Blogs - Blogs
Thursday, September 25, 2014

Environmental Litigation to Shut Down Forestry Projects

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, has launched the second phase of his investigation into the collusion between environmental activists, lawyers and lobbyists, billionaires and their supporting foundations who use large sums of money to influence environmental public policy.

Over the coming weeks, EPW Republicans will be detailing exactly how these coordinated efforts are destroying jobs and punishing industries and families across America. From farmers to miners to rig workers to manufacturers and fishermen, EPW Republicans will examine how their jobs and way of life are being targeted by well-funded environmental activists whose primary goal is maximizing government control, particularly over the land, water, and resources utilized by private industries and individuals. Today's focus is forestry.

The forest and forest products industry ranks among the most important job producing sectors in the United States.  More than 887,000 jobs are related to forestry and logging, wood products, and pulp and paper production, and 47 states count the industry among the top ten manufacturing sector employers.[1]  The industry pays more than $4.6 billion in state and local taxes each year, [2] and plays an important role in everyday life, including providing materials for houses, toilet paper, grocery bags, and even some photographic films.

Environmental Collusion

Despite the importance of the industry, environmentalists seek to "stop commercial logging on public lands" as part of the crusade to control climate change.  When federal agencies authorize forestry projects on public lands, groups like the Cascadia Forest Defenders take disruptive actions to prohibit any activity, including innovative, sustainable growth efforts to mimic natural processes.  Others seek to "end all profit-driven extraction of resources" in National Forests.  These far-left groups are not interested in finding a middle ground that promotes responsible forestry.  Rather, they want to shut down the logging industry.

Litigation Strategy

To accomplish their goal, these activists use lawsuits - suing often and over everything.  Far-left environmentalists sue over access to forest products.[3]  They sue over efforts to manage national forests that are being destroyed by the bark beetle.  They sue over logging roads.[4]  They sue over small projects and "innocuous logging" projects. Although they lose more than half of the time,[5] their efforts make it more expensive to move forward with any forestry project.  While these groups claim to have the best interests of the local communities at heart, they are often funded by liberal elites on both coasts.[6]

Two of the leading opponents of forestry projects, and other development in general, are the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and WildEarth Guardians (WEG). As detailed in the Billionaire's Club report,[7] hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for these entities comes from groups like the Tides Foundation, the Marisla Foundation, the Rockefeller Family Fund, and the Wallace Global Fund.[8] In addition to the funding that CBD receives from coastal billionaires, the entity has received millions of dollars in attorney's fees from the Obama Administration. As detailed in documents provided to the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee by the Department of Justice, between 2009-2012 CBD received more than $2.1 million in taxpayer resources to fund these anti-development lawsuits - many of which were filed against the federal government.[9]

These efforts to stop forestry are not a recent phenomenon. Environmental groups have effectively shut down projects in the West.  In 1989, CBD filed a petition requesting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) list the Mexican Spotted Owl as an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).[10]  In 1993, CBD's request was fulfilled, and the species was listed as threatened.  The following year, CBD filed a lawsuit to require the FWS to designate critical habitat for the owl and now boasts that its legal battles against the Forest Service and FWS "halted all logging in the Southwest for 16 months.

While the spotted owl is a familiar story to families in the West where forestry typically occurs on public lands, the Obama Administration and their allies are working to shut down private forestry in other parts of the country.  Behind closed doors, the Obama Administration reached a sue-and-settle agreement with CBD and WEG in 2011 to make listing determinations under the ESA on more than 250 species in all fifty states.  EPW Republicans have worked to obtain details of how that agreement was reached, but the Administration continues to hide documents related to their settlement agreements.[11]  Among the species included in the settlement is the Northern Long Eared Bat, which is found in 38 states.[12]  Groups from Minnesota[13] to Pennsylvania[14] to Louisiana,[15] have warned the Administration about the devastating impact such a listing would have on the forestry industry, yet it remains unclear whether FWS will list the bat.

The Administration and their allies have also targeted individual timber leases.  Starting in 2001 CBD began litigation to force listing of the dusky gopher frog as an endangered species.[16]  The Gulf Restoration Network has supported CBD's efforts, and pursued parallel litigation strategies in 2010, at which point the FWS agreed to designate 1,957 acres as critical habitat for the frog.[17]  Facing even more litigation from the activist pair, FWS included additional critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana despite the fact that the frog has not been seen in the state since the 1960s.[18]  Alarmingly, the lands in St. Tammany Parish were included only after a peer reviewer for the FWS's 2010 critical habitat proposal trespassed while those lands were under a timber lease.[19]  With the CBD-Obama Administration critical habitat designation, development in that area of St. Tammany Parish will be extremely difficult.

With new rules on critical habitat designations and potential designations of national monuments,[20] forestry is under attack from the Obama Administration and its environmental allies.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a decline of jobs in the timber industry in the coming years, which continues a trend of declining employment in timber communities.

Extreme environmental efforts directed by out of touch millionaires and billionaires have real consequences for the average American. EPW Republicans will continue detailing exactly how these coordinated efforts are destroying jobs and punishing industries and families across America. Previous editions include:

 

-30-

 




[1] http://www.afandpa.org/docs/default-source/default-document-library/click-here.pdf?sfvrsn=0

[2] http://www.afandpa.org/docs/default-source/default-document-library/click-here.pdf?sfvrsn=0

[3] http://www.westernlaw.org/article/enviros-sue-forest-service-stop-ore-logging-project-ee-61814

[4] Decker v. NW Env. Def. Center, 133 S.Ct. 1326 (2013).

[5] http://forestpolicypub.com/2014/03/07/twenty-years-of-forest-service-land-management-litigation/comment-page-1/

[6] The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama's EPA, U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, July 30, 2014.

[7] Id.

[8] Tides Foundation IRS Form 990, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013; Marisla Foundation IRS Form 990, 2010, 2011, 2012; Rockefeller Family Fund IRS Form 990, 2010, 2011; Wallace Global Fund IRS Form 990, 2010, 2011, 2012.

