Senator Inhofe this week joined with Reps. Fred Upton and Ed Whitfield to release their discussion draft, "The Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011." The Energy and Power Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the draft legislation next Wednesday, February 9th at 10:00 am.
Reps. Upton and Whitfield and Sen. Inhofe are releasing the draft as part of a deliberative process with their colleagues on both sides of the aisle to discuss the most effective approach to stop EPA's cap and trade agenda. The draft legislation is based on the belief that 1) Congress, not EPA bureaucrats, should be in charge of setting America's climate change policy; and that 2) A 2-year delay of EPA's cap-and-trade agenda provides no meaningful certainty for job creators, fails to protect jobs, and punts decision-making in Congress on a critically important economic issue past the voters and the election next year.
"The Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011" would:
- Stop EPA bureaucrats from making legislative decisions that should be made by Congress;
- Clarify that the Clean Air Act was not written by Congress to address climate change;
- Stop EPA bureaucrats from imposing a backdoor cap-and-trade tax that would make gasoline, electricity, fertilizer, and groceries more expensive for consumers; and
- Protect American jobs and manufacturers from overreaching EPA regulations that hinder our ability to compete with China and other countries.
"With this draft proposal, we are initiating a deliberative, transparent process that we hope will prevent EPA from imposing by regulation the massive cap-and-trade tax that Congress rejected last year. We firmly believe federal bureaucrats should not be unilaterally setting national climate change policy, and with good reason: EPA's cap-and-trade tax agenda will cost jobs, undermine the competitiveness of America's manufacturers, and, as EPA has conceded, will have no meaningful impact on climate. In other words, all cost with no benefit. America's consumers, large and small businesses, farmers, and entrepreneurs should not carry this burden. We look forward to working with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and the Obama Administration, to pass and sign into law legislation that stops EPA, puts Congress in charge, and helps get our economy growing again."
EPA chief says people shouldn't be afraid to drink Norman water
By Chris Casteel
February 3, 2011
WASHINGTON - A study showing the presence of a cancer-causing chemical in Norman's drinking water shouldn't discourage people from drinking the water, but should be a reason for more testing and more study about the risk, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday.
"I don't think anybody should be afraid of drinking the water," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said after testifying before a Senate committee about the safety of the nation's drinking water.
She said people should be assured that the EPA is following up on an environmental group's study by providing guidance and technical assistance to water system managers who want to do their own tests for chromium-6.
The Environmental Working Group released a report in December showing Norman had the highest rate of chromium-6 - hexavalent chromium - in its drinking water of any of the 35 U.S. cities tested. The test, conducted from a sample from a single tap in Norman, showed the water had a chromium-6 level of 12.9 parts per billion.
Jackson said the study was just a snapshot, but was consistent with other studies showing chromium-6 - which is used in many industrial processes and is an established carcinogen when inhaled - present in drinking water. The EPA has done a health assessment that is now being reviewed by independent scientists.
Any new standard for the chemical would be years away, and it would be "irresponsible" to guess what level of the chemical might be acceptable, Jackson said. Though some witnesses testified Wednesday that the EPA's current standard for chromium is outdated, Jackson said the science is still evolving in regard to chromium-6 in drinking water.
Officials from Norman and other cities that had their water tested have taken issue with the Environmental Working Group study and some complained Wednesday that media reports about it caused undue concern among residents.
Steve Lewis, Norman's city manager, was scheduled to testify Wednesday at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, but couldn't get out of Oklahoma because of the recent snowstorm.
However, in his written testimony, Lewis said the city's water is tested regularly for total chromium and that the total chromium levels for its different water sources have all been below the EPA's maximum contaminant level of 100 parts per billion.
He said the Environmental Working Group had refused to share the sampling data details with the city, "so confirmation of their report has not been possible.
"What we do know is that a single water sample was used to undermine public confidence in the safety of our water supply."
A chromium-6 working group has been established in Norman to monitor chromium public health issues, Lewis said.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, the top Republican on the committee, called the report biased, with conclusions "skewed" to fit the group's agenda.
Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, defended his group's study at the hearing and said that none of the utilities now complaining about the study would have tested the water for chromium-6 if the study hadn't been done.
After the hearing, Cook said the group's methodology was part of the study and that the only information not given to Norman was the address of the tap where the water sample was taken.
Asked whether Norman's water was safe to drink, Cook said, "I would drink the water. Cancer is a long-term disease, with a long gestation period."
Cook said Norman was one of the cities tested because it had reported relatively high amounts of total chromium.
Linda S. Birnbaum, director of the National Toxicology Program at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, testified that studies at the NTP have shown a water-soluble salt of chromium-6 has caused cancer in laboratory animals exposed to it in drinking water.
In regard to the results of the Environmental Working Group study, she said, "A single sample, you don't even know where the contamination is coming from and even if it's real."
She said, "I think it means that we have to look further."
Inhofe's new allies on ethanol issue surprising
By Jim Myers
Sunday, January 30, 2011
WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe's efforts on ethanol have provided unlikely allies for the Oklahoma Republican perhaps best known to such groups for calling man-made global warming a hoax.
"Unholy alliance" is how Inhofe described the development in an interview.
In the past, some environmental groups now coming down on the side against ethanol have not been shy when it came to taking on Inhofe, especially on the global-warming issue.
He even suggested that some may be too embarrassed to "come out of the closet" and announce their support of his efforts publicly.
Kate McMahon, the biofuels campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth, was not reticent about discussing the matter publicly and even complimented Inhofe for having a good staff to work on such issues.
"Simply put, in this city, there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies," McMahon said.
"Over here at Friends of the Earth, we're not embarrassed. We revel in the fact that we can overcome our differences with unconventional allies in order to get things done."
She said ethanol is not a partisan issue but is definitely a regional one.
McMahon said her concerns over corn ethanol are directly related to its impact on the issue of global warming. Ethanol, she said, has more global-warming impact than gasoline in many ways.
Clearly Inhofe, who dismisses global warming, carved out his stance on ethanol for other reasons.
McMahon said such differences do not concern her.
A statement from the Environmental Working Group did not cite Inhofe by name as it described its efforts to join a diverse group to end federal support for corn ethanol.
Issues surrounding ethanol are not limited to an environmentalist's perspective, said the statement attributed to Sheila Karpf, Environmental Working Group's legislative and policy analyst for agriculture.
Climate change already is causing more extreme weather events throughout the world, it stated.
Inhofe again stepped up his efforts against ethanol after the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to allow gasoline that contains more than 10 percent ethanol to be sold for newer model passenger vehicles.
He believes he has won a commitment from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, to hold a hearing on ethanol.
"We are rolling. We are going to get this done," said Inhofe, the panel's top Republican.
A date for that hearing has not been announced.
During his frequent travels across Oklahoma, the senator said, he runs across signs promoting the availability of "100 percent gas."
"What I am doing is very popular right now," Inhofe said, adding that he routinely hears from Oklahomans who do not want to use gasoline with ethanol.
Concerns over ethanol include potential damage to certain engines, confusion at the pump, lack of availability for "clear" gasoline, lower mileage for fuel with ethanol and higher feed stock prices for farmers.
Inhofe has warned that the EPA is pushing too much ethanol too fast and criticized Congress for doing too little to provide appropriate oversight of such decisions.
EPA insisted its decision on so-called E15 fuel was backed by "sound science."
Lisa Jackson, the agency's administrator, said recent testing shows that E15 does not harm emissions-control equipment in newer cars and light trucks.
Ethanol continues to have its supporters in Congress as well.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said EPA made the right decision on granting its E15 waiver. Grassley cited claims from domestic ethanol producers that using more ethanol in gasoline will reduce the country's dependence on fossil fuels.
Senator Inhofe released the following statement February 3 at an EPW hearing entitled, "Assessing the Effectiveness of U.S. Chemical Safety Laws."
