Sen. Inhofe gave a floor speech Monday on the latest developments in global warming policy, including the release last week of the Kerry-Lieberman proposal. Senator Inhofe delivered the speech as many of the world's leading skeptics gathered in Chicago for a major climate conference.
"I proudly support the Heartland Institute's Fourth International Climate Conference, and were it not for votes on the Senate floor today, I would have delivered my speech in Chicago at the conference," Senator Inhofe said. "Taxpayer-funded science should be open and transparent. All voices and perspectives should be heard, because cap-and-trade advocates support policies that would cost trillions of dollars and millions of jobs, with virtually no climate benefits. We can't afford to get this wrong.
"That about sums up the Kerry-Lieberman bill. Americans would pay dearly in the form of lost jobs and higher gasoline prices, and they'd get just about nothing in return."
Salazar says Dem bill to raise oil company liability could hit smaller drillers
By Ben Geman
Twice in recent days, Republicans have blocked Democratic efforts to win quick passage of legislation that would raise the economic damages cap from $75 million to $10 billion.
Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) -- who have blocked the Democratic bill -- argue that a cap too high would make it financially impossible for smaller and independent oil-and-gas companies to operate offshore.
Salazar made a similar argument before a Senate panel Tuesday. "You don't want only the BP's of the world to essentially be the ones that are involved in these efforts," he told Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) during a hearing on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill held by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
The Obama administration wants Congress to raise the economic damages cap in the wake of the Gulf spill. But it has not provided a target figure. Salazar called for working with lawmakers to arrive at a figure that is not "arbitrary."
"It ought to be high enough so that we make sure that the responsible party will be able to live up to whatever consequences result from their actions," Salazar told Menendez at the hearing.
But Menendez attacked the idea that a cap too high would harm smaller companies. "That simply means that if you are smaller, you can get away with taking the same risks but having less liability," he said.
Menendez has even suggested that there should be unlimited liability, according to Reuters, a view that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) endorsed Tuesday. "I think $10 billion is too small," Reid told reporters Tuesday, noting estimates of damages from the Gulf spill in the $14 billion range.
"I'm for no cap," Reid said.
Inhofe and Murkowski, for their part, say they believe the cap should be higher than $75 million, but that the issue needs more review.
"Certainly, we need to raise these limits. Now, where it should be raised, I don't know where the cap should be. And we're going to have to find out as this thing moves along," Inhofe said Tuesday on the Senate floor as he blocked the plan for a $10 billion cap that Menendez is pushing with Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).
"I would only say this, though, if you have it too high, you are going to be singling out BP and the other four largest majors and the nationalized companies such as China and Venezuela, and shutting out the independent producers. I don't want that to happen," Inhofe added.
BP has said that its damages payments will exceed the current $75 million cap and that it will pay all "legitimate" claims.
Wall Street Journal
Republicans: EPA Holding Up More Coal Permits Than Disclosed
By Mark Peters and Siobhan Hughes
NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Republican lawmakers allege that federal regulators have put on hold at least twice as many Appalachian coal-mining permits as publicly disclosed, shutting off an estimated two billion tons of coal production planned for the region.
A report by Republican members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, also finds actions by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration are disproportionately affecting small companies in the eastern U.S.
With 190 permits put under scrutiny as of March, more than the 79 publicly identified by the EPA, about 41% of the Appalachian region's annual coal production is on hold, the report found.
EPA representatives did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment.
The report is an attempt to quantify the effects of tighter water-quality standards on Appalachia. Under the Obama administration, the EPA has taken steps to protect water from the effects of coal mining. The agency has cast its actions largely as an effort to limit so-called mountaintop-removal mining. The process, primarily used in Kentucky and West Virginia, involves blasting the tops off mountains to access the coal beneath.
But according to the report, only 19 of the 190 permits that are currently held up involve mountaintop-removal coal mining. The remaining 171 permits are being sought for traditional surface mines, underground mines and coal processing facilities. The report concluded the Obama administration's effort to cast its initiative as an effort to regulate mountaintop-removal mining is "highly misleading."
