Friday, May 6, 2011

The Week Ahead...

On Thursday, May 12, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, will hold a hearing entitled, "Federal Efforts to Protect Public Health by Reducing Diesel Emissions" at 2:30 pm in Room 406 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

The hearing will address the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act of 2010 (DERA) - a bill sponsored by former Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and cosponsored by Senator Inhofe, Senator Boxer (D-Calif.), and Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), which was signed into law in January 2011.  DERA is a model of bipartisan legislation as it reduces pollutants that are harmful to human health without putting jobs and small businesses at risk.  Unfortunately, the EPA's 2012 budget proposal eliminates funding for DERA in favor of increased levels of spending on its global warming agenda.  To learn more about DERA, click here.

The hearings are open to the public and are streamed live on the EPW website:  http://www.epw.senate.gov/.

Inhofe Op Ed: Actually, we can drill our way to energy security (Daily Caller)

The Daily Caller  

Op-Ed: Actually, we can drill our way to energy security

By Sen. James Inhofe

May 3, 2011

Link to Op-Ed 

Government Report: America's Combined Energy Resources Largest on Earth  

In the debate over rising gas prices, Washington is creating a massive distraction: whether Congress should eliminate tax "subsidies" for oil and gas companies. Of course oil and gas companies don't receive checks, grants, or direct payments from the federal Treasury, so the debate is a red herring. What's really needed is price relief for consumers at the pump. The best way to do that is to produce more affordable energy here at home.

We certainly have plenty of it: according to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS), America's combined supply of oil, coal, and natural gas is the largest on Earth. Put another way, America's recoverable resources are far larger than those of Saudi Arabia (3rd), China (4th), and Canada (6th) combined. And that's without including America's immense oil shale and methane hydrates deposits.

The CRS report was requested by me and my colleague, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). It grew out of frustration with the Democrats' refrain that America only has 3 percent of global oil reserves, and therefore, under this view, more drilling and production at home is futile. As President Obama put it, "With 3 percent of the world's oil reserves, the U.S. cannot drill its way to energy security."

But the CRS shows the full, accurate picture of America's reserves - and shows that we can produce our way to energy security. CRS shows more than just our proven oil reserves, which are a modest 28 billion barrels. The only way to estimate proven reserves is to drill. But that's not possible because federal policies, supported by President Obama and many Democrats, put 83 percent of America's federal lands off limits to drilling. Of course that's just fine for this administration, as a senior official at the Obama Treasury Department said, "The administration believes that it is no longer sufficient to address our nation's energy needs by finding more fossil fuels..."

In fact, according to CRS, which relied on estimates from the Department of Energy, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Interior Department, we have 163 billion barrels of recoverable oil - nearly six times higher than what President Obama and the Democrats like to claim. That amount of oil would replace our current oil imports from the Persian Gulf for more than 50 years.

But this administration is saying no. By restricting supply - through its de facto moratorium on deepwater permitting in the Gulf of Mexico, and its restrictions on production on federal lands - prices have gone up. This is exactly what this administration wants. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, for instance, told the Wall Street Journal that "[s]omehow we have to figure out how to boost the prices of gasoline to the levels in Europe." Consider just Great Britain: consumers there pay over $7.00 a gallon for gasoline.

Remember that when President Obama took office, the national average price for regular gasoline was $1.84 per gallon. Today, the average price is $3.98 per gallon. Prices are well over $4.00 in many parts of the country.

This mindset - which seeks to make the energy we use more expensive, in hopes of spawning a "green energy" revolution - is encapsulated in the cap-and-trade agenda being implemented by the Obama Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That agenda is now squarely aimed at gasoline, as EPA is preparing onerous new global warming regulations on petroleum refineries, which will inevitably raise prices at the pump.

EPA's cap-and-trade agenda has already killed refinery expansions. Lion Oil, based in El Dorado, Arkansas, recently testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee that it commenced a $2 million expansion of its El Dorado refinery in 2007, with 2,000 construction jobs, but its completion has since been stalled. As Lion Oil Vice President Steve Cousins explained, "The uncertainty and potentially prohibitive costs associated with possible cap-and-trade legislation and EPA's greenhouse gas regulations were a critical factor leading us to delay the completion of the expansion."

