Friday, July 20, 2007

Hearing to Consider the Pending Nominations of Robert Lance Boldrey, Kristine L. Svinicki, and Robert Lyle Laverty

July 17, 2007

On Tuesday, July 17, 2007, the EPW Committee held a hearing to consider the nominations of Kristine L. Svinicki, nominated to be a Member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Robert Lyle Laverty, nominated to be the Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Department of the Interior.

Senator Inhofe gave the following opening statement:

I’m pleased we are holding this nominations hearing today. This Committee has a long-standing, bipartisan tradition of considering nominations in a timely fashion.  Nominees have historically been given an up or down vote by the Committee the week following their hearing.  I hope the Chairman continues this tradition and schedules a business meeting to consider these nominees next week. 

The first nominee before us is Lyle Laverty, who is being considered for the Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks at the Department of the Interior.  Mr. Laverty has a long and distinguished record in resource management which has prepared him well for this position.  This experience includes 35 years as a career employee of the US Forest Service and most recently serving as Director of Colorado State Parks for 6 years.   

The second nominee before today is Kristine Svinicki, and I have no doubts that she be an excellent commissioner at the NRC.  She has proven herself to be knowledgeable on technical matters and also possesses a deep understanding of policy issues.  And if that’s not enough, Senators Craig and Warner say she is top notch so I’m happy to give her my support. 

Ms. Svinicki, you and I discussed my belief that our nation needs new nuclear plants to help meet our growing demand for energy.  Revitalizing this industry is a complicated effort and the NRC’s role in ensuring public health and safety, and protecting the environment, is an integral part.  “Safety First” isn’t just a cliché, it must be the top priority.  However, the NRC must also carry out its responsibilities in a predictable and efficient manner.  Balancing these objectives will be quite challenging for the Commission considering the growing number of applications for new plants it will receive over the next few years and the long-awaited receipt of a repository application next year.  It is my expectation that, as a Commissioner, you will endeavor to achieve an appropriate balance.

Recently, there have been lapses in the NRC’s efforts to openly communicate.  Open communication is fundamental to maintaining the public’s trust and the trust of this Committee.  I encourage you to learn from these mistakes.  My door is always open and I hope you visit often.

The nominees testifying before us are qualified individuals and I hope they receive fair consideration based on their qualifications–rather than unrelated politics over which they have no control.



June 27, 2007


Democrats recently managed to pass legislation they labeled as a “green energy bill.” The fact is that the bill lacks energy and the green will be the higher prices families will have to pay if it is signed into law. The Democrats’ plan for our energy future is to force Americans to cut back on energy consumption at a time when Americans are starving for affordable energy.
By passing this bill, Congress is telling the country to go on an energy diet.

The majority’s bill fails to provide for any meaningful increase in energy supplies or production, will increase the price of gasoline, and impose new mandates on energy providers translating to higher electricity prices for all consumers, but will hit low and fixed income Americans the hardest.

It is important for Americans to realize how this bill was created and what the costs will be. Democrats have successfully obstructed and frustrated meaningful energy proposals since 2001. Now after assuming the majority, they claimed that they would solve the energy crunch that they helped to create — they claimed that they would do something to lower the price at the pump. Yet, their legislative product lacked energy and they opposed amendments that would have provided the action necessary to lower prices. Perhaps the most notable example was when the Democrats voted against the Gas Price Act, the only amendment that would have lowered gas prices at the pump and improved U.S. energy and economic security. One estimate of the energy bill’s legacy — with its so-called price gouging provisions and new mandates on energy providers — has the price of fuel at the pump more than doubling by 2016.

America’s energy supply should be stable, diverse, and affordable. That means we must work to increase domestic energy production, especially by expanding domestic refining capacity of oil, coal, and cellulosic biomass ethanol. Throughout my experience on the Environment and Public Works Committee I have worked to craft legislation and conduct hearings to meet these goals.

In addition to the Gas PRICE Act, I have worked to pass legislation and conduct extensive oversight of the EPA and other federal agencies in order to reduce regulatory and administrative burdens on oil and natural gas producers and other forms of energy including wind to ensure America has a strong energy future. I am proud of several provisions I authored that were in EPACT (Energy Policy Act,) including provisions on hydraulic fracturing and stormwater compliance for oil and natural gas production facilities. As chairman of EPW, I held a hearing on the administration’s spill prevention control and countermeasures program (SPCC) highlighting deficiencies and data gaps to the current program and advocating for changes that would reduce the burden and its costs on small, independent oil producers.

The development of a safe, clean and affordable nuclear energy future remains one of my top priorities. Since joining the EPW Committee in 1995, I’ve worked closely with my committee members to increase critical oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). As a result of our vigilant oversight, the NRC has moved to a risk-based regulatory process that is more objective, efficient, and predictable. For the first time in over 30 years, utilities are planning to build new nuclear plants, and the NRC is far better prepared to process those applications because of these improvements.

I successfully worked with my colleagues to create a comprehensive program to increase the use of renewable fuels in the United States in a measured way that makes economic sense. The Reliable Fuels Act, ultimately incorporated into the EPACT, encourages the production and use of bio-fuels. Today many in Congress argue in favor of increasing the RFS, but I believe we should maintain the current standard and take a closer look at the impact on related industries. Growing bodies of interested parties are speaking out against increasing the corn ethanol mandate, ranging from Ducks Unlimited to a coalition of groups including Coke, Pepsi, the National Pork Producers Council, and Turkey Federation. We should take the time to hear them out.

