March 09, 2005
<b>OPENING STATEMENTS FOR CHAIRMAN INHOFE <br>AND
SENATOR GEORGE V. VOINOVICH<br>
Committee on Environment and Public Works</b>
CHAIRMAN JAMES INHOFE
MARKUP OF S.131,
THE CLEAR SKIES ACT OF 2005
March 9, 2005
It is time to bring debate in this Committee over multi-emissions to a close.
During this debate, I have consistently heard three claims:
ï that the process has been too fast
ï that the amount of information and modeling to make a decision is inadequate.
ï we should try to imitate the 1990 process
After five years, 24 hearings, four weeks of intense staff negotiations, and numerous discussions between Members, we have vetted this issue thoroughly and explored every issue in excruciating detail. We notified the minority on November 15th that we intended to mark up this bill in February, and it is now March. This process has not been too fast.
Nor is there any lack of information. The Administration has provided this Committee 10,000 pages of modeling on costs, job impacts, fuel switching, air quality, and deaths avoided for the various proposals. [the material will be on staff table]
This information provides extensive detail about the impacts on the nation as a whole, regions, and individual states. Claims that we have insufficient information to make an informed decision simply donít have credibility. In fact, this is in direct contrast to 2002 when then Chairman Jeffords forced a markup of his Clean Power Act, giving us less than one week to review a 53 page bill, without any modeling information whatsoever. Senator Jeffords, Iím sure you remember, less than one week out from the markup you substituted your 5 page bill for a 53 page bill.
The quality of information in 1990 paled in comparison to what the executive branch has been able to produce for us using todayís more sophisticated models run on powerful supercomputers. We know far more about the impacts of the Clear Skies legislation we are voting on today than we knew about the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.
In 1990, a large percentage of the Committee did not hold legislation hostage to mandatory carbon caps as is happening today, even though such a position cannot obtain a simple majority on the Senate floor, let alone 60 votes. And in 1990, although legislation passed the Committee and the floor by wide margins, the bill was virtually rewritten between the Committee and the floor.
After listening to each Senatorís concerns, we significantly changed this bill to address both major and minor concerns raised.
ï we tightened the phase 2 deadlines for all 3 pollutants to 2016
ï we created an EPA regulatory program to eliminate the risk of mercury hotspots
ï we addressed carbon in a credible way by creating a pool of allowances worth more than $650 million to promote IGCC technology, and
ï we tightened numerous provisions to further reduce pollution, increase monitoring and eliminate potential loopholes
The States and the mayors want us to move forward. In fact the States want something signed into law by this summer, they need it for their SIP process. We canít do that unless we markup this bill now and meet our deadline, yet the response from the minority has been to request months to review modeling data which we already have.
The unions want us to move forward, because they get it, its about jobs.
This bill is better than current law. It is more stringent than the proposed CAIR and mercury rules coming out this month, and it will save 14,000 lives a year. The status quo means more litigation, more costs, and less certainty for businesses and less certain cuts in pollution.
Iím afraid what has happened here is this bill has been killed by the environmental extremists who care more about continuing the litigation friendly status quo and making a political statement on CO2 than they do about reducing air pollution.
Yet inclusion of mandatory carbon caps cannot gain a simple majority on the Senate floor, let alone the 60 votes Senator Carper has spoken of as being necessary before a bill should be voted out of this Committee. The simple fact is that carbon caps are a poison pill, and the Americans who want healthier air and affordable energy will pay the price for putting politics above clean air legislation.
SENATOR GEORGE V. VOINOVICH
Committee on Environment and Public Works
Business Meeting on S. 131, Clear Skies Act of 2005
March 9, 2005
Mr. Chairman, before I begin my opening statement, I request additional time so that I can describe the managerís amendment as well.
As I approach nearly four decades of public service, I have been thinking more and more about the choices we make as government officials and the impact this has on our nation. For example, the Senate is currently considering bankruptcy reform and this Committee will soon have a transportation bill before it. These are important issues and there are many others. I am sure that my new colleagues on this Committee are learning quickly that you have to focus on the issues that are most important to you, your state, and the country.
With all of these competing priorities, the question is: why have I ñ along with President Bush, this Committee and other Members of Congress, and many outside officials and organizations from across the country ñ chosen to focus on Clear Skies?
First and foremost, we have chosen to focus on this legislation because we want to improve the environment and protect public health. Clear Skies would be the most aggressive clean air proposal ever enacted requiring a $52 billion investment from power plants to achieve a 70 percent reduction in emissions.
Several utilities are willing to even spend more ñ such as Cinergy and American Electric Power which have both committed to building large scale and very clean IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle) plants at $1.5 billion a piece ñ but they cannot go forward without some regulatory certainty.
Our current system of getting emissions reductions through the courts is simply not effective. Instead, Clear Skies places reduction levels and timelines in statute so they cannot be delayed and builds off the Acid Rain Program ñ our nationís most successful clean air initiative, which has had virtually no litigation, 100 percent compliance, and reduced emissions by less than the projected cost.
