OPENING STATEMENT BY CHAIRMAN INHOFE Wednesday, October 26, 2005 MARK-UP OF S. 1772 Gas Petroleum Refiner Improvement and Community Empowerment Act We have worked very hard to address concerns from a variety of interests. Before S. 1772 was introduced and throughout the process we have asked the minority to sit down and work out a bill together. The fact of the matter is that high fuel prices hurt all Americans, and we should work together in good faith to address the issues. The Bill before us today addresses one aspect of that problem, increasing the supply of refined products. Unfortunately, the minority has chosen not to work with us and apparently prefers gas prices to remain high. This has not stopped us from reaching out to a broad group of stakeholders, including State and local officials. The Gas PRICE Act respects that states have the dominant role in permitting through their delegated or authorized federal programs. Therefore, the bill helps participating states by providing them with EPA resources to assist them in pursuing their own objectives as they see them, and it does so – as our EPA witness Brian Mannix confirmed, “Without any changes to substantive environmental laws.” And this is not a new concept. In fact, just about a year and a half ago, the senior Senator of California suggested that the refinery permitting process should be improved. In a letter to Gov. Schwarzenegger, Sen. Feinstein said, “I can see where a cumbersome permitting process, with uncertain outcomes, would make it difficult to plan and implement projects…I encourage you to improve the speed and predictability of the permitting process, and believe that this will allow business and government to focus their limited resources on actions that most benefit the environment.” In addition, Senator Feinstein correctly noted that a burdensome permitting process drains resources away from real environmental protection. The only alternative the minority is offering today is a complete substitute amendment that would require the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to “design and construct new refineries” and effectively market petroleum to states. The junior Senator from California filed three amendments making refineries ineligible for Economic Development Administration funds. However, as everyone should remember from our EDA Reauthorization Bill from last Congress, it is already impossible for those funds to go to oil companies. EDA provides funds to communities and not to refinery companies. Further, my friend included several amendments that would require EPA to intrude into where refineries should be located. Although these amendments seek to reduce harmful effects to various “subpopulations” the practical effect is to give the federal government a significant role in decision making at the most grassroots level – infringing on the local government decisions. As I indicated earlier, we worked hard with local and state groups to make sure that their concerns were addressed. Although some members of this Committee claim that the case has not been made that we need to expand refining capacity, America’s local governments certainly think otherwise and are concerned that limited refining capacity has hurt their constituents. The National Association of Counties stated that, “S. 1772 is an innovative first step towards a national goal of increased capacity” and urges this Committee to remain pure to the Chairman’s mark. The National Conference of State Legislatures too recognized the great lengths that we have gone to address local concerns and urges the Committee to move forward with the language in the mark. The Environmental Council of the States, who represent the State Environmental Directors wrote a letter acknowledging that our bill “does not weaken the standards and allows each state to choose its best course.” We have worked hard to address a critical issue facing America’s families and national security as a whole – a goal that everyone from Alan Greenspan to Sen. Feinstein to local government groups recognize is important to this country. We learned from our hearing that this bill could improve the situation without changing substantive environmental law, that respects the critical state-federal balance, and improves the mid and long-term energy security of this country. I am hopeful that my friends on the other side would read the bill before this Committee rather than focus on what is not before us. One of the concerns we keep hearing is that some members are afraid of conferencing with the Barton Bill, which was actually referred to the Energy Committee. While this Bill is not a companion piece to any legislation, I must say that the fear of a conference is no excuse not to legislate. #####