James M. Inhofe


Opening Statement of Senator James M. Inhofe

Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife, Legislative Hearing on Great Water Body Legislation: S. 1816 and S. 1311

November 09, 2009, 3:00p.m.

I appreciate the opportunity to discuss these Great Water Body bills today. I am extremely concerned about the implications that these bills may have on states, local land use decisions, and EPA’s authority. I am particularly troubled by the approach taken in S. 1816, the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act.

In my statement submitted for the record for the last Chesapeake Bay hearing, on August 3rd, I said that “taking care of a resource like the Chesapeake Bay requires the buy-in of all interested stakeholders, from businesses, to fishermen, to land users and developers upstream, be actively involved and engaged. A top-down, heavy handed federal approach will not lead to the kind of real-world changes that are necessary to ensure the health of the Bay.” I am disappointed that the bill before us today features exactly that top-down, heavy handed federal approach I warned about.

This bill requires that states provide EPA with adequate Smart Growth plans. As I have stated in the past, the Federal Government should not tell states how to proceed on development; furthermore, as a strong federalist, I think it is dangerous to have Washington make decisions that should be up to local communities. Allowing the EPA to approve decisions about taxes, jobs, and local land use is simply unacceptable.

I have heard from a number of groups who will be affected by these bills. I request that the statements of the Maryland State Builders Association, William Walker, Ph.D., Executive Director, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, the Virginia Agribusiness Council, Virginia Grain Producers Association, Maryland Gran Producers Association, New York Corn Growers Association,  National Corn Growers Association and National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, and a letter received from nearly 50 Agricultural Organizations within the watershed, be inserted into the record and that the record remain open for two weeks to allow the committee to gather a full and complete record on the impacts of these bills as we move forward.

Unfortunately, I see this bill as another part of a hostile agenda aimed squarely at rural America and removing States and local officials as decision makers and instead placing them as merely following the dictates of Washington. Whether it’s new energy taxes from cap-and-trade legislation or more unfunded environmental mandates, it’s clear that this bill is yet one more raw deal for rural America.

Let me be clear, I have indicated to Sen. Cardin my support for a reauthorization of the current Chesapeake Bay program, and I would like to work with Sen. Cardin to make that happen. However, I cannot be supportive of a massive federal expansion of EPA’s authority, which poses serious consequences for agriculture, local development, and which could pave the way for this approach in other Great Water Bodies, like the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico.