Blogs - Blogs
Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Vitter Summary Statement for Baton Rouge Field Briefing on EPA Plan to Lower Ozone Standard
EPW Republican Field Briefing “Louisiana Jobs and Economic Growth in Jeopardy: How EPA’s Upcoming Ozone Standards Will Harm Our State”
Thank you everyone for being here today for a very important and critical topic to economic opportunity and the future of Louisiana. We've titled this Senate Environment and Public Works Committee minority briefing Louisiana Jobs and Economic Growth In Jeopardy: How EPA's Upcoming Ozone Standards Will Harm Our State. I think that's a suitable title given the serious nature of the impacts Louisiana could experience as a consequence of the recent proposal the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is now considering.

Today's witnesses are here to speak on the challenges EPA's Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC) is presenting our state with the recommended compliance range on ozone. We are fortunate today to have an especially credible panel that can speak competently on the job loss, opportunity loss and infrastructure challenges a new standard will present. Let me thank Michael Vince, a senior scientist with the Air Permits Division, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ); Secretary Sherri H. LeBas, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD), and Dr. Joseph Mason, Hermann Moyse, Jr./Louisiana Bankers Association Endowed Professor of Banking, Louisiana State University, for your willingness to participate today. I'd also like to recognize LDEQ Secretary, Peggy M. Hatch, who is joining us today, though not as a witness. I'd like to thank the Secretary for her ensuring Louisiana is engaged on a number of critical issues pertaining to the federal government's, and in particular, the EPA's, efforts to expand federal control over Louisiana. Let me also thank my colleague, and a real leader on these issues in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Congressman Bill Cassidy.

The Obama Administration continues building its excessive regulatory regime across all sectors of the American economy, from healthcare to energy production, which ultimately hurt our economy and competitiveness, job growth, and small business. Central to this effort is the Environmental Protection Agency. As I'm sure most of us here today 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 will most likely propose the revised standard in December, reducing the current standard to within a range of 70 to 60 parts per billion. Setting the standard at 60 changes the map considerably, placing almost the entire country in violation. This range, especially the lower end, presents a variety of problems for Louisiana. As of this summer, the greater Baton Rouge area has come into compliance with the 2008 standard, which means there will be a slight reprieve of the many economic restrictions that have been in place for years until EPA lowers the standard again.

Lowering the standard would put, if not the entire, practically the entire state of Louisiana in violation. Not just most of Louisiana, but even pristine national parks like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone would be in non-compliance. There is obviously something very wrong with this picture if Yellowstone National Park is unable comply with EPA's lowered standard.

EPA's Clean Air Science Advisory Committee, or CASAC, reviews EPA's underlying science and advises the Administrator on the ozone standard. In this case, CASAC recommended that EPA take action and lower the standard to below 68 parts per billion - a significant decrease from the current 75. I am actively following the ozone review process to ensure its transparency and accuracy, and I have frequently voiced my numerous concerns to CASAC and the EPA about how they have been conducting this review. I also asked multiple Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies member states for their opinions on the current review and upcoming rulemaking. In response, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality pointed out that 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 where there are fewer restrictions.

Along with my concerns, the local Baton Rouge Area Chamber expressed its serious opposition to lowering the standard because that extreme level of reduction will significantly damage the business economy of not only Baton Rouge, but also our entire state.

If lowered to 60 parts per billion, the consequences of nonattainment will include economic penalties, and 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 the Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance, the area has $23.7 billion in industrial projects, and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber projects that 16,400 jobs will be created locally through 2015. These numbers represent huge successes for this area, but also significant challenges for maintaining attainment - particularly under a lower ozone standard.

Last week 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 be hit by such a standard with the potential for 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. Approximately 12,000 manufacturing, 600 natural resources and mining, and 30,000 construction jobs in Baton Rouge alone would be at risk.

One of the many problems with EPA's review of the ozone standard is that 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 on further tightening the standard. How can CASAC and EPA say with any certainty that the current standard is insufficient and needs to be lowered?

Thank you.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Vitter Summary Statement on Subcommittee Hearing on Climate Change
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety “Examining the Threats Posed by Climate Change”

Thank you, Chairman Whitehouse, for calling today's hearing, and thank you to our witnesses for coming here today. Last June when President Obama announced his Climate Action Plan, we learned that he preferred his supporters not engage in straight economic arguments, overpromise on the impacts taking action will have, or debate the validity of the claim that the science is already settled. However, these are exactly the topics that need to be discussed, and the witnesses invited today will speak to the costs and benefits of the current strategies the Administration seeks to put in place to regulate carbon dioxide emissions and thereby in theory address climate change.

