Monday, November 13, 2006

The Washington Power Shift: Environment & Energy Outlook

Nov 13: With the Democratic victory in the November 7, 2006, election, significant changes will now take place in the leadership and committee makeup in Congress. In today's issue WIMS is deviating somewhat from our traditional format to focus on several of the new leadership positions and their past positions which should provide some indication of future actions on environmental and energy areas when the new Congress convenes in January 2007.

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) will replace retiring Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) as Senate Majority Leader. Reid, 66 is an avid supporter of the Democrats’ CLEAN Edge Act introduced on September 14, 2006, by Democratic Senators Debbie Stabenow, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Maria Cantwell which they claim will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs across the country. He supports the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, and has urged the Congress to move forward on the bipartisan compromise. He supports the Senate-passed bill that would repeal tax breaks for "Big Oil" companies that total $5.4 billion over the next ten years. He has been a persistent critic of the DOE/NRC Yucca Mountain proposal saying, "Nevadans and the rest of the country have the right to know about the environmental and public safety risks associated with the Yucca Mountain Project..." [and] "The Administration’s proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump would change the rules, break the law and prevent states from protecting their cities and people." He was a principal author of the Brownfield Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act, which provides $250 million annually for grants to state and local governments to cleanup brownfields sites.

On climate change, Reid has said, "Addressing this growing environmental threat demands strong leadership. But I am afraid... such leadership has been sorely lacking by this Administration. Instead, the White House has been doctoring information about global warming in reports by government scientists..." He supported the McCain-Lieberman amendment to cap greenhouse gas emissions in 2010 at the 2000 levels and establish a mandatory economy-wide cap and trade program.

Access Senator Reid's website (click here). Access Senator Reid's Minority website (click here).

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), will replace Senator Pete Dominici (R-NM) on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Bingaman, 63, has been a strong advocate for the Clinton area Roadless Rule saying, "the Clinton Roadless Rule struck a chord with Americans, who want to ensure that the few remaining acres of roadless areas in our national forests will be there for the enjoyment of their children and grandchildren." He has criticized the Administration on its implementation of the Healthy Forests Initiative and the fuels reduction strategy and said, the "leadership of the Forest Service has... pushed its managers to treat the cheapest and easiest acres, leaving communities at risk and wasting taxpayer dollars. On the issue of climate change and technology, Bingaman has said, "Our current policy of exclusive reliance on voluntary measures to reduce greenhouse gases has not really led to changes in the technologies we use... We will be wasting taxpayer dollars, if we continue to rely exclusively on government supported R&D to solve the problem of global warming. If we are going to address climate change at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers and society, we need a combined strategy of funding R&D and sending the right price signal to markets. I have been proposing a cap-and-trade approach to establish such a price signal on greenhouse gas emissions..."

Bingaman opposes S.3711, the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006, and has said he will vote against it. He said, In terms of expanding the nation’s energy supply, "the bill takes us in the wrong direction over the long term." He is concerned about the enormous revenue shift that would result from the new entitlement program that would be created for Gulf Coast states if the legislation becomes law. He supports On energy legislation he supports, Senate Democrats bills which calls "smart, pro-consumer policies to help put America firmly on the path to energy independence." He supports making America the world leader in areas like solar, wind and biofuels; and actions to combat price gouging. He lists specifically, S.2829, the Clean EDGE Act of 2006); S.2025, the Vehicles and Fuels Choices for American Security Act; S.2747, the Enhanced Energy Security Act of 2006, or S.2677, the Securing America’s Energy Independence Act.

Bingaman has been a strong support of preserving the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) saying drilling for oil and gas "will do little to meet our energy needs and nothing to reduce our energy prices... even at its peak production -- twenty years from now -- it will reduce our reliance on imports by only 4 percent." Bingaman co-sponsored the bipartisan Fuel Economy Reform Act of 2006, introduced in July and said, “It’s hard to imagine a genuine discussion of our country’s energy future without a significant effort to improve vehicle fuel efficiency." He called the measure a moderate proposal to begin raising the standards for fuel economy.

Access Senator Bingaman's website (click here). Access Bingaman's Ranking Member releases on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee website (click here).

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) will apparently Chair the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and replace outspoken global warming critic Senator James Inhofe (R-OK). The current Ranking Member, Senator James Jeffords (I-VT) is retiring and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) who has seniority is slated to Chair the Finance Committee; and Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) is to Chair Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Boxer, 65, is regarded as one of the nation's most liberal advocates of environment protection. She has fought to protect the California coast and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling. She has written bills to make polluters pay the costs of toxic Superfund clean-ups. She wrote the law to set drinking water standards at levels that protect children and other vulnerable populations, and she led the successful fight to stop the rollback of national arsenic standards. She is a coauthored of the Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act of 2001.