Coal-to-liquids (CTL) continues to gain ground in the Senate because it’s domestic, abundant, and environmentally friendly. Everyone acknowledges the tremendous reserves of coal in the United States. Yet, many Americans might be surprised to learn that CTL is far cleaner than conventional fuels, and does not have the seasonal variability or transportation and deliverability issues of ethanol.

The development of cellulosic biofuels is another critical component of future energy goals. The key now is to promote investment in this exciting area, and nothing would speed the rapid expansion of the cellulosic biofuels industry more than investment by the nation’s traditional providers of liquid transportation fuels.

We must continue to look for new energy opportunities. I am proud that my bipartisan energy bill amendment to encourage the use of geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) in federal buildings was included in the energy bill. GHPs are a proven, effective, and efficient technology that can help meet heating and cooling needs at federal facilities while conserving energy and saving taxpayer dollars.

Today more than ever before, our energy policy is a matter of natural security. Developing energy at home translates to energy security, ensures stable sources of supply, fuels economic growth and keeps well-paying jobs for American workers.

Inhofe is the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.


July 12, 2007

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe increased his own alert Wednesday on an ozone proposal, warning "virtually the entire state" of Oklahoma would fail to meet new air quality standards suggested by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Last month, the Oklahoma Republican's initial warning covered only Tulsa and a dozen other Oklahoma counties.

Inhofe announced his broader assessment at a subcommittee hearing on the proposed smog regulations whose witnesses included EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson.

In his opening remarks, he directed Johnson's attention to a map showing the "tremendous progress" Oklahoma has made in cleaning up its air.

"Not a single county in Oklahoma is in violation of the ozone standards. Not a single one, Mr. Administrator," Inhofe said.

"Yet your proposal will put virtually the entire state into nonattainment. How is it that EPA last year considered states like Oklahoma to have clean air that was healthy to breathe, yet next year it will consider the air unhealthy, even as their pollution levels continue to plummet?"

In an interview following the hearing, the senator explained why
he upped the ante on EPA's proposal to include the entire state.

He said the original list covered only counties where monitors are located, adding those counties would be considered out of attainment immediately under the proposed regulations.

"The monitors are scattered out. They are not all in one area," Inhofe said.

"In almost every case, the surrounding counties (of those monitored) would be included."

He said with the possible exception of Cimarron and Texas counties, located in the state's Panhandle, the entire state would be in nonattainment.

"It would happen pretty quick," the senator said.

As the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Inhofe routinely takes the lead on such issues for his party.

"I am embarrassed," he conceded.

"You would think as the ranking member I could do something about this."

Inhofe expressed regret that he was no longer chairman of that key committee.

"Quite frankly, if the Democrats had not taken control and I were still chairman of the committee I would seriously doubt we would have that problem," he said.

Inhofe also accused EPA of not enforcing current regulations uniformly and pointed to the area of southern California as proof.

When asked, EPA did not respond directly to Inhofe's specific concerns.

The agency provided maps that apparently indicated the number of counties with monitors that would be out of compliance if the new standards were in place today and those that would be in 2020.

Tulsa County seemed to be only one that EPA could say for certain would continue to be out of compliance.

During his testimony at Wednesday's hearing, EPA chief Johnson said the current standard does not protect the public health with an adequate margin of safety and should be strengthened to provide additional protection, specifically for those with asthma and other lung diseases.

If the proposed changes are put in place following public comments, Johnson said his agency would work with states on meeting the new standards.

Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., the subcommittee chairman, commended Johnson for proposing the new standard. A former governor, he spoke of the costs dirty air presents for the entire nation.

Inhofe and Carper have each introduced clean air legislation.


June 19, 2007

SENATE Democrats' first swing at national energy policy might be boiled down to a couple of broad statements: Alternative fuels are good, big business is bad and Americans stung by higher energy costs shouldn't expect help any time soon.

With the legislation's direct cost to government (read: taxpayers) at $140 billion to $205 billion over 15 years, you'd think there'd be something in it for average folk. Hardly. Democrats are putting their stock in subsidies, tax preferences and other incentives for futuristic fuels -- mandating increased use of ethanol, for example, and requiring utilities to use more wind, solar and other renewable sources in the future.

Don't get us started on ethanol, a fuel that has yet to demonstrate any real-market viability without heavy government subsidies. Renewables are fine as they go, too. Yet Democrats' lack of balance with respect to production and supply should concern every American who fills a gas tank.

Sen. Jim Inhofe's amendment to give states the option of streamlining the permitting process for building greater refining capacity was defeated on a party-line vote after Democrats complained it was a giveaway to the oil companies. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California suggested Big Oil isn't building new refineries because it makes it easier to manipulate fuel prices. Another production-side amendment, to let Virginia lift a 25-year freeze on offshore drilling, was defeated by Democrats talking of environmental concerns as if it were 1977, not 2007.

The bill would make price gouging a federal crime -- a solution in search of a real-world problem. Meanwhile, Democrats are split on increasing car fuel efficiency standards, with Michigan's senators trying to stave off standards that would damage the auto industry.

Stay tuned as the legislation proceeds. But unless you're into windmills, solar panels or corn there's not much most Americans can look forward to.