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John B.
Republican WY

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  • McCarthy Nomination

    by Senator John Barrasso

    Posted on 2013-07-18

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    BARRASSO. Mr. President, the second topic I would like to address is the issue of energy and a national energy tax, which the President essentially proposed in his June 25 speech. At that time he unveiled what I believe is a national energy tax that is going to discourage job creation and increase energy bills for American families.



    This announcement that he made about existing powerplants--existing powerplants--came after the administration has already moved forward with excessive redtape that makes it harder and more expensive for America to produce energy. It also came as a complete surprise to Members of the Senate, especially since Gina McCarthy, the President's nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency--a nominee whom we will be voting on today--since that nominee told Congress that it was not going to happen. She is currently the Assistant Administrator of the Air and Radiation Office at the EPA. Here is what she told the Senate about regulations on existing powerplants, the ones the President talked about on June 25. She said: The agency is not currently developing any existing source greenhouse gas regulations for power plants.

    None.

    As a result we have performed no analysis that would identify specific health benefits from establishing an existing source program.

    So I would say it is clear with President Obama's June 25 announcement on existing powerplants that Gina McCarthy is either out of the loop or out of control. She either did not tell the truth to the Senate in confirmation hearings in response to questions or she does not know what is going on in her own agency. Either way, she is not the person to lead the EPA.

    I would encourage all of my colleagues to oppose McCarthy in her nomination. This has nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with having an agency that is accountable to the elected representatives of the American people. I believe this behavior is indicative of the way the EPA has been run during Gina McCarthy's reign as an Assistant Administrator of the EPA.

    Many of my colleagues on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have expressed concerns with the lack of transparency at this specific agency. One of the major areas of concern is the use of the so-called sue-and-settle tactics. This is where environmental activist groups sue the EPA or they sue other Federal agencies to make policy. Often, they find like-minded colleagues and allies in the EPA. Here is how it works. If environmental activists want to impose new restrictions on, say, farms, it is easy to sue the government to impose those restrictions. At the EPA, rather than fight the restrictions, they agree to this and they say: OK. We will do a court settlement. The EPA does not contest the new restrictions because the EPA wanted them in the first place. The agency just did not want to have to go through a lengthy rulemaking process with public comments in the light of day. The judge signs off on the agreement, and in a matter of weeks the law is made.

    So I asked the nominee in writing: Do you believe sue-and-settle agreements are an open and transparent way to make public policy that significantly impacts Americans? She stated in her answer: I recognize that this committee has focused many of its questions on EPA settlement practices and, if confirmed, I commit to learning more-- Learning more-- about the Agency's practices in settling litigation across its program areas.

    Well, some of the most egregious sue-and-settle agreements have dealt with the Clean Air Act, and she has been in charge of the air office at EPA for almost all of President Obama's first term. I find it very difficult to believe she did not know what was going on. In fact, in answering my next question to her--I asked: Do you believe States and communities impacted by sue-and-settle agreements should have a say in court agreements that might severely impact them--she said: [M]ost litigation against EPA arises under the Clean Air Act. . . .

    Of course. So my question is, either she knew what was going on with regard to the Clean Air Act lawsuits against the Agency, the area that she completely was in control of, or she does not know what is going on in her own department. Once again, either way, such a person should not be confirmed to be in charge of the entire EPA.

    As most folks know, my home State, Wyoming, is a coal State. The administration has actively sought to eliminate this industry from the American economy. It is no surprise to some that many of us coal-State colleagues fight vigorously to oppose the President's anti-coal policies. Ms. McCarthy has been the President's field general in implementing these policies. These policies greatly affect families all across Wyoming and across the country. So even though I strongly oppose these policies, I still wanted to meet with the nominee so I could explain to her how this administration's policies are hurting real people in my home State and across the country.

    I believed if we had a face-to-face meeting I might be able to convince her to alter or alleviate the worst impact of the policies pursued by this administration through the EPA. In that personal meeting with me, the nominee [[Page S5767]] was very sympathetic with the concerns I and others had expressed regarding the impact of EPA regulations on jobs. She also expressed in many instances that she would look for flexibility, but she said she was unfortunately bound by agency processes and the law.

    Well, if she is concerned with the impact EPA regulations are having on jobs and communities, I believe she should have sought the flexibility she needed from Congress to help save these communities and these jobs. In a followup to that meeting, I asked in writing: What specific legislative changes would you recommend to provide the flexibility to protect workers, to protect families, to protect communities from job losses that might occur as a result of EPA regulations? What she stated was ``very sensitive to the state of the economy and to the impacts of EPA regulations on jobs.'' And then, ``If confirmed, I would continue to work hard to seek opportunities to find more cost- effective approaches to protecting human health and the environment.'' This administration has pummeled coal country, powerplants, manufacturing, and small businesses for 4 years, pursuing their preferred version of a clean energy future. Since 2009, unemployment has remained stagnant. Nearly 10 percent of our coal energy capacity is gone. Not once has Ms. McCarthy approached Congress for flexibility in implementing her own rules. I see no reason why that would happen in the future.

    I would like to commend EPW ranking member Senator Vitter for leading an effort to secure information from the nominee. I signed a letter, along with Senator Vitter and other members of the EPW Committee, seeking access to the scientific data and the reasoning behind the justification for expensive new rules and regulations that hurt the economy, that cost jobs, seeking true whole economy modeling on EPA's Clean Air Act regulations, so we can understand the true cost of these rules.

    I was also seeking an assurance that Gina McCarthy and this administration honor its commitment to transparency and stop using delay tactics to keep the true cost of these regulations from the American people. Senator Vitter was able to get some information on many of our requests. It was not easy and the nominee was not entirely forthcoming. In fact, she has not complied with many of the document requests we have made. I can assure the administration that none of us who signed that letter making these requests plan on giving up on securing basic information that should be readily available to the public.

    Gina McCarthy is the wrong candidate to head the Environmental Protection Agency. America deserves better. I would ask that my colleagues oppose the nomination not on the content of this administration's policies but on the actions of this specific nominee with regard to accountability, competence, and transparency. I believe this nominee gets a failing grade on all three counts.

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