The Senate EPW Committee will hold two hearings next week:
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, will hold a hearing entitled, "Status of the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment" on Tuesday, June 28 at 10:00 am
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, will hold a hearing entitled, "Oversight: Review of EPA Regulations Replacing the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) and the Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR)" on Thursday, June 30 at 10:00 am
The Hearings will take place in room 406 of the Dirksen Senate Building. All hearings are open to the public and are streamed live on the EPW website: http://www.epw.senate.gov/.
Senator Inhofe commented on the Obama Administration's announcement Thursday that it will release 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).
"President Obama's decision to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve due to unrest in Libya is curious to say the least," Senator Inhofe said. "The resources in the SPR are only meant to be tapped during national emergencies. Yet the President's justification for sidestepping Congressional authorization is that the operation in Libya is not a war effort but solely a humanitarian mission. Given the announcement today, are we to assume that the operation has changed course? The President needs to provide a full explanation for this."
The SPR has been used under emergency circumstances only twice: once during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and once after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"Today's announcement further demonstrates the critical need for the United States to increase domestic energy production. Contrary to what President Obama likes to claim, we have plenty of resources here at home. In fact, we have 163 billion barrels of recoverable oil-that's 5,400 times more oil than what Obama wants to release from the SPR. The biggest impediment to developing these resources is this Administration."
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) America has 163 billion barrels of recoverable oil, which is enough to maintain our current levels of production and replace our imports from the Middle East for more than 50 years.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Friday that new deadlines for "Boiler MACT" have been set and that the Agency will consider rewriting the rules. Senator Inhofe gave the following remarks:
"EPA's announcement is little consolation to those who will lose their jobs when the rule is ultimately finalized - which I'm willing to wager will be conveniently after the 2012 elections," Senator Inhofe said.
"This rulemaking is a clear indication that the Clean Air Act is in dire need of modernization. Congress didn't give EPA the authority to set mandates that can't be achieved or pursue a regulatory agenda that hurts the very people it's supposedly trying to protect. Yet, that is exactly what has happened under the auspices of the 'Boiler MACT' rule.
"Despite widespread public opposition, EPA moved forward with standards that were completely divorced from technological realities. Now, with hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs hanging in the balance, EPA is splitting hairs over backroom pledges to the environmental lobby and Obama's second-term aspirations.
"The Clean Air Act needs to be updated to undo years of bureaucratic overreach and messy court rulings. It needs to be updated to meet the pollution challenges of today and to stop politicians from using it to pursue a reckless political agenda that hurts working families."
After the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Tuesday that it has extended the timeline for public input by 30 days on the proposed Utility MACT rule, Senator Inhofe gave the following remarks:
"Today's announcement by EPA is not at all surprising considering the bipartisan concern regarding the Utility MACT rule," Senator Inhofe said. "Of course the public needs more time to review the rule. As the author of the Clean Air Act amendments, Representative Dingell, recently stated, this rule is 'unparalleled in its size and scope' and it 'presents a set of new regulations with possible wide-reaching impacts on the way our country generates and consumes electricity.'
"Even EPA recognizes that the Utility MACT rule will result in a significant number of plant closures and increased electricity rates, making it one of the most expensive rules in the Agency's history. Along with the ‘transport rule,' Utility MACT is projected to cause nearly 1.4 million job losses.
"The EPA has a long way to go to fix this debacle. I hope that the extended comment period will shed additional light on the high costs of this rule and that the Agency will reconsider its final rulemaking accordingly."
In May, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), and Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Ranking Member James M. Inhofe (R-OK) sent a letter to the Obama administration urging additional time for public comment on the proposed Utility MACT rule. (Link)
Tierney, Frank frown on Obama nominee
Ties to conservationists raise fishing worries
By Theo Emery
June 20, 2011
WASHINGTON - For months, Republicans in the Senate have dug in their heels to block many of President Obama's appointments. But his recent choice for commerce secretary has provoked skepticism from an unexpected corner of his own party: Massachusetts Democrats who represent fishing communities.
Representatives John F. Tierney of Salem and Barney Frank of Newton have said they are unhappy about nominee John E. Bryson's long-ago links to the Natural Resources Defense Council, a group that has earned antipathy from fishermen for its efforts to beef up regulation.
"The one area of difference that I've had with some of the environmental organizations is that I think they've been reflexively antifishing. We have complained about unfair enforcement for a long time, and they've tended to dismiss it,'' said Frank, who represents Fall River and New Bedford. "We were disappointed that they [nominated] this guy.''
Bryson's nomination, on which the Senate Commerce Committee will have a hearing tomorrow, is being faulted even though his connection to the environmental group ended in 1974, almost two decades before it became involved in fishing issues.
The two congressmen said they do not oppose Bryson outright, but they call his nomination "troubling,'' a signal that the Cabinet nomination could become embroiled in the long-simmering acrimony between fishermen and federal regulators.