Focusing on the scientific foundation for President Obama's greenhouse gas regulations has largely become a moot point. Not because there is still so much to learn about our ever-changing climate, but because my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are so comfortable obfuscating the facts. When I took over as Ranking Member, I made the specific request that serious statements of science be made with precision - precision in what the science shows, in what the level of uncertainty in modeling has been, and in presenting what is indicated by empirical evidence.

Since the beginning of this Congress, Republicans have invited many well-qualified scientists to testify at our numerous climate hearings, and each one has spoken to what the empirical evidence shows. According to their testimony, it shows that hurricane and tornado activity has not been increasing in either frequency or intensity. But, most importantly, according to their testimony, it shows that global temperatures have not been increasing at any rate close to what was predicted ten years ago.

In defiance of the President's wishes not to discuss the economics of the Climate Action Plan's agenda, just last week EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy stated that the Existing Source Proposal for carbon dioxide emissions from power plants was not about pollution control but was an investment opportunity. An investment opportunity for friends and allies of the Obama Administration, while giving States no other option besides requiring expensive renewable energy mandates while being forced to pass the cost along to local communities, families, and businesses that can least afford increased electricity costs.

The current Administration not only has a credibility problem, it has a consistency problem. A month ago, Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Janet McCabe stated that the Existing Source proposal was not an energy plan. The rule was a pollution control rule. So which is it? Ms. McCarthy is said to be known for being a straight shooter -could her comment in front of EPW been a rare moment of "transparency" this Administration promised?

If we are going to bring clarity and precision to the debate, let's look at the facts:

• "Carbon" is an inaccurate term to be used in this discussion -we are discussing carbon dioxide, not carbon monoxide, a pollutant already regulated and a known danger.

• The cost to the domestic economy from actions undertaken in furtherance of the Climate Action Plan remain unknown as the Administration utilizes an internally-developed Social Cost of Carbon estimate that captures the global benefits while ignoring the domestic consequences.

• Without the "co-benefits" reductions in particulate matter and ozone precursors, actions to address carbon dioxide don't pass the cost-benefit test.

And, most importantly, abundant, affordable, reliable electricity drives economies and raises populations out of poverty. It drives our current manufacturing renaissance and competitive advantage around the world. Take that away and families, communities, and small businesses all suffer - and suffer unnecessarily for no tangible gain.

Thank you.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

ICYMI: Sen. Vitter Op-Ed "Our Ports and Waterways key to a vibrant economy"
"Our Ports and Waterways key to a vibrant economy" by Sen. David Vitter in the Washington Times
As we work to grow jobs and the economy, we should always remember the importance of trade and maritime commerce as well as the infrastructure necessary to support it modern, properly dredged ports and waterways.

One out of every six American jobs depends on trade and maritime commerce. $180 billion of goods per year travel on American waterways, to and from American ports. At the center of it all, the mighty Mississippi serves 31 states, in the heartland of America, which is the breadbasket of the world.

Perhaps all this is more obvious to me than to most. I grew up in New Orleans, watching huge grain and other ships plowing that mighty Mississippi, and I live with my family just outside the city now. That background has helped spur me to lead the effort on these issues as the lead Republican on the Senate's infrastructure committee.

And unlike most recent policy work in Washington, that effort has actually paid off. I joined with the Democratic chair of the committee, Barbara Boxer of California given our completely different political philosophies, it doesn't get more bipartisan than that to author and pass the Senate's Water Resources Reform and Development Act. We then developed a final version with our House counterparts and passed it with huge bipartisan majorities. It was just signed into law by President Obama on June 10.

The legislation does four big things, all designed to grow tens of thousands of new maritime and port jobs.

First, it reforms the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) to help ensure that user fees paid by shippers are actually used for their intended purpose dredging and maintaining our ports and waterways. Up to now, this has been a trust fund in name only, with half the money being stolen by the Administration in a typical year and used for completely unrelated programs. The bill ramps up HMTF expenditures to achieve full utilization over ten years, prioritizes funding for ports that move 90% of our nation's commerce, adds additional criteria to the allocation of HMTF funds such as commercial fishing and energy sector activities, and lowers the federal maintenance depth from 45-feet to 50-feet to accommodate larger vessels.

Second, the bill makes changes to another maritime fund, the Inland Waterway Trust Fund, to break through the logjam there that had stalled necessary lock systems and related projects. This will allow vital infrastructure work to move forward like the Olmsted Lock and Dam in Illinois and Kentucky and the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Lock in Louisiana.

Third, the act streamlines the environmental review process by requiring better coordination and accountability among the agencies who issue environmental permits. All agencies involved in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process must now set hard deadlines to ensure that all environmental reviews are completed at the same time, avoiding uncoordinated reviews that delay projects. The legislation also gives local project sponsors more flexibility to resolve concerns at the highest levels when there are disagreements between the agencies. And it includes accountability measures that penalize agencies who aren't getting their work done.