Second, we have chosen to focus on this legislation because it addresses our serious energy needs. It keeps coal ñ our most abundant and cheapest energy source ñ part of our energy future. This in turn means that natural gas will not continue to be relied on for power generation. Since 1992, nearly 88 percent of the new power plants built have been natural gas fired. This substantial increase in the use of gas has been one of the main causes for the nearly doubling of the historical price for natural gas.
Tom Mullen from Cleveland Catholic Charities testified in 2002 that we must consider the devastating impact of increased electricity and home heating costs on the poor and elderly. Higher natural gas prices have forced us to increase funding for the LIHEAP program to help low income families with their home heating bills by 73 percent since 1999.
Third, we have chosen to focus on this legislation because of its positive impact on our economy. We live in a global marketplace, and our environmental and energy policies have a direct impact on our ability to keep and maintain jobs in this country. With U.S. natural gas prices the highest in the developed world, the chemical industryís eight-decade run as a major exporter ended in 2003 with a $19 billion trade surplus in 1997 becoming a $9.6 billion deficit.
Additionally, this legislation is needed now because 509 counties were recently designated as in nonattainment for the new National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone and particulate matter. As Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce President Michael Fisher stated in testimony on April 1, 2004, ìjob growth and capital investment are hindered by the nonattainment designation.î Under Clear Skies and EPAís new diesel fuel and engine regulations to reduce sulfur, 90 percent of the counties would come into attainment without any local effort.
For these reasons, I made a choice to spend a lot of my time over the past few weeks to find a compromise on this legislation. I thank my colleagues on both sides ñ especially Chairman Inhofe and Senators Bond, Chafee, Carper, Baucus, and Obama ñ for being generous with their time. I also want to thank the White Houseís Council on Environmental Quality Chairman Jim Connaughton who has spent many hours meeting with me and many members on this Committee. I especially thank all of the staff that has spent countless hours on this issue.
This Committee has spent along time debating multi-emissions issues with 24 hearings since 1998. During the two hearings held this year, I described a choice for Members of this Committee, industry and environmental representatives, and the American public. We could either act together and do something on multi-emissions legislation or do nothing.
I ñ and some members on this Committee ñ chose to do something. Over the past few weeks, there have been numerous bipartisan meetings and negotiations to find a compromise on many provisions in the Clear Skies Act. We listened carefully to concerns raised by other Members and witnesses that testified before this Committee.
As a result of these extensive discussions, Chairman Inhofe, Senator Bond, and I introduced a variation of the managerís amendment that we are considering today. In this amendment, we tried to respond in some way to every concern raised. I will discuss this in a moment.
On February 16TH, we were scheduled to markup Clear Skies but it was delayed for two weeks due to requests from my colleagues on the other side. A member meeting was held to discuss steps forward and staff was asked to develop a comprehensive list of issues and options to address them. A list was put together among staff, but when it came down to discussing options, minority staff stated that they were not able to negotiate.
With the rescheduled business meeting looming on March 2ND, a member meeting resulted in another delay for a day and a half. Leading to another postponement until this business meeting, a member meeting was again held where the main discussion point was not issues of disagreement but on information. This debate about information has been quite perplexing.
EPA career staff has stated that this is the most analyses that they can ever remember being performed for a single legislative proposal ñ it even rivals a rulemaking. As we can see before us this morning, we have a lot of information to make decisions and both White House and EPA staff have been available at the table to provide any technical assistance needed. It is very interesting to note that several of my colleagues on the other side had none of this information when they voted for Senator Jeffordsí bill in 2002.
Ultimately, Senator Carper and I were charged by Members of this Committee to work together. Due to a letter sent to the EPA at the end of last week, I finally concluded that Senator Carper was unwilling to make any decisions on the bill without more information that would take two to four months to complete. At my request, the Administration did provide a document that is before all of you today comparing the three bills ñ understanding that a complete analysis of our compromise would be completed as we proceeded to the floor.
Although we have not received any legislative language or proposals, Chairman Inhofe, Senator Bond, and I have proposed the managerís amendment that is before us today. I will summarize some of the major changes:
ï Concern was raised that the bill did not reduce emissions fast enough, so we moved the timetables up two years from 2018 to 2016.
ï Concern was raised that the mercury trading program could cause hotspots so we created a program to allow EPA to require reductions at specific plants if this is the case.
ï Concern was raised that the power plant emissions cap could be increased so we made changes to the early action credits, opt-in, and reliability provisions.
ï Concern was raised about the Section 126, Class I, New Source Review, opt-in, and transitional provisions so we made several changes.
ï I have distributed a detailed summary of the changes, and if you are interested, I can go through each one.
In addition to these general provisions, we have even listened to constituents in other membersí states and made changes for them. For example, the amendment sets aside more than $20 million annually in allowances for a mine that is the Crow Tribeís biggest employer in Montana. Due to the coalís high sulfur content, the mine would close without this provision.
