Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to hearing the comments of the nominees before us today. These are all very important positions and need to be scrutinized carefully, as they affect all Americans every day.
Having just gone through a very lengthy and ultimately very contentious reauthorization of the highway bill, I think we all know how important it is to ensure that we have a leader in place at the Federal Highway Administration who will ensure that agency’s smooth functioning and responsiveness to the issues.
I place similar value on the two positions in EPA we are considering about today. Throughout the country, Americans are concerned about toxics and want to be absolutely sure we are doing our best to keep their environment healthy. And we know very well the importance of air quality and emissions regulations which are at the center of some of our most difficult discussions on health, the environment and the climate.
I found it striking that articles that were highly critical of a draft EPA rule appeared yesterday in the New York Times, the Washington Post and CongressDaily, just when Mr. Wehrum was coming before this committee. Just as interesting was the fact that the draft rules were apparently not released by the EPA, but by a national environmental group. However, we cannot simply dismiss the issue out of hand, if it is true that eight or nine of the agency’s ten regional offices expressed concern about the draft and felt they were being kept out of the decision loop.
I noted comments ranging from an accusation that the rule would allow the release of up to 50,000 pounds more toxic material per year, to a rebuttal saying it would actually encourage companies to install control systems earlier than they are required to do under the current law.
My understanding is that current law requires companies to install Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) [rhymes with “smacked”] – which can be a great deal more expensive than more modest alternatives – if toxics exceed 10 tons of any single substance or 25 tons overall. I haven’t seen the proposed rule, but understand it simply allows a company that exceeds this limit to avoid MACT if it can get back down to the acceptable range. I am very interested in hearing what Mr. Wehrum may have to say about this, and for that reason, I’m happy to forego the opportunity to give a speech in order to get us to that point even more quickly.