Fourth, we take major steps to reform the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by accelerating the project delivery process, requiring more accountability on project schedules, increasing transparency of internal Corps decisions, and penalizing the Corps for the first time ever when it misses critical deadlines. The bill also increases local control of project management and delivery decisions and provides great opportunities for public-private partnerships on water infrastructure projects.

Perhaps as important as all of the above, we accomplished this with no earmarks and no increase in the deficit. We even crafted a provision that takes old, stalled Corps projects off the books as we move forward with new, necessary work like deepening the lower Mississippi River and the Port of Savannah. Both of those projects are absolutely vital in light of the widening of the Panama Canal, which is introducing larger ships to our maritime system.

Passing WRRDA is one of the most positive actions Congress has taken this year. It's fully bipartisan legislation that serves as a real bright spot in an otherwise gridlocked Washington. Most importantly, it's a substantive step forward in getting an otherwise sluggish economy moving down the river again.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is the lead Republican for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Op-Ed "Obama’s Executive Action On Cap-And-Trade Is All Pain, No Gain"
By Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)

Daily Caller

Op-ed "Obama's Executive Action on Cap-and-Trade is All Pain, No Gain"

July 23, 2014

 

Hearing "E-P-A" can make anyone working in the energy or manufacturing industries cringe. It's an understandable reaction, especially now that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under President Obama's direction, is forcing new regulations on carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants as part of his Climate Action Plan.

These regulations are the president's second attempt at enacting cap-and-trade. The first failed to get support in Congress, thankfully. This time, he's using EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy as his quarterback to avoid the legislative process.

Not only will these regulations decrease access to our abundant natural resources, they'll also bring higher energy prices and cause sweeping job losses. This is certainly the opposite of what our struggling economy needs.

There's really nothing good about Obama's cap-and-trade proposal. It's all pain and no gain. The rule takes authority from state governments, public utility commissions, and even other federal agencies with jurisdiction over electricity generation and gives all the power to the EPA. And, whether states like it or not, they're forced to implement brand new standards to replace fossil-fuel energy.

If the EPA moves forward with this rule, American families and businesses will be the ones to shoulder the costs without seeing any tangible environmental impacts. Plus, the public won't have a voice because there's no opportunity to vote on it through Congress. That's the pain part.

What makes this even worse is that the proposed rule is expected to have only a 0.02 degrees Celsius impact on global temperatures, because it would not impact the world's largest carbon emitters like China, India, and Russia. Or in other words - no gain. Unless they want to call skyrocketing electricity prices on all Americans a gain - because those are sure to go up.

The Obama administration said in 2009, "U.S. action alone will not impact world CO2 levels." Five years later, the EPA is now touting the proposed rule as "climate change mitigation," claiming that America can lead the rest of the world. What is entirely unclear is any assumption that the world's biggest emitters will follow us down this path. In fact, countries who have already adopted similar carbon regulations, including Germany and the United Kingdom, have faced economic calamity, including energy shortages. Just last week, the Australian government succeeded in repealing a carbon tax in a last-ditch effort to save their energy industry and economy.

As the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee with jurisdiction over the EPA, I'm fighting these regulations in two ways.

Last month, I led 41 Senators in pushing President Obama to withdraw the rule in its entirety. In addition to the electricity cost increases and decrease in reliability across the nation, the rule would mostly target the middle class, the elderly, the poor, and those on fixed incomes. Clearly, the rule is an attempt to expand federal jurisdiction beyond what is intended and only serves to further the administration's massive overreach. Today, the American electricity system is dependable, providing power 7 days a week, 365 days a year to families, schools, hospitals, and businesses. Yet this administration is dedicated to pushing a far-left environmental agenda over providing affordable, reliable electricity across the country.

I also want to bring the debate to Congress - where all major rulemakings of such significance should be thoughtfully discussed. I understand withdrawing the rule won't be easy, but I refuse to sit idly by while President Obama and his EPA disregard Congress' role in the legislative process.

Congress is required to balance the authority and regulatory reach of the executive branch, which is why I urged my counterpart on the EPW Committee, Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), to hold a Committee hearing with federal witnesses to examine the impacts of the EPA regulation. Well, we got one federal witness: Gina McCarthy.

If this is such a great plan, bring it before our committee - let's debate it and vote on it. We've heard Gina McCarthy and others talk and talk about the proposal - but we need to vote on it in Congress. The Obama administration and their political allies are understandably uneasy about this route because they know it doesn't have the support in Congress, even among their fellow Democrats.

We need to ensure there is appropriate congressional oversight as our president and his EPA set into motion a litany of policy decisions with significant economic impacts. The American people should not be kept in the dark about what the president's rule will cost them or how it will affect their energy reliability.

