Friday, June 5, 2009

EPW Republicans Call on Boxer for Open and Transparent Committee Process in Global Warming Debate

Yesterday, Senator Inhofe joined with EPW Republican Committee members to send a letter to the Chairman, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), calling on the Committee to conduct a thorough review of any global warming legislation that moves through the Senate as not to “deprive the American people and their elected representatives a public, transparent, and thorough review.”

Link to Letter 

Inhofe Outlines Efforts to Help Move Nuclear Policy Forward

Senator Inhofe delivered a speech Wednesday outlining his efforts to help ensure that nuclear energy becomes an increasing part of our nation’s energy mix. The speech was the first in a series of speeches designed to highlight this nation’s growing need for a clean, efficient, domestic energy supply. In this installment, Inhofe focused on regulatory burdens facing the nuclear industry, as well as the myriad opportunities for job creation and economic growth.

“When it comes to developing a comprehensive energy policy in the United States, we are faced with a stark contrast,” Senator Inhofe said on the Floor. “We can develop and produce domestic supplies of reliable and affordable energy that will help jump start our economy, create high paying jobs, and bring down energy costs on consumers, all while making our nation less dependent on foreign energy supplies, OR we can implement policies designed to drive up the costs of energy on American families, ship jobs overseas, and deepen this recession. For the sake of our economy, our energy security, and our environmental goals, I choose an ‘all of the above approach.’ Nuclear energy is one source that is clean, safe, reliable, and affordable, and I strongly believe it should play an increasing role in meeting our energy needs."

Link to Full Speech

Inhofe Says Highway Trust Fund Shortfall Unacceptable

On Tuesday, Senator Inhofe called for swift action by the administration and Congress to address a coming shortfall to the Federal Highway Trust Fund. Without Congressional action, it is expected that the Trust Fund could be broke by August. Senator Inhofe discussed the shortfall at an EPW hearing with Victor M. Mendez, nominated to be the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, Department of Transportation.

“News that the federal highway trust fund will likely be broke in the next few months is of highest concern to me,” Senator Inhofe said. “The administration has indicated that the Highway Trust Fund will run out of money some time before August of this year, and will require an infusion of $5 to $7 billion to get through the rest of fiscal year 2009.  An additional $8 to $10 billion will be required in 2010.  With Oklahoma jobs at stake, I will be working closely with the administration and my congressional colleagues to resolve the shortfall as soon as possible.”

“Since I have learned about the shortfall, I have been in close contact with Secretary Ridley and he has notified me that if Congress fails to fix the trust fund, Oklahoma and most other states will not have the cash to honor infrastructure projects that have already been agreed to.  As a result, my state will be forced to deprogram between $50 and $80 million in projects.  This will be done by cancelling new projects and existing contracts that have already been signed, in addition to slowing down projects that have already broken ground.  Clearly this would have a detrimental effect on the economy and will negate any gains made by the stimulus—which as I’ve said before, dramatically underinvested in infrastructure.

Through his leadership position on the EPW Committee, Senator Inhofe successfully worked with his Senate colleagues to resolve a similar shortfall last fall. Due largely to extremely high gas prices, receipts deposited into the Highway Trust Fund dropped precipitously.  That combined with a busy construction season caused the trust fund balance to fall from $4.2 billion at the end of July to less than $1.4 billion at the beginning of September.  State DOTs responded to this announcement by delaying vital construction projects.

“With the billions of dollars pouring out of Washington these days, it’s remarkable that we find ourselves once again with the same transportation shortfall we had last year.  At that time, I used my leadership position on the EPW Committee to rectify the problem that ultimately began in 1998 when President Bill Clinton transferred $8 billion out of the Highway Trust Fund and into the General Fund.  Last year, we were able to return those funds to their rightful place, but we are still missing 10 years worth of interest on that $8 billion.  Once again, I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reach a solution to the immediate problem while also finding a long term solution in the next highway reauthorization bill.  

“It is time that this Congress and this administration finally make infrastructure a priority. As I argued during the stimulus debate, infrastructure and defense spending will go much farther in helping restore our economy and putting Americans back to work.”

