Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Senate Debate On Energy & Climate Legislation Begins

Jul 7: The Senate Environment and Pubic Works (EPW) Committee began its debate on energy and climate change legislation with a hearing entitled, “Moving America Toward a Clean Energy Economy and Reducing Global Warming Pollution: Legislative Tools.” Scheduled to testify are top Administration officials including: Steven Chu, Secretary of the Department of Energy; Lisa Jackson, Administrator U.S. EPA; Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Department of Interior.

Also, scheduled to testify are representatives from: The Dow Chemical Company; Natural Resources Defense Council; the Mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania; and Haley Barbour the Governor of Mississippi. The hearing actually encompassed three separate sessions: opening statements by members and statements and questions of the Administration officials (10 AM -12 noon); testimony of Haley Barbour (12:45 PM); and testimony from the remaining witness panel (beginning at 2 PM).

Chairman Boxer opened the hearing with a statement calling the hearing the "kickoff of a historic Senate effort to pass legislation that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create millions of clean energy jobs, and protect our children from pollution." She said the EPW Committee has held more than 40 hearings and briefings on global warming since I took over the chairmanship in January of 2007. The EPW Committee consists of 11 Democrats; 1 Independent; and 7 Republicans.

She cited the recent Obama Administration's "sobering report" on the impacts global warming is already having across the United States [
See WIMS 6/16/09], and the devastating effects that will come in the future if we do not take action to cut global warming pollution.

Boxer said, "I expect you will hear fierce words of doubt and fear and worse from the other side of the aisle regarding our legislative efforts to move forward with clean energy jobs legislation. This is consistent with a pattern of 'No, we can’t.' I believe that this Committee, when the votes are eventually taken on our bill, will reflect our President’s attitude, which is 'Yes, we can, and yes, we will.' Colleagues, this is the challenge to our generation that offers hope, not fear, and a way out of the environmental and economic challenges we face, so that our children will have a bright future."

Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) was quick to respond with his opening statement. Senator Inhofe said, "I would note that the Senate has voted on cap-and-trade three times: in 2003, in 2005, and in 2008. In each and every instance, we defeated it. Now, Madame Chairman, here we go again." He indicated that the Republican EPW members issued a letter outlining our requests for a series of legislative hearings that are "based upon actual legislation." Inhofe said he hoped "we don't repeat the process in the House, when the majority released a 300 page manager's amendment at 3 am, the morning of the vote. "

Inhofe said, " You can be sure of this: once the American public realizes what this legislation will do to their wallets, they will resoundingly reject it. Perhaps that explains why we are rushing cap-and-trade through the Senate." He cited a new poll by Rasmussen, which found on July 1 that 56% of Americans are not willing to pay "ANYTHING" to fight global warming. He indicated, "My dear friend and Chairman has accused us of being the party of ‘no' for too long. Well, it's true that we say no to higher energy taxes, no to subsidizing the East and West coasts at the expense of the heartland, no to more bureaucracy and red tape, and no to sending our manufacturing jobs to China and India. We say ‘yes' to an all-of-the-above domestic energy policy, which includes nuclear, clean coal, natural gas, wind, solar, and geothermal. We say ‘yes' to greater access to all sources of clean and reliable energy right here at home."

Of significant importance in the Administration's testimony and response to questions: (1) Secretary Salazar said that 29% of the U.S. electrical need could be supplied from solar power. (2) In response to sharp criticisms from Senators Inhofe and John Barrasso (R-WY), Administrator Jackson formally dispelled the notion that U.S. EPA was suppressing important internal expert opinion on the science of climate change [See WIMS 7/6/09 & See WIMS 6/29/09]. (3) Secretary Chu indicated his support for developing additional nuclear power which were strongly encouraged by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander (R-KY) and Democrat Thomas Carper (D-MD).

Access the EPW hearing website for links to all testimony and a webcast when available (
click here). Access the opening statement from Senator Inhofe (click here).