This has the potential to cause major pain for employment, job creation, and our national debt. But it would have no measurable benefit for the climate. We need to keep a very bright spotlight on this president's attempt to unilaterally control our nation's electricity system.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Vitter Summary Statement for Oversight Hearing of EPA's Proposed Carbon Rule
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works “Oversight Hearing: EPA’s Proposed Carbon Pollution Standards for Existing Power Plants”
Thank you, Chairman Boxer, for convening today's hearing. I look forward to hearing from Administrator McCarthy, as all we have heard since EPA proposed this existing source rule are explanations for their unprecedented "outside-the-fence" regulation that will destroy our country's electricity system.

There are so many issues with this proposal that it's impossible to say anything good about it. EPA's blueprint, which is fundamentally similar to the Natural Resources Defense Council's, drives States to implement renewable portfolio standards to replace fossil-fuel energy, whether they like it or not. But wind and solar aren't necessarily the best choice for every State's economy. Under this regulation, Louisiana is supposed to divert economically-valuable timber into fuel for electricity generation. That's quite an expensive feedstock compared to coal or natural gas. And, in defense of attacks by the New York Times and others, the Administrator readily admits her Agency must revisit nuclear energy, since right now it encourages the closure of nuclear plants. Basically, EPA is insisting that States ration electricity and limit consumer choice, especially if that choice involves using more electricity.

EPA's proposal makes a number of assumptions, misdirects, and glosses over its heavy-handed attempt to hijack the entire electricity system, all in the name of flexibility. In reality, EPA usurps the role of State governments and public utility commissions as well as FERC, DOE, and other federal agencies that do have the authority over and expertise in electricity generation issues. Unfortunately for EPA, electricity is not directly under its jurisdiction. Changing dispatch rules to require the most expensive power be delivered first, mandating efficiency, and the use of renewables are examples of intrastate generation, transmission, and distribution matters reserved to the States by the Federal Power Act. Moreover, the EPA attempts to dump the politically unpopular decision-making of having to pick winners and losers on the state regulators and legislatures. EPA's proposed rule seeks to turn States into either hostages or unwilling accomplices in an effort that could impoverish families, businesses, and communities.

In its existing source proposal, EPA goes beyond the plain reading of Clean Air Act Section 111, directing States to achieve questionable emission reduction targets from a limited menu of economically-damaging and legally questionable "options." As I have mentioned before, electricity prices in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative states and California are 45% higher than in Louisiana. 56% of Louisiana families already, at that lower rate, spend an average of 21% of their after-tax income on energy, and they simply cannot afford the higher electricity bills that will inevitably result from this rule.

EPA is setting up our States to fail - our local economies to fail - to deliver on the President's promise that electricity prices will skyrocket - all for immeasurable so-called climate benefits. This rule is all pain and no gain. We need look only to our friends in Australia, who just last week repealed their carbon tax, for a tangible example.

As forty of my Republican Senate colleagues and I stated in our June 3 letter, EPA's proposed rule will increase costs to families, schools, hospitals, and businesses, and will, as always, hit the poor, the elderly, and those on fixed incomes the hardest. In reality, it is essentially a federal takeover of the American electricity system. I, for one, am not comfortable with this EPA takeover, and neither are the people of Louisiana.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Vitter Summary Statement for Water & Wildlife Subcommittee Legislative Hearing
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife Legislative Hearing
I want to thank Chairman Cardin and Ranking Member Boozman for holding today's legislative hearing. Legislative hearings are an important part of the EPW Committee process and will help us better understand the implications of the eleven pieces of legislation that are on the agenda. This is the first legislative hearing we have had in the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee this Congress, and there are some bills that would be ripe for consideration but have been left off the schedule because they are ideas the Majority opposes. While that is the case, I want to share some thoughts on a few of the bills that we are considering today.

I do not support S. 1202, the Safeguarding America's Future and Environment (SAFE) Act. This legislation would require implementation of a National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy. With a more than $17 trillion national debt, eroding confidence in the President's ability to secure our borders, deteriorating geopolitical relations in the Middle East, foreign policy failures around the world and serious outstanding concerns with the management of our federal agencies, I am quite confident there are other more pressing items of national concern we can focus on. Instead of moving forward with this type of bill, we should be considering S. 107, my legislation that would prohibit the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States unless China, India, and Russia implement similar plans. Proponents of carbon regulation argue that climate change is one of the most important problems facing the world, yet they intentionally ignore the economic calamity that has befallen our European allies that have adopted carbon constraining policies.

I would also like to indicate that I have some reservations regarding S. 571, the Great Lakes Water Protection Act from Senator Kirk and Senator Durbin. While I appreciate Senator Kirk's and Senator Durbin's commitment to environmental stewardship, I am concerned that the legislation contains a very broad prohibition on blending which may be counterproductive and very costly for local treatment facilities. Public health experts and EPA are currently studying what health risks may be associated with blending, but since there is little data to date on this issue, imposing a ban on blending may do more harm than good for municipalities and their residents.