I would like to thank Senator Lautenberg for scheduling this important hearing to examine the effectiveness of the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA. I want to thank him, and his staff, for continuing an important dialogue with my staff on how to modernize TSCA. I will continue to work with him, and I hope that as we further define our principles, we can reach an agreement to develop a workable bill, one based on the best available science, one that protects human health, and one that balances the need to protect jobs and economic growth.
Another important consideration is that we craft a bill that can pass both the House and Senate. This is an important test, because if we can't get the votes we need for a comprehensive solution, then we may have to consider alternative legislative options to address specific issues that might have broader bipartisan support. I hope today's hearing will help us identify some of those issues as we continue our dialogue to modernize TSCA.
We have an impressive witness list today, with experts from various backgrounds who can offer unique perspectives on TSCA and its implementation. An important issue for me, which I hope the witnesses will address, is TSCA's broad reach over chemical manufacturing, and its potential, and real, impacts on the economy. TSCA regulates the manufacturing, distribution, use, and disposal of chemicals-authority that covers thousands of transactions and decisions by thousands of people every day.
Given this fact, we need to ensure that EPA is regulating properly. When we think about modernizing TSCA, several questions come to mind: Will reform allow EPA to foster, rather than stifle, innovation? Will reform inspire public confidence in EPA's decisions as well as the products industry produces? Will reform rely on the best available science? Will reform ensure EPA is protecting human health and the environment?
These are fairly basic questions, but they must be answered, as we are dealing with a statute that is 35 years old, one passed before the myriad of innovations that have dramatically changed the chemical industry. It is time to bring TSCA into the 21st Century.
That would certainly require legislation of some kind. As I have stated many times, modernization of TSCA should:
- be based on the best available science;
- use a risk-based standard for chemical reviews;
- include more rigorous cost-benefit requirements;
- protect proprietary information;
- reduce the likelihood of litigation;
- avoid compelling product substitution; and
- prioritize reviews for existing chemicals.
I also look forward to working with EPA as we conduct oversight of the TSCA program. I want to thank Steve Owens for his testimony today, and his willingness to make his staff accessible to the Committee as we seek greater understanding of EPA's path forward on TSCA implementation. There are certainly policy and legal issues on which we disagree, but the fact that we are working together inspires great confidence.
I am glad to hear that in the House, Rep. Shimkus, chairman of the Subcommittee on the Environment and Economy, has made TSCA oversight one of his top priorities. Rep. Shimkus and I will no doubt work together to ensure the TSCA program is working effectively within the confines of the law.
Again, I appreciate Sen. Lautenberg's work on this issue and I look forward to hearing from the witnesses today on their constructive ideas for updating, improving, and modernizing our chemical safety laws.
During a hearing on Wednesday in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, EPA Administrator Jackson, when asked about EPA's study on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on water quality and public health, provided helpful clarity on how the essential practice is currently regulated.
Senator Inhofe welcomed Administrator Jackson's observation that states are already regulating hydraulic fracturing - a fact that anti-production activists either ignore or deliberately obscure in their efforts to ban it. As Administrator Jackson stated: "I want to make two points on hydraulic fracturing: One is that it is not an unregulated activity; many localities, many states regulate aspects of the drilling process. One thing I think EPA can do to add to the body of knowledge is to determine where there are any holes in that regulatory structure."
Jackson also admirably demurred on the question of whether federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing is necessary: "It's not necessarily federal regulation that will be needed, it could be, I'm not prejudging that."
Jackson acknowledged the inherent difficulties of imposing a one-size-fits-all federal regulation on fracking, as she noted that "states are different, geology is different, the number of people and population density are different..."
Administrator Jackson pledged to work closely with Senator Inhofe to ensure EPA's hydraulic fracturing study is based on the best available science. The Department of Energy/GWPC study shows that federal regulations would be "costly, duplicative of state regulations, and ultimately ineffective because such regulations would be too far removed from field operations." The study also found that doing away with fracking could increase the environmental footprint of production, as the "only alternative...in reservoirs with low permeability such as shale would be to simply have to drill more wells."