Cousins also testified in 2009 that cap-and-trade legislation would have forced his company out of business. He sees the same threat looming at EPA: "It is our fear that, left unchecked, EPA will use the Clean Air Act to drive to exactly the same goals as the defeated cap-and-trade legislation that Congress so wisely chose not to pass. And in that pursuit, EPA will inflict the same damage on our company and our nation's economy."

This gets to the heart of the debate about gas prices. We have plenty of energy here at home, and we can produce it responsibly, yet the Obama administration, and some in Congress, would rather propagate myths about oil and gas "subsidies." At the same time, they are obstructing our ability to create jobs and affordable energy.

It's time for the president to stop picking on America's energy producers. Instead, for the benefit of consumers, our economy, and our energy security, he should exercise real leadership by getting serious about producing American energy.

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) is the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

In the News...Tulsa World: EPA paint policy foes take fight to second agency

Tulsa World

EPA paint policy foes take fight to second agency

By JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau 

April 30, 2011

Link to Article

Link to Letter  

Link to Letter - April 15, 2011

Link to Inhofe EPW Webpage on Lead Based Paint Rule

WASHINGTON - Ignored by one agency, a group of U.S. senators led by Oklahoma Republican Jim Inhofe has contacted a second agency about its concerns that a lead paint proposal could backfire and weaken protections for children and pregnant women.

Inhofe and the 10 other Republicans, including Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, have appealed to an agency within the Office of Management and Budget, which they believe received the lead paint proposal from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for approval.

At issue is the EPA's proposed change to require "clearance testing'' to prove the presence or absence of lead following a home renovation project.

Describing the clearance testing as a dramatic change to the existing program on lead paint, the senators expressed concerns that the testing requirement would push homeowners to either hire uncertified individuals for a renovation project or do it themselves.

"These outcomes run counter to the intent of the rule, which is to protect people from the potential dangers of lead dust,'' they state in their letter.

The group also expressed concern that the EPA proposal not only violates congressional intent on separating renovation projections from abatement activity but also its own regulatory approach.

Questioning the EPA's conclusion on the economic impact of its action, the senators also stated that none of the "next generation'' test kits included in the EPA's analysis of the rule has been approved.

Inhofe spokesman Matt Dempsey said the senators also are concerned that the EPA's proposal could leave homeowners on the hook if the clearance test indicates the presence of lead after a renovation project is completed.

"They would have to have someone come out and remove the lead," Dempsey said, adding that it could mean hiring yet another contractor.

The EPA, which earlier said it planned on responding to the senators' previous letter on the lead paint matter, did not respond to questions Friday.

In its past responses to criticism over the way it has handled the lead paint issue, the agency has cited significant health risks posed by lead-based paint, especially for children living in pre-1978 housing.

In the News...E&E News: Vitters block of FWS nominee nearly lifted, but other holds remain

E&E News  

Vitter's block of FWS nominee nearly lifted, but other holds remain

May 4, 2011

By Phil Taylor, E&E reporter

Link to Article

Release: Inhofe Expresses Hope That ‘Significant Concerns' Can Be Resolved

A Louisiana senator is close to ending his hold on President Obama's pick to lead the Fish and Wildlife Service, but other Republicans are delaying Dan Ashe's confirmation over his positions on climate change and endangered species and over new wilderness policy.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Mike Lee said the Utah Republican has placed a hold on Ashe over concerns that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's "wild lands" order to inventory and protect roadless lands in the West would thwart economic development in his home state.

Lee will also place holds on all Interior nominees until the agency resolves his concerns over wild lands, said spokeswoman Emily Bennion. The policy announced in December circumvents the authority of Congress to designate wilderness protections and could bar recreational opportunities and oil and gas development, Lee has said.

Other GOP senators have targeted Ashe's views on the role of climate change in agency decisionmaking as well as FWS's plan to provide federal protections for the lesser prairie chicken, a grouse that roams Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

Ashe, a 15-year agency employee who was nominated to succeed the late Sam Hamilton as service director, was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in a party-line vote last month (E&E Daily, April 6).

But ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said he is still concerned climate change will dictate Ashe's decisionmaking and that the agency's proposal to list the lesser prairie chicken will impede wind development and other opportunities in his state. Inhofe, who is scheduled to meet today with Ashe and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to iron out their differences, said he retains the option of blocking the nominee.

"It's definitely a welcome step that he would come in and meet with the senator," said Matt Dempsey, a spokesman for Inhofe. "We wanted to give him the opportunity to respond to these concerns."

Inhofe at a February confirmation hearing described as "troubling" an FWS strategic report that stated the agency should "examine everything we do, every decision we make and every dollar we spend through the lens of climate change."

Inhofe said the report suggests FWS is diverging significantly from its congressional mandate.

"Mr. Ashe indicated these statements are merely 'aspirational,'" Inhofe said last month. "That's fine, but I need a commitment that climate change, whatever one's view of its underlying causes, will not become the overriding concern governing the agency's day-to-day affairs."

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) expressed similar concerns at the hearing and is believed also to have placed a hold on Ashe's confirmation, although his office would not confirm those reports.

Requests for comment from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) office on the status of Ashe's confirmation were not returned.

Ashe yesterday said he was optimistic that Inhofe's concerns could be satisfied and that he would be confirmed by the end of the month.

"The senator and I really don't have a disagreement," Ashe told E&E Daily. "The issue of climate change is not that we make decisions based on climate change, but that we look at the things that we are doing with an understanding of how the climate system is changing."

For example, "We need to know where the forests and wetlands and grasslands are going to be," he said, referring to the shifting landscapes expected to accompany climate change. "Understanding climate change and seeing conservation through that lens allows us to understand that."

Ashe said FWS is also willing to hold stakeholder meetings in Oklahoma to discuss the status of the lesser prairie chicken, as Inhofe has requested. Inhofe has also asked the agency to make more endangered species information available electronically, Ashe said.

He added that Interior is also close to meeting the terms of a hold placed by Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R) that requires the agency to permit at least 15 new deepwater oil and gas drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico.

The agency had permitted 12 such permits by last week and was on pace to reach 15 as early as this week, he said. Vitter has indicated he plans to lift his hold, he added.

In the News...Politico Pro: Obama signals to greens for 2012

POLITICO Pro

Obama signals to greens for 2012

By Darren Samuelsohn 

May 3, 2011

Link to Article

President Barack Obama is offering his beleaguered green base some titillating morsels for what he hopes to deliver on energy policy if he wins a second term.

Don't get Obama wrong; these are not campaign promises - yet.

But over the past month, the president has made it clear in West Wing meetings and fundraisers that he wants to rally environmentally minded voters who, thanks in large part to last year's big global warming legislative failure, still feel like his second pick for the prom.

"We've had some setbacks, and some things haven't happened as fast as people wanted them to happen," Obama said at a recent New York fundraiser. "I know. I know the conversations you guys have. ‘Oh, you didn't get the public option - and, gosh, I wish that energy bill had passed.' I understand the frustrations. I feel them too."

Obama's team knows about the consequences of an environmental exodus. In the 2000 presidential election, Democrats blamed some greens with helping George W. Bush narrowly win the White House by supporting Ralph Nader over Al Gore.

Last week in Chicago, Obama 2012 campaign adviser David Axelrod and Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel tried to do their part to buck up the green base during private meetings with about 80 major environmental philanthropists.

Attendees told POLITICO that the former White House officials heard a number of complaints about last year's climate bill loss but responded by pointing to the president's commitment to their issues via EPA climate rules and tens of billions in spending on renewable energy through the 2009 stimulus package.

"We had a back and forth about getting to first base versus swinging for the fences," said Betsy Taylor, co-founder and board president of 1Sky, one of the environmental groups pushing for federal policies to curb greenhouse gases.

With his day job, Obama must be careful not to give the appearance he's resting on his laurels until a second term.

The president pounced last week on House Speaker John Boehner's ABC News interview expressing an openness to end some of the oil industry's biggest tax breaks. And his Cabinet fanned out around the country to unveil a long-awaited policy defining what waters are subject to federal pollution rules - answering pleas by greens to clarify conflicting Supreme Court opinions.