[9] http://naturalresources.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=301242&utm_content=buffer93f99&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

[10] http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/birds/Mexican_spotted_owl/pdfs/19248_1540.pdf

[11] http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressRoom.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=E5EB7572-DDC0-06EF-6C5B-280064F59349

[12] http://www.fws.gov/endangered/improving_esa/FY13-18_ESA_Listing_workplan.pdf

[13] http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/272075441.html

[14] http://www.bradfordera.com/news/article_e8e96c80-37b4-11e4-9463-001a4bcf887a.html

[15] http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=f3054f08-4e4f-4d57-8a36-235b15b16c41

[16] http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=D031

[17] http://www.pacificlegal.org/document.doc?id=1343

[18] http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=D031

[19] http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=64c63953-d7c4-43ba-879e-888457acebce

[20] http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-interior-secretary-jewell-20131112-story.html#axzz2kRVRBI94


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Environmental Collusion Attempts to Shutout Public Fishing

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, has launched the second phase of his investigation into the collusion between environmental activists, lawyers and lobbyists, billionaires and their supporting foundations who use large sums of money to influence environmental public policy.

Over the coming weeks, EPW Republicans will be detailing exactly how these coordinated efforts are destroying jobs and punishing industries and families across America. From farmers to miners to rig workers to manufacturers and fishermen, EPW Republicans will examine how their jobs and way of life are being targeted by well-funded environmental activists whose primary goal is maximizing government control, particularly over the land, water, and resources utilized by private industries and individuals. Today focuses on recreational fishing.

The Gulf States have an abundance of natural resources, from the vast supply of fossil fuels and minerals to the diverse fisheries. One economic power house in the Gulf is the recreational fishing sector, made up of private anglers and charter boat captains. The industry is expected to contribute more than $9.1 billion to the Gulf's economy over the next 18 years and currently supports over 139,000 jobs.[1] The Gulf Regional Fishery Management Council (Gulf RFMC), under the Department of Commerce, is responsible for governing fisheries in federal waters.

Environmental Collusion

Large far-left environmental groups have long fought against the interests of recreational fishermen in the Gulf. For decades now, national environmental groups, including the Ocean Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), have been responsible for funding smaller grassroots operations in order to influence policy decisions of the Gulf RFMC. Since 2009, the Ocean Conservancy has received hundreds of thousands of dollars each from Tides Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Marisla Foundation, and over $1 million each from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.[2] Furthermore, since the early 1990s, these national organizations have used traditional lobbying efforts, litigation, as well as access to certain boards and councils that manage fisheries, in order to limit the number of anglers on the water, as well as the overall number of allowable catch.

The Gulf Seafood Institute (GSI) is a prime example of this coordination. While the GSI represents itself as an independent entity, its funding tells a different story. The Ocean Conservancy gave GSI a $20,000 grant to help them launch the organization.[3] Members of the GSI's board of directors are also prominent members of the Gulf RFMC. Some of the Gulf RFMC members are working closely with EDF to push a shared agenda to limit access of recreational anglers to the Red Snapper fishery in the Gulf's federal waters.[4] As a result of coordinated efforts, the 2014 recreational fishing season was reduced from 40 days to 9 days.

Administration's Influence

EDF has allies in important places. EDF was recently awarded a $225,959 grant sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as Billionaire's Club regulars including Marisla Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.[5] The purpose of this grant is to support research into the economic and conservation performance of "sector separation," a rights-based management (catch shares) pilot program for Gulf of Mexico recreational fishing businesses. In other words, the grant pays EDF to study and build support for a position they are already advocating for.

Environmentalists' tactics were first deployed in the early 1990s when EDF pushed for the implementation of an Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) system. This limited allocation system forced many smaller fishing operations to "sell their family business."[6] As a result, only 393 commercially licensed red snapper fishermen operate in the Gulf today, with only 28 in Louisiana. The IFQ rewards the small number of commercial fishermen with the right to fish 51% of the red snapper in the Gulf.  Essentially, these 393 individuals have guaranteed allocations, as they have the rights to these resources in perpetuity. These allocation percentages were determined using data from the 1980s.[7]  All stakeholders, including commercial fisherman and the governors of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and Texas, agree that the federal management system has led to inefficiencies that have produced inaccurate baseline numbers underestimating the current stock.[8]

Commercial Red Snapper

Shareholders Per State

Florida

279

Texas

49

Louisiana

28

Alabama

20

Mississippi

9

South Carolina

3

New York

1

New Jersey

1

Georgia

1

Iowa

1

Montana

1

Source: Southeast Regional Office of the National Marine Fisheries Service

 

Lobbying Influence

Anglers have sought to redress the unfair allocations, most notably through an amendment to current fishing regulations, known as Amendment 28. This amendment would require Gulf RFMC to reallocate a larger portion of the Gulf's red snapper stock to the recreational sector, taking into account the growth of the recreational industry and associated revenues. However, EDF and their allies in the Gulf region have led a coordinated assault on this Amendment, going so far as to file a lawsuit against NOAA for failing to adequately manage the recreational side of the fishery,[9] a step that garnered additional support to table Amendment 28.

In their fight against Amendment 28, EDF was successful in luring boat captains to their side by promising[10] them the rights to half of the quota currently allocated for recreational fishing. This proposal, known as Amendment 40, sits before the Gulf Council. While there is virtually no public support for EDF's push for sector separation,[11] the Gulf RFMC has failed to delay or end further consideration and has scheduled a final vote on the proposal in October. If implemented, the red snapper fishery would become 75% privatized, assisting EDF's campaign to end public access to the federal fishery.

Due to EDF's attempts to manipulate federal policy and limit public access, each Gulf State has chosen to be noncompliant with federal regulations, opening state waters for prolonged periods of time.[12] In response, the Gulf RFMC proceeded to reduce this year's recreational season to 9 days.[13] The economic effects of this decision are far-reaching. Gulf anglers and the vast array of businesses that supply fishing gear, boats, and supplies will struggle to maintain in the face of this vast federal overreach.

