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E-M:/ Sen. Jefford's thoughtful letter on Republican Energy Bill



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Enviro-Mich message from "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <ajs@sagady.com>
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NOTE MENTION IN JEFFORDS LETTER OF SW MICHIGAN
SMOG PROBLEMS.....

Statement of Senator Jim Jeffords
on the Conference Report Accompanying H.R. 6, Energy Policy Act of 2003

Mr. President, on Monday I addressed the Senate to share my concerns about 
the environmental effects of the energy conference report.  These 
provisions are a direct reflection of  manner in which this bill was 
developed and the flawed conference process used to produce it.

Nearly a hundred sections of this bill are in the jurisdiction of the 
Environment and Public Works Committee.  We were not consulted on any of 
these provisions, not on any of them.   In some cases, such as on the issue 
of nuclear security, the Environment and Public Works Committee has 
reported legislation on a bi-partisan basis.  The Senate could have taken 
up the reported bill and passed it.

Instead we've stuck the provisions of the original introduced version of 
the bill in this report.  Now my committee will likely have to go back and 
clean up this language if this bill becomes law. This could have been 
avoided if the conferees had spoken to my committee in the first place.

I am deeply concerned that the conference report before us does not 
represent the kind of forward-looking balanced energy policy that our 
Nation needs. As I mentioned earlier this week, it does not go far enough 
in reducing our reliance on imported oil.  It fails to provide appropriate 
and adequate remedies to prevent a recurrence of the electricity blackout 
the Northeast experienced this summer or the price crisis that the West 
experienced three years ago.

It fails to address many other important issues, such as a Renewable 
Portfolio Standard or climate change. It contains waivers of environmental 
laws.  And it provides for unjustified subsidies and pork-barrel programs.

But worst of all, this bill seriously harms the environment. On November 7, 
2003, I wrote all members of the Senate listing seven of what I believed to 
be the most troubling environmental provisions of the conference bill. The 
Environment and Public Works Committee has jurisdiction over all of these 
items.

Six of the seven items outlined in my letter are now in the bill.  The bill 
has not one, but two provisions extending compliance deadlines for federal 
ozone pollution standards.  In mentioned in my letter that I was concerned 
that the bill would delay new federal mercury emissions standards for 
utilities.  It doesn't do that.   Instead, it authorizes $1.5 billion in 
compliance assistance grants for utilities.  Instead, the bill proposes 
instead to pay up to fifty percent of the compliance costs.  This is poor 
policy.  Mr. President, I would like to review the status of some of the 
other provisions I described to the Senate in my November 7th letter in 
more detail.

First, I would like to let colleagues know that the Renewable Fuels 
Provisions in the conference report differ significantly from the 
provisions that were reported by the Environment and Public Works Committee 
in the 107th Congress.  The provisions that my committee reported were the 
ones contained in the energy legislation that the Senate passed this year 
and last year.  The conference report will shield companies that make, use, 
or market the toxic gasoline additive MTBE, which has contaminated 
groundwater in every state, from federal and state product liability 
lawsuits. This provision was not included in the Senate-passed bill.  This 
report shifts an estimated $29 billion in cleanup costs from oil and 
chemical companies to state and local taxpayers.  The General Accounting 
Office estimates that there are at least one hundred and fifty thousand 
MTBE-contaminated sites nationwide. Vermont has 851 of those sites.

Mr. President, though we know MTBE is environmentally harmful, the 
conference report dramatically extends the time that this product can be 
added to our gasoline before we pull it off of the market.  The Senate bill 
would have phased out MTBE use over four years.  The conference report 
would ban MTBE as a motor vehicle fuel effective on December 31, 2014, a 
ten year extension in its use. States could opt out of the ban.  In 
addition, the bill allows the President to overturn the MTBE ban prior to 
June 30, 2014.

Mr. President, besides the MTBE problem, the renewable fuels provisions in 
this conference report are deeply flawed.  The Senate's renewable fuels 
title was a carefully drafted package which balanced regional 
interests.  Now, it's unbalanced in so many ways.   For instance, the 
Senate put positive environmental provisions into our renewable fuels 
package.  One provision allowed Northeastern states to require reformulated 
gasoline statewide.

We also provided the Environmental Protection Agency with the authority to 
better regulate fuel additives to prevent future MTBE-like 
situations.  And, we provided states with authority to reduce the emissions 
from fuels if too much ethanol was being used.   These are all gone.  Mr. 
President, my conclusion is that, though I support renewable fuels and 
ethanol, the House has changed our decent package so that it is harmful to 
the air and water.  I cannot support using the Clean Air Act to damage air 
quality.

A second item from my letter is the treatment of ozone pollution standards 
in the conference report.  The conferees have agreed to include an 
extension of the deadline for communities the are unable to meet the EPA's 
1979 one-hour ozone standard.  This is an entirely new provision, it was 
not considered by either the Senate or the House of Representatives.

