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Oklahoma Reality VS Washington DC Rhetoric
February 25, 2008

Posted by Matt Dempsey (6:00pm ET) matthew_dempsey@epw.senate.gov

Read More: Press Release: INHOFE ANNOUNCES REMEDIATION PLAN FOR TAR CREEK; Editorials: Oklahoman Editorial: Tar Creek Triumph; Tulsa World Editorial: Enter Jim Inhofe; Articles: Tulsa World: Inhofe: EPA To Fund Buyout; Buyout May Be Done in Two Years; Agency Unveils Plans for Tar Creek; Tar Creek: Buyout is Applauded by Henry

It’s a classic case of Oklahoma reality versus Washington DC special interest rhetoric.

In the midst of Senator Inhofe making a major announcement regarding the clean-up of a major superfund site in Oklahoma last week, a Washington DC liberal special interest group was taking aim at his (as well as the entire Oklahoma Congressional delegation's) environmental record by cherry picking a few votes where they disagree with the Senator. Of course, there is really no surprise that Senator Inhofe would be criticized by a special interest group that measure the greenness of politicians by how many federal laws they impose on the American people.

Meanwhile, back in Oklahoma, real environmental progress is underway. Senator Inhofe has worked to successfully focus federal attention and action toward the Tar Creek Superfund site.  The Tar Creek Superfund site is one of the most severe and largest superfund sites in the country. It is a part of the former Tri-State Mining District which included parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri.  The lead and zinc mining have left a legacy of human health and environmental deterioration. Through his leadership position on the EPW Committee since 2003, Senator Inhofe has made a priority of ensuring the federal agencies responsible for remediating the Tar Creek Superfund Site were all working together.  Since that time, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), US Department of Interior (DOI), US Army Corps of Engineers, White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and US Federal Highway Administration (FHA) have established a unified and cooperative federal approach for the first time in the history of the Tar Creek site.

Good news came to Oklahoma last week when the EPA made a major announcement by releasing its selected remedy addressing key components of Tar Creek. The EPA’s remedy includes both the completion of voluntary relocation assistance for the area residents by the Lead Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust – a board appointed by Governor Brad Henry –  and continued chat sales. Senator Inhofe praised the efforts of the many involved in the process:  

“I am pleased to have worked closely with Congressman Dan Boren, Governor Brad Henry and the members of the Lead Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust.  I appreciate the work of Quapaw Chairman John Berrey and EPA Regional Administrator Richard Greene and his staff, and I look forward to continue working with state and federal parties to complete this necessary assistance.”

Senator Inhofe included a provision in the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 directing the EPA to reconsider including resident relocation in its upcoming remediation plan, and provided them the legal authority required to include voluntary relocation in the plan. The EPA has acted upon Senator Inhofe’s legislation and has now included relocation in its selected remedy.

In announcing the plan, Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene stated:

 "This master plan will ensure a coordinated commitment to permanently clean up the Tar Creek Superfund site. This announcement reaffirms years of hard work by local, Tribal, State and federal partners. I am pleased to be a part of this monumental occasion. Senator Inhofe has been a longtime champion for these communities and instrumental in bringing about this final clean up plan."

The announcement was welcomed by Oklahoma leaders of all political stripes. Oklahoma Democratic Governor Brad Henry praised the announcement by the EPA:

 “This is more good news for the people in the Picher and Cardin areas.  We know we still have a long road ahead, but this certainly makes the light at the end of the tunnel significantly brighter.  This has been a long, difficult process and there will be more challenges ahead, but we are doing the right thing in delivering relief to the families in the Tar Creek area.”

Further, both major Oklahoma newspapers hailed the good news and praised Senator Inhofe for his leadership:

The Oklahoman:

"Sen. Jim Inhofe had good news this week for people wanting to move out of Picher and other areas in the Tar Creek Superfund site. Inhofe, R-Tulsa, announced that the Environmental Protection Agency will fund the buyout of homes and pay for soil and water remediation in the area. Buyout offers at Tar Creek ended last year when federal money was held up by congressional wrangling. This new plan is expected to eliminate the need to go back each year to request the necessary funding. Inhofe got the ball rolling with EPA by inserting a provision in a water resources law last year. It took the senator a long time to buy into the concerns at Tar Creek. Since then, though, Inhofe has been a determined and effective leader in efforts to assist those who wish to move elsewhere."

The Tulsa World:

“Getting innocent people out of harm's way at Tar Creek is clearly the job of the federal government. That's the sort of mission for which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its Superfund were created. But after years of work, the mess left by decades of lead and zinc mining by now-gone companies remains, and so are the endangered people. Pollution and the danger of collapsing mines made the Tar Creek area around Picher and Cardin toxic and treacherous. Enter Jim Inhofe. Inhofe specified a plan to take care of the Tar Creek residents in the Water Resources Development Act last year. The EPA unveiled the plan Friday, but make no mistake, the work was Inhofe's, not that of the Washington bureaucrats. Hold the phone. That's an earmark. That's just the sort of sweetheart, local-constituency pork that some politicians say is ruining the federal government. Apparently, they would rather wait for the EPA to get around to solving the problem on its own without any congressional leadership. That would have been a wait that might never have ended, a wait that certainly would have meant more lives ruined by the Tar Creek disaster. Inhofe wasn't waiting. He acted in the best interests of his constituents and the state. His leadership will mean children will live in a safe, clean environment. That's a proud legacy for him to take with him when he leaves public office. Those other folks would rather be right -- as defined by their own peculiar meaning of that word -- than help their constituents.”

Senator Inhofe’s environmental leadership doesn’t end with his work on Tar Creek. As a former mayor, Senator Inhofe has always believed that when you involve individuals in efforts to protect the environment, the outcome is a far more effective and efficient solution than could be produced solely by the federal government.  A great example is the Partners for Wildlife program because it works with property owners instead of against them.  As a result of his efforts, Senator Inhofe received the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's ‘Legislator of the Year Award'   in 2007 for his integral role in passing the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Act, which was approved by Congress and signed into law in 2006.

Furthermore, while chairman of the EPW committee, Senator Inhofe twice introduced legislation to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and -- for the first time -- mercury from power plants by 70 percent by 2016 through expanding the successful Acid Rain Trading Program. In fact, the Clear Skies bill was the most aggressive presidential initiative in history to reduce power plant pollution and provide cleaner air across the country. Unfortunately, Democrats and their special-interest allies chose to obstruct this important bill denying the American people a major environmental victory.

For a full listing of Senator Inhofe’s accomplishments, visit his EPW Committee website at www.epw.senate.gov/minority/issues.





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