Most recently, in October she filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit challenging U.S. EPA's rule on human pesticide testing; and she requested EPA to immediately issue a perchlorate health advisory that addresses early life exposures and susceptibility issues and revise the Agency’s perchlorate cleanup goal. In September, she said EPA’s proposed standards for particulate matter pollution chose "polluters over the people" and "fail to protect public health." She said the standard, "flies in the face of science, should not stand." She said if EPA did not reconsider the proposal it should be struck down by the Courts.

In late August Boxer commented on California legislation to impose broad caps on greenhouse-gas emissions and combat global warming saying, "I am so proud of California today, which has once again taken the lead in confronting a critical environmental issue by passing legislation to directly address the threat of global warming. Global warming could reshape the world as we know it. Climate change could dramatically reduce the Sierra Nevada’s snowpack, trigger a devastating rise in sea level, increase the spread of infectious disease, and harm agriculture." She is the lead cosponsor of the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act of 2006, authored by Senator Jim Jeffords which calls for an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Access Senator Boxer's website (
click here). Access the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee website (click here).

Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will replace Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) as Speaker of the House. Pelosi has been an outspoken critic of the Administration. On energy issues she says, "The Republican plan for energy has allowed consumer price gouging by Big Oil companies, while these very companies earn record profits with help from tax breaks and subsidies provided by the Republican Congress. Democrats propose a New Direction for America’s Energy policy, which will put an end to price gouging and unnecessary subsidies for Big Oil companies. Democrats will focus on reinvesting our energy capital into the Midwest, not the Middle East." She says the Democratic energy program will "punish price gouging by Big Oil & help consumers; and stop $33 billion in tax breaks and subsidies for Big Oil.

On environmental issues she indicates, "Protecting the environment is vital to protect the health of all Americans, particularly our children. Democrats are fighting for cleaner air, cleaner water, and preservation of our natural resources, understanding that what we do today has an impact on future generations of Americans. We stand up for fair policies that protect America’s environment while allowing for economic opportunity -- priorities that can work together." She indicates, "the Bush administration’s policies have begun to reverse 30 years of bipartisan support for the environment by rolling back important regulations, proposing drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, and crippling provisions in the landmark Clean Air Act." She says Democrats believe in: Proactive, common sense solutions to protect the health and safety of our children; Working together for clean water, clean air, and measures to increase recycling and reduce pollution; Forest management that protects our woodlands, not special interests; Energy policies that promote efficiency and innovation, and provide more protection for consumers; Protecting the nation’s precious wetlands and coastlines by supporting and defending the Clean Water Act; and Investing in technologies that will reduce air pollution and lead to greater energy independence.

Commenting on the recent Administration’s strategic plan on climate change presented to the House Science Committee in September she said, "The world needs decisive action to prevent global warming; instead the Bush Administration keeps offering the American people more hot air. Rather than stepping forward with bold ideas to take on the challenge of climate change, Bush Administration officials repackaged their research and development plans and presented them to the House Science Committee as a new strategic plan. There are precious few new ideas in this ‘strategic plan,’ and no new funding. More importantly, never-ending research isn’t enough – we need strong policies to get new technologies to the marketplace and reduce global warming pollution."

On the Administration's energy policy she has commented in recent months saying, "President Bush says our nation is addicted to oil, but five years after adopting the recommendations of Vice President Cheney’s secret Energy Task Force, the Administration continues to feed the addiction. Conceived in secret, the Administration’s energy plan was written by and for their friends in the oil industry, who raked in more than $100 billion in profits last year. It is a big success for Big Oil. It is an enormous failure for the American people." [And] "the Republicans keep replaying the same old, tired ideas on energy -- such as opening the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. We should not sacrifice the Arctic coastal plain, one of America’s last truly wild places, for the sake of a small amount of oil. Democrats are stepping forward with new ideas and new solutions. We can’t drill our way to energy independence -- but we can grow our way to energy independence. America’s farmers are ready to grow energy crops that will end our dependence on oil from unstable regions."

Access Representative Pelosi's House Minority website (click here). Access Representative Pelosi's website (click here).