Inhofe Comments on Confirmation of EPA's Regina McCarthy

This week Senator Inhofe supported the nomination of Regina McCarthy Tuesday to be Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the EPA.  The Senate confirmed McCarthy by a voice vote.

Sen. Inhofe: “I supported Sen. Barrasso’s hold on her nomination because we needed a greater understanding of how EPA will handle greenhouse gas regulation under the Clean Air Act—particularly how such regulation would affect thousands of small businesses across the country.  In a letter to me, Administrator Jackson agreed that the Clean Air Act is a flawed mechanism for addressing global warming.  She also agreed that the Act lacks statutory flexibility in important areas, which could be problematic for small businesses, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and other small sources.”

“I thank Administrator Jackson for her candor.  Looking ahead, I hope that, along with acknowledging the inherent problems of regulating under the Act, the Administrator will support legislative efforts to prevent the ‘glorious mess’ of EPA regulation from occurring.”

Opening Statement: Nomination Hearing of Victor Mendez to be Administrator of the FHWA

On Tuesday, Senator Inhofe spoke at the nomination hearing for Victor Mendez to be Administrator of the FHWA. Below is the full test of his statement:  


Thank you, Chairman Boxer.  I would like to welcome Mr. Mendez.  I have met with this nominee and I believe after our conversation that he is well qualified for this important position.   The Federal Highway Administrator has always been a valuable partner of this Committee during the re-authorization process and I expect that this next bill will be no different.


I am pleased that the Administration has chosen such a qualified individual, and someone who recognizes the diverse transportation needs of this country.  Heavily weighing in your favor was a conversation I had with my state=s Secretary of Transportation, Gary Ridley, who proudly relayed his support of your nomination.   I greatly respect the opinion of Secretary Ridley, whom I believe is the best Transportation Secretary in the country.


The challenges in continuing to provide a safe and free flowing transportation network have never been greater.  Making matters worse, we recently learned that the Highway Trust Fund will run out of money some time before August of this year, and will require an infusion of $5 to $7 billion to get through the rest of fiscal year 2009.  An additional $8 to $10 billion will be required in 2010. 


Secretary Ridley has notified me that if we fail to fix the trust fund Oklahoma and most other states will not have the cash to honor infrastructure projects that have already been agreed to.  As a result, my state will be forced to deprogram between $50 and $80 million in projects.  This will be done by cancelling new projects and existing contracts that have already been signed, in addition to slowing down projects that have already broken ground.  Clearly this would have a detrimental effect on the economy and will negate any gains made by the stimulus—which as I’ve said before, dramatically underinvested in infrastructure.


This truly complicates our efforts to reauthorize SAFETEA, which expires this October.  Solving these challenges will require us all to work together.  Unfortunately, there was a troubling development two weeks ago.  This Administration hosted a conference call about the status of the Highway Trust Fund, sharing new, technical information about the inability of the Trust Fund to make required reimbursements to states.  The White House set up the conference call and only invited Democratic staff to participate.  This is completely unacceptable.   


The last Administration was widely criticized last August for not being more open and transparent with Congress and states over this very issue.  I would have hoped this Administration would not repeat mistakes previously made and be open and transparentCespecially with technical information. 


At confirmation hearings, I ask every nominee if they will share information with both sides of the aisle at the same time.  I will ask you the same thing, but will add a very strong caution.  I cannot support your nomination unless you commit to me that the minority will be treated equally in getting information and responses to questions from the FHWA.   Will you make such a commitment to me now?  


Thank you. I look forward to your confirmation and working with you.


EPW Policy Beat: Ag Community Concerned with Cap-and-Trade

Over the last week, agriculture took center stage in the climate debate, as some in Congress threatened to derail the Waxman-Markey bill over, among other things, the Obama Administration’s biofuels policy.  This ag-fueled drama heightened concern within the agricultural community about cap-and-trade and greenhouse gas regulation—and the devastating impacts both would have on farms.   The negative consequences of carbon regulation for American farmers are undeniable.  But don’t take our word for it: EPW Policy Beat sorted through the regulatory docket on EPA’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act (CAA).  There we found numerous comments filed by farm groups staunchly opposed to CAA regulation.  A few themes predominate: CAA regulation will mean new, burdensome taxes and fees on farms; CAA regulation will be a futile attempt to address a global problem through controls on American farms; and CAA regulation will destroy farming jobs and force many farms out of business. 