I support the goals of S. 1650, which Senator Murkowski has introduced. The bill would allow Native Alaskans to sell traditional works made from birds that are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Although the Migratory Bird Treaty Act has not changed, Senator Murkowski has told me that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recently increased its prosecution of Native Alaskans and that significant confusion exists about what is and is not allowed under the MBTA. S. 1650 would give Native Alaskans similar protections to those currently in existence in the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and seems like a common sense solution the problem that Senator Murkowski's constituents have identified.

The reason S. 1650 is needed - inconsistent enforcement by the Service - is the same reason I have some concern with S. 2560, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Resource Protection Act. The legislation seeks to give the authority to seek compensation from parties who are responsible for damage to public resources managed by the Service. No one supports vandalism of our nation's public lands. When harm to those lands occurs, we need to find a way to ensure that they are restored and the Service has some compelling examples where this legislation could be useful. Although that is the case, I want to ensure that the legislation is narrowly tailored and does not create a perverse incentive to bring legal actions against public lands users. I am not convinced that the legislation is as narrow as is necessary, and I look forward to future dialogue about this issue.

There are seven other bills on today's agenda. I look forward to hearing testimony on those bills as well. Thank you.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fact Check: EPA Spin on Water Rule is 180 from Actual Language
In March 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) released their proposed "waters of the United States" rule, which would significantly expand the federal government's authority over small streams, ditches, ponds, floodplains, and other areas where water may flow.

In recent weeks, the Obama Administration's proposed "waters of the United States" rule, as well an accompanying interpretive rule for normal agricultural activities, have been publicly criticized. Even EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has gone on the record admitting,

"I have never proposed anything that I thought would be so well-received as this that has fallen totally flat on its face." EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, speaking before the Kansas City Agribusiness Council on July 10, 2014

EPA claims that their regulatory proposals do not affect various types of waterbodies. However, the text of the proposals demonstrates that EPA either doesn't understand the language they drafted, or they are intentionally trying to mislead the American public. Below are six specific claims made by EPA, all of which are refuted by language in the rule.

EPA claims that the proposal:

• Does not regulate new types of ditches

o But the rule says: For the first time, the proposed rule explicitly includes ditches unless they fall within one of two exceptions based on location and flow. 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 (CWA) jurisdiction under the rule, contrary to the Agencies' claims.

• Does not regulate activities on land

o But the rule says: Under the CWA federal jurisdiction extends to "navigable waters" which are defined as the "waters of the United States." Water bodies deemed "waters of the United States" are subject to permitting mandates, federal enforcement mechanisms, mitigation procedures, and citizen suits. A wide variety of activities on land require permits when they impact a "water of the United States" including, home building and construction, agriculture, ranching, and mining. The CWA does not provide a guaranteed right to a permit and if an applicant is denied, that individual or business will be unable to move forward with the planned project, thus allowing the EPA and Corps to essentially dictate the list of permissible land use activities afforded a particular landowner.

• Does not apply to groundwater

o But the rule says: The rule claims to exclude groundwater, but language in the rule also states a waterbody may be a "water of the United States" if it has a "shallow subsurface hydrological connection" to other jurisdictional waters. This language suggests that Agencies may intend to use groundwater as a basis for CWA jurisdiction.

• Does not affect stock ponds

o But the rule says: If a stock pond is natural or used for purposes other than those listed by EPA, the stock pond could be considered a "water of the United States." The rule says that ponds are exempt only if they are "artificial" and used "exclusively" for stock watering, irrigation, settling basins, or rice growing.

• Does not require permits for normal farming activities, like moving cattle

o But the rule says: More farming activities will require CWA permits under the agencies' interpretive rule for normal agricultural activities. Included in the interpretive rule is a "prescribed grazing" requirement, so that if the federal government doesn't like the way a rancher grazes cattle, they can force the rancher to either obtain a Clean Water Act permit or pay up to $37,500 per day in fines.

• Does not regulate puddles

o But the rule says: The actual text of the rule is so sweeping that virtually any wet area could potentially be considered a "water of the United States." Under the rule, small and isolated waterbodies may be considered a "water of the United States" when, in combination with other similarly situated waters, they have a significant nexus to a traditional navigable water. This provides no effective limit to federal regulatory authority and will encourage litigious environmental groups to sue property owners no matter the supposed intentions of EPA. In fact, certain environmental groups are already using the rule's language to bring citizen suits based on the broad authority provided, and there's little reason to doubt that puddles could attract abusive litigation in the near future if the rule is finalized.

