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John B.
Republican WY

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  • Energy Policy

    by Senator John Barrasso

    Posted on 2014-06-02

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    BARRASSO. Mr. President, today the Obama administration released a new plan intended to shut down American powerplants. Instead of celebrating his policies in the Rose Garden, President Obama delegated the bad news to the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Make no mistake about it; what they are announcing today is another step in the President's plan to make electricity rates ``necessarily skyrocket.'' Remember, that is what the President promised Americans when he was running for President the first time in 2008.

    Of course, when he was elected Congress said no--no to his radical plan. Even when the Democrats controlled the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi was the Speaker of the House, and the Democrats had 60 Members of the Senate--even with complete Democratic domination in both Houses of Congress--Congress still said: No, Mr. President, this is a bad idea.

    So the President decided he knew better than the American people, the elected representatives. He decided to go around Congress and go around the American people.

    I turn to the front page of today's Wyoming Tribune Eagle out of Cheyenne, WY, and the headline is: ``Obama Lets EPA Do His Dirty Work.'' The subheadline says: ``The president's charge to limit emissions has caused him so much criticism that he is no longer leading the pack.'' On the front page of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle they go on to say: When the Obama administration unveils its much-anticipated proposal to curb power plant emissions, this cornerstone of the president's climate change policy--the most significant environmental regulation of his term--will not be declared in a sun-bathed Rose Garden news conference or from behind the lectern in a major speech.

    It will not be announced by the president at all, but instead by his head of the Environmental Protection Agency, while President Barack Obama adds his comments in an off- camera conference call. . . .

    Talk about something that is unpopular with the American people, it is this.

    About 1 year ago, the President put out rules limiting carbon dioxide emissions from new powerplants--powerplants that were being constructed--but today--today--his Environmental Protection Agency is applying tight new limits on the emissions of existing powerplants-- powerplants that are already there producing energy.

    The administration says it is going to allow States ``flexibility'' in how they meet the new limits. I believe any ``flexibility'' that is being offered is just an illusion. States will have a severely limited number of options for what they can do to meet the standards. Every one of those options is going to raise the cost of energy for American families. That means consumers will not even get the illusion of flexibility; they will get higher energy costs.

    Businesses are going to have to find ways to pay for their own higher bills because it is not just going to be families, when they turn on the light switch, who are going to get a higher electric bill. As the President said, electricity rates will necessarily skyrocket, but businesses are going to have to find ways to pay for their higher energy costs, which will mean hiring fewer people, laying off people, passing on the cost to others.

    That is why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says an aggressive policy targeting coal-fired powerplants will lead to less disposable income for families and thousands of jobs lost. So families will have less disposable income and thousands of jobs will be lost.

    We just learned last week that our economy shrank by 1 percent in the last quarter. The U.S. economy shrank. This is the first time in years the economy actually shrank by 1 percent in the last quarter. It is the first time it has happened, actually, since 2011. Our labor force participation rate is at the same level it was when Jimmy Carter was the President of the United States. So now the Obama administration wants to put more Americans out of work.

    The action they are taking today is the height of irresponsibility and it is tone-deaf leadership. The Obama administration is going to try to defend their extreme regulations by saying, once again, these changes will help save lives and keep families healthy. The fact is they are totally ignoring the undeniable fact that when Americans lose their jobs, their health and the health of their children suffer.

    There is an enormous public health threat from high unemployment, specifically chronic high unemployment. It increases the likelihood of hospital visits, illness, and premature death. It hurts children's health and the well-being of families. It influences mental illness, suicide, alcohol abuse, spouse abuse. It is an important risk factor in stroke and high blood pressure and heart disease--major things that impact a family, raise the cost of care. I saw it in my days of medical training in medical practice, and the White House knows it too.

    One might say: How does the White House know? The New York Times actually ran an article on this in November of 2011--November 17, to be exact. The headline of the article was ``Policy and Politics Collide as Obama Enters Campaign Mode.'' ``Policy and Politics Collide as Obama Enters Campaign Mode.'' The article says a meeting occurred in the White House between the American Lung Association and then-White House Chief of Staff William Daley, and the meeting was about the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed ozone regulations.

    In that White House meeting, White House Chief of Staff Daley asked a simple question when confronted with the argument that additional Clean Air Act regulations would improve public health. Daley asked: ``What are the health impacts of unemployment?'' Well, I have just gone over them with you, Mr. President. Those are the health impacts of unemployment. So the White House knows about it--totally aware about it.

    When the Environmental Protection Agency announced these new rules today, the President himself was reportedly talking off camera--a conference call--on the phone with the [[Page S3326]] American Lung Association. Someone in that room should be talking about the disastrous public health effects of the unemployment that these rules are causing. The fact is that more regulation from Washington is not what America needs right now.

    States already have flexibility in how they approach environmental stewardship, and many of them have come up with creative solutions. Last month the Senate and Congressional Western Caucuses issued a report called ``Washington Gets it Wrong--States Get it Right.'' The report showed how regulations imposed by Washington are undermining-- undermining--the work being done at the State level to manage our lands, to manage our natural resources, and to protect our air and our water. It gave success stories--success stories--where the work being done by States is more reasonable, more effective, and less heavyhanded than the rules ordered by Washington.

    America does not need Washington to pay lip service to flexibility while mandating huge price increases in energy. America wants Washington to stop the overreaching regulations and mandates and to actually allow the States to get it right. Thousands of Americans have already lost their jobs because of Washington's expensive and excessive regulations. Now the President is putting more jobs on the chopping block. That is why I have written legislation that would stop President Obama's massive increase to the Nation's electric bill. I offered this as an amendment last fall. Democrats in the Senate blocked it. I plan to offer it again and to keep making the point that the President should not have the power, the authority to impose these burdens on the American economy and on American families.

    My amendment blocks the issuance of new carbon standards for new and existing powerplants. It would actually require the approval of Congress--can you imagine that, the approval of Congress, the elected representatives of the people--require the approval of Congress for regulations that increase Americans' energy bills, such as new rules proposed by the Obama administration today.

    Congress should act on an affordable energy plan, but these kinds of decisions should be for Congress to make, not for the President to make on his own. That is true whether the President is a Democrat or a Republican.

    We all know we need to make America's energy as clean as we can, as fast as we can. It is critically important though that we do this without hurting our economy--a struggling economy, an economy where people continue to sacrifice--and do this in ways that do not cost hundreds of thousands of middle-class families their jobs.

    We should look to States that have come up with ways to balance our energy needs, the health of our economy, and our environment.

    President Obama is taking the wrong approach. These new regulations are going to hurt our economy. It is an economy that is already shrinking. It is astonishing; our economy is shrinking, and it is because of the President's other failed policies.

    The policies introduced today will hurt middle-class families who are struggling to find work or to keep the jobs they have now. They will harm the health of many Americans. The President needs to change course. If he will not do it on his own, Congress must do it for him.

    So, once again, today we see the headline: ``Obama Lets EPA Do His Dirty Work.'' ``The president's charge to limit emissions has caused him so much criticism that he is no longer leading the pack.'' Instead, he is hiding. The President today is hiding. If this is something the President was proud of, he should have been at the White House in the Rose Garden in front of the cameras making an announcement, not asking his EPA Administrator to make it so he could be on a conference call because he was ashamed to show his face to the American people because of the impact these regulations are going to have on families all across America.

    I yield the floor.

    I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.

    The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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