Contact: Marc Morano 202-224-5762  

Opening Statement of Senator James Inhofe 

Senate Environment and Public Works Full Committee  

Hearing on the Nominations of Lisa P. Jackson to be Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Nancy Helen Sutley to be Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 

Good Morning.  We are here today to consider the nominations of Lisa Jackson for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Nancy Sutley for Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. 

The Administrator of EPA implements the agency’s mission to protect human health and the environment.  Inherent in that charge is the recognition that the health of humans and the environment depends on the health of the economy.  The course of action chosen by the next Administrator will indeed determine whether people and resources are reasonably protected or, to the contrary, whether overzealous regulations pull us deeper into economic turmoil.   

The Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality leads the Administration’s effort to formulate and execute environmental policy across the federal government.   It’s a critical position, but, like many others in Washington, I am quite concerned that the Chair’s role has been diluted by the addition of former EPA Administrator Carol Browner as White House climate and energy “czar.” The law states that the CEQ chair is to report directly to the President on environmental policy.  I sincerely hope that Ms. Browner’s new position will not undermine the statute’s intentions nor overshadow the Chair’s autonomy and judgment. Let me be very clear on this point: The new Senate-confirmed CEQ Chair will be expected to have the full authority to represent the White House on all matters before this Committee. 

Both the next EPA Administrator and CEQ Chair will face immediate challenges on some of today’s highest profile issues.  Of particular concern to me are the incoming Administration’s aggressive statements about plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.  As you know, I have serious concerns about the timing and troubling implications that further regulation could have on our already fragile economy; those concerns are shared by many across the country.   

Members on both sides of the Capitol and both sides of the aisle are publicly concerned with the outcome of the Massachusetts v. EPA case and with the potential regulation of greenhouse gases under the Act.  Over the coming weeks I will be issuing a series of letters and information requests in order to better understand if, when, and how the new Administration plans to implement this new court-established authority.   

The CAIR Rule is also at the top of my list of concerns, specifically EPA’s ability and timeframe to bring stability back to the tradable allowance market.  As the Committee weighs its options on this matter, I am hopeful that the new Administration will resist activists’ calls to overreach, and instead choose to work towards a similar consensus as was achieved during the release of the initial CAIR rule – the benefits of which were estimated by EPA to be over 25 times greater than their costs. 

Having long been an advocate for a more effective, accessible government, I want each of you to fully understand my belief that states and local governments possess unique local perspectives: they are generally best suited to respond to and prioritize constituent needs.  It is my firm belief that protecting states’ rights and private property rights are of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, the people of Oklahoma and many other states have seen their fundamental liberties unreasonably eroded in the name of environmental protection.   

I am most recently troubled by the attempt to exponentially expand the reach of the Clean Water Act under the proposed Clean Water Restoration Act, which Mrs. Browner supports, as well as the push to overturn long overdue, incremental reforms to the Endangered Species Act.  I believe that both of these legislative initiatives are an assault on the original statutory intent and an attempt to give federal bureaucrats authority to make final decisions about local land use; I believe that both are blatant infringements on the private property rights.   

As the senior Republican member of this Committee, please know that I intend to do everything possible to oversee and ensure that federal agencies stop overstepping the authority given to them by Congress.  I urge the incoming Administration to afford particular deference to state and local government knowledge, authority and expertise.   

I also have growing concerns about the Superfund program: EPA needs to do a better job managing many sites.   Specifically, I am troubled to hear that Tronox, an Oklahoma company, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to its legacy liabilities.   EPA is currently suing Tronox for the cleanup costs at the Federal Creosote Site in Manville, New Jersey. This Superfund site is a prime example of federal mismanagement. 

Finally, I remind you both of my longstanding concern about the Tar Creek Superfund Site.  Since the early 1980s, EPA has ranked this site as one of the most severe sites in the country.  We have made tremendous progress over the past number of years to put together a coordinated remediation plan and provide assistance to the residents of the area.  I am looking forward to working with you to complete the relocation work very soon and continue to work on the ultimate clean up of the area. 

I sincerely hope that both of today’s nominees acknowledge the importance of rebuilding a healthy economy while protecting the environment and human health, and look forward to hearing your perspectives on the issues that will be raised today.  Most importantly, I welcome you both to this Committee.   

# # #