The most astonishing realization is that the shenanigans surrounding the red snapper fishery in the Gulf serves as only one example of how far-left, national environmental groups are tampering with local economies and lifestyles. EPW Republicans will continue detailing exactly how these coordinated efforts are destroying jobs and punishing industries and families across America. Click here to read Collusion & Coordination to Shut Down the Oil & Gas Industry.

 

 

-30-

 



[1] https://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/economics/publications/feus/fisheries_economics_2011

[2] Tides Foundation IRS Form 990 for 2010, 2011, 2012; Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation IRS Form 990 for 2010, 2011, 2012; Rockefeller Brothers Fund Grants Database, search for "Ocean Conservancy" http://www.rbf.org/content/grants-search; Marisla Foundation IRS Form 990 for 2010, 2012; the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, search for "Ocean Conservancy" http://www.packard.org/grants/grants-database/?grant_keyword=ocean+conservancy&program_area=All+Programs&award_amount=All+Amounts&award_year=All+Years.

[3] http://gulfseafoodnews.com/2013/09/08/gulf-seafood-institute-becomes-reality-with-20000-grant-from-ocean-conservancy

[4] [A] http://www.gulfcouncil.org/about/fishery_council_members.php

[B] http://gulfseafoodinstitute.org/gsi-board-gulf-seafood-institute

[5] http://www.nfwf.org/fisheriesfund/Pages/home.aspx#.VCGiJ_ldV_p

[6] http://www.gulfcouncil.org/docs/amendments/Red%20Snapper%205-year%20Review%20FINAL.pdf

[7] http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/gulf_fisheries/reef_fish/2013/am28/documents/pdfs/allocation_accountability_guide.pdf

[8] http://s3.amazonaws.com/assets.clients/cca/ckeditor_assets/attachments/539/govletterfinal41613signed_2.pdf?1400255231

[9] http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=c710884b-7cb5-4096-863f-2162344ecea5

[10] http://www.newsherald.com/outdoors/anglers-divided-on-red-snapper-amendment-1.351054

[11]  [A] http://www.gulfcouncil.org/fishery_management_plans/Public%20Comment/RF%20Amendment%2040%20-%20Sector%20Separation/Comments.pdf

[B] https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Atgbk2rxQkqhdFlHMXpBb2Zld2J1dlpOZHp2RjZrQmc&usp=drive_web#gid=0

[12] [A] http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/news/37583

[B] http://governor.alabama.gov/newsroom/2014/06/alabama-open-red-snapper-season-state-waters-every-weekend-july/

[C] http://www.myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/snappers/gulf-red-snapper/

[D] http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/fish/recreational/federal.phtml/

[E] http://www.dmr.state.ms.us/index.php/news-a-events/recent-news/654-14-59-mms

[13] http://www.nola.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2014/04/louisiana_bucks_federal_fish_m.html


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

ICYMI: Vitter Op-Ed "Drowning our property rights: EPA's misuse of the Clean Water Act" in The Hill

U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, has been reviewing the Obama Administration's current attempt to expand the federal government's power under the Clean Water Act. Last month, Vitter hosted a field briefing in Louisiana to examine the potential impacts of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed "Waters of the United States" rule. Click here to read more. Below is an op-ed by Vitter expanding on EPA's mishandling of the Clean Water Act.

 

The Hill

Drowning our property rights: EPA's misuse of the Clean Water Act
By Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) | September 24, 2014 


In several different ways, President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is using and abusing the Clean Water Act to improperly block economic development projects and take away Americans' property rights.

In one recent example, the EPA made plans to block a permit for a mining project before the project had even applied for one.

After intense pressure from and collusion with Washington D.C. and New York-based environmental lobbyists, the agency proposed to block an Alaska mining company from receiving a federal Clean Water Act permit for a project known as Pebble Mine. But the company had never even applied for a permit. In fact, EPA's proposed Clean Water Act veto was based only on speculation of what mining on private land might look like, not on an actual mining plan.

In other words, EPA manipulated its own bureaucracy in order to control potential and future projects of American businesses on private property. It did so to proactively discourage investment in the venture, so it could never begin to get off the ground.

What could be more questionable than a prospective veto? How about a retroactive one, years after the permits have been issued and the activity greenlighted.

In 2011, EPA revoked a Clean Water Act permit for a West Virginia coal company that had been issued four years earlier. There was no question over whether the business had faithfully complied with the permit's terms. And nothing material had changed. The EPA simply reversed itself after four years of company planning, investment and activity, determining out of the blue that the company's mining, fully authorized under federal law, now presented an "unacceptable adverse effect" on the environment. The EPA failed to provide details or the science used to justify the alleged "adverse effects." The company was forced to shut down and hundreds of potential jobs were shuttered.

A third head-scratching example involves the EPA holding landowners accountable for the amount of minerals and sediment that enters local water bodies not merely from their activity but from rain.

Specifically, the EPA's Chesapeake Bay "Total Maximum Daily Load" is so extreme that it has forced several counties in Maryland to impose a rain tax on landowners who have bodies of water that the EPA says doesn't meet their standard. Have you ever heard of a rain tax? This particular standard has led to lawsuits against EPA over the issue. If the courts fail to overturn this abuse of the Clean Water Act, there will be little to stop EPA from having de facto land use authority, displacing the proper role of local governments across the country.

Because of this type of arbitrary, aggressive action by the EPA, the American business community is worried about future investment and expansion, and justifiably so. Companies considering a natural resource project in the United States must now ask themselves whether they can risk navigating the costly and time-consuming Clean Water Act permit process, only to have EPA determine at some unknown date that the project must be abandoned.

And if all of this weren't enough, then there is the granddaddy of EPA abuse of the Clean Water Act -- its proposed and looming "Waters of the United States" rule. Even though the Clean Water Act was passed into law by Congress in 1972 and Congress has not passed any recent revision of it, the Obama Administration has decided it's time for a drastic rewrite. So on its own, with no provocation or input from Congress, it is proposing new rules that would dramatically expand the reach or jurisdiction of the law.

Up until now, the Clean Water Act has applied to navigable water bodies. But under this drastic administrative rewrite, it would govern virtually any activity impacting an area where water flows. That means federal government permits would be required for all sorts of routine activities.

