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November 06, 2019

Inhofe Questions Witnesses at EPW Hearing on the Growing American Innovation Now (GAIN) Act

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) senior member of the Environmental and Public Works (EPW) Committee, questioned witnesses at an Environmental Public Works (EPW) hearing to receive testimony on the Growing American Innovation Now (GAIN) Act. Inhofe is a cosponsor of this legislation. 

Witnesses included Jeff Holmstead, Partner, Bracewell LLC; Sean Alteri, Deputy Commissioner, Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection; John Walke, Clean Air Director and Senior Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council. 

Inhofe: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me help Sen. Carper out with his statistics. We have looked and you have appeared before this committee seven times just during the years I chaired the committee, so maybe you weren't too far off.

You are experienced here. First of all, I thank the chairman for hosting this hearing on the GAIN Act, important legislation we need to streamline regulatory overreach. Now, regulatory overreach goes far beyond just the subject that we're taking about today. In fact, the fact that we have arguably the best economy we've had, maybe even in my lifetime. Two things precipitated that. One thing was lowering the reductions, but also regulatory relief. And so, this is something that we are very sensitive to. I can remember during the four years that you had the Office of Air and Radiation, we addressed this.

Let me ask you, Mr. Holmstead, we haven't really talked about job creation, which is one of the things which is supposed to be accomplished with the New Source Review. Respond to that and then also how the GAIN Act reforms help job growth.

Holmstead: So, I think the best indication that this would be good for jobs comes from the support from the labor unions. You mentioned, I think, that there were seven labor unions and it's mostly the Building Trades that are supportive of this because they do see the projects that they would be working on that companies don't do because of NSR. So, I think that in and of itself is pretty good evidence. And so I think that in and of itself is pretty good evidence. I think it is very hard to come up with numbers, but because you would reduce the threat of NSR I think you would certainly unleash a lot of economic activity, making plants more efficient.

Inhofe: Mr. Alteri, as you know that states are the primarily regulator of the New Source Review program. Your testimony highlighted that since 2008 Kentucky has issued more than 25 New Source Review permits. But,  during that time it appears you've also seen this program used by activist to delay important projects that would improve both environmental quality and modernization of facilities.

Mr. Alteri, would you agree that it is possible to protect air quality while also streamlining the NSR permitting? And would you agree that the GAIN Act balances those interests?

Alteri: I think it does, but I think during this conversation it has raised the issues relative to who else it would affect. But I think if you have an opportunity to improve energy efficiency at existing coal-fired units, I think you do have the opportunity to reduce pollution without triggering NSR and costly litigation.

Inhofe: That's good. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And Mr. Chairman, I might also add that we're passing around something that can be signed by some of the members for an American hero that Sen. Carper called to our attention and I'll help pass that around.  

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