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Inhofe Says Senate Votes Show Strong Support for Transportation Bill

With Obama Politics Set Aside, Time to Get to Work on Bipartisan Legislation

Washington, D.C. - Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, today urged Congress to turn its attention to the forthcoming bipartisan highway bill, after the defeat of President Obama's partisan infrastructure proposal in the Senate.

Full Text of Speech: 

Mr. President, after today's vote on President Obama's failed infrastructure plan, I urge my colleagues to turn their attention now to a bill that is proven to create jobs and give our economy a much-needed boost.  Of course, I'm talking about the bipartisan highway bill that I am sponsoring with my good friends, Senators Boxer, Vitter and Baucus. Most people are amazed at how close Senator Boxer and I are on this issue.

While I appreciate President Obama's acknowledgement that infrastructure spending is highly effective at spurring job growth, it is clear that his plan was all show with no substance.  His bill was purely a political opportunity: it gave him a chance to stand in front of a bridge and make a speech about creating jobs, knowing full well that his bill would never pass. 

The problem is that President Obama has been talking the talk without walking the walk.  He has spoken more about infrastructure than any other President since Eisenhower proposed the interstate system, but he has done substantially less than any other President.  The most notable example is the "no-stimulus" bill that allocated less than 3% to fund roads and bridges, while a majority of the funds went to wasteful spending, which clearly failed to stimulate the economy. He has made the entire process political and that has been a significant obstacle to getting our highway bill done.  

The good news is that today's votes, on both the Democrat and Republican infrastructure bills, showed that there is a strong bipartisan majority in the Senate that supports creating jobs and strengthening our economy by rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges.  Fortunately, Senator Boxer and I are about to unveil our highway bill, which will do just that.  I would like to commend Senator Boxer for her leadership and dedication to this effort.  Together, with Senators Baucus and Vitter, we have put together a good bill, which makes a number of important policy reforms and maintains the current level of funding. 

As both parties are trying to create jobs and spur economic growth through building highways and bridges, most Americans are unaware of just how damaging excessive regulations are to our economy. 

The EPA alone has an unprecedented number of rules that are destroying jobs and decreasing federal revenue.  Five of the most expensive ones stand out.  They are: 

1) Greenhouse Gas Regulations - $300 to $400 Billion in lost GDP per year

2) Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards -$676.8 billion in lost GDP by 2020

3) Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) - $1 Billion in lost GDP

4) Utility MACT - $184 Billion in compliance costs between 2011 and 2030

5) Cement MACT - $3.5 Billion in compliance costs

Fortunately, in September, President Obama withdrew EPA's proposed toughened ozone standards.  With an election coming up, he clearly did not want to be responsible for the enormous cost, or the 7 million jobs that would be destroyed by this rule.  But the fight isn't over yet.  He is punting on a number of these regulations until after the election. 

Even Democrats have gone on record warning of the high costs of regulating carbon.  During the cap-and-trade debate, the Democrats' mantra was that greenhouse gas regulations would be far worse than cap-and-trade legislation.  As EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson explained, "I have said over and over, as has the president, that we do understand that there are costs to the economy of addressing global warming emissions, and that the best way to address them is through a gradual move to a market-based program like cap and trade." And as Senator Kerry warned in a New York Times Op Ed, "If Congress does not pass legislation dealing with climate change, the administration will use the Environmental Protection Agency to impose new regulations. Imposed regulations are likely to be tougher and they certainly will not include the job protections and investment incentives we are proposing."

Even worse, EPA will need to hire 230,000 additional employees and spend an additional $21 billion to implement its greenhouse gas regime.  And all of this economic pain is for nothing: as EPA Administrator Jackson also admitted before the EPW committee, these regulations will have no affect on the climate.  

Now it has become clear that this entire effort is built on a faulty foundation.  In April 2010, I asked the EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) to investigate the process leading up to the endangerment finding to determine if EPA had come to that conclusion properly.   Of course, the endangerment finding is the basis of EPA's decision to regulate greenhouse gases.  In September 2011, the OIG completed its report and found that the EPA had not come this conclusion properly - in fact, it found that the scientific assessment underpinning the Obama EPA's endangerment finding for greenhouse gasses was inadequate and in violation of the Agency's own peer review process. 

The Inspector General's investigation uncovered that EPA failed to engage in the required record-keeping process leading up to the endangerment finding decision, and it also did not follow its own peer review procedures to ensure that the science behind the decision was sound. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson readily admitted in 2009 that EPA had outsourced its scientific review to the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  This is an institution whose credibility has already been called into question.  Even so, EPA still refused to conduct its own independent review of the science.  As the EPA Inspector General found, whatever one thinks of the UN science, the EPA is still required - by its own procedures - to conduct an independent review. 

This report confirms that the endangerment finding, the very foundation of President Obama's job-destroying regulatory agenda, was rushed, biased, and flawed.  It calls the scientific integrity of EPA's decision-making process into question and undermines the credibility of the endangerment finding.

This is not the only example of EPA cutting corners on the process.  In the wake of the IG report, it now appears that EPA has cut corners on the proposed Utility MACT rule as well.  My EPW committee staff has found that the peer review procedures for the Utility MACT Technical Support Documents are inadequate.  Indeed, EPA's own Science Advisory Board criticized the Agency for 'missing or poorly explained' data and methods.  Given the cost and reliability effects of the proposed rule, it is critical that EPA be held accountable for the process leading up to the decision to regulate. Utility MACT is projected to be one of the most expensive rules in the Agency's history.  It will cost billions of dollars, significantly increase electricity rates, force a large number of plant closures, and, along with the Cross-State rule, destroy nearly 1.4 million jobs.  Cutting corners on a rule with such devastating effects on our economy is unacceptable.

I have asked EPA to answer some important questions on this matter and if that information is not forthcoming, I will request that the EPA IG conduct an investigation of the Utility MACT rulemaking process as well. 

My concerns about EPA cutting corners were only exacerbated today as the Agency finalized the scope of its plan to study hydraulic fracturing.  When EPA first announced that it would be conducting this study, I said that in order for it to be credible, it must be based on the best available science, and follow a legitimate, objective peer-review process, as well as rely on data and expertise from state oil and gas regulatory agencies, and independent groups such as the Ground Water Protection Council. 

EPA has failed to follow these reasonable guidelines.  In fact, even before the scope of the study was finalized today, EPA was already collecting data samples at undisclosed fracking sites across the country.  Because these samples were obtained without adhering to a publicly available final study plan or testing procedures, the validity of this data is called into question.  EPA should not have begun conducting the study without ensuring that the process is fully transparent, and in accordance with sound science. 

Let's keep in mind that a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report shows us that we have enough natural gas to meet American demand for 90 years; but we can't get to those vast resources without hydraulic fracturing.  The first use of hydraulic fracturing occurred near Duncan, Oklahoma in 1949.  It has been regulated by states and used efficiently for decades, while playing an important role in strengthening America's energy security and creating millions of good-paying jobs.  We should be expanding, rather than hindering this development, especially when we most need to spur economic growth.

Mr. President, it's time to end the political theater in Washington and finally do our job to help Americans get back to work.  It's time for this administration to reverse course on overregulation and work with us to pass a realistic bipartisan highway bill that will help get our economy back on track. Let's do the right thing.