Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov (202) 224-9797
Katie Brown Katie_Brown@epw.senate.gov (202) 224-2160
WATCH: Inhofe Responds to President Obama's Threat to Veto Resolution to Stop Utility MACT
Link to Press Release
Washington, D.C. - Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, spoke on the Senate floor this evening ahead of the vote on his resolution to stop the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Utility MACT rule. Senator Inhofe urged his colleagues to join him in his effort to put an end to President Obama's war on coal just after President Obama announced that he would veto the measure if it were to pass. The vote on Senator Inhofe's resolution will likely take place this Wednesday, June 20.
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Mr. President, as you know the Senate will take up a vote this week on my resolution, SJR 37, to stop the Environmental Protection Agency's Utility MACT rule, which is the centerpiece of President Obama's war on coal.
As we look ahead to this vote, it's clear that there is a coordinated effort between the White House and Congressional Democrats to paint our efforts to stop an out of control EPA as extreme. This is breaking news: President Obama just issued a statement this afternoon that he will veto my resolution if it passes.
Just before that announcement from the White House this afternoon, Representatives Ed Markey and Henry Waxman came out fighting with a new report detailing what Representative Waxman has called the "most anti-environmental" House of Representatives in history. I'd like to remind my Democratic friends that 19 House Democrats supported companion legislation in the House to stop the Utility MACT rule, and numerous Democrats and even unions have sent letters in support of my resolution, so it's not just Republicans whose constituents are feeling the pain of EPA's regulations. To my Democrat friends in the House, I beg to differ: it's not that this Congress is anti-environmental; it's that this EPA is the most radical EPA in history, aggressive to the point that even the left leaning Washington Post has called out the agency for "earning a reputation for abuse."
Of course, this is the same EPA whose top officials have told us they are out to "crucify" American energy producers and that their regulations to kill coal will be "painful every step of the way." This is the same EPA that is planning to exert control over everything from puddles of water on the road, to farm dust; it's the same EPA that threatens to regulate every church, every school, every restaurant under its greenhouse gas regime.
Over the course of President Obama's presidency, whatever they couldn't achieve through legislation they have tried to achieve through aggressive, onerous EPA regulations. We saw this with cap-and-trade: when they couldn't pass the largest tax increase in American history, even in an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress, President Obama told us there was more than one way to skin the cap-and-trade cat, and the EPA quickly got to work on issuing greenhouse gas regulations. When they couldn't pass the Clean Water Restoration Act, which would have given the federal government control over virtually every body of water in the United States, they just decided to issue an EPA guidance document which would achieve the same results.
Just how radical is President Obama on environmental issues? By imposing backdoor global warming cap-and-trade regulations through the EPA, President Obama is fulfilling his campaign promise that energy prices would 'necessarily skyrocket'; by vetoing the Keystone pipeline, he gave the far left what one of his supporters called the biggest global warming victory in years; by finalizing the most expensive EPA rule in history, he is making good on his campaign promise that if anybody wants to build a coal fired power plant they can - 'it's just that it will bankrupt them'; and he succeeded in throwing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars out the window on companies like Solyndra, which he said would lead us to a ‘brighter and more prosperous future.'
But President Obama is not running on this record of accomplishment - Why? Because Americans are worse not better off for it: they are out of work and struggling to make ends meet under the pain of regulations that cause their energy prices to skyrocket. So he is running as far away from his radical record as possible.
What we are trying to do in the Senate by stopping Utility MACT is to prevent President Obama from achieving another aspect of his radical global warming agenda - and hopefully restore some sanity and balance to this out-of-control regulatory regime.
President Obama Deciding Vote against Clear Skies
I think everyone in this body can agree that we all share a commitment to improving air quality - but it should be done in a way that does not harm jobs and the economy, cause electricity prices to skyrocket on every American, or do away with one of our most reliable, abundant, and affordable energy resources: coal.
Now I would like to address the public health debate which has long been the excuse for those in this Administration who simply want to kill coal. It was certainly the excuse President Obama used today to defend his decision to veto my resolution.
Let's be clear about one thing from the outset: If the effort behind Utility MACT were really about public health, then my Democratic colleagues would have joined our efforts back in 2005 to pass my Clear Skies bill - a bill that would have put a plan in place to achieve a 70% reduction in mercury emissions. But they didn't - and the person who took credit for killing this clean air bill? None other than then-Senator Obama.
We all know the famous video when Obama told us that under his plan of a cap-and-trade system "electricity prices would necessarily skyrocket" and that "if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It's just that it will bankrupt them." But what is less known from that video is the moment when Obama admits that "I voted against the Clear Skies bill. In fact I was the deciding vote despite the fact that I'm a coal state and that half of my state thought I'd thoroughly betrayed them because I thought clean air was critical and global warming was critical."
