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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.

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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.

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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.

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

ICYMI: Washington Examiner "The hidden persuaders of the environmental elite"
Last week, U.S Environment and Public Works Committee Republicans released a report entitled, "The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama's EPA," which highlights the collusion between environmental activists, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and billionaires using large sums of money to influence environmental public policy.

Washington Examiner
The hidden persuaders of the environmental elite
By Ron Arnold | August 5, 2014

America's environmental agenda is set by elite foundations that decide which activists get the money. And they form "affinity groups" to collude with President Obama's bureaucracy, which funnels tax dollars to Democratic advocates to enforce that agenda.

Meet the conservation cash cartel of the uber-rich: the Environmental Grantmakers Association, a veteran organization (founded 1985) of more than 200 ultra-wealthy foundations caught in the spotlight of a new 92-page report exposing Big Green wealth eating away America's industrial strength.

This is the same EGA that emerged during the Senate confirmation hearings for Rhea Sun Suh, the Interior Department's new head of national parks and the Fish and Wildlife Service - a veteran EGA member who invited colleagues to come visit her any time.

Suh once worked for the Packard Foundation on programs to block oil and gas production in the West. Ironically, Packard's investment portfolio - the profits from which the foundation pays its anti-oil and gas grants - holds more than $350,000 in ExxonMobil shares, and millions in dozens of other lesser-known fossil fuel securities.

Most of EGA's foundation members have similar million-dollar dirty little secrets, but their tax-exempt activist recipients are not morally conflicted by taking fossil fuel cash and keeping it a secret as long as it furthers their corrosive goals.

The convoluted ethics that Greenpeace, for example, concocts in order to show how its oil-soaked funding - when exposed - is purified by the intent of the giver are classic unintentional self-parody.

The new report is titled "The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama's EPA," and was produced by the Republican staff of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee under the direction of Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, the committee's ranking minority member.

Its executive summary states, "an elite group of left-wing millionaires and billionaires, which this report refers to as the 'Billionaire's Club,' directs and controls the far-left environmental movement, which in turn controls major policy decisions and lobbies on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency."

Having researched that topic for decades, I was impressed by the scope and detail of the oversight team's work, and asked Vitter how he felt about it.

"This report really gets to the core of tracking the money and exposing the collusion," Vitter told me. "The complicated, layered system is intended to create a lack of transparency. There is an unbelievable amount of money behind the environmental movement and far too much collusion between far-left environmental groups and the Obama EPA."

The collusion is like something out of a bad spy movie. Vitter's oversight team uncovered a June 2009 deal in which the Rockefeller Family Fund offered then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to pay for a plant inside the President's Council on Environmental Quality to "stake the EPA's claim there," and then slip the shill into a pre-arranged EPA job, giving the agency a White House insider on staff - and, not coincidentally, tightening the Rockefeller power grip over the EPA.

Jackson wrote her chief of staff Diane Thompson, "I think it's a fine idea and can only help EPA in the long run" - using her fake Richard Windsor email account - and Thompson replied, "My thoughts exactly. The more inside connections the better."

The Rockefeller shill was Shalini Vajjhala, who agreed to leave her minor position at Resources for the Future, a Washington think tank, for a two-month stint at the CEQ (with the pretentious title of "deputy associate director for energy and climate"). Then the EPA slipped her in as deputy assistant administrator of the Office of International & Tribal Affairs. Vajjhala remained until her 2011 appointment as EPA's special representative leading a presidential U.S.-Brazil initiative.

After Vajjhala cycled through the White House and EPA, she got her personal reward in 2012: approval to found and manage a new investment portfolio supported by the Rockefeller Foundation (the original 1913 John D. Rockefeller philanthropy, not the fourth generation's Family Fund - there are many Rockefeller tentacles). Vajjhala now contributes to the Huffington Post, funded in part by the Park Foundation.

EGA foundations are metastasizing into hundreds of far-left funds. The report drills into the Sea Change Foundation, "a private California foundation, which relies on funding from undisclosed donors and funnels tens of millions of dollars to other foundations and prominent environmental activists who strive to control both policy and politics."

There is an incredible seedbed of Sea Change front groups: Bill Gates' foundation gave Sea Change Capital Partners $2.5 million; eBay's Omidyar Network Fund gave the same partners $2 million; David Rockefeller's personal foundation gave to the Center for Sea Change. Walmart's foundation gave $500,000 to Strategies for the Global Foundation Sea Change, an international tentacle into the White House.

But it's not just the environment. The Crime Prevention Research Center, a nonprofit that tracks gun control activists, reported, "On January 8th, 2013, the Obama Administration met with 23 large foundations to organize a push for national gun control. They included such organizations as the Open Society Institute, the McCormick Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation" and the MacArthur Foundation.

Foundations appear to be colluding with almost every department of the Obama administration. And it's not just the Big Green donors. It's time for Congress to hear testimony from a sampling of manipulative foundation program directors and investment managers explaining themselves to those whose lives they influence.

RON ARNOLD, a Washington Examiner columnist, is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.

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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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