But Obama's team probably is going to have to wait on many other top green priorities.

Regulations for coal ash, a potentially toxic leftover from coal-fired power plants, probably will be pushed back until after the election.

EPA's most anticipated new climate regulations for power plants and other major industrial sources are due in final form next spring. But with congressional Republicans making the rules a centerpiece of their legislative attack strategy, sources within and outside the administration expect that EPA's efforts will ultimately get punted beyond November 2012.

Earlier this month, Obama dropped in unannounced on a group of youth activists meeting with senior aides in the White House. During a nearly 30-minute exchange, the president cited the challenges of moving comprehensive energy legislation in Congress, given hurdles from the Republican-led House.

"The implication there was it would be pretty hard to do anything massive in the next 18 months," said Courtney Hight, executive director of the Energy Action Coalition and a former White House Council on Environmental Quality staffer.

Veterans of Obama's first-term cap-and-trade battle have packed up their most ambitious requests until after the presidential campaign, relegating themselves to the back seat as the White House and Congress try to address the debt limit and budget issues.

"I don't think anybody expects anything different than those two topics will take up all the energy for the remainder of this term," said Manik Roy, vice president of federal government outreach at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

But Roy said he would look to Obama for a second go at energy issues come 2013.

"If we start seeing the unemployment situation turned around, if we get ourselves on a path to deal with the debt, then I think in a second term, I'd expect him to come back to his policy priorities, including clean energy," Roy said.

To even win a second term, Obama must navigate some tough terrain on energy issues, with his moves being scrutinized from all parts of the political spectrum.

With Americans paying more than $4 a gallon for gasoline in many places, GOP presidential rivals like Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney have hit the major television networks and conservative radio stations to decry Obama's energy policies. Picking at Obama's scabs, Republican operatives are also making light his mixed two-plus-year record on environmental issues.

"Why make any more promises when you didn't deliver the first time around?" said Mark McIntosh, counsel at Boyden Gray & Associates and a former White House official in the George W. Bush administration.

Obama's left flank remains a concern too.

Greens who fought Bush on global warming policy and science for eight years have in recent months been agonizing over whether Obama would really follow through with a veto threat on any piece of legislation that strips EPA of its climate change powers, from stand-alone measures to riders in the catch-all budget.

During the Power Shift youth conference on energy issues last month in Washington, organizers dubbed one of their sessions "What to Do When the President's Just Not That Into You."

"I just want to see him draw a line in the sand," said Hight, who helped organize the White House meeting that included deputy chief of staff Nancy-Ann DeParle, top energy and climate adviser Heather Zichal, Council on Environmental Quality Associate Director Amy Salzman, Office of Public Engagement Director Jon Carson and his associate director, Kal Penn.

"I think we shook them a little bit," Hight said. "It was the first time they were thinking young people aren't a sure thing."

During the meeting, Obama didn't make any promises on energy or environmental legislation. But Hight said he urged the activists to "keep pushing me," adding, "It's your job to push the envelope. It's my job to govern."

Daniel Weiss, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, said Obama's campaign rhetoric on energy could serve a purpose as Republicans attack him on the issue.

"If the president wins a comfortable reelection, one could argue he's won the debate and therefore creates the space for enough Republicans to say ‘we've got to address this, that a deal is conceivable,'" Weiss said, citing Bill Clinton's 1997 budget deal with House Speaker Newt Gingrich after trouncing Bob Dole in the 1996 election.

Weiss said it's "very possible" that Obama in a second term could make progress on a clean energy standard and measures to reduce oil consumption.

And while he acknowledged it's something of a long shot, Weiss said the idea of legislation forcing "direct reductions on global warming pollution" would even be on the table if it appeased coal-state Democrats with financial aid for carbon capture and sequestration technologies. Obama also would need some Republicans to return to a space on climate issues that the party reluctantly occupied when John McCain became its 2008 presidential nominee with a campaign platform that included cap-and-trade legislation.

"It changed one direction over the past few years," Weiss said. "Perhaps it can change back."