Sen. Vitter and the EPW Republicans have been actively engaged with EPA and the Corps since the "waters of the U.S." rule was released. They have been concerned with how the rule would impact the economy and affect private property rights.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

ICYMI: Vitter Op-Ed "President Obama is giving America the John Beale style of government"
Washington Examiner "President Obama is giving America the John Beale style of government"
If there's one takeaway from the John Beale saga, it's that our federal bureaucracy has grown far too powerful, and there's not nearly enough oversight and transparency to keep it in check.

We should all question how Beale became a senior official at the Environmental Protection Agency and played a major role in policy decisions, while pulling off a scam I thought only Hollywood could make up.

The Beale I'm talking about is the guy now in jail for stealing nearly $1 million dollars. The same guy who for over a decade conned the EPA into believing he was a CIA agent.

Three decades ago, without any relevant experience, Beale was hired in a position at the EPA to help develop a costly regulatory agenda that reverberates throughout our economy today.

While Beale was stealing taxpayer dollars, he was also putting in place a system to hide scientific data and shield costly regulations from legitimate scrutiny.

Where was the accountability, the leadership or responsibility of EPA's top brass when his scheme was exposed? There wasn't any. He was allowed to retire with full benefits despite his scam.

The growth of the executive branch, the regulatory onslaught it facilitates and the Beale style of abuse that goes undetected for years is scary.

But what's worse is the growing ability for the Obama administration to go around Congress and make up its own rules without any checks or balances.

The expanded power given to federal employees has been referred to as the "fourth branch" of government. The growth of this fourth branch has led to increasing power and independence for nameless federal bureaucrats.

Far too many laws are no longer passed by Congress. Instead, bureaucrats are writing and implementing new regulations. Six years into the Obama administration, they're producing an average of 10 new regulations a day.

Many people fault Congress for failing to hold the executive branch accountable, and I agree - blame is appropriate.

The U.S. Senate, controlled by Obama's Democratic party, refuses to conduct any meaningful oversight of the executive branch and outright ignores the opportunity to pass or negotiate on any major legislation with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

In fact, the committee on which I serve as ranking minority member, the Environment and Public Works Committee with jurisdiction over the EPA, has completely failed in its oversight obligations.

Thank goodness the Republican-led House is taking oversight action and shedding light on how Beale helped develop a system to shield agency action from scrutiny. Beale's creation sets a dangerous precedent that's contagious throughout federal government.

Taking advantage of the lack of oversight, Obama is intentionally expanding the fourth branch. A logical assumption is that under the Constitution, we can turn to the courts.

But the judicial branch is just as much to blame. By giving federal agencies broad deference, the judges are allowing government bureaucrats to interpret the law as they see fit. The judicial branch is not holding bureaucrats accountable for violating laws passed by Congress.

Just this week, we saw exactly that. After the Supreme Court decision on whether the EPA went beyond their scope of authority as mandated by the Clean Air Act, it's clear to me that the courts are still providing the agencies too much deference.

It's also clear to me the EPA is violating their internal guidelines, and I hope - sooner than later - the courts will actually decide the EPA cannot just make up data and science as they go.

Beale's work on major air quality standards during the 1990's memorialized the definition of the fourth branch.

Beale pushed through the standards without any regard for scientific integrity or transparency. Along the way, he helped hide scientific data and critical analysis and provided cover for inflated benefits claims, creating an "ends justifies the means" mentality that endures today at EPA.

As a reward, EPA's top officials deferred to Beale's judgment and allowed him to wander through the vast bureaucracy and commit fraud for decades, during Democrat and Republican presidential administrations.

Congress has passed laws that agencies are supposed to comply with, including the Information Quality Act, which requires standards for scientific work product; the Federal Records Act, which requires agency staff to retain all records of work-related communications; the Freedom of Information Act, which requires agencies to comply with public requests for information; and the Data Access Act, which requires all federally funded data to be made publicly available.

A violation of any one of these should be enough to invalidate certain agency action. Yet the courts, through deference, repeatedly allow such violations.

Beale's work on air standards proves that with the emergence of the fourth branch an official deep within an agency as large as EPA can violate each of these laws.

This is facilitated when the legislative branch's fails to do appropriate oversight and the judicial branch gives unreserved deference despite such violations. This is where we suffer the true impacts of the fourth branch.

The executive branch was never intended to be so big or bloated that it needn't follow mandated rules. Agency employees like those at EPA were never intended to act as their own branch of government.

They should be reminded that they're part of the executive branch - one of the three - and not an individual fourth.