According to the report, the EPA as of early March hadn't decided on 190 applications for water-quality permits that mining companies need to dump leftover rock and dirt into nearby valleys. The materials can bury streams and increase the mineral and metal levels, damaging fish and plant life. Since May 2009, shortly after the EPA began scrutinizing mountaintop-removal mining permits, the EPA issued 45 permits. The report didn't account for permits companies withdrew, and some of the 190 permits cited may have been withdrawn.
Permit approval is essential to maintain production levels in Central Appalachia, where surface mines supply coal used by power plants. The committee report estimates the requested permits--which Republican staffers say usually cover four to five years of production--represent about two billion tons of total, planned production. Total production for the Appalachian region was 340 million tons last year.
Curbing coal production also translates into a loss of coal-mining jobs, the report found.
"If the EPA continues to block the permits noted above, roughly one out of every four coal-mining jobs in the Appalachian region could be lost," the report said. It estimates that the 190 coal-mining operations placed on hold by the EPA would support 14,814 jobs.
Democratic members of the Senate committee did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The committee found that a majority of the permit applications awaiting approval were filed by small mining companies. Of the 190 pending permit applications, 154 were filed by companies with 500 or fewer employees. Permit challenges and increased volatility of coal prices among other factors are prompting smaller operators to exit the business, driving increased industry consolidation.
The EPA last month announced it would tightened water-quality standards, setting limits on the electrical conductivity, or salinity, of streams, which can be impacted by mining. The agency said last year it was conducting an enhanced review of 79 permit application. About 35% of those applications have been withdrawn, while the EPA has approved four.
On Tuesday at the EPW hearing on the "Federal Response to the Recent Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico," Sen. Inhofe made the following opening statement:
It might come as a surprise to some people in this room, but I want to commend President Obama for his speech on the oil spill last Friday. He didn't waste time pointing fingers, assigning blame, or issuing irresponsible statements against domestic energy production. He said what I've said from the very start. Let me quote him. The "most important order of business," he said, "is to stop the leak...and we need to stop it as soon as possible."
The President went on to say that we must "contain the spill and protect the Gulf Coast and the people who live there." Again, that's exactly what we should be doing. He also mentioned the need to "mitigate the damage caused by the spill," and to put in place "every necessary safeguard and protection so that a tragedy like this oil spill does not happen again."
This is very similar to what I said at our last hearing on the spill. I said that we need to:
- Mitigate and contain the environmental impacts;
- Provide assistance to the Gulf's commercial and recreational fishing industries; and
- Investigate the causes so we can prevent a disaster of this kind from happening again.
Administrator Jackson, I have great respect for you and I was pleased with what you said recently about the spill. You said we need a thoughtful response to ensure this doesn't happen again. You said the focus must be on stopping the oil spill and helping the people affected. I couldn't agree more.
I also appreciate your hard work, along with the Coast Guard and NOAA, in approving the testing on the subsea use of dispersants. The early results are encouraging. I also support your diligence in monitoring to ensure that the use of dispersants is effective and environmentally sound.
Based on what I've seen thus far, we have agreement on what needs to get done and I hope we can agree on the path forward. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that this spill has occasioned some fatally misguided legislation, which will make us more dependent on foreign oil.
This Committee exercises primary jurisdiction over the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990. Senator Menendez's bill, S. 3305, would amend the OPA. He may not know it, but his bill is a big help for big oil companies, such as BP, and for foreign and state-owned oil companies.
S. 3305 would make offshore production for small- and medium-sized independent producers economically infeasible-they would be forced out of the Gulf. We can't forget that the independents produce 63 percent of the Gulf's natural gas and 36 percent of its oil. If S. 3305 became law, their business would be swallowed up by the likes of BP and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation. How would that help address the spill? How would that lessen our dependence on foreign oil?
We experienced something like this in 1989 with the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. Remember that that incident was different from what are dealing with now. Exxon-Valdez was the name of the tanker that crashed in Prince William Sound. It was a transportation accident.