They have sent a detailed list of fishing-related questions to the Commerce Committee chairman, John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia. Because the Senate approves nominations, House members critical of Bryson are pressing their Senate colleagues, including John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, to take a skeptical stance in the hope that they could secure a commitment from Bryson that he will not work against the interests of fishermen.
Senator Scott Brown, who is hosting a town hall meeting in Boston today on the fishing industry, said that he, too, has worries about Bryson.
"Based on his background and past associations, I fear that Mr. Bryson may represent more of the same when it comes to the Commerce Department's over-regulation of the Massachusetts fishing industry,'' the Massachusetts Republican said in a statement.
If he wins the commerce post, Bryson would have direct influence over the industry because the National Marine Fisheries Service, which promotes conservation and regulates how much fish are caught, is within the Commerce Department.
The fishing industry added about $2.6 billion to the Massachusetts economy in 2009, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Yet it has been at loggerheads for years with federal regulators and environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, about efforts to replenish depleted fishing stocks off the New England coast. Many fishermen are particularly unhappy with how new fishing quotas are being imposed.
While the criticism of Bryson is unlikely to scuttle the nomination alone, it gives the fishing disputes visibility, said Thomas E. Mann, a senior fellow at the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution in Washington. He called the Democrats' questions about the nominee classic constituency advocacy.
"They're signaling not just to their constituents, but to the management of the department and the relevant agency within it, that they're really concerned about this,'' Mann said. "This is a case where voice can be important.''
Bryson has a long career that most recently included advising the private equity firm of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. Early in his career, he was president of the California Public Utilities Commission, and he has served in top positions with Edison International. He sits on the boards of numerous education, environmental institutions, and corporations - including Boeing and Walt Disney - and served on the UN Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change.
But the credential that has sparked the most criticism dates back four decades. In 1969, he cofounded the Natural Resources Defense Council while at Yale Law School, then worked as its attorney from 1970 to 1974. Since 1993, the environmental group has advocated for strong fishery management, among other issues, and has brought lawsuits against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the division of the Commerce Department that oversees fisheries.
Edwin Chen, a council spokesman, defended the organization's record in an e-mail, although he declined to address the criticism leveled at Bryson's nomination.
"Many vital commercial and recreational fish populations are severely depleted as a result of decades of overfishing,'' he wrote. "That's why ending overfishing and rebuilding fish stocks are a top NRDC priority.''
In response to the concerns raised by Frank and Tierney, White House spokesman Matt Lehrich called Bryson "an excellent nominee'' with decades of experience in numerous fields.
The commerce department job was a source of bickering long before Bryson's nomination. In March, 44 Senate Republicans - including Brown - sent a letter to Senate majority leader Harry Reid saying they would block any commerce secretary nominee, along with other nominees, until trade deals were completed with Colombia and Panama.
After Obama nominated Bryson on May 31, conservative Republican Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma promptly vowed to defeat the nomination, calling Bryson "founder of a radical environmental organization.'' Other Republicans, such as Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, have joined Inhofe in opposing Bryson.
Almost as swiftly, the nomination took an unusual turn. The day after Obama introduced Bryson at a White House ceremony, Tierney and Frank slammed the White House for not consulting with members of Congress who have long held that the government, with support of environmental groups, has instituted strong-arm policies that harmed the fishing industry.
"For the president to nominate someone for the position of secretary of commerce, without consultation with those of us most concerned with fairness for fishing, and for the NRDC membership to be listed as one of his major qualifications is troubling,'' the two lawmakers said.
Frank said while he is a liberal and an environmentalist, the council is among groups that have dismissed fishermen's concerns. He said he raised questions because the White House had so prominently touted Bryson's links to the council.
"Liberals should be particularly concerned about this,'' he said of the federal government's treatment of fishermen. "It's one of worst examples of arbitrary law enforcement, punitive law enforcement. We want to get his attention on this.''
Kerry, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, met with Bryson on June 15 and said in a statement they had a "direct and candid exchange about the difficulties our fishermen have had on enforcement and federal regulations.''
He didn't indicate whether he supported Bryson, but he said that the next secretary will need to rebuild trust with the fishing industry, and "we need the department to be an ally.''
"I'll keep these issues on the front burner during the confirmation process,'' Kerry said.
On Tuesday, Senator Inhofe voted against cloture for the Economic Development Revitalization Act (S. 782) because crucial amendments that he offered were not considered before the vote. The Senate voted not to proceed with the bill by a vote of 51-49.
