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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Inhofe Stands Up to EPA's Regulatory Hostility

The regulatory assault on U.S. businesses has been relentless over the past few years. But one member of the U.S. Senate i.e., Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, has stood firmly against such misguided activity, particularly when it comes to the EPA’s regulatory hostility against energy firms.

Most recently, Inhofe played a key role in revealing the outrageous declarations by Alfredo Juan “Al” Armendariz — who had served as EPA administrator for the region covering Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma – that led to Armendariz resigning his position.

In 2010, Armendariz spoke of the need to “crucify” oil and gas businesses. He said, “But as I said, oil and gas is an enforcement priority [...] I was in a meeting once and I gave an analogy to my staff about my philosophy of enforcement, and I think it was probably a little crude and maybe not appropriate for the meeting but I'll go ahead and tell you what I said.  It was kind of like how the Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean.  They'd go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they'd find the first five guys they saw and they would crucify them.  And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years [...] So, that's our general philosophy.”

In a statement responding to the resignation, Inhofe declared, “After his revelation that EPA's 'general philosophy' is to 'crucify' oil and gas companies, it was only right for Administrator Armendariz to resign today - but his resignation in no way solves the problem of President Obama and his EPA's crucifixion philosophy. In his letter to Administrator Jackson, Armendariz again pointed to his 'poor choice of words' as the reason for his resignation - but Armendariz was just being honest: his choice of words revealed the truth about the war that EPA has been waging on American energy producers under President Obama.”

Indeed, Senator Inhofe deserves enormous credit for challenging the administration’s misguided efforts on energy on various fronts.

Consider an April 19 recent statement from the minority on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, under Inhofe’s leadership, that noted on a newly released government assessment from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The statement pointed out: “this assessment confirms that America’s technically recoverable conventional oil resources are 26 percent of the world's supply, and this doesn't begin to include our enormous oil shale, tight oil and heavy oil resources.  Moreover, it shows that the United States holds almost 30 percent of the world's technically recoverable conventional natural gas resources, without including our massive supply of shale gas.”

In challenging President Obama’s political assertions on energy available in the U.S., Inhofe commented: “The President's own administration released a report which reveals that the United States has 26 percent of the world's technically recoverable conventional oil resources, and that's not including our enormous oil shale, tight oil, and heavy oil resources.  This report from the U.S. Geological Survey is vindication for anyone who thought that President Obama's claims - that we 'only have 2 percent of the world's proven oil reserves,' and that 'Even if we drilled every square inch of this country right now, we'd still have to rely disproportionately on other countries for their oil' - are less than honest.  This report comes on the heels of the non-partisan Congressional Research Service finding that America has the largest endowment of oil, gas, and coal resources of any country in the world.  President Obama may wish that we only had 2 percent of the world's oil so that he could force us into his policies of energy austerity, but the truth is clear: we could end our reliance on the Middle East if we could just stop President Obama's war on fossil fuels and develop our wealth of resources.”

Inhofe has been challenging the EPA on unwarranted and costly regulations impacting hydraulic fracturing, which, by the way, is expanding U.S. natural gas production, and thereby creating jobs and reducing energy costs.

On April 18, 2012, for example in reaction to EPA issuing federal air rules for natural gas wells that are hydraulically fractured, Inhofe noted, “It's no secret that EPA has been trying hard to manufacture a correlation between groundwater contamination and hydraulic fracturing, but in each case, they were unable to find sound scientific evidence to make this link.  So now, they're attempting to usurp control through air regulations. EPA has given us few details about the rule, and while I look forward to seeing it in full, I have serious concerns about its potential impacts, particularly on smaller producers.”

It should be noted that in late March, Inhofe introduced the Fracturing Regulations are Effective in State Hands Act (FRESH Act), which would make sure that the states, not the federal government, hold regulatory authority over hydraulic fracturing within their state boundaries.

Inhofe also has been at the forefront of challenging the Obama EPA’s effort to impose a costly cap-and-trade regime through regulation that would jack up energy costs for U.S. consumers, entrepreneurs and businesses, doing serious damage to competitiveness, investment, jobs and economic growth.

On March 27, for example, Inhofe directly took on the administration for its effort to impose cap-and-trade through regulation. At an Environment and Public Works Subcommittee hearing on EPA regulations on power plants, Inhofe, said: “So much for President Obama's claims to be for an 'all-of-the-above' approach - these regulations are designed specifically to kill coal in American electricity generation, which will significantly raise energy prices on American families. This plan is the most devastating installment in the Obama administration's war on affordable energy: it achieves their cap-and-trade agenda through regulation instead of legislation.  Today, Americans can be certain that the President is going forward to fulfill his campaign promise that under his plan of a cap-and-trade system electricity prices would 'necessarily skyrocket.'”

To redress the entire EPA effort to impose a cap-and-trade system, Inhofe introduced the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011 (S.482). As described in the legislative summary, S.482: “Amends the Clean Air Act to prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from promulgating any regulation concerning, taking action relating to, or taking into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas (GHG) to address climate change. Excludes GHGs from the definition of ‘air pollutant’ for purposes of addressing climate change.”

This is common sense, important legislation that places the responsibility regarding such a draconian regulatory scheme where it should be, with elected officials, not political appointees and bureaucrats. Of course, our elected representatives from both political parties have refused to pass legislation imposing any kind of cap-and-trade regulation, or any kind of carbon tax.

Are the efforts of a Senator Inhofe making a difference?

Well, consider the following from an editorial in the liberal Washington Post (May 3) regarding the Armendariz case: “The most reasonable interpretation is also among the most disturbing - that Mr. Armendariz preferred to exact harsh punishments on an arbitrary number of firms to scare others into cooperating. This sort of talk isn't merely unjust and threatening to investors in energy projects. It hurts the EPA. Mr. Armendariz was right to resign this week, while EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson denied that his comments reflected the agency's approach. Yet the question will remain: Is an aggressive attitude like the one Mr. Armendariz described common among EPA officials?”

Good question, indeed, not just for the EPA, but for the entire Obama administration. And it is a question that Senator Inhofe is making sure is being asked, and noted by the media, by Congress and by the American people.

Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. His new book is “Chuck” vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV.

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