Sen. David Vitter is the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sen. Vitter Statement Before House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform "Management Failures: Oversight of EPA"
Guest Witness Senator David Vitter (R-La.) Summary Statement: U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform “Management Failures: Oversight of EPA”
Chairman Issa, Ranking Member Cummings - thank you for inviting me to testify before your Committee today about Management Failures: Oversight of the EPA. As the Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I have a responsibility to oversee the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Unfortunately, under the current leadership in the Senate, our committee has yet to hold a single oversight hearing on this matter - contending that a perfunctory Member's briefing was sufficient. That is why your work and your efforts are incredibly important. While there are some serious policy debates about the Agency and its role in regulating our energy supply, that is not what I am here to discuss or what today's hearing is about. Rather, my testimony will focus on my work over the last year that has uncovered what appears to be a systematic breakdown in EPA operations that have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars. I am pleased to have this opportunity today to share my findings alongside my colleague from the Environment and Public Works Committee.

In July 2013, I was contacted by a whistleblower who described serious and systematic time and attendance problems at the EPA. Some of these problems involved situations where senior EPA managers discouraged remedial action against chronic offenders because it was easier to ignore the problem than fix it. Based on this information I requested the EPA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) brief me on the time and attendance problems they were investigating at the Agency. I was expecting an account of the instances reported by the whistleblower, but instead I learned the bizarre tale of John Beale - the fake CIA agent who pled the 5th in this hearing room.

When we made the Beale saga public, I was aware of the underlying symptoms of abuse going on at the Agency. Therefore, it was immediately apparent to me that the Agency's claim that Beale was a "lone wolf" was completely false and that anyone who argued he was a solo actor was glossing over the truth. Since then, I have been focused on uncovering the circumstances and management weaknesses that allowed Beale's fraud to continue for so long - literally for decades. These management failures have facilitated wasting millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars and undermined congressional oversight.

In August 2013, I requested the OIG immediately launch an investigation into the Agency's policies and process that facilitated Beale's fraud, and to make recommendations to ensure this never happens again. When the OIG issued reports in December 2013 on Beale's travel and pay issues, the findings were scant and prompted more questions, such as who knew or should have known what Beale was up to and when did they first have reason to believe Beale was defrauding the Agency. So I asked the OIG to "show their work." My staff then poured through all of the OIG's supporting documentation and interview notes in hopes of answering these key questions. The results of our review were the subject of a series of memoranda issued in February and March of this year, which are attached to my written testimony today.

The key findings of these memoranda include:

1. Beale could not have accomplished his massive fraud without assistance, knowingly or unknowingly, from former and current EPA officials who have not been held accountable.

2. One of the key facilitators of Beale's fraud was Deputy Administrator Perciasepe, who signed key documents and contributed to the delay in reporting Beale to the OIG.

3. The timeline offered by EPA and the OIG that concluded Administrator McCarthy was the first person to report suspicions of Beale is suspect.

4. Other EPA employees had an opportunity to be proactive and should have done more to prevent the fraud, but chose to defer to senior officials rather than report their concerns to the OIG.

In addition to these memoranda, my investigation went beyond Beale's monetary fraud and uncovered a plethora of questionable, but lasting, policymaking decisions Beale made during his tenure at EPA, which were detailed in a Committee report issued in March titled EPA's Playbook Unveiled: A Story of Fraud, Deceit and Secret Science.

I acknowledge Beale's fraud stretched through several Administrations, both Republican and Democratic, and that it is easy to second guess their actions with the benefit of hindsight. However, this does not change the fact that many individuals at EPA had knowledge, or were willfully ignorant, of Beale's ongoing fraud. These individuals have never been held accountable. I also accept that not every EPA employee is a bad apple and that we have dedicated public servants working long hours to protect our air and our water. However - when an agency is in the process of aggressively expanding its jurisdiction and regulating something as significant as our energy supply, they have a keen responsibility to make sure that their own house is in order. Regretfully, EPA's house is not.

Aside from the case of Beale, I have learned more about the dysfunction of the EPA - again - thanks to courageous whistleblowers. As an example, a whistleblower informed my staff that there was a dispute between the Office of Homeland Security and the OIG. When I learned of the dispute, I was immediately struck by the "coincidence" that the same actors who delayed providing the OIG with critical information about Beale were the same individuals involved in an altercation with the OIG investigator. We now know there are additional instances where EPA employees refused to cooperate with OIG investigations, and received no reprimand. I understand that as recently as yesterday - this issue remains unresolved.

Because of our joint efforts, a veil has been pulled back revealing that wasted taxpayer resources and mismanagement permeates the Agency. Given that much of our efforts to uncover waste, fraud, and abuse at the Agency derive from the voice of undaunted whistleblowers, I encourage additional concerned EPA staff to come forward at any juncture. We can work together to reform and rehabilitate the troubled agency. As my testimony today demonstrates - representatives in Congress do listen and do take action based on information you provide.