At an Environment and Public Works hearing in April of this year, Senator Barrasso asked Ms. Brenda Archambo from the National Wildlife Federation if the American people would have been better off if the Senate had passed Clear Skies in 2005 and her answer was "absolutely."
Of course, National Wildlife Federation was not happy that we were calling attention to Ms. Archambo's admission, so over the weekend they accused my staff of twisting her words. My staff did nothing of the sort - not only did Ms. Archambo say that mercury reductions in 2005 would "absolutely" have made Americans better off, she reiterated that same point later. When Senator Barrasso asked her again, "It would have been better if they had done it in 2005"? Ms. Archambo replied "Sure." The entire exchange from the hearing has been posted on our EPW website for anyone who wants to see exactly what was said. I don't think it gets any clearer than that. Common sense reductions earlier would have been better.
In a National Wildlife Federation blog post accusing me of twisting Ms. Archambo's words, the author says, "An odd part of Sen. Inhofe's attack: He's essentially saying a 70% reduction in mercury emissions would've been just dandy, but the 91% reduction proposed by the EPA would destroy the economy. Is that really such a huge difference? Or is he just playing politics with public health?"
That's a good question: what is the difference between Clear Skies and Utility MACT? It's simple: Clear Skies would have reduced emissions dramatically - by 70% - but it would have done so without threatening to kill coal and the millions of jobs that coal sustains. On the other hand, Utility MACT is specifically designed to kill coal - it makes no effort whatsoever to balance environmental protection and economic growth.
Now who is playing politics with public health? If public health were really the priority, why did President Obama and his fellow Democrats vote against a 70 percent reduction?
Killing Coal Not About Public Health but Radical Global Warming Agenda
What is this effort really about? It's about one thing only: killing coal - and killing coal is the centerpiece of their radial global warming agenda. Remember then - Senator Obama said that he voted against the health benefits in Clear Skies because he thought "global warming was critical." In other words, global warming was more important than any considerations regarding health.
Importantly, the Senate will take this vote on my resolution just as world leaders gather in Rio for the Rio + 20 Sustainable Development Conference. President Obama, who is now busy pretending to be the fossil fuel President to garner votes, will not be attending, but he is sending his green team to negotiate on his behalf. What is this conference really about? As Fox News reported back in April, "The main goal of the much-touted, Rio + 20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development...is to make dramatic and enormously expensive changes in the way that the world does nearly everything-or, as one of the documents puts it, ‘a fundamental shift in the way we think and act.'" Utility MACT is a huge part of this effort to change the way we live and spread the wealth around - and an essential aspect of achieving this goal is to eliminate the affordable energy that comes from coal.
According to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, proposals on how sustainable development "challenges can and must be addressed," include:
- More than $2.1 trillion a year in wealth transfers from rich countries to poorer ones, in the name of fostering "green infrastructure", "climate adaptation" and other "green economy" measures.
- New carbon taxes for industrialized countries that could cost about $250 billion a year, or 0.6 percent of Gross Domestic Product, by 2020. Other environmental taxes are mentioned, but not specified.
- Further unspecified price hikes that extend beyond fossil fuels to anything derived from agriculture, fisheries, forestry, or other kinds of land and water use, all of which would be radically reorganized. These cost changes would "contribute to a more level playing field between established, 'brown' technologies and newer, greener ones."
- Major global social spending programs, including a "social protection floor" and "social safety nets" for the world's most vulnerable social groups for reasons of "equity."
- Even more social benefits for those displaced by the green economy revolution-including those put out of work in undesirable fossil fuel industries. The benefits, called "investments," would include "access to nutritious food, health services, education, training and retraining, and unemployment benefits."
What are the Health Impacts of Unemployment?
What happened to sovereignty? At least Secretary General Ban Ki-moon admits what they are doing, and at least he's not hiding the fact that their sustainable development movement will put a lot of people out of work.
Just before President Obama made the decision to withdraw EPA's plan to revise its ozone standard, former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley asked the question that all Senators need to ask themselves ahead of this vote on Utility MACT. He asked "What are the health impacts of unemployment?"
I'd like to commend the four medical doctors in this body, Senators Barrasso, Coburn, Paul and Boozman, who wrote to the President today asking him to consider the devastating effects EPA's Utility MACT rule will have on the health of Americans who will lose their jobs and have to pay skyrocketing electricity prices. As the Senators righty noted,
"Proponents of your EPA's aggressive agenda claim that regulations that kill jobs and cause electricity prices to skyrocket will somehow be good for the American people. We come to this issue as medical doctors and would like to offer our "second opinion": EPA's regulatory regime will devastate communities that rely on affordable energy, children whose parents will lose their jobs, and the poor and elderly on fixed incomes that do not have the funds to pay for higher energy costs. The result for public health will be disastrous in ways not seen since the Great Depression."