This has profound implications for all Americans, not just large mining and other businesses. It means that installing a playground in a backyard or extending a driveway may well require expensive, cumbersome federal government permitting. And that means super-expensive and protracted litigation could be involved too.

I'm fighting this regulatory onslaught on many fronts. And I have significant allies in the fight, including a few Democrats. For instance, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has joined me in introducing the bipartisan Regulatory Fairness Act of 2014. This legislation would essentially prevent EPA from preemptively or retroactively vetoing Clean Water Act permits without just cause.

But we need a new U.S. Senate majority to really push back on this overreach. This should be a central rallying cry of this fall's election. We must stop Obama's EPA from continuing to limit our freedoms and block important job projects through abusive, arbitrary action that goes well beyond its proper authority.

Vitter is Louisiana's junior senator, serving since 2005. He sits on the Armed Services; the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; the Commerce, Science and Transportation; the Environment and Public Works; and the Small Business and Entrepreneurship committees.

-30-


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Collusion & Coordination to Shut Down the Oil & Gas Industry

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, has launched the second phase of his investigation into the collusion between environmental activists, lawyers and lobbyists, and billionaires and their supporting foundations who use large sums of money to influence environmental public policy.

Over the coming weeks, EPW Republicans will be detailing exactly how these coordinated efforts are destroying jobs and punishing industries and families across America. From farmers to miners to rig workers to manufacturers and fishermen, EPW Republicans will examine how their jobs and way of life are being targeted by well-funded environmental activists whose primary goal is maximizing government control, particularly over the land, water, and resources utilized by private industries and individuals.

The American oil and gas sector is responsible for creating over 400,000 direct jobs and over 2 million indirect jobs since 2003.[1]  Oil and gas production has added $300-$400 billion annually to the economy, without which America's GDP growth would have been negative.[2]  The American oil and gas industry stands out as a success story amidst a generally stagnant economic recovery.

Environmental Collusion

There are those in the far-left environmentalist movement who have twisted these facts to create an entirely different narrative, including themes of "we're running out of energy"[3] in order to justify federal controls and central planning, and to keep the oil and natural gas in the ground. There is coordinated lobbying, litigation, regulatory, and grassroots efforts that attempts to control and limit our domestic energy revolution. This same contingent calls for the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, reducing public lands available for resource extraction, and funds litigation designed to limit the productive use of private lands.

There are countless examples of attacks on oil and gas, but to be succinct, we'll stick to just a few examples of wealthy individuals in the "Billionaire's Club" based primarily out of New York and California who are funding a coordinated litigation and lobbying strategy at the "grassroots" level[4], which include a push for local drilling bans, especially in New York and Colorado.[5] These attempted bans are promoted by DC-based Food and Water Watch, which is supported by CA-based Schmidt and Tides Foundation, and NY-based Park Foundation.[6]

When it comes to the Billionaire's Club funding an anti-oil and gas campaign at the "grassroots" level, a prime example is Bold Nebraska, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit whose primary cause is opposing the Keystone XL pipeline's planned path through Nebraska. This group has accepted over $140,000 from the Tides Foundation in 2012 and 2013, and additional funds from the Advocacy Fund, which gave $15,000 in 2012.[7] While claiming to fight for their "home" in Nebraska, the organization accepts most of its funding from outside special interests.[8]

Administration's Influence and Revolving Door

President Obama and his Administration have served as willing accomplices in this effort. During his tenure, the Administration has unilaterally cut off access to federally managed resources[9] in the Atlantic[10] and offshore Alaska,[11] even going through the great lengths of falsifying a National Academy of Engineers report in order to justify a moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico. [12]

To help oversee its environmental agenda, the Obama Administration hired environmental allies, including Rhea Suh to work as the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget at the Department of the Interior. The Administration later nominated her to work as Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. A former employee of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, with strong connections to the Environmental Grantmakers Association, Ms. Suh awarded grant money to many of the Billionaire's Club's favorite groups, including Friends of the Earth, the Wilderness Society, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Environmental Defense Fund.[13] During Ms. Suh's time with Interior, the Administration issued the moratorium on energy production in the Gulf of Mexico, entered into sue and settle agreements with radical environmental groups, and restricted access to federal lands on and offshore.[14] Ms. Suh was brought on in spite of the fact that she called expanded natural gas development "the single greatest threat" to the environment.[15]  Ms. Suh recently announced her decision to leave the Administration to become President of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which is funded by the Billionaire's Club.[16]

Because the Administration cannot stop energy development on private lands, the far-left has fought to limit that development through attacks on the oil and gas industry.[17] They have also facilitated the "support" for the decline in production on federal lands.[18]

Litigation Manipulation

One tool used by liberal environmentalists is the Endangered Species Act (ESA). By abusing the original intent of the ESA,[19] the Obama Administration and their allies have engaged in litigation in order to target oil and gas rich regions with ESA determinations for species like sage grouse[20] and prairie chickens.[21]  One particularly impactful sue and settle agreement[22] requires listing determinations on more than 250 species. Not only was the settlement agreed to behind closed doors and without any of the potentially impacted parties or industries present,[23] but listing one species, the sage grouse, could shut down or obstruct production activity across 11 western states.

The Center for Biological Diversity and the WildEarth Guardians[24] entered into settlement agreements with the Administration over the ESA. Both of these groups have been funded by the Billionaire's Club. At the same time they enter into secret sue and settle agreements with the Administration, they are receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants from organizations, including the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Tides Foundation, and Marisla Foundation.[25]

At the end of the day, the rate of growth in the oil and gas industry on State and private lands has continued its impressive streak,[26] while on federal lands it has fallen.[27] There is untapped potential to create new jobs and spur economic growth with oil and gas development. But until we can change the Administration's policy and end this assault on oil and gas, lawyers, lobbyists, bureaucrats, and far-left environmentalists will continue to encroach on property rights and cripple domestic production.