In closing, I would like to commend this Committee for taking issues of waste, fraud, and abuse at the EPA seriously and for holding today's hearing. I believe that as Congressional investigators, many of you instinctively knew that there was more to the story than what the Agency represented to the public and Congress. Those instincts were correct. John Beale and his crimes were just the tip of the iceberg.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

ICYMI: Vitter Op-Ed "Time to Update Decades-Old Red Snapper Fishery Allocations"
Houma Courier Op-Ed: Protecting red snapper fishing
This weekend, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, penned an op-ed in the Houma Courier regarding the outdated red snapper fishery allocations in the Gulf of Mexico and the Regional Fishery Management Council's (RFMC) various options to update it.

Today marks the first of the RFMC's week-long public council meetings, during which the Members will continue their consideration of Amendment 28, a proposal of six options for updating allocations levels of allowable catch of red snapper beyond the historical high level of 9.12 million pounds.

Vitter originally requested Amendment 28 be considered during the nomination process for Dr. Kathryn Sullivan to be the Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere, and Administrator of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Click here to read more.

In April 2013, Vitter introduced legislation that would extend state's offshore jurisdiction and would put states in charge of red snapper management. Click here to read more.


Houma Courier
Op-Ed: Protecting red snapper fishing
Sen. David Vitter
June 21, 2014

Like many of you, I was born and raised in Louisiana. And when you grow up in such a beautiful state, you develop an innate appreciation for Louisiana's abundant natural resources. That appreciation takes many forms - from a love of fishing to a sense of obligation to conserve our state's resources. We all share a responsibility to conserve these resources but also to protect our public access to them. And when it comes to fishing in the Gulf, there needs to be a mutual respect between the recreational anglers and commercial fishermen.

Gulf fishermen are an economic powerhouse for both Louisiana and the entire Gulf region, which makes protecting the public's access to these resources even more important. The group responsible for overseeing our fisheries and protecting this access is the Gulf of Mexico Regional Fishery Management Council.

But this group, supposedly dedicated to fairly managing our fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico, continues to chip away at the rights of recreational anglers - particularly with access to the red snapper fishery. The RFMC is in place to protect the interests of the public, but some members of the Council continue to attack the recreational sector and end up doing the exact opposite. In fact, I have serious concerns that certain members are working to protect just a handful of fishermen. It seems like they're giving permanent access to public resources to a select few at the expense of the vast majority of fishermen.

Right now there are over 4 million recreational anglers, including charter boats, all the way from Florida to Texas, and nearly 400 commercial red snapper fishermen. However, the Gulf Council weighs the priorities of the few over the public. This was clearly seen in a recent decision to shorten the 2014 recreational season - from 40 days to 11 days. Then in May, the season was further reduced to only nine days. That shortens the red snapper season in federal waters by over a month. Now, I certainly understand the need to find a balance in allotment for recreational and commercial, but this recent decision was unnecessarily extreme.

The current allocation for the red snapper fishery - which hasn't been updated in over 24 years - is set at 51 percent commercial and 49 percent recreational. These percentages are based on data from 30 years ago when the stock was at an historic low. Since then the stock has greatly increased, yet the allocation levels have stayed the same.

For the livelihoods of Gulf Coast anglers and businesses that rely on the red snapper fishery, updating the outdated recreational allocation quotas is an urgent issue. That's why I have put my full support behind a solution - the so called "Amendment 28" and preferred "option 5." Both are currently awaiting approval by the council.

Adopting these provisions would maintain the current allocations if the red snapper quota is less than or equal to 9.12 million pounds. However, if the quota exceeds the 9.12 million pound mark, allocation levels would change with 75 percent of the excess amount to the recreational sector and 25 percent to the commercial sector. Further, Amendment 28 now includes measures to ensure accountability within the recreational sector, an inclusion that the commercial sector has been demanding for years. This fair compromise would demonstrate the Council's sincerity in promoting conservationism and trusting their own studies that show our recreational anglers contribute to the region.

As a Senator for the great state of Louisiana, I have the opportunity to work with the National Marine Fishery Service and keep a watchful eye on the Gulf Council. This is important because many families and jobs are affected by the Council's actions. The council should adhere to the highest standards of transparency and accountability with each decision they make.

But I'm just one voice - the council needs to hear from you. The public comment period for Amendment 28 and preferred option 5 is currently open, and you can submit your thoughts at www.gulfcouncil.org. There is also an opportunity to voice your opinions in person at the upcoming council meeting in Key West, Fla., on Monday.

Hopefully, the council will recognize that these solutions will most help the very people they were appointed to represent. Recreational anglers in the Gulf deserve a fair shot at what should be a shared resource. The council's actions and their decision needs to be based on sound science and fairness. It will affect economies, livelihoods, and our way of life across in Louisiana and across the Gulf Coast.

U.S. Sen. David Vitter is the top Republican on the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

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