I was on the House Transportation Committee at the time. Much to my dismay, environmental groups politicized the accident; they exploited it to achieve their goal of shutting down domestic oil production. Of course, the irony is that we are more dependent on foreign oil. Companies moved their operations overseas. What's more, we now have more tankers coming to port, which increases our risk of oil spills.
Yesterday, President Obama announced plans to establish an independent commission to comprehensively investigate the causes of this spill. Madame Chairman, let's address the urgent needs of the moment. And then, after that, when we have all the facts, we can draft the appropriate response, one that will protect the environment and lessen our dependence on foreign oil. We can do both and I hope we will do both.
EPA's announcement last week of the so-called "tailoring rule" was indubitably a momentous one-but not for the reasons supposed by EPA. Despite the agency's labored legal rationalizations, the tailoring rule clearly violates the Clean Air Act (CAA), and thus offers no consolation to thousands of small businesses who sit perilously on the edge of EPA's greenhouse gas regulatory regime.
Some may recall the inconvenient fact that arose out of EPA's recent finding that greenhouse gases from mobile sources "endanger" public health and welfare. To wit: once a "pollutant," such as CO2, becomes "subject to regulation" under the Clean Air Act, any major stationary source that emits-or has the potential to emit-more than 100 or 250 tons of CO2 must obtain a costly, time-consuming "preconstruction permit" from EPA.
Want to build a school, hospital, office building, or nursing home? What about a Wal-Mart or a Safeway? Forget it, unless you get a Prevention of Significant Deterioration, or PSD, permit from EPA, which requires that the school, or whatever's being built or modified, install best available control technology (BACT) to limit GHG emissions. (Of course what constitutes BACT for GHGs is an open question, which only adds to the uncertainty and confusion arising from EPA's ever-expanding GHG regime.)
Under the tailoring rule, if a new source emits less than 100,000 tons of GHGs per year, it is exempt from PSD requirements, though the exemption extends only to 2016, at which point EPA will decide whether to regulate such sources. As for modifications to existing facilities, EPA exempts those that fall under 75,000 tons per year. EPA also says it may permanently exempt from permitting requirements sources that emit less than 50,000 tons per year.
EPA calls this a "common-sense approach." It may very well be. But common sense cannot trump the fact that the 100,000-ton threshold contravenes the clear 100-250-ton limit in the CAA. EPA says no matter, and claims the higher threshold is justified by, among other things, the demands of "administrative necessity"-processing thousands of permits would overwhelm state permitting agencies-and the doctrine of "absurd results"-e.g., installing BACT at the local Dunkin Donuts.
To be sure, EPA's legal basis for the tailoring rule will be tested in court. The suits will go directly to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. And if you want a sneak peek into the DC Circuit's take on the boundaries of EPA's discretion in interpreting statutes, one need only turn to Judge David Tatel.
Last October, Judge Tatel, a Clinton appointee, delivered a little-noticed speech to the Environmental Law Institute. In his remarks, Tatel issued a direct warning to EPA: follow the law. Judge Tatel noted that "you'd be surprised how often agencies don't seem to have given their authorizing statutes so much as quick skim." To illustrate his point, he cited a case of EPA's erroneous reading of the Clean Water Act. EPA, he said, ran afoul of the act's requirement that to establish "total maximum daily loads" for certain fluid discharges. Here's Tatel in full:
Tatel's opinion in that case (Friends of the Earth v. EPA) is even more emphatic:
As for the CAA, Congress was clear, and making exceptions for GHGs can't be sustained unless Congress changes the law. As Judge Tatel observed, "the ‘New EPA' that you are discussing today may have excellent programs it is eager to execute. But those programs will be legitimate-and will be sustained in court-only if their implementation conforms to the rule of law."
To put it mildly, the fate of the tailoring rule in the DC Circuit appears bleak. Put simply, no matter what the legal outcome, Congress must overturn the endangerment finding and stop EPA from regulating GHGs altogether under the CAA.
Sen. Inhofe released the following statement yesterday at a Full Committee Business Meeting:
Thank you, Madame Chair. Given that we are all anxious to attend the Joint Session with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, my remarks will be brief.
