  would have helped alleviate the gas supply problems we currently face. The Gas Price Act would have improved and expanded domestic refining capacity in the United States. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats rejected this legislation, opting instead to offer an alternative that would have essentially socialized gas production in the US by placing the Environmental Protection Agency in charge of designing, building and operating refineries at taxpayer expense. This Democratic alternative was wisely defeated.


EDITORIAL: Supply And Demagogues

May 9, 2007

Charles Schumer wants to investigate gas prices. Look in the mirror, Chuck. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. That's the Democrats' energy policy.

Considering that nothing much has changed on the supply side while demand continues to increase worldwide, it would be a mystery if gas prices did not reach record heights — especially in the face of continued boutique fuel mandates, NIMBY refinery bans, greenie restrictions on domestic energy development, etc.

On Monday, gas prices surged to a nationwide record average of $3.07 per gallon, according to the Lundberg Survey, breaking the previous record of $3.03. Sen. Schumer, like most Democrats, thinks it's the oil companies' fault. "The looming question is, are they putting money into maintenance and keeping up refineries as they should?" Schumer asked.

Our refineries are doing more than ever, but their numbers are dwindling and no new ones are being built. The reason is not greed, but cost and regulations. From 1994 to 2003, the refining industry spent $47.4 billion, not to build new refineries, but to bring existing ones into compliance with ever new and stringent environmental rules. That's where those allegedly excessive profits go.

In 2006, the blending of ethanol into gasoline reached a new high of more than five billion gallons and production if new clean-burning ultra low-sulfur diesel fuel topped a record 2.6 million barrels a day at the end of last year.

The fact is that U.S. refining capacity has been growing at about 1% a year for the past decade — the equivalent of adding a mid-size refinery every year. Since 1996, U.S. refiners have expanded capacity by more than 2 million barrels a day. This is a remarkable achievement in the face of environmental mandates setting new ethanol usage and low-sulfur requirements.

But the last major refinery built in the U.S. was in Garyville, La., in 1976 and the ones we have are getting older, no matter how well they're maintained. Fifty out of 194 refineries were shut down from 1990 to 2004. There is no slack in the system. Like the cars they fuel, periodic maintenance us required.

At least we build new cars.

Earlier this year, AAA of Northern California reported a 45-cent-a-gallon jump in price at the pump in one month. But gasoline production in California was off 6% for the week ended March 2 as refineries shut down for the very maintenance Schumer demands.

Lundberg cites at least a dozen additional partial shutdowns in the U.S. and internationally that have cut refining capacity. One of the nation's largest refineries, a BP plant in Indiana that processes more than 400,000 barrels of oil daily, will not be operating at full capacity for several months for unexpected repairs.

Schumer has asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate if rising gas prices are the result of oil company malfeasance or even a conspiracy. Last year, he wrote a letter to ask the Federal Trade Commission to investigate. In its response, the FTC said two previous investigations into unfair business practices by the oil industry found no evidence of wrongdoing.

But there's plenty of wrongdoing in the Senate, which has done nothing to increase domestic energy supplies or refining capacity. In 2005, Sen. James Inhofe introduced the Gas PRICE Act, which would have streamlined permitting procedures, reduced boutique fuel mandates and offered closed U.S. military bases as sites for new refineries. Where was Sen. Schumer's support?

The only thing we we'd like to hear from Sen. Schumer is just where in New York state he'd like a new refinery to be built and what incentives he is prepared to offer.

Related Link: MOTORISTS PAY THE PRICE AT THE PUMP Inhofe EPW Press Blog - May 4, 2007)

Investor’s Business Daily editorial go to:

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