-30-

 



[1] U.S. Census Bureau, Statistics of U.S. Businesses, http://www.census.gov/econ/susb; FRED Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?s%5B1%5D%5Bid%5D=CES1021100001;

[2] http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/pgi_04.htm#notes

[3] http://www.desmogblog.com/2014/07/28/has-gulf-mexico-hit-peak-oil

[4] http://www.forbes.com/sites/chrisprandoni/2014/07/30/breaking-senate-committee-report-details-environmentalists-inner-workings/

[5] http://www.ithacajournal.com/story/opinion/readers/2014/09/01/guest-viewpoint-billionaires-fund-anti-fracker-claims/14821915/

[6]  The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama's EPA, U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, July 30, 2014, p. 40.

[7] [A] Tides Found., IRS Form 990, 2012.

     [B] Advocacy Fund, IRS Form 990, 2012.

[8] http://boldnebraska.org/

[9] http://naturalresources.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=175106

[10] http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/12/01/us-usa-offshore-drilling-idUSTRE6B046K20101201

[11] http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/salazar-plan-puts-half-of-alaska-petroleum-reserve-off-limits-to-drilling/2012/08/13/d542863c-e57f-11e1-8741-940e3f6dbf48_story.html

[12] http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2010/11/10/10greenwire-white-house-changed-report-implying-experts-su-96097.html

[13] http://www.packard.org/grants/grants-database/

[14] http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303725404579461812837507246

[15] http://www.hewlett.org/newsroom/news/foundations-qa-rhea-suh

[16] http://washingtonexaminer.com/top-environmental-group-names-new-chief/article/2553565

[17] http://fuelfix.com/blog/2014/09/09/guest-commentary-offshore-is-next-target-for-enviromentalists/

[18] http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/analysis/oil-and-gas-production-decline-on-federal-lands-again/

[19] http://esawatch.org

[20]  http://www.ogj.com/articles/2014/08/wea-launches-new-greater-sage-grouse-public-information-campaign.html

[21] http://www.kansas.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/article1151099.html

[22] http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=e5eb7572-ddc0-06ef-6c5b-280064f59349

[23] http://www.nationalreview.com/article/373810/sue-and-settle-racket-stephen-moore

[24] http://www.eswr.com/2011/07/cbd-fws-reach-separate-agreement-on-listing-deadlines/

[25] The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama's EPA, U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, July 30, 2014

[26] http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/analysis/u-s-oil-production-reaches-highest-levels-since-1989/)

[27] http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/04/report_oil_and_gas_production.html


Friday, September 19, 2014

Revealing the Money Trail Behind Environmental Collusion

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, yesterday launched the second phase of his investigation into the collusion between environmental activists, lawyers and lobbyists, and billionaires and their supporting foundations who use large sums of money to influence environmental public policy. Vitter and the EPW Republicans believe this collusion, and the public policy that results from it, have an adverse effect on jobs and the economy.

While individuals like Tom Steyer garner attention for their very public decrees and promotions to make climate change a top-tier issue, it is not easy for the public to track the money that goes into the far-left environmental movement. Yet we know Steyer has thus far failed to fulfill his pledge to raise $100 million to make climate change a central election year. When asked about his failing to reach his goal, Steyer responded, "We have gotten a lot of people who I think would put money alongside us as opposed to through us.  Because I think people like, particularly people when they think they're spending a lot of money, like to feel as if they have some control over it, and if it's their effort."[1]

Steyer unintentionally acknowledged the existence of the far-left environmental machine that the Committee's report revealed.  As detailed in the report, members of the Billionaire's Club direct the actions of nonprofits by providing multiple millions in funding through prescriptive grant making. This ensures that they receive a political return on their "charitable" investment.  In addition to being reliable and effective, the machine also offers funders anonymity and separation from the causes they support.

One alarming example of the environmental machine is the Sea Change Foundation, one of the most generous donors to environmental causes.  The Sea Change Foundation receives a percentage of its money from hard-to-track foreign sources. One of these sources is a Bermuda-based company called Klein Ltd. Klein only exists on paper with no internet presence and was set up for the sole purpose of funneling anonymous offshore donations to Sea Change.[2] Incorporation in Bermuda offers Klein, and consequently Sea Change, government guaranteed anonymity for the sources of their donations.

In 2011, Sea Change gave $13,966,672 in grants to the Energy Foundation. This totaled to nearly 15% of the Energy Foundation's total contributions and grants revenue. The Energy Foundation then distributed the wealth to various organizations, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, and the Tides Foundation, among others.[3]

The Billionaire's Club also avoids public scrutiny by exploiting fiscal sponsorship arrangements to channel tax exempt dollars to entities that the IRS has not evaluated or separately classified as "charitable."[4] The New York-based Sustainable Markets Foundation (SMF) receives vast sums from the Billionaire's Club.  It only exists on paper and has zero public presence - no website or other forms of media. But one entity it supports is well-known - 350.org.  Between 2011 and 2013, 350.org collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Park Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, the Tides Foundation, Marisla Foundation, ClimateWorks Foundation and Rockefeller Family Foundation - through grants to SMF.[5]  These groups were all highlighted in the EPW Republicans report as part of the Billionaire's Club. All of their donations were made tax free - based solely on the judgment of SMF.

EPW Republicans recently released a report entitled, "Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama's EPA." The report revealed details about the secret collaboration between millionaires and billionaires seeking to spread their influence and a vast network of far-left environmental nonprofit groups, many of whom are organized and funded by the aptly named "Billionaire's Club." These nonprofits tout their independence from outside influence, but in reality, they serve the interests of foundations and ultra-wealthy elites in New York, California, and Washington, D.C., in exchange for generous donations. Over the coming weeks, EPW Republicans will be detailing exactly how these coordinated efforts are destroying jobs and punishing industries and families across America.

 

-30-



[1] Alex Guillen, Steyer PAC gets just $501K from outside donors in July, POLITICO, Aug. 29, 2014, http://www.politico.com/story/2014/08/tom-steyer-nextgen-climate-pac-110231.html

[2] The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama's EPA, U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, July 30, 2014, p. 63.

[3] Id. at 47.

[4] Id. at 53.