Today's agenda contains a mix of bills, several of which I will be supporting. However, I have reservations about S. 3362, the Sustainable Schools Pollution Reduction Act of 2010, and S. 3373, a bill to designate air quality empowerment zones in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Finally, I have filed two amendments to S. 3374, the Cleanfields Investment Act.
Along with the authors of S. 3362, I support energy efficiency in our schools and agree it is and can be a great method for lowering energy costs and reducing emissions. However, I cannot understand how establishing yet another unfunded grant program will achieve our mutual goal of increasing energy efficiency. I realize that it is a popular notion that spending money is the answer to all of our challenges, but given that yesterday our national debt crossed over $13 trillion, I would hope we would start to realize that there are other ways to achieve the worthwhile goals this bill seeks. The best way to provide schools with efficient energy choices is to support an all-of-the-above energy policy that will not only provide for our energy needs but provide our nation with energy security. When given options, I believe that schools will make rational choices.
Regarding S. 3373, I have the same concerns as I did last Congress when we marked up this bill. I share the Chair's desire to help areas in our states to meet their attainment goals. My own state is facing attainment challenges. Unfortunately, like in last Congress, S. 3373 is limited to only one area, despite the fact that there are other areas of the country that would benefit from the same help.
Finally, I have a couple of amendments that I believe will improve S. 3374, the Cleanfields Investment Act, by broadening the definition of what types of Brownfield sites can benefit from this program. Also, since the goals of this bill can be reached within the existing Brownfields program, I don't believe there is a need for an additional $50 million authorization.
Thank you, Madame Chair. I look forward to working with you and other members of the Committee on the bills before us today.
The Oklahoman: Editorial
‘New' climate bill still bad idea for economy
Published May 18, 2010
Sens. John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman unveiled a modified version of a bill first introduced last year that quickly stalled as critics rightly depicted it as a tax on virtually the entire economy.
Now it's back, its authors hoping time, new terminology and ginned-up urgency will resuscitate an economy-stifling, tax-increasing, job-killing piece of legislation. "It's the same old cap-and-trade scheme that the Senate has defeated three times since 2003," said Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa. "It has a strong resemblance to the disastrous (House) bill. Only now, along with paying skyrocketing electricity prices, consumers will pay a gas tax." More on that presently.
Kerry and Lieberman now refer to "pollution reduction and investment" legislation instead of "cap and trade." The latter was too easily morphed into "cap and tax" by opponents. By whatever name, it's a stew of subsidies, incentives and rebates to lure support from various quarters while promising not to hit regular Americans' wallets.
The campaign to pass Kerry-Lieberman is straight from the Obamacare playbook.
Recall that Obamacare began as "health care reform" before becoming "health insurance reform" after the White House discovered that demonizing insurance companies generated political traction.
Recall, too, that Obamacare stayed alive with a buffet of subsidies, payoffs and barely veiled bribes to special interests, even as President Obama promised most Americans wouldn't bear the costs.
This 987-page bill seeks carbon reductions from separate sectors of the economy instead of imposing the nationwide limit under the House version. Nonetheless, the bill still guns for the same goal: reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by 83 percent by 2050.
"This is going to change the face of American energy," Kerry, D-Mass., said last week, flanked by CEOs of companies that make thermostats and energy-saving products. (They should check with Big Pharma to see how signing on to Obamacare has worked out for them.)
As for the bill's gasoline tax, Kerry bristled when asked about it. By now Americans should know the stronger the denial, the tighter they should grip their pocketbooks.
Producers and importers of gasoline and jet fuel would be segregated from the bill's other carbon-permit auctions, but it's just flim-flammery to distract from the immutable economic fact that increased costs will be borne by consumers.
Months ago, cap and trade was dead on arrival in the Senate. They've tightened some of the bolts and rearranged the furniture, but it's still the same bad bill it was - one that should die a second, permanent, death.
The Wall Street Journal
What New Lead-Paint Law Means for Homeowners
By SARAH E. NEEDLEMAN
May 18, 2010
A lot of our readers have said, given the choice, they prefer old homes to newly built models.
