Opening Statement of Senator James M. Inhofe
Environment and Public Works Committee
“Hearing on the Nomination of Gary Guzy to be Deputy Director of the Office of Environmental Quality”
August 4, 2009 10:00 a.m.
We are here today to consider the nomination of Gary Guzy to be Deputy Director of the White House Office of Environmental Quality.
The Office, also known as the Council on Environmental Quality, leads the Administration’s effort to formulate and execute environmental policy across the federal government. CEQ serves a critical role in shaping environmental policy within the executive branch. Mr. Guzy, I enjoyed speaking with you at our recent meeting. I congratulate you on your nomination and look forward to working with you.
I must say that you have a difficult job ahead of you, not least because Carol Browner, the White House Energy and Climate Change Czar, appears to be coordinating environmental policy out of her office. Of course, we in the Senate have little idea as to how her office functions or what contributions it makes to the interagency policy process. As Sen. Byrd stated in a letter to President Obama in February, these White House czars “are not accountable for their actions to the Congress, to Cabinet officials, and to virtually anyone but the President.”
These czars are inherently opposed to the President’s commitment to openness and transparency in the Executive Branch. This no doubt makes our oversight role more complicated. Nonetheless, Mr. Guzy, this means you will be on the front line, as one of the top officials accountable to this committee.
And, for better or for worse, you will be accountable for a number of significant issues affecting every corner of the economy. One of them, unique to CEQ, is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
NEPA, of course, is a bedrock environmental statute, which requires federal agencies to consider how their actions could significantly impact the environment. Mr. Guzy, the previous Administration attempted to improve NEPA implementation—but the improvements were largely cosmetic, due in no small measure to inertia at CEQ. I hope you will commit to putting NEPA back into balance. In other words, NEPA should achieve environmental goals without unnecessarily obstructing economic development.
Projects across the nation are already in limbo due to delays and litigation from existing environmental regulations – including, setbacks in building a coal power plant in Jamestown, New York that would use a cutting edge carbon capture system; and the cancellation of construction on a coal-fired power plant in Morgan County, Colorado due to “steep regulatory obstacles.”
It also seems clear that the tangled web of climate change has enveloped NEPA. Activists are forcing federal agencies to address the global warming implications of their actions. Among other things, this could seriously curtail the nation’s domestic energy development. Ironically, NEPA is even being used to block renewable energy projects.
I understand CEQ is drafting guidance on NEPA and climate change. CEQ must make clear that climate change is not required for NEPA purposes. As with the Endangered Species Act, NEPA should not be used as a backdoor tactic to regulate greenhouse gases.
Mr. Guzy, as I noted, you will face a number of challenges in this position. And although we will not agree on how to address all of those challenges, I hope we can work together with mutual understanding of our respective positions.
Finally, when this committee, including the minority, seeks information and makes inquiries, I hope you will respond to them in a timely fashion, and with the openness and transparency you have pledged to uphold.
I look forward to your confirmation and to working with you on issues of great importance to the American people.