"I am disappointed that the Democratic majority in the Senate failed to reach across the aisle to provide the improvements needed to move forward with the Economic Development Revitalization Act," Senator Inhofe said. "As we worked to reauthorize this job-promoting program, my colleagues and even President Obama expressed legitimate concerns about the bill. I agreed and addressed these issues in two key amendments: one amendment significantly cuts EDA's authorization levels and the other promotes transparency and oversight in EDA's grant-making process. Not only are these amendments necessary in order to achieve bipartisan, bicameral support, they are essential in order to gain my vote. Unfortunately, my amendments were not even considered on the Senate floor and there is no guarantee that they will be accepted after cloture. Without having the assurance that these amendments will be a part of the final Economic Development Revitalization Act, I cannot vote to move this bill forward."
More on the Amendments:
Inhofe Amendment #430: This amendment reduces the Economic Development Administration's (EDA) authorization level from $500 million to $300 million.
Inhofe Amendment #459: This amendment would give the Government Accountability Office (GAO) the ability to audit the distribution of EDA grants. GAO would be responsible for ensuring that these grants are awarded through a competitive process and in accordance with EDA criteria and requirements. Additionally GAO would submit a report every year to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to have the efficiency of the program reviewed.
Hill reacts to Gore's climate criticism
By Robin Bravender
June 22, 2011
Al Gore's criticism of President Barack Obama's global warming policies doesn't appear to have tarnished his image among congressional Democrats, and it may give him a boost in the eyes of his critics.
Although some Democrats said they'd like to more action on global warming, they said the political hurdles he's up against are a large part of the problem.
"That's good for Al Gore to keep on pushing all of us on this," said Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), adding that she hadn't read the former vice president's 7,000-word Rolling Stone essay.
"There's no question the president hasn't changed an inch on this. We also know that he doesn't have a prayer of getting through the kind of bill we all think is necessary," she said. "While I agree that we all want to see more, I think the president, given the realities here of people who are in denial, he is doing a lot from the executive branch."
When it comes to climate, "no one has done as much as Al Gore," said Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.), "so he may have higher expectations of a lot of people."
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) thinks Gore might even help Obama improve his image among critics on the right.
"That's got to be a plus for Obama, that a Looney Tunes like Al Gore - and he is Looney Tunes on the issue of global warming - is not satisfied with that," Rohrabacher said. "I'd be surprised if Obama didn't call him up [and say], ‘Please attack me so I'll look more rational.'"
Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton said he believes Obama and Gore agree on the issue of global warming, but "perhaps the president as president feels obligated to be a little less confrontational and less emotional than the former vice president feels."
Editorial: Green lobby discolors air issue
June 20, 2011
At an April hearing on the regional haze issue involving coal-fired power plants, a Sierra Club representative said, "Now is the time to put health before profits."
This is the kind of clueless anti-business, anti-consumer remark we expect from environmental zealots, who continue to frame this issue through the lens of false choices. In their view, it's good health vs. bad health, clean air vs. dirty air and government good vs. corporate greed.
But that isn't what this is about. It's about visibility - the ability of animals to see each other at federal wildlife refuges. Haze linked in part to coal-fired power plants might (but doesn't always) reduce visibility. For this, the Sierra Club and its Environmental Protection Agency sycophants want to make utility ratepayers shell out billions of dollars to install coal scrubbers.
For those in the dark, profits are the reason for-profit companies exist. It's why they invest earnings in improving capacity to meet changing needs, such as a growing demand for power. Coal may be dirty. Profits aren't.
Regardless of how the state's largest utilities make power - with coal, natural gas, water, buffalo chips or fanning the air with palm leaves - they must have a return on investment or they'll cease operations.
Utilities and state environmental officials proposed a sensible compromise with the EPA: gradually converting to cleaner natural gas in lieu of installing scrubbers. The EPA said Nay! The Sierra Club said Yeah!
And then they powered up another victory for hazy, autocratic policymaking.
EPW News Roundup
What they are saying about opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve
Senator Bingaman (D-NM): "In the short term the time has passed when we should be seriously considering using the Strategic Petroleum Reserve" - The Hill (5/16/11)
"Begich, a Democrat, said he'd encourage Obama to think of Alaska as the nation's strategic petroleum reserve." - AP (6/23/11)
Oklahoman: Oklahoma-based Domestic Energy Producers Alliance is critical of decision to open oil reserve (6/24/11) - The Obama administration isn't getting any more popular with Oklahoma's oil and natural gas industry, despite the announcement Thursday of plans to sell 30 million barrels of oil from the country's emergency reserves. Mike Cantrell, president of the Oklahoma-based Domestic Energy Producers Alliance, called the plan a "cruel game of ‘bait and switch'" meant to allow the administration to claim credit for gas prices that were falling already. Cantrell said there is no reason to tap the country's strategic petroleum reserve. U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, said President Barack Obama's decision to tap into the petroleum reserve shows the importance of increasing domestic energy production. "Contrary to what President Obama likes to claim, we have plenty of resources here at home. In fact, we have 163 billion barrels of recoverable oil - that's 5,400 times more oil than what Obama wants to release from the (strategic petroleum reserve). "The biggest impediment to developing these resources is this administration."