So what are the impacts of unemployment? EPA Regional Administrator Curt Spalding gave us a clue when he said that EPA's efforts to kill coal will be "painful. Painful every step of the way."
Utility MACT Resolution: Myth vs. Fact
Ahead of the vote, there have been many misconceptions perpetrated about what this resolution to stop Utility MACT would do - so I'd like to take a moment to set the record straight.
First of all my resolution would not prevent EPA from regulating mercury or alter the Clean Air Act in any way. It would simply send the rule back to EPA to be rewritten under Congressional direction, hopefully in a way in which utilities could actually comply.
Second, Utility MACT is not about public health, it's about killing coal. According to EPA's own analysis, Utility MACT will cost $10 billion a year to implement but that $10 billion will yield $6 million in projected benefits. That's a cost/benefit ratio of 1600 to 1. As I said earlier, the effects of unemployment will be devastating: Utility MACT will harm rather than improve public health, because it will serve as a regressive tax on electricity that will hurt the poor and those on fixed incomes the most. Unemployment is a well-established risk factor for many illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, mental disorders, stress-related disorders, and decreases in life expectancy.
Finally I'd like to address the myth that top EPA officials are perpetrating, which is the idea that coal is not being killed by EPA regulations but by that cheaper price of natural gas. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said recently that it is simply a coincidence that EPA's rules are coming out at the "same time" that natural gas prices are low so utilities are naturally moving towards natural gas. Her message was: don't blame the EPA.
The truth is that EPA itself has admitted that the agency deliberately and consciously made the decision to kill coal. EPA Region 1 Administrator Curt Spalding was caught on tape saying, "Lisa Jackson has put forth a very powerful message to the country. Just two days ago, the decision on greenhouse gas performance standard and saying basically gas plants are the performance standard which means if you want to build a coal plant you got a big problem." He also said that the decision by EPA to kill coal was "painful every step of the way" because "you got to remember that if you go to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and all those places, you have coal communities who depend on coal."
Even without EPA's admission that the agency is deliberately killing coal, such a myth is based on the dubious assumption that the price of natural gas won't ever go up - it's also based on the assumption that natural gas will not be regulated out of existence by the Obama administration's anti-fossil fuel agenda. While President Obama goes around on the campaign trail pretending to support oil and gas, former Region 6 Administrator Al Armendariz told us the truth that EPA's "general philosophy" is to "crucify" and "make examples" of oil and gas companies. This "crucify them" strategy includes an aggressive campaign to shift the authority over hydraulic fracturing from states to the federal government so that they can limit or eventually end the process altogether. In short, if the administration is successful in killing coal, natural gas will be next on the agenda.
Overwhelming Bipartisan Support
Over the past few weeks the momentum of bipartisan support for my resolution has continued to grow: we've picked up the support of numerous Democrats and groups representing business and labor.
Just today, the National Association of Manufacturers, the largest manufacturing association in the United States sent a letter of support for SJR 37, noting correctly that "The Utility MACT regulation is one of the most expensive rules ever written for power plants and, according to one analysis, would cost nearly $95 billion. These costs will be passed down to residential consumers and U.S. manufacturers, which use one-third of our nation's energy."
I'd like to commend three Senate Democrats: Senators Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson and Joe Manchin, who have chosen to listen to their constituents and support my resolution. These announcements came just after letters backing the resolution were sent by the Democratic Governor Earl Tomblin of West Virginia, West Virginia Lieutenant Governor Jeffrey Kessler, as well as a group of bipartisan West Virginia legislators.
In April, 24 state attorneys general, including one quarter of all Democratic state attorneys general, filed suit to overturn Utility MACT because of the devastating effects it will have on jobs and their states' economies; these are Democrats from Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
In addition, Cecil Roberts, President of the United Mine Workers of America - one of the biggest labor unions in the country - recently sent a letter to several Senators saying that the union's support for my resolution is "based upon our assessment of the threat that the Utility MACT rule poses to United Mine Workers Association members' jobs, the economies of coal field communities, and the future direction of our national energy policy."
We've also secured the support of the National Federation of Independent Business as well as nearly 80% of the private sector - businesses that are apparently not "doing fine" in the face of EPA's job-killing regulations.
By voting for my resolution, members of this body stop this agenda and send EPA back to the drawing board to craft a rule under our Congressional direction that is workable and achievable and does not threaten to kill millions of jobs across America.