But what about the lead paint issue?
In today's Wall Street Journal, I report on how professionals who repair or renovate homes and other buildings constructed before 1978 are now required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to adhere to strict lead-safe work practices.
Renovation activities that disturb lead-based paint can create hazardous lead dust and chips, which can lead to health problems such as nerve disorders, high-blood pressure and memory loss, the EPA says. The agency estimates that 87% of homes built before 1940 and 24% of homes built between 1960 and 1978 have some lead-based paint.
Some contractors, property-management firms and landlords who work on building renovations say they plan to pass the costs of complying with the ruling onto consumers. Those costs range from materials such as lead-testing kits, plastic sheeting and respirators to training and certification.
Homeowners aren't covered in the ruling, but given the hazards of lead-paint poisoning, they may want to consider taking safety precautions anyway or at least check their properties for possible lead contamination. Of course, lead paint is something to look for and ask about when you're buying an older home. Sal Alfano, editorial director of Remodeling, a monthly magazine, says he expects some homeowners to take on renovation projects themselves to avoid paying higher fees that professionals may charge.
Meanwhile, consumers who still plan to hire professional help for renovation projects on pre-1978 homes may want ensure that those folks are trained and certified in lead-safe work practices. The EPA offers a search tool on its website for locating certified renovation companies.
Contractors say it's likely that some of their competitors will take the risk of violating the ruling in order to charge less. While failure to comply with the ruling could result in fines up to $37,500 a day, a spokesman for the EPA says the government agency's only method of enforcement is to investigate tips and complaints to its hotline, 800-424-LEAD.
Homeowners should also note that some home-renovation workers may not yet be educated in lead-safe practices due to a shortage of instructors. Earlier this month, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), introduced a bill to delay the implementation of EPA's lead rule until classes have been held in a state for at least one year.
Readers, if you own a home built prior to 1978, would you pay extra to protect against lead-paint poisoning when doing renovations or repairs?
In the News. . .Cooling Fear of a Malaria Surge from Warming - Last Word on Malaria? - Dont Sweat it
Inhofe EPW News Roundup
"The science linking warming and malaria risk was always iffy, a reality reflected in the relevant sections of the 2007 reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change"
NYT: Cooling Fear of a Malaria Surge from Warming (05/20/10) - As various arguments for action on global warming have failed to blunt growth in emissions in recent years, environmental groups and international agencies have sometimes tried to turn the focus to diseases that could pose a growing threat in a warming world - with malaria being a frequent talking point. It shouldn't be. The science linking warming and malaria risk was always iffy, a reality reflected in the relevant sections of the 2007 reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Modeling studies cited there had variegated results, and many focused only on the potential expansion of the geographical range or mosquito-friendly seasons, while not considering how shifting patterns of health care and human behavior might render such changes moot.
Roger Pielke Jr.: Last Word on Malaria? (05/20/10) - The Nature News article ends on a predictable note, quoting a researcher who says: "This does not diminish the importance of climate change at all."I agree with this statement of course, because I never thought addressing malaria was a key justification for dealing with climate change in the first place. However the systematic overselling of malaria and climate change in the past requires some attention, and it is not the only context in which these dynamics have occurred -- disasters and climate change provides another obvious example. Readers from last summer may remember that I took issue with the Global Humanitarian Forum's absurd estimate of more than 300,000 deaths per year due to human-caused climate change, mainly due to diseases and including malaria. The new study underscores my critique.
BBC News: Climate change is 'distraction' on malaria spread (05/20/10) - Research leader Peter Gething from Oxford University described the climate link as an "unwelcome distraction" from the main issues of tackling malaria. The paper, by scientists in the UK, US and Kenya, is published in Nature. "We were looking to quantify something that perhaps we already knew with regard to the interaction of climate and malaria," Dr Gething told BBC News. "A lot of the studies proposing there would be a dramatic increase in a warmer world have been met with guarded criticism, and often what's been said about them surpasses what the actual science indicates. "So this redresses the balance a bit."
