Inhofe: McCarthy Vote Contingent Upon Response to Concerns With War On Fossil Fuels

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, today sent a letter to Gina McCarthy, nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), requesting a response to four areas of concern where the administration is preventing the exploration and development of affordable energy.

"While I have appreciated Gina McCarthy's outreach since her nomination, I cannot support her confirmation until I receive sufficient responses to the questions I have raised regarding the administration’s war on fossil fuels,” said Inhofe. "I first brought these concerns to Ms. McCarthy and her staff's attention soon after the announcement of her nomination, and yet during the hearing my questions were not adequately addressed by the nominee. The purpose of this letter is to ensure that I have made clear what my most immediate concerns are for Oklahomans and the future of our nation's energy independence.  It is my hope that should she be the next director of the EPA we can have a productive professional relationship and open dialogue similar to what I had with Lisa Jackson." 

FULL LETTER:

April 16, 2013

 

The Honorable Gina McCarthy

Assistant Administrator

Office of Air and Radiation

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20460

 

Dear Assistant Administrator McCarthy:

           I first want to thank you for participating in last week’s confirmation hearing on your nomination at the Environment and Public Works Committee.  I also appreciate that you visited my office shortly after being nominated to begin a dialogue about the ongoing issues at EPA that are of particular concern to me.  We had an opportunity to discuss a few of those at the hearing, and a number of follow-up questions have been submitted for the record that you will soon receive.  I am writing today to highlight four issues of more immediate concern that I would appreciate your help in addressing.

1.     Greenhouse Gas (GHG) New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) for Electric Generating Units (EGU).  EPA proposed this rule over a year ago, and while I have fundamental concerns with regulating GHG to begin with, I am particularly concerned that the Agency broke decades of precedent by not fully exercising its statutory discretion to provide individual emission standards for each type and subtype of fuel used in EGUs.  Rather than establish varying GHG emission profiles for the various types of coal, oil, and natural gas, EPA established a unified standard for all fossil fuel EGUs.  As you know, this standard is impossible for coal EGUs of any capacity to meet with any economic feasibility, so the rule has effectively prevented the construction of any new coal-fired EGUs, despite the nation’s abundant supply of the fuel.  The proposed rule is now over a year old, so EPA has missed the one-year deadline of the Clean Air Act to finalize the proposed rule.  If confirmed, will you agree to withdraw the current rule so the Agency can deliberate on the path forward it plans to take without unnecessarily impacting the immediate construction of new EGUs?  If you are confirmed, and if EPA moves forward with GHG regulations on EGUs, will you commit to using your statutory discretion under the Clean Air Act to establish realistic and commercially viable standards for each type and sub-type of fuel?

2.     The EPA’s actions following the 6th Circuit Court’s decision in Summit Petroleum Corp v. EPA.  In 2009, the EPA withdrew a 2007 Memorandum regarding how the agency would determine what constitutes an “adjacent property” when determining whether the emissions from stationary sources trigger permitting requirements.  In place of that Memorandum, the Agency issued new guidance that considers multiple sources as a single source if they are functionally related.  This has triggered significantly greater permitting requirements than the previous policy, and in the case of Summit Petroleum, a permit requirement was triggered because of the “interrelatedness” of many facilities spread over 42 square miles.  EPA lost the lawsuit with Summit, and the 6th Circuit Court stated that the term “adjacent” has plain meaning, and that multiple facilities must be physically sited next to one another to be considered a single source.  EPA has not applied this decision outside the states within the 6th Circuit, which raises significant questions of both legality and EPA’s precedent of having unified policies in all states within a single EPA administrative region.  EPA will undoubtedly be sued in other circuits in the coming months over this issue.  If you are confirmed, will you agree to put this issue to rest by applying the 6th Circuit Court decision nationwide?

3.     EPA’s ongoing study on hydraulic fracturing and drinking water.  I remain thankful that Lisa Jackson was straightforward with me about hydraulic fracturing.  In fact, she confirmed, on the record, that she was “not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water…”  That said, the agency has moved ahead with a study to consider the impact hydraulic fracturing may have on groundwater, and during our personal meeting I raised the issue of the Research Advisory Panel being put together to review the study’s findings.  Despite numerous nominations of industry participants, EPA did not select a balanced number to serve on the board.  In many cases, these individuals have the most knowledge and real experience with the hydraulic fracturing process of anyone in the nation, but many were disqualified because they hold too much industry stock, a common form of compensation for many industry employees.  EPA has sufficient waiver authority, however, to ensure a panel of this importance has appropriate representation from industry stakeholders.  I was disappointed that EPA did not exercise this authority. If confirmed, will you order the reformation of this panel to ensure it has equal representation from industry and non-industry individuals so it can evaluate the panel’s work in a balanced way? 

4.     EPA process to establish new NAAQS standards and the corresponding implementation rules. This process often takes years.  Because of this, many states and localities often face long periods of uncertainty as they try to determine what actions will be necessary to ensure they remain in compliance with Clean Air Act requirements.  I believe that if EPA waited to finalize the effective date of a new NAAQS standard until all implementation rules have become final then states and localities would obtain much needed certainty as they work diligently to meet standards. If you are confirmed, will you ensure that, moving forward, the effective date of any new NAAQS standard not occur until all implementation rules have become final?

           I raised a number of other issues through the questions for the record I submitted yesterday, and I look forward to receiving your thoughtful responses to those.  I am also supporting Senator Vitter’s ongoing effort to improve the EPA’s transparency practices, particularly as it relates to fully disclosing the data used in studies to justify the agency’s actions.  I see the resolution of these issues as an important first step in establishing a strong, productive, and professional relationship with you similar to what I had with Lisa Jackson.  I look forward to receiving your response prior to my effective consideration of your confirmation.

 

                                                                  Sincerely,

 

 

 

 

                                                                  James M. Inhofe

                                                                  United States Senator