Senator Inhofe has been a leading voice in Washington against empowering federal bureaucrats to step over and replace state regulators, who have been overseeing fracking safely and competently for decades.
Senator Inhofe: I know there is an effort out there to start regulating hydraulic fracturing. Not many people realize that with the huge reserves that we have-and the United States does have the largest recoverable reserves in coal, oil, and natural gas of any country in the world-that this particular technology has been used since 1948 of hydraulic fracturing is something (and I know this because in 1948 it started in my state of Oklahoma) that there's not been a case, documented case of groundwater contamination using hydraulic fracturing. If we are to develop the shale particularly of any of these close formations it has to be done. One hundred percent of these recoverable reserves can only become a reality if we are using certain techniques, number one would be that of hydraulic fracturing. So I'd like to have you and the request I'd make of you (any response you want to make now of course would be fine) but also any further investigation into that technique I want to be a part of it and perhaps I can offer some expertise from personal experience from our experience in Oklahoma.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson: Senator, we look forward to working with you. On hydraulic fracturing we are about to round up our work plan which has gone through peer review and public comment. We expect in the next month or two to have the work plan for our study finished. I want to make two points on hydraulic fracturing: One is that it is not an unregulated activity; many localities, many states regulate aspects of the drilling process. One thing I think EPA can do to add to the body of knowledge is to determine where there are any holes in that regulatory structure. It's not necessarily federal regulation that will be needed, it could be, I'm not prejudging that. The second thing I will say is that I think what will give the American people comfort with all that they're seeing about this technology is a knowledge that regulators are not backing away from looking at it but rather are doing everything we can to understand and ensure we have good science.
Senator Inhofe: And that you would take into consideration those regulations that come from the states because of the varying applications of this technology from state to state.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson: Certainly Sir, and states are different, geology is different, the number of people and population density are different, but there may be a need for a federal role. We simply don't know and the study will take a while.
President Obama's executive order on regulatory reform calls for an examination of existing regulations. But what about those in the pipeline? More specifically, what about the mass of EPA rules hovering over coal-fired power plants throughout the Midwest? What about their affect on people's jobs and livelihoods? On this, the President says nothing.
Such inattention will be costly - and this is not mere opinion but now conventional wisdom. Whether it's Credit Suisse, FBR Capital Markets, the Brattle Group, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, or ICF Consulting-all conclude that EPA's proposed and soon-to-be proposed regulations could force 30 to 75 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity to shut down, starting in 2013.
Put another way, that's the potential elimination of more than 20 percent of America's coal fleet, along with thousands of jobs throughout the middle of the country. And this is not counting potential EPA rules to reduce carbon emissions.
Consider where the pain will hurt most: West Virginia ("the top coal producing state east of the Mississippi River," according to EIA), 90 percent coal-fired; Ohio, 80 percent coal-fired; Michigan, 60 percent coal-fired; Minnesota, 60 percent coal-fired; and Wisconsin, 66 percent coal-fired. Don't forget Pennsylvania, which, according to the Energy Information Administration, is "a major coal-producing State" that "sells about one-half of its coal output to other States throughout the East Coast and Midwest."
According to an analysis by Eugene Trisko, a consultant to Unions for Jobs and the Environment (UJAE), an umbrella group of labor unions including the United Mine Workers, 16 coal-fired plants in West Virginia, 38 in Ohio, 32 in Michigan, 24 in Indiana, 21 in Pennsylvania, and 21 in Wisconsin are "at risk" of shutting down because of EPA rules.
What of the jobs? Trisko estimates the "potential loss of 54,000 direct jobs" from EPA's regulations. These are jobs in the Heartland. And when these jobs go away, they won't come back.