The Economist : Don't sweat it (05/19/10) - ONE of the obvious problems with predicting the future effects of climate change is that they haven't happened. This makes climate studies highly dependent on models, which invariably and unavoidably make simplifying assumptions. This means that using their results to say anything of practical import needs care and caveats, both of which can often be in short supply, or stripped out to make a point. However, it is now ever more possible for studies of climate change to look at the past, not the future. The 20th century saw a fair amount of warming, and it is sometimes possible to compare what this warming did and didn't do with what future warming might or might not do. This is what a paper published in Nature this week does in an attempt to re-examine, and perhaps close down, long-running debates about malaria and climate change.
Nature: Malaria may not rise as world warms (05/19/10) - Yet when epidemiologists Peter Gething and Simon Hay of the Malaria Atlas Project at the University of Oxford, UK, and their colleagues compiled data on the incidence of malaria in 1900 and 2007 (see page 342), they found the opposite: despite rising temperatures during the twentieth century, malaria has lost ground. According to the models the researchers used to tease out the factors affecting the incidence of malaria, the impact of public-health measures such as improved medications, widespread insecticide use and bed nets have overwhelmed the influence of climate change. "Malaria is still a huge problem," says Gething. "But climate change per se is not something that should be central to the discussion. The risks have been overstated."
Science Magazine : Malaria Probably Won't Get Worse With Warming Temperatures (05/20/10) - A prominent group of malaria researchers has questioned that link. Several years ago, they formed a collaboration called the Malaria Atlas Project (MAP). Their first effort was to create a current-day world map of malaria endemicity-that is, a map of the degree and extent of risk for the disease. In a more recent project, MAP acquired similar data for malaria transmission during about 1900, compiled in a Russian study published in the 1960s. Then, they compared the centurywide spread for changes (see illustration). The result, they report in today's issue of Nature, is that malaria's reach has actually contracted dramatically, despite the fact that temperatures rose on average about 0.6?C during the 20th century. The most likely factors in that contraction are vector-control measures such as insecticide spraying and bed nets, as well as effective antimalarial drugs.
Times India: Control, not climate change, key to malaria (05/20/10) - A study published today casts doubt on the widely held notion that warming global temperatures will lead to a future intensification of malaria and an expansion of its global range. The research, conducted by the Malaria Atlas Project (MAP), a multinational team including Oxford University researchers, suggests that current interventions could have a far more dramatic - and positive - effect on reducing the spread of malaria than any negative effects caused by climate change. he study has been published in the journal Nature , an Oxford University release said.
Register UK: Climate change 'no excuse' for failure to beat malaria (05/20/10) - However a team of disease specialists based at Oxford University, the University of Florida and in Kenya have analysed the long battle between humanity and malaria - much of which has occurred against a background of increased temperatures in the generally accepted global records. They say there is no cause for concern. "The globe warmed over the past century, but the range of malaria contracted substantially," says Andy Tatem of Florida uni. "Warming isn't the only factor that affects malaria."
American: Blog: Climate Change Not a Significant Cause of Malaria (05/20/10) - The highly prestigious journal Nature has just published a major report showing that climate change is not a significant cause of malaria-in apparent opposition to numerous alarmists who have been claiming that malaria growth has been caused by climate change. The Economist has picked up on it as well.Paul Reiter, who is quoted in the Nature article, and I testified on the topic and wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal in April 2008, which make some of the same points. What is most interesting is the process by which this study came about-or at least why some of the authors probably wanted to write it. It is a classic case of the emperor being stark naked.
New Scientist: Malaria in retreat despite warmer climate (05/19/10) - transmission has also fallen almost everywhere. This indicates that the incidence of malaria may not rise as a result of climate change. "The things acting to reduce malaria spread, like improved healthcare and disease control, are much more powerful than the weak effect of warming," Gething says. That doesn't mean health authorities can rest on their laurels. Kevin Lafferty, an ecologist at the US Geological Survey, says the positive global picture hides shifting regional ones. Malaria is expected to move to different areas, even as its overall range decreases, he says.