The following are excerpts from comments submitted by farm groups:

Georgia Farm Bureau

“It is our understanding the USDA has stated that any farming operation with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle, or 200 hogs will emit more than 100 tons of the carbon equivalent. If the envisioned ANPR were to go into effect, nearly all livestock operations in the United States will have to get a permit under Title V to continue to operate.  Some estimates are available on the fee structure of the permits and are based on EPA’s ‘presumptive minimum rate’ and USDA statistics. These estimates range as high as $175 per dairy cow per year, $87.50 per beef animal per year; and $20 per hog per year! Farmers cannot afford such a punitive tax!”   

“We believe the imposition of this rule would lead to less livestock production in the United States. Less production in this country would lead to more importation of livestock products from other countries. The end results would be more greenhouse gas production countries where livestock practices are not as environmentally sound as in this country. The bottom line might very well be that a segment of American agriculture is dismantled while greenhouse gases, on a global scale, are increased.”  Link to Document

Illinois Farm Bureau 

“Fees (or taxes) on cows and hogs would impose a significant added cost for dairy, beef and hog producers that cannot easily be absorbed. Most farmers will be unable to pass along these costs. Imposition of such costs may cause many farmers to go out of business. GHG regulation under the Clean Air Act will adversely impact all farmers. Regulation of various aspects of agricultural operations may be extensive and place huge economic burdens on farmers. Regulation of other economic sectors will result in increased fuel, fertilizer and energy costs for all farmers.”


“Regulating a ton in the United States without addressing emissions in other countries would do little to address the global issue, and would only penalize producers in the United States.  For sectors of American agriculture vulnerable to foreign imports, the regulations may cause livestock production to increase in other parts of the world to keep up with global demand.  American consumers would be purchasing and consuming less domestically-produced product and more foreign-produced product.”  Link to Document



Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association 


"Regulation of the ton emitted in Kentucky will have no environmental impact unless the regulation can also prevent an additional ton from being emitted in China or anywhere else in the world. It cannot. As mentioned earlier, these proposed regulations could very well shift production to other countries where emissions would actually increase per unit production.”


“I fear the net effect of this policy if enacted would be to impose severe penalties on livestock producers in the United States without effectively reducing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.”  Link to Document



North Dakota Dept. of Agriculture


“Agriculture provides not only the food and fiber of America, but is the largest offset provider against human activity.  A healthy agricultural landscape provides clean air, water, and open space. If the programs contemplated by the ANPR are ultimately proposed and adopted, we firmly believe that it will place a staggering cost on agricultural producers, consumers, and the U.S. economy–all with little or no environmental benefit. We urge you to carefully consider agriculture’s needs as we continue to enhance environmental protection while maintaining a viable farm production system.” Link to Document



Michigan Farm Bureau 


“If greenhouse gas regulations as envisioned by the ANPR went into effect, Michigan agriculture would be dramatically impacted, negatively. Nearly one-third of the hog and beef farms and over 70 percent of the dairy farms would be affected. Depending on the cost of the fee, these requirements could eliminate livestock agriculture in Michigan. Furthermore, educational institutions (i.e., high school agri-science and land grant universities) with livestock farm components would be faced with superfluous financial burdens.”


“The principal contributor to the ongoing contraction of the U.S. live cattle industry is the lack of profitability for independent U.S. cattle producers – a problem that would be greatly exacerbated if the industry were saddled with yet another regulatory cost under the hypothetical regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.” Link to Document



New York Farm Bureau 


“The impact to New York’s dairy industry would be devastating. The cost per year for New York (627,000 mature dairy cattle X $175.00 per cow) would be a staggering $109,725,000 million. There is little doubt that this would result in a significant loss of our dairy industry and working farmland, as well as put up an insurmountable barrier to entry into the dairy industry for our young farmers.”

Link to Document



Arkansas Farm Bureau 


“According to the SEIT worksheet just 33.3 acres of rice would trigger the small emitter threshold of 100 tons which would envelop 100% of Arkansas rice production. This equates to a ‘fee’ of $131.25 per acre.  Arkansas average acreage planted to rice has been approximately 1.3 million acres equating to a potential annual ‘fee’ of $170,625,000…Combining the potential ‘fees’ for rice production and soil management brings the annual total to over $1.4 billon.”