The driver of these job losses is EPA's soon-to-be proposed maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standard for mercury and other emissions from power plants. This rule will require plant-by-plant emissions reduction technology. But there's more beyond mercury MACT. As Trisko notes, EPA also has "63 air rules in the pipeline," including potential revisions to every national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS), and the potential classification of coal combustion materials as "hazardous waste." The total cost to meet these requirements, according to the Brattle Group, could reach $180 billion.
This barrage of EPA rules is aptly referred to as the "train wreck." Chris Korleski, former director of Ohio EPA, spoke to this when he said EPA's proposed ozone revision is creating "chaos" for Ohio, including for citizens that "feel the financial strain and economic impact" of EPA's actions.
EPA objects to the train wreck epithet, but has done nothing to dispel a basic truth: it's moving too far, too fast.
President Obama's executive order curiously permits agencies to, "where appropriate and permitted by law," consider "human dignity," "equity," and "fairness." These are values that, the President concedes, are "difficult or impossible to quantify." One wonders whether EPA will consider the "human dignity" of the boiler engineer, the electrical technician, the maintenance supervisor, the operations manager, and many others who will lose their jobs and their livelihoods. One wonders, too, about the "equity" and "fairness" of a regulatory agenda directed squarely at the middle of the country.
The Wall Street Journal
New Fight Breaks Out on Nuclear Dump Site
By Tennille Tracy
January 31, 2011
WASHINGTON-Republican lawmakers are trying to revive plans for a nuclear-waste dump at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, setting up a showdown with the Obama administration over its efforts to abandon the site last year.
In a separate effort, also aimed at re-starting the Yucca Mountain project, state officials in South Carolina and Washington are preparing to go to court in March to challenge the administration's actions.
The moves highlight an energy-policy dilemma for the Obama administration. President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address listed nuclear power among the "clean energy" technologies the government should promote. But the proposal to develop a permanent nuclear-waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles from Las Vegas, faces strong opposition from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat.
The nuclear-power industry, meanwhile, supports the Yucca project. Radioactive waste is currently stored at dozens of locations around the country for lack of a permanent repository.
Both South Carolina and Washington are home to large collections of Cold War-era nuclear waste, and members of Congress representing these radioactive sites, including Rep. Doc Hastings (R., Wash.) are leading the effort to revive the Yucca Mountain facility. They argue that a 1982 law prohibits the administration from abandoning the Yucca Mountain project, which Congress designated as the nation's first nuclear-waste repository.
Mr. Hastings, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, says the administration "has zero authority to withdraw the [Yucca Mountain] license application."
The Energy Department "is confident that we have the legal authority to withdraw the application for the Yucca Mountain repository," a spokeswoman said.
The Energy Department moved to terminate Yucca Mountain in March 2010 when it asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to withdraw a two-year-old application to build a repository. Calling Yucca Mountain "not a workable option," the Energy Department said the science on nuclear-waste storage had evolved since the project was first proposed.
A few months later, in June, a quasi-independent NRC panel dealt a blow to the administration and denied its request, saying the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act "does not give the secretary the discretion to substitute his policy for the one established by Congress."
The NRC's five commissioners were then asked to consider an appeal of the panel's decision. They submitted preliminary votes on that issue in August and September but have not yet issued a decision.
Republicans are pressing the NRC to conclude its review, and are keeping pressure on NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko, a former aide to Mr. Reid. In a Nov. 19 letter to Mr. Jaczko, Mr. Hastings and two other House Republicans said it was "clear you delayed the resolution of this matter" and pressed the chairman to issue a final ruling.
Mr. Hastings and other lawmakers say Mr. Jaczko and the NRC lack the authority to suspend a safety review of Yucca Mountain. Mr. Jaczko halted this review last year.
An NRC spokesman defended the chairman's decision. "It is the chairman's responsibility and authority to ensure that agency resources are used properly. He acted properly, and not unilaterally, after consulting with the chief financial officer, the executive director for operations, and the general counsel."
None of NRC commissioners has disclosed their votes on Yucca Mountain, so it's unclear how many would support or oppose the project.