[5] Id. at 40.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Vitter Summary Statement for Hearing to Examine NRC Nominees
Full Committee Hearing to Examine Nominations of Jeffery Baran and Stephen Burns to be Members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Thank you, Chairman Boxer, for convening today's hearing, and I would also like to thank Mr. Burns and Mr. Baran for being here to testify before this committee.

Nuclear energy has long been an indispensable contributor to our base-load electricity needs, and despite best efforts by far-left activists to undermine the industry I don't see nuclear's contribution changing drastically in the years to come. As such, it is imperative for this committee to support nominees for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission who are highly qualified, with the relevant expertise and extensive professional experience needed to ensure that the Commission continues to promote the necessary safety standards that have contributed to our nuclear reactor fleet being the safest in the world.

Each Commissioner has a responsibility to guarantee that the NRC maintains an appropriate degree of regulatory stability by adhering to its own principles of good regulation: independence, openness, efficiency, clarity, and reliability.

There is absolutely no sense in regulating for the sake of regulating. It leads to unnecessary rules that can burden the nuclear industry, raise electricity prices, and decrease stability. We have seen the devastating effects caused by the improper involvement of outside entities that push for the needless closure of our nuclear facilities. Not only does this create a hardship and diminished capacity for our energy sector to meet the needs of this nation, but there is also a strong economic toll in local communities resulting from the loss of employment opportunities. That is why it is so important that before any vote is cast for these nominees, each one pledges that in their future roles they will only consider rules that have actually passed a clear cost-benefit analysis.

We must also take a detailed look at the competence and background of each nominee. It would be unfortunate for the NRC to take a step backward and revert to a work and regulatory environment similar to the regime that undermined the work of the NRC under the previous chairman. Progress has been made at the Commission, including their recent ruling on Waste Confidence, now known as The Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel Rule.

While I greatly appreciate this positive step, it is still vitally important finding a final solution for our nation's nuclear waste. A solution should continue to include Yucca Mountain, as over $15 billion in taxpayer dollars have already been expended on this project. Unfortunately, the partiality and qualifications of today's nominees matters little in light of Senator Reid's and the Democrat majority's desire to push forward under the new Senate rules. Whether these two nominees will act with impartiality and make decisions based on prudence and sound judgment will be seen.

Again, thank you for being here today, and I look forward to hearing your responses on these important issues.


-30-


Monday, September 8, 2014

Vitter Summary Statement for Subcommittee Field Hearing on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement
Subcommittee on Water & Wildlife Field Hearing “Examining the Strategy for Achieving the Goals of the New Voluntary Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement”
Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you for calling today's hearing. I would also like to thank our witnesses for testifying before the Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife.

Standing alone, the June 16, 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement appears worthy of celebration. The Agreement establishes several laudable principles that are intended to serve as a framework for the continued work on the Chesapeake Bay Program. These principles include collaboration, transparency, science-based decision-making, and a pledge to work closely with local governments in pursuing Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. Given these commitments, it may be difficult to imagine anyone having reservations about the Agreement, especially when one also considers that the Agreement is apparently a voluntary accord between the Chesapeake region states and the federal government.

However, the Agreement before the Subcommittee today cannot be examined in a vacuum. If we are to understand helpful ideas or potential hurdles to achieving the goals of the 2014 Agreement, we should be mindful of the history associated with past Chesapeake Bay agreements. In my opinion, and in light of the regulatory developments which occurred after the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement, any strategy regarding the 2014 Agreement deserves caution and careful deliberation.

The Chesapeake 2000 Agreement was similar to the 2014 Agreement before the Committee today. Like the 2014 Agreement, the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement contained voluntary commitments and goals for the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. Following this agreement, EPA in 2003 developed regional criteria guidance for water quality standards for the Chesapeake Bay. These criteria led several Chesapeake Bay states to adopt new water quality criteria, and between 2004 and 2006 the seven Chesapeake watershed jurisdictions committed to "Tributary Strategies" so that the Chesapeake Bay could meet water quality goals. Thanks to these cooperative efforts, which were supported by environmental groups, local governments, agricultural organizations, and other stakeholders, the Chesapeake Bay was well on its way to achieving the goals that had been established in the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement. In fact, as we know from U.S. Geological Survey research on the time lag between taking conservation measures and seeing water quality changes, the improvements we are seeing today are as a result of those voluntary efforts taken years ago.

But this collaborative progress was interrupted in 2009, when the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other plaintiffs sued EPA, claiming that progress was too slow and the voluntary goals in the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement were in fact mandatory duties under the Clean Water Act. In other words, rather than a mutual commitment to work together on Chesapeake Bay restoration issues, the lawsuit painted the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement as containing inflexible standards which bound the Chesapeake states to a nonnegotiable mandate.

Unfortunately, even though the scientific evidence undercut the claims of lack of progress, the Obama Administration acquiesced to this counterproductive approach. In a highly questionable 2010 "sue and settle" agreement that ended the CBF litigation, EPA agreed to establish a Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL) for nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment flow into the Chesapeake Bay. But when EPA finalized the Bay TMDL later in 2010, the final product was an unprecedented federal regulation that could not have been envisioned when the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement was signed. EPA's TMDL is a costly command and control mechanism that deprives state and local governments of their traditional land use decision-making authority. EPA has purported to dictate not only the total amount of nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment that can flow into the Chesapeake Bay, but, by allocating those loads in excruciating detail and crediting only the load reduction actions that are included in its Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model, EPA also dictated the manner in which individual companies and sectors within the economy must comply with the total load limitations.

EPA's Bay TMDL has enormous repercussions for private landowners, small businesses, and local governments throughout the Chesapeake Bay region. According to the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy, implementation of the Bay TMDL could cost as much as $50 billion between 2010 and 2025. Left unchecked, the TMDL could represent a national precedent that would force state and local officials across the country to cede their land use authority to EPA. These concerns led me to sign on to an amicus brief with several other members of Congress urging the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to invalidate this intrusive regulation.

The lesson of the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement and Bay TMDL is that certain groups and organizations are all too willing to turn a cooperative agreement into a federal mandate, by whatever means necessary. As Peyton Robertson, the Director of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration's Chesapeake Bay Office who is here as a witness today, once said, the Bay TMDL "fundamentally altered the nature" of the Chesapeake Bay Program, noting that "[y]ou can't reasonably argue that it is a voluntary approach anymore."