“Compared to other states known for their dairy and swine production, Arkansas is mostly small farms. Small farms do not have the economies of scale to absorb these costs and do not have the ability to pass these costs up the supply chain. The end result will be the forced extinction of many more small farms.”  Link to Document


Texas Farm Bureau 

“For many farmers the imposition of taxes of this magnitude would force them out of business.” Link to Document

In the News . . . Fund shortfall may impair Oklahoma road projects, Sen. Jim Inhofe says




Published: June 3, 2009


WASHINGTON - Oklahoma could lose up to $80 million in highway money later this summer because of an anticipated shortfall in the federal Highway Trust Fund, Sen. Jim Inhofe said Tuesday.

The loss, which could range from $50 million to $80 million, would mean the state Transportation Department would have to cancel or delay projects that have been in the pipeline for years.

The Highway Trust Fund, which gets money from the federal gas tax, has been hit hard by a reduction in the amount of gas purchased by American motorists.

Congress had to pump $8 billion into the fund last fall to keep it solvent.

At a hearing Tuesday of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the chairman of the committee, said the fund may need $5 billion to $7 billion in August to keep commitments made by the 2005 highway bill.

Separate from stimulus

Oklahoma is expected to get about $465 million in the next two years for road and bridge projects from the $787 billion stimulus bill passed earlier this year.

But that's separate from the regular funding the state Transportation Department gets from federal Highway Trust Fund receipts, which are allocated among the states based on a formula.

Inhofe said Gary Ridley, state Transportation Department director, told him that the state would be forced to "deprogram" up to $80 million in projects if the trust fund shortfall isn't fixed.

"This will be done by cancelling new projects and existing contracts that have already been signed, in addition to slowing down projects that have already broken ground," Inhofe said.

"Clearly this would have a detrimental effect on the economy and will negate any gains made by the stimulus - which as I've said before, dramatically underinvested in infrastructure."

Inhofe rejects tax hike

Senators on the committee said the trust fund posed a long-term problem for the nation's roads and bridges that needs to be addressed sometime this year when a new highway bill is written.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said the federal gas tax would have to be increased so funding could keep pace with the nation's need for road improvements.

But Inhofe, R-Tulsa, told reporters that he wouldn't agree to a tax increase.

He acknowledged that the gas tax, at its current level, won't generate enough money to pay for the next highway bill.

But he added that the administration should instead shift some of the new money it is planning to spend on social prog

In the News. . . Federal Road Funds in Danger

Tulsa World

Inhofe: Federal road funds in danger

by: JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau

Published on June 03, 2009


WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe said Tuesday the federal fund that helps pay for highway projects once again will go broke by August, forcing Oklahoma to cancel up to $80 million in projects.

Other road projects that already have broken ground could be delayed, the Oklahoma Republican said.

"Clearly this would have a detrimental effect on the economy and will negate any gains made by the stimulus,'' he said in a statement released during a confirmation hearing for Victor Mendez to be the next head of the Federal Highway Administration.

A spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation called the situation alarming.

Terri Angier said just as alarming is the lack of notice by federal officials, citing the notice states received last year when a similar problem surfaced.

That problem was averted after billions were transferred back to the trust fund.

Asked about the $80 million figure, Angier said, "It doesn't sound out of range. It could be right,'' adding that last year the $8.6 billion shortfall would have affected more than $120 million in Oklahoma projects.

Angier said ODOT could not say which specific projects would be hit this time around.

"We have no idea at this point,'' she said.

A written statement issued by ODOT warns an immediate halt in spending could jeopardize the agency's entire eight-year construction program.

"Federal dollars pay for about 85 percent of transportation construction in Oklahoma, while state revenues are focused on day-to-day repairs and routine upkeep,'' the statement reads.

It cites reduced travel, higher energy prices and increased fuel efficient cars as reasons for the shortfall.

Projects funded by the federal stimulus package are not expected to be impacted, according to ODOT's statement.

Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, called for swift action by Congress and the Obama administration to fix the Highway Trust Fund.

He declined, however, to endorse a specific solutionin an interview away from the committee hearing on the Mendez nomination.