Frankly, we are willing to make more changes but no member on the opposing side of the bill has told us what is wrong with our proposal and what would be needed for them to support the bill. While many stakeholders and members have talked about the need to address carbon dioxide emissions, my climate change amendment is the first proposed compromise.
Yesterday, I also made additional proposals to several members to make further changes to the section 126 reforms and sulfur dioxide cap. Specifically on sulfur dioxide, in addition to moving the timeline up to 2016, I proposed to create a phase 3 cap of 2.5 million tons in 2018. The only response that I received on my proposal is from Senator Lamar Alexander ñ who is not on the Committee but is a cosponsor of the bill proposed by Senators Carper and Chafee last Congress.
With these changes, Senator Alexander is now supportive of Clear Skies and his indicated this to Senators Baucus and Carper. He understands that this is a work in progress. He understands that if this bill were to pass the Committee that there would be additional work before and during floor consideration to develop compromise legislation that is able to get 60 votes.
Contrary to what several of my colleaguesí reference, this is exactly the process that occurred during the development of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments when the bill passed the Committee and was rewritten before passing the Senate.
The fact of the matter is that we are serious about getting a bill done and have worked hard to come to an agreement. Clear Skies is simply too important to our environmental, economic, and energy needs. Many people and groups agree:
ï Environmental Council of the States ñ which is comprised of the state environmental agency leaders that are charged with writing the SIPs to comply with the new air quality standards ñ recently passed a resolution stating (quote): ìa national strategy addressing major power plant emission reductionsÖmust be adopted by no later than June 2005.î
ï The Adirondack Council sent a letter on March 1 to members of the Committee stating (quote): ìpleased to learn that the committee was attempting to address many of our concernsÖ(in the) substitute amendmentÖ(and) we urge all committee members to work on a bipartisan fashionÖ(and) we wish to see positive legislation move forward this yearÖî
ï Many labor unions support Clear Skies. A letter from the United Mine Workers, Teamsters, Boilermakers, and others in support of Clear Skies states (quote): ìS. 131 is both timely and necessary legislation.î
ï I will not go through all of them, but I have over 400 letters and resolutions specifically in support of our bill. Unbelievable that these groups can all agree on a piece of legislation.
o American Farm Bureau Federation;
o American Chemistry Council;
o American Highway Users Alliance;
o American Public Power Association;
o Chamber of Commerce;
o National Association of Manufacturers;
o National Black Chamber of Commerce;
o National Mining Association;
o 11 major labor unions; and
o 60 Plus Association and Seniors Coalition.
A significant and diverse group of interests throughout the nation support Clear Skies. However, as I understand the votes, the Committee will choose to do nothing this morning. This means:
ï EPAís analysis that Clear Skies will lead to $110 billion dollars in health benefits and 14,100 fewer premature deaths annually will not be realized;
ï Significant emissions reductions are uncertain ñ and at the least delayed ñ as EPAís rules to be finalized this month are litigated for several years;
ï Extensive litigation will take place to hopefully squeeze minor environmental benefits out of the existing and ineffective Clean Air Act provisions, such as Section 126 and New Source Review ñ which deal on a source by source basis instead of Clear Skies which addresses the more than 1300 power plants nationwide plus those that are contemplated;
ï 509 recently designated nonattainment counties will have stringent economic restrictions placed on them as they struggle to develop local plans to come into attainment; and
ï Coalís future as our most abundant and low cost energy source is uncertain ñ meaning natural gas could continue to be used for power generation leading to higher energy costs for businesses that compete in a global marketplace and for the poor and elderly on fixed incomes.
Mr. Chairman, as the situation I just described unfolds, I imagine more and more people will realize that we need to do something and they will begin to choose to focus on the issue. They will finally come to the table to negotiate a deal but this will unfortunately be too late as:
ï Nonattainment dates quickly approach and states develop their State Implementation Plans;
ï This Committee and the Senate turn to other timely issues such as the highway bill and appropriations;
ï The electoral season kicks in to full gear creating political barriers to passing a multi-emissions bill; and
ï EPAís proposed clean air rules are litigated.
Mr. Chairman, as I said at the beginning, we all make choices about what we are going to focus on in the Senate. Several of us chose to focus on developing a compromise multi-emissions proposal to substantially reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury emissions. We offered many changes, but several of my colleagues simply do not want a bill or are unwilling to compromise for fear of alienating the environmental groups that do not want a bill.
In fact, the staff for the Committeeís Ranking Member stated in Buenos Aires in December on a panel at the United Nations meeting on climate change that the bill would not pass the Committee without mandatory carbon dioxide controls. This is perhaps best summed up by the Sierra Legal Defence Fund staff lawyer who said last year that (quote): ìIn general, our long-term objective is to make sure that coal-fired plants get closed.î
The unwillingness of my colleagues to compromise and pass Clear Skies through this Committee today is a sad development for the American people.
Mr. Chairman and other members of this Committee, thank you for being generous with your time.
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