Thus, although the June 16, 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement is nominally voluntary, certain questions must be asked with the understanding that history tends to repeat itself. For example, by establishing the Agreement, have the states inadvertently laid the groundwork for a future lawsuit against EPA? Would EPA settle such a future lawsuit by forcing state and local officials to devote more of their limited resources towards unfunded federal mandates? To what extent does this Agreement impede current voluntary efforts towards Chesapeake Bay restoration?

I am glad there will be a robust discussion of these issues, and I appreciate Senator Cardin holding this hearing today. I also would like to thank Maryland State Senator Stephen Hershey for serving as a minority witness. Senator Hershey understands firsthand how federal regulation can affect the land use decision-making authority of state and local officials. I look forward to the testimony of Senator Hershey and our other witnesses.

-30-


Friday, August 22, 2014

Vitter Summary Statement for Lake Charles Field Briefing on EPA's Upcoming Ozone Standards
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works EPW Republican Field Briefing “Louisiana Jobs and Economic Growth in Jeopardy: How EPA’s Upcoming Ozone Standards Will Harm Project Development”
Thank you everyone for being here today to discuss a topic critical to the economic opportunity and the future of Louisiana. Today's witnesses are here to speak on the challenges facing Louisiana and Lake Charles from EPA's Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC) recommended compliance range on ozone. We are fortunate today to have an especially credible panel who can speak competently on the job loss, opportunity loss, and other challenges a new standard will present. Let me thank Larry DeRoussel from the Lake Area Industry Alliance, Mike Walls from the American Chemistry Council, and Grant Bush from the Imperial Calcasieu Regional Planning and Development Commission for coming out this morning. Also, thank you to my colleagues, Congressmen Bill Cassidy and Charles Boustany, for being here today.

As most of us know, EPA is currently in the process of reviewing the ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard, which was last set at 75 parts per billion in 2008. EPA is required under a court ordered deadline to propose the revised standard in December, likely reducing the current standard to a range within 70 to 60 parts per billion. Setting the standard at 60 changes the map considerably, placing almost the entire country in violation, including pristine national parks like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. This range, especially the lower end, presents a variety of problems for Louisiana.

Lowering the standard would put practically the entire state of Louisiana in violation. The Lake Charles area has attained the ozone standard for many years, making it a very attractive place for companies to expand and locate to. But this will change if EPA lowers the ozone standard. Being out of attainment could keep companies from locating in Louisiana and could even result in some industries electing to shut down their facilities and move out of state or even out of the country to places where there are fewer compliance restrictions. Since the main economic driver of the state and the largest industry presence is manufacturing, our local manufacturing renaissance will likely grind to a halt.

According to LSU's Louisiana Economic Outlook for 2014 and 2015, the Lake Charles area is about to enter the finest growth period in its history, with 7,800 new direct jobs projected over 2014-2015. The Greater Baton Rouge Regional Industrial Managers Association has documented a monumental $46.6 billion in announced industrial expansions in this region. The Lake Area Industrial Alliance projects construction labor demand to jump from about 6,000 now to 14,000 in 2016. These numbers represent huge successes for this area, but also significant challenges for maintaining attainment - particularly under a lower ozone standard.

Last month, the National Association of Manufacturers released a study on the costs and economic impacts of a 60 parts per billion ozone standard, finding that it would be the single most expensive regulation in history. It would reduce GDP by $270 billion each year and as much as $3.4 trillion by 2040. The average U.S. household would lose $1,570 per year, while job impacts in the form of fewer hours worked, lower pay, and lost jobs averaged 2.9 million per year. The study also examined the potential impact of new oil and gas production being significantly restricted in areas of the country designated nonattainment, potentially driving up energy costs for families and manufacturers by 15 and 23 percent, respectively. Louisiana would suffer from potentially 116,000 lost jobs per year, $53 billion in gross state product loss from 2017 to 2040, a $2,360 drop in average household consumption per year, and the shuttering of 80% of Louisiana's coal fired power plant capacity.

All of this economic destruction will result from EPA reducing the standard - even though the current standard of 75 parts per billion hasn't even been fully implemented across the nation, so the full measure of its benefit has yet to be experienced. But for some reason, EPA is insisting on jumping the gun and leading us down a path of destruction, stunting growth at the Port of Lake Charles and punishing the state by driving away businesses and essentially halting all economic development in the area.

With that being said, I turn to my colleagues in Congress. Thank you.

-30-


Friday, August 15, 2014

Vitter Summary Statement for New Orleans Field Briefing on EPA's Proposed Waters Rule
EPW Republican Field Briefing “Impacts to Louisiana Families, Farmers, and Infrastructure Projects from EPA’s Proposed Waters Rule”
Thank you everyone for being here this morning to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers' (Corps) proposed rule to unilaterally expand federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.

There is no doubt that this proposed rule will significantly increase the amount of private property subject to federal control as "waters of the United States," including timberland, farmland, and other waterbodies. In essence, this means that bureaucrats in Washington D.C.-who already have too much power-are attempting to give themselves even more authority over the livelihoods and businesses of individuals and families throughout Louisiana.

Our state is filled with intermittent tributaries and lands that could fall subject to federal jurisdiction.

The proposed rule's sweeping language is a direct threat to the private property rights which serve as a backbone to our nation's economy. I am very concerned that the consequences of the Obama Administration's proposed rule will be especially severe for businesses, farmers, municipalities, and other landowners here in Louisiana.

Our state is on the verge of significant economic expansion, thanks to the leadership of many people in this room, and the businesses and individuals they represent. Yet this economic progress could come to a screeching halt if EPA and the Corps are permitted to follow the path outlined in this proposed rule.

Instead of Louisianans deciding how best to use their property, the proposed rule will allow the federal government to dictate many land use decisions. The proposed rule would also give radical environmental activists, with whom our federal government often colludes, the green light to sue Louisiana landowners. This would mean increased regulatory costs, less economic development, fewer jobs for hardworking Louisianans, and perpetual litigation and exorbitant penalties that can be devastating to small businesses and families.