Inhofe again stressed that he opposes raising the federal gas tax to increase revenue generated for the trust fund.

Both Inhofe and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the committee, said the trust fund would need up to $7 billion to remain solvent through September.

"An additional $8 billion to $10 billion will be required in 2010,'' Inhofe said.

The current transportation bill expires this fall.

In the News. . . Waxman Markey Measure Portends Devestating Results

Roll Call Op/Ed



Published: June 04, 2009


On a recent stop in Illinois to explain the Department of Agriculture’s role in rural America, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told a group of 200 that when it comes to a cap-and-trade program “we ought not to be fearful of this future. We ought to embrace it.”

Perhaps Secretary Vilsack is reading a different piece of legislation than the Waxman-Markey climate change and national energy bill (H.R. 2454) that passed in the House Energy and Commerce Committee on May 22. Because even with slight modifications to the bill during the Energy and Commerce Committee’s markup, it still presents a grim future that will have a devastating economic impact on those living and working throughout rural America.

The cap-and-trade part of this bill will essentially create a national energy tax, and it will do more harm to production agriculture, American industry, and our standard of living than it will do any good for the environment. A national energy tax will impact all of us. If you like being warm in the winter, you are going to be affected. If you like being cool in the summer, you are going to be affected. If you own a farm, if you like to eat, if you run a small business or work in one, you are going to be affected. If you want to go anywhere, this bill will affect you.

From higher energy costs to lost jobs to higher food prices, cap-and-trade promises to cap our incomes, our livelihoods, and our standard of living, while it trades away American jobs and opportunities. For this reason, as this bill stands now, I cannot embrace it.

I am not alone. So far, 34 agriculture groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Farmers and Ranchers, National Corn Growers Association, National Chicken Council, and National Turkey Federation have sent letters to members of Congress encouraging them to oppose the Waxman-Markey bill. Meanwhile, no large farm groups have endorsed it.

These groups realize that agriculture is a prime target for a national energy tax because it is an energy-intensive industry. Whether it’s the fuel in the tractor, the fertilizer for the crops or the delivery of food to the grocery store, agriculture uses a great deal of energy throughout production. On average, 65 percent of farmers’ variable input costs are fuel, electricity, fertilizer, and chemicals. Even a small increase in the operating costs for our producers will hurt American agriculture.

Estimates vary, but experts predict that under this national energy tax, energy prices will increase anywhere between 15 percent and 125 percent. Additionally, as these higher energy prices ripple throughout the economy, producers will pay more for seed, equipment, machinery, steel and other supplies needed for their agriculture operations.  Ultimately, higher costs will be passed onto consumers with higher food prices. People will pay more for food, or be forced to buy less to meet household budgets.

Although agriculture will be significantly impacted by this legislation, this bill largely ignores our farmers and ranchers. The bill is more than 1,100 pages long and mentions “agriculture” only seven times. Even then, it does not specifically recognize the role agriculture can play in providing carbon offsets, and it does not provide a meaningful way for farmers to participate in carbon credit programs.

People living in rural communities will be hit the hardest because they have different lifestyles and challenges than those living in urban communities. They must travel farther for routine errands — 25 percent more miles than urban households, according to the most recent Federal Highway data. And, rural households spend 58 percent more on fuel than urban residents as a percentage of their income.

Power providers in rural America face a unique challenge of providing affordable electricity to larger, less densely populated areas. Rural electric cooperatives serve 40 million Americans averaging around seven consumers per mile, while other utilities average 35 customers per mile.

Although the Waxman-Markey bill passed out of the Energy and Commerce Committee, eight other committees, including Agriculture, must consider the bill before it makes it to the House floor. This is one of the most significant pieces of legislation that this Congress will consider. It will have a monumental impact on our economy. We must take time to fully understand this impact because it will be far-reaching and felt for generations to come. 

Finally, we must not forget that our farmers and ranchers are the original stewards of the earth, and they already find new and innovative ways to reduce energy usage, reduce emissions and sequester carbon. A real solution to climate change should not involve damaging an industry that consistently provides America and the world with an abundant and affordable food and fiber supply.

Lucas is the ranking member on the House Committee on Agriculture.