Contact:Marc Morano 202-224-5762

 Matt Dempsey 

Opening Statement of Senator James Inhofe

Senate Environment and Public Works Full Committee

“Hearing on Mercury Legislation”

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 

Good morning.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing.  The purpose of this hearing is to discuss legislation to address mercury air emissions and instituting a ban on mercury exports.  This is the first time the EPW full committee has focused on mercury reduction legislation since the Democrats gained the majority in the Senate.  This is an issue that is very important to the state of Oklahoma and the other Senators on this committee. Twice, I have introduced legislation to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury from power plants.  In fact, the Clear Skies bill was the most aggressive presidential initiative in history to reduce power plant pollution and provide cleaner air for Americans. Unfortunately, Democrats chose to obstruct this important bill and we are left today with the status quo. I believe the need to reduce mercury levels is an issue that we all can agree on.  How we go about reducing these levels is where the debate occurs. 

 Numerous industries that used to emit high levels of mercury, such as the municipal waste incinerators, have been controlled. The power sector industry is merely the latest industry to be regulated and it is the subject of the first bill under consideration, S. 2643.  If the Courts ultimately find that EPA can’t pursue a flexible cap-and-trade program for mercury, then the Clean Air Act has a process under Section 112 and those rules are appropriate and adequate for protection of health and the environment.  I further note that the MACT process is not “technology forcing” but addresses the best existing achievable technology.  Using the findings contained in S. 2643 to legally bind or back up the 90% MACT standard instead of the complex administrative process contained in the Clean Air Act is not the right approach.   

The Export Ban bills may be well-intentioned but they are flawed.  A piecemeal approach, as taken in both bills, is not the way to address this issue. This is the wrong approach to take and will have disastrous and unintended consequences. Most importantly, it will cost the taxpayers millions and quite possibly increase mercury levels.   The recent European Union export ban, if coupled with a potential United States ban, would lead to a massive void in the mercury market.  Instead of available stocks of mercury being drawn down and recycled in the U.S. to meet global demand, the ban could incentivize an increase in international primary mining.  Ultimately, by enacting this legislation, we could be increasing the amount of mercury released into the environment and an overall increase in production and use.  

To further illustrate my point, I want to share with you an example of an unintended impact that Congress is encouraging.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 290 million Energy Star-qualified, Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs, or CFLs, were sold in 2007. That is nearly double the number sold in 2006 and represents almost 20% of the U.S. light bulb market.  The Democrat Energy Bill of 2007 mandates energy efficiency standards for lighting.  These new standards will only further increase the demand for CFLs.  CFLs are disposed of in municipal waste landfills or incinerators as household waste, which is perfectly legal because the waste law does not apply to household hazardous waste.  These light bulbs use less energy and they last about 5 to 7 years longer than the average light bulb.  So, in another two years, large numbers of CFLs will be thrown in landfills and contaminate our environment.  The Democrat Energy Bill legislated an efficiency standard while unintentionally creating a mercury pollution problem.

Mr. Chairman, we all agree that reducing pollution levels in this country is important and that more can and should be done. I am proud that the authors of today’s legislation are thinking globally.  However, I believe we owe it to the American taxpayer to also be legislating locally.

Thank you.                                                ###