WASHINGTON, Feb. 11, 2015 - Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., is confident the new GOP-run Senate will succeed in reversing the Obama administration’s most burdensome and costly regulations – and succeed in writing new highway legislation needed to rebuild the nation’s roads and bridges.
One reason for Inhofe’s optimism is that he knows the EPW and legislative territory well. After serving in the U.S. House from 1987, this former business executive and Tulsa mayor was elected to the Senate in 1994. He served as EPW chairman previously from 2003 to 2007.
In an Agri-Pulse interview, Inhofe said his greatest leverage in combatting what he considers rampant federal overregulation is that “Obama is going to set the record on unpopularity.” Many observers warn that Congress could remain in gridlock, unable to legislate. But Inhofe predicts instead that “the Democrats, in order not to repeat 2014, are going to have to figure out some way to distance themselves from Obama and the best way a Democrat can distance himself from Obama is to vote to override any of his vetoes.”
While others say Republicans may struggle on many issues to gather the 60-vote supermajority needed to move legislation forward in the Senate, Inhofe sees a pathway to the 67 votes needed to override a presidential veto. These contrasting views could be tested soon if, as promised, Obama vetoes the Keystone pipeline bill which could land on his desk this week.
Along with a new highway bill, legislation and oversight that EPW will deal with this year include controversial EPA rules for renewable fuels, coal power plant emissions, and Waters of the U.S.; reauthorization of the Toxic Substances Control Act; what to do about the Endangered Species Act; and tackling nuclear power plant regulatory issues. Inhofe plans to tackle all of these issues, confident that he can win support from Democrats because, “We have a very unpopular president who is destroying this country and more and more people are aware of it and more and more Democrats want to separate themselves from him.”
On the highway bill, Inhofe says critics of highway spending have had to back down quickly when they’ve objected to the costs. He points out that under the Constitution, the two things that the House and the Senate are supposed to do are “number one, defending America . . . and number two, roads and bridges.” As for funding, he says that’s an issue for the Senate Finance Committee but he points out that user fees are highly popular.
Inhofe notes that along with the heavily burdened fossil fuel industry, farmers and ranchers certainly should support his regulatory roll-back agenda. “Talk to Tom Buchanan, the head of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau,” Inhofe says, “and he’ll tell you that of all the problems that they have, the problems are not founded in the farm bill, the problems are founded in the overregulation, primarily by the EPA.” Whether it’s dealing with new regulations for water, pesticides, greenhouse gas emissions, or endangered species, he says landowners don’t need more “bureaucrats crawling over their farms telling them what they can and can’t do.”
In addressing EPA’s proposed new rules for coal power plants due to be finalized in June, reauthorizing the Toxic Substances Control Act, and other pending issues, Inhofe is convinced he can enlist the support of both Democrats in Congress and the American public by holding hearings to explain the science and to expose the costs. Following last week’s joint House/Senate hearing on “State & Local Impacts of Administration’s Proposed Expansion of Waters Regulation,” Inhofe chairs an EPW hearing on EPA’s proposed rules for power plant CO2 emissions on Wednesday.
Inhofe recalls that starting in 2002 with the McCain/Lieberman cap-and-trade bill, there was bipartisan support – until he insisted on calculating the costs, which studies showed could run as high as $400 billion a year. By his calculations, that meant “hard working families in Oklahoma having to pay an additional $3,000 in taxes to pay for all of this.”
Despite Democrats claiming that humans are the cause of climate change, Inhofe says polls show that the public now understands that climate change has always taken place, regardless of human activities, and that even if the U.S. limited its greenhouse gas emissions, emissions would continue to increase in China, India, Mexico and elsewhere.
In dealing with climate change, Inhofe concludes, “People are not as dumb as the far left would like to think they are.”
To make sure Americans have access to the best scientific information, Inhofe plans regular EPW hearings including full consideration of EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard that currently mandates the use of E10 gasoline, which contains 10 percent ethanol. Inhofe says his committee will help provide Americans with the best fuels, based on “real science,” not theories, “to make sure that we are relying on science and not unnecessarily costing the American people huge amounts of money for something that is not justified.”
Inhofe also plans to take a hard look at EPA’s Clean Power Plan for limiting CO2 emissions from coal power plants. As he prepared for EPW’s Feb. 11 hearing on the issue, with Janet McCabe, who runs EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, in the hot seat, Inhofe told us that “you’ve got to run this country on something. You can’t run the machine called America on renewables. No rational person believes it. Now the irrational extremist environmentalist does. They’ll say we have to force people to do this . . . Well, that’s their philosophy and that’s not ours.”
Inhofe promises that under his chairmanship once again, EPW will tackle each issue to “start getting around the emotions and start dealing with science and start looking at what it is costing the American people.”
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