Changing cities' ozone compliance deadlines under the Clean Air Act doesn't 
increase our nation's alternative energy supplies.  It is not an energy 
policy measure, it does not offer an energy-related solution to compliance 
with ozone pollution standards, and does not belong in this bill.

In the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments, Congress gave the Environmental 
Protection Agency the authority to put the areas that were still in 
nonattainment onto specific schedules to improve air quality.   This bill 
exposes the public to dangerous air pollution emissions for far more time 
than under existing law.  Several federal courts have already struck down 
administrative efforts similar to provisions in the conference report. They 
declared those efforts a violation of the structure and intent of the Clean 
Air Act.  The change is also unfair to states that have already achieved 
compliance with the Clean Air Act=s national standards.

Several cities have been "bumped up."  EPA has already asked them to 
undertake more stringent ozone control efforts. These stronger measures are 
already required in numerous cities throughout the nation including: 
Chicago, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Wilmington, Trenton, 
Los Angeles, and Sacramento.

In addition, the conferees have included language that undermines 
implementation of the agency's more protective eight-hour ozone standard in 
Western Michigan.  This section was also added in conference.   It requires 
EPA to do a two-year demonstration project to address the effect of ozone 
transport in Southwest Michigan.  They can only take actions, according to 
the report, "other than local controls." This means more delays in cleaner 
air.  During the two years of the study, EPA may not impose any otherwise 
applicable requirement or sanction to protect public health.

Not only is the Clean Air Act substantially amended in this bill, but the 
Clean Water Act is as well. The conferees have included language similar to 
provision in the  House-passed bill that exempt oil and gas exploration and 
production activities from the Clean Water Act stormwater program.  The 
Clean Water Act requires permits for stormwater discharges associated with 
industrial activity.  The conference report changes the Act to add 
"construction activities" to the statute's exemption from stormwater 
pollution control requirements.  The scope of the provision is extremely 
broad.  Stormwater runoff typically contains pollutants such as oil and 
grease, chemicals, nutrients, metals, bacteria, and particulates.

According to EPA estimates, this change would exempt at least 30,000 small 
oil and gas sites from clean water requirements. In addition, every 
construction site in the oil and gas industry larger than 5 acres are 
exempt should this language remain in the final energy bill.  Some of those 
have held permits for ten years or more.  That is a terrible rollback of 
current law.

So let's review what we're debating today.  An energy bill.  Actually, it's 
an energy producers bill.  An energy polluters bill.  An energy profiteers 
bill.  The three P's.   Producers, polluters, profiteers.  I'd like to 
focus briefly on the polluters.

A senior member of the conference committee reported that, yes, this bill 
will not reduce our reliance on polluting sources of energy.  But it will 
secure our energy independence.  I agree with the first statement, that 
with this bill our nation becomes more addicted to energy sources that 
pollute.  In fact, I would say that this energy bill equals pollution.

Four words and a numeric symbol say it all here on my chart.  Energy bill 
equals pollution.

This bill pollutes our surface and groundwater by exempting oil and gas 
development from provisions of the Clean Water Act.  This bill pollutes our 
drinking water by allowing MTBE to seep into our public and private 
drinking water systems.  This bill pollutes our land by allowing unlimited 
development of energy installations on public lands, including parks, 
wildlife refuges, and sensitive areas.  And this bill pollutes our air in 
so many different ways.  Primarily by extending pollution compliance 
deadlines and continuing to avoid serious progress in cleaning up our 
air.  Pollution.  That's what we're voting on in this legislation.  A vote 
for this bill is a vote for greater pollution.

Another example of the support for pollution in this bill are the leaking 
underground storage tanks provisions.  This is another issue in the 
Environment and Public Works Committee's jurisdiction.  This is another 
case where my committee unanimously passed a bill that is stronger than the 
provisions in this conference report.  The conference report=s inspection 
provisions are so lax that a tank last inspected in 1999 may not be 
reinspected until 2009.  The bill my committee passed, and that I 
supported, would require inspections of all tanks every two years.   While 
the underground tanks program needs reform, the conference report takes a 
step backward.  It allows leaking tanks to remain undetected for 
years.  And, in many cases, it allows the polluter off the hook for 
cleaning up his own mess.

Mr. President, this is wrong.  The American people do not want energy 
security at the expense of the environment.  The word "conservation" and 
the word "conservative" are closely related.  I am an independent Senator, 
but I consider myself to be a careful legislator.

I seek to be conservative.  I try not to support legislation that exploits 
our natural resources and pollutes our environment.  This bill abandons 
that approach.  It is an aggressive, overreaching measure.   I oppose this 
bill, and other Senators should as well.

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Erik Smulson
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Jim Jeffords
Environment and Public Works Committee
413 Senate Dirksen Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
202-224-1878 (work)
202-253-4163 (cell)


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