Representative John Dingell (D-MI) will Chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee and replace Representative Joe Barton (R-TX). Dingell, 80, and considered a moderate is the longest-serving member of the House. A cosponsor of the Senate Democrats comprehensive energy independence bill entitled the “PROGRESS Act,” he said the bill is, "a solid plan that will get America on track toward achieving energy independence. Millions of vehicles already on the road are capable of operating on alternative fuels such as E-85... [the] proposal would give consumers the opportunity to use these fuels by ensuring they are readily available.” Dingell, one of three Democrats requesting a GAO study on GAO) EPA's lead and copper rule agreed with the findings that it was "inadequate and may be putting public health at risk." On Superfund, Dingell says, "The Republican Congress and the Bush Administration continue to underfund what has historically been a productive program. The President should explain to the American people why he is content to leave the public health and environment at risk while toxic sites lay untreated in our communities for years." Dingell has also requested EPA clarification of the case law and EPA's position relating to CERCLA responsible party liability issues since the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Cooper Industries, Inc. v. Aviall Services, Inc. 125 S. Ct, 577 (2004) [
See WIMS 10/27/06]. Dingell and several colleagues also sponsored legislation, H.R. 879, that would require all new and replacement underground storage tanks to have secondary containment.

Dingell has been an advocate for controlling the import of solid waste from Canada. He says that, H.R. 2491, the International Solid Waste Importation and Management Act of 2005, which passed the House and is stalled in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, "contains important provisions to implement and enforce the bilateral U.S.-Canadian Agreement concerning the transboundary movement of hazardous waste between our countries. The bill would ensure that the U.S.-Canadian Agreement is properly implemented and enforced." Commenting on a July 2006, GAO report which he and others requested, that concluded EPA's air toxics program is failing to reduce public health risks from cancer-causing toxic air pollution, Dingell said, "We in Congress who voted for these deadlines expected better from EPA; the American people deserved better. And the Bush Administration's chronic underfunding of environmental priorities means that progress will continue to be limited."

Access Representative Dingell's Energy and Commerce Committee Minority website (
click here). Access Representative Dingell's website (click here).

Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV) will Chair the House Committee on Resources and replace Richard Pombo (R-CA) who was defeated in his bid for re-election. Pombo was a strong advocate for drilling in ANWR and reforming the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Rahall, 57, has a mixed record of being pro-labor, yet because of his support for the mining industry he opposes some Democratic environmental and energy initiatives. On November 9, Representative Rahall issued a release which he said offered a "glimpse into the future of the Resources Committee." He said, "For too long now, this Congress has pursued policies that are out of touch with American expectations for conserving our unique natural and cultural heritage -- and my colleagues and I are looking forward to working together to restore the balance that has been lost along the way... I have always been a believer in the 'two E’s' – endowment and empowerment – which together will go a long way toward realizing the potential of our nation’s most precious resources and preserving our country’s heritage for future generations... most significant resources are still not properly cared for and protected -- whether it be roadless areas in national forests, the crumbling national parks, threatened and endangered species, or the integrity of our oceans and our fisheries. As Chairman of this Committee, it is integral to promote sound conservation that will protect the wilderness potential of public lands, promote outdoor recreation opportunities to hunt, fish and enjoy our natural environment, and restore our oceans and fisheries.

"Americans must also be empowered by protecting their right-to-know through laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), ending corporate welfare, reclaiming Appalachia, and protecting the disenfranchised in Indian Country and our territories. As Resources Chairman, I will maintain NEPA, end royalty holidays in the OCS and give-aways under the Mining Law of 1872, prioritize the reclamation of abandoned coal mines and miners, advance Native American health care, and tackle territorial issues such as political self determination."

On September Rahall commented on the ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California upholding the "Roadless Rule" saying, "A great swath of America’s natural heritage has been granted a pardon from destructive developments due to a landmark court ruling overturning the Bush Administration’s policy to set aside the popular Clinton-era “roadless rule” for National Forests."

Access Representative Rahall Resource Committee Minority website (click here). Access Representative Rahall website (click here).

Other Major Committee Changes - Obviously, there are many other Committee and Subcommittee changes that will affect environmental and energy decisions in the 110th Congress, too numerous to detail here. The following is a brief summary of the other major Committee changes.

In the Senate: Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry: Tom Harkin (D-IA), 66, will replace Saxby Chambliss (R-GA). Access the Committee website (click here). Access Harkin's website (click here). Commerce, Science, & Transportation: Daniel Inouye (D-HI), 82, will replace Ted Stevens (R-AK). Access the Committee website (click here). Access Inouye's website (click here).

In the House: Agriculture: Collin Peterson (D-MN), 62, will replace Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). Access the Committee website (
click here). Access Peterson's website (click here). Transportation & Infrastructure: James Oberstar (D-MN), 72, will replace Don Young (R-AK). Access the Committee website (click here). Access Oberstar's website (click here). Science: Bart Gordon (D-TN), 57, will replace retiring Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-NY). Access the Committee website (click here). Access Gordon's website (click here).