I am pleased to have Congressman Bill Cassidy joining me this morning. We are also joined by three distinguished witnesses who will offer helpful testimony on the troubling yet important issues surrounding the EPA and the Corps' proposed rule. Our witnesses today are Dr. Mike Strain, Commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry; Buck Vandersteen, the Executive Director of the Louisiana Forestry Association; and Steven Serio, a partner at the law firm of Fishman Haygood and the Louisiana Government Relations Chair for the International Council of Shopping Centers. My thanks to each of the witnesses for appearing at this morning's briefing.

Before we hear from our witnesses, I would like to highlight some of the concerns I have with EPA and the Corps' proposed "waters of the United States" rule. Three issues in particular convince me that this proposal should be withdrawn immediately.

First, the text of the proposed rule demonstrates that EPA and the Corps are attempting a vast takeover of state and private property. Certain categorical terms, such as tributaries, adjacent waters, neighboring waters, and floodplains, are defined so broadly that virtually any waterbody could fall under the regulatory authority of the agency. Even if a waterbody does not fall under these broad definitions, non-jurisdictional waterbodies can still be considered jurisdictional when, in combination with other similarly situated waters, there is a significant nexus to a traditional navigable water body. This "catch all" provision, combined with the agencies' broad definitional terms, provides no real limit to federal authority under the Clean Water Act.

Second, the agencies that will be in charge of enforcing the proposed rule have shown that they do not understand the language that they drafted or the significant costs associated with expanding Clean Water Act jurisdiction. Earlier this month, our Committee completed a "Fact Check" on several EPA claims regarding the proposed rule. When examining the text of the proposed rule, it's easy to see how EPA's claims are rendered completely false. For example, EPA has indicated that the proposed rule does not regulate new types of ditches. In fact, however, the proposal explicitly includes ditches unless they fall within one of two narrow exceptions for federal jurisdiction. Many ditches throughout the country will be unable to meet the rule's limited exemption provision and thus will become subject to federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction under the rule, contrary to EPA's claims.

Likewise, the Army Corps has attempted to assure me that "when privately-owned aquatic areas are subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction . . . [that] results in little or no interference with the landowner's use of land." This comes from the same agency whose designation of land in Assumption Parish has prevented the development of a privately-owned landfill. Not to mention the growing problems with the Corps' Modified Charleston Method and other mitigation policies, which more and more appear to be a means for federal extortion of private landowners. These misguided claims suggest to me that EPA and the Corps either don't understand the Clean Water Act and the language they drafted, or they are intentionally trying to mislead the American public regarding the effect of the proposed rule.

Third, I am extremely concerned that the proposed rule will lead to radical environmental groups suing homeowners and small businesses here in Louisiana for simply attempting to improve their private property.

How many homeowners, small businesses and farmers would be exempt from federal regulation under EPA's proposed rule? It is very difficult to say with any certainty.

There are already reports of environmental groups using language contained in the proposed rule to sue and stop homebuilders and other businesses from providing housing and jobs to the American people. If finalized, few sectors of Louisiana's economy will be immune from environmental activists and their desire to exploit the rule through abusive citizen suit litigation.

It is also disconcerting that, in conjunction with the proposed "waters of the United States" rule, EPA and the Corps issued an interpretive Clean Water Act rule that will make it more difficult for farmers to engage in recognized conservation practices.

With all of these concerns in mind, Congress can and should stop this federal overreach dead in its tracks. That's why I'm proud to be a lead co-sponsor of Senator Barrasso's Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014 (S. 2496), which would prevent the Obama Administration from finalizing this rule or any similar proposal. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy recently made the public statement that "I have never proposed anything that I thought would be so well-received as this that has fallen totally flat on its face." As Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, I am also committed to protecting Louisianans and private property owners throughout the country, and will do everything in my power to stop this federal overreach.

Once again I thank everyone for attending this important briefing, and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses this morning.

-30-


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fifth Circuit Decision Adds to Concern Over EPA Water Rule
The Obama Administration is currently attempting to expand the federal government's power under the Clean Water Act (CWA). EPW Republicans are concerned with the way this Administration's water-related policies threaten our nation's economy, families, farmers, and small business owners. Click here to read more. A recent circuit court decision involving a Louisiana landowner adds further concern to the Administration's "waters of the United States" proposal.

In 2011 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) issued a jurisdictional determination (JD) to a small business in Louisiana stating that its private property contained federal wetlands and that the company would need to obtain a costly and time-consuming permit in order to move forward with development plans. The Corps' issued the JD despite the fact that the Agency previously indicated the land was not subject to Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction. The company challenged the validity of the JD in court, relying on a previous Supreme Court decision allowing private landowners to challenge environmental compliance orders issued by federal agencies.

Last month, the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of the Corps in Belle Co. v. Corps of Engineers, ruling that JDs are not subject to judicial review. This means that, in the Fifth Circuit, small businesses and landowners who receive JD's may not challenge the Corps immediately in court, even if the Agency claims that dry land on private property actually contains wetlands subject to federal jurisdiction. Under the Fifth Circuit's decision in Belle Co., landowners who wish to challenge the Corps' claim of federal jurisdiction must wait until completion of the CWA permitting process, a costly ordeal which, in many instances, will effectively prevent landowners from making productive use of their own property.

This court decision will negatively impact development projects, and in some cases will shut down land use entirely due to extreme permitting costs. This decision echoes a disturbing trend in which the Corps and EPA officials have indicated that CWA jurisdiction does not implicate private property rights concerns. Even more worrisome is the precedent now set for the Corps to issue JDs to landowners in order to leverage their environmental agenda against private property owners. As EPA and the Corps seek to increase their power through the controversial "waters of the United States" proposed rule, the Fifth Circuit's decision means less accountability for the bureaucrats who will be in charge of implementing the proposed rule.

-30-



Majority Office
410 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.Washington, DC 20510-6175
phone: 202-224-6176
Minority Office
456 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.Washington, DC 20510-6175
phone: 202-224-8832