WSJ Editorial: White House Oil Epiphany (6/24/11) - It wasn't long ago that the Obama Administration was trying to drive up the price of fossil fuels to reduce carbon emissions, promote "green jobs" and save the planet from global warming. Gasoline at $3.50 or $4 a gallon has ended that. And yesterday the White House went so far as to join a global effort to release 60 million barrels from oil stockpiles to further reduce prices. The U.S. will release one million barrels a day for 30 days from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve-the nation's 727 million barrel oil stockpile located in salt domes in Texas and Louisiana. The spot price of oil dropped about $5 a barrel on the news, and if that decrease holds it could be the equivalent of a 10 cent a gallon reduction in gas prices. The White House says it is taking this action because of "supply disruptions" in Libya and other countries which pose a threat to global economic recovery. But the Libyan conflict is now four months old, so Mr. Obama's falling approval ratings no doubt also provided motivation. The SPR was created in 1975 to cushion the impact of major supply disruptions. George W. Bush drew on the reserves after Hurricane Katrina when domestic oil supplies from the Gulf of Mexico were curtailed. As a pure business decision, selling oil from the SPR when the price is high, and then replenishing the oil when the price falls, isn't a bad idea. But the effect on gas prices is temporary, as global supply and demand adjust. One irony is that a million barrels a day is about how much oil experts believe we could be producing from the vast oil fields in Alaska's wildlife reserve. President Obama has said that tapping Alaska wouldn't affect oil prices but now says a temporary spurt will do so. How about opening up Alaska, and dropping the de facto Gulf moratorium too?
The Hill: Bingaman: No need to tap Strategic Petroleum Reserve (5/16/11) - Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) said there is no need for President Obama to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, because global supplies are adequate. Bingaman in early March had said that the crisis in Libya and other market dislocations should prompt the White House to consider tapping the 727-million barrel reserve, noting the U.S. was facing a supply disruption that could worsen. But in a C-SPAN interview broadcast over the weekend, Bingaman said using the stockpile is not needed - at least for now. "In the short term the time has passed when we should be seriously considering using the Strategic Petroleum Reserve," he said on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program.
AP: Alaska senators blast Obama on oil decision (6/23/11) - JUNEAU, Alaska - Alaska's two senators are blasting as short-sighted President Barack Obama's decision to release 30 million barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The decision by the Democratic administration is part of a broader international response to lost oil supplies due to turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa. But Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich said it's a stark reminder for why the U.S. needs an energy plan that promotes domestic production. Both have been outspoken advocates for more drilling at home - including in oil-and-gas-rich Alaska. Murkowski, a Republican, said "raiding" the petroleum reserve won't create jobs and generate revenues the way drilling at home would. Begich, a Democrat, said he'd encourage Obama to think of Alaska as the nation's strategic petroleum reserve.
AP: Obama releasing 30M barrels from US oil reserves (6/23/11) - [...] Even some Democrats were puzzled by the move. "This decision would have been more timely if made when the disruption in Libyan oil supplies first occurred" in February, said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Still, Bingaman said he hopes the move helps deflate "speculative froth in the markets" and drives prices down.
The Hill: Senior Republicans bash White House oil release as political move (6/23/11) - Top House Republicans bashed the White House decision to release 30 million barrels of oil from the nation's strategic stockpiles, calling it an inappropriate, political move that ignores what they call undue barriers to domestic drilling. "Frankly, it's pathetic that Democrats not only block domestic energy production at every turn, President Obama is now drawing down on our nation's ‘strategic' oil reserve which is intended for national emergencies, not as a political tool when a President is feeling heat over high gas prices," said House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in a statement. [...] "The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is intended for situations when there's a dramatic supply shut down, not to achieve short-term political gain," said Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) in a statement. [...] Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) similarly said the reserve is meant for emergencies, not "political convenience." "The bottom line is this - it's hard to believe that the administration would rather tap into our emergency supply than support legislation to produce and develop North American supplies, which will create American jobs," he said.
Politico: Oil release: Slick move or pandering? (6/23/11) - [...] Obama himself has tied unhappiness over gas prices to his low approval ratings, and the president needs the economy to rebound if he wants a second term. That combination has Republicans accusing Obama of using the SPR for political purposes. "What's the emergency? Poll numbers?" asked South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. Obama is "using a national security instrument to address his domestic political problems," House Speaker John Boehner said. "The SPR was created to mitigate sudden supply disruptions. This action threatens our ability to respond to a genuine national security crisis and means we must ultimately fund the resources to replenish the reserve - at significant cost to taxpayers." U.S. crude fell more than $4 per barrel Thursday, to $91.90, putting some stock in the argument that the move would benefit the economy in the short term and spending this summer.