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Public Statements

Resolution of Disapproval of EPA Rule--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, we have heard the arguments on both sides of this debate. But for all the discussion and all the rhetoric, the choice before us is really stark and simple. This is a vote and choice between recognizing the greatest environmental risk of our time or legitimizing the deniers. It is a choice between protecting the health of our families and the air we breathe or continuing a pattern of pollution that threatens our children and our communities. It is a choice between getting serious about policies that will put America on a real path to energy independence or increasing our Nation's oil dependency by 450 million barrels.

The stakes for our country are enormous. And if you have any doubt about that, any doubt at all, look no further than what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico even as we debate this choice. Every hour on our television screens we are watching another tragic and costly reminder of the hazards of our oil addiction, all that from only a single accident at a single offshore oil well.

In April 2007, the Supreme Court for the first time issued a ruling on the issue of climate change. The Roberts Court was asked to consider the Bush administration's refusal to issue greenhouse gas standards for cars and trucks. The case hinged on two key issues: (1) does the Clean Air Act authorize regulation of greenhouse gases and (2) if so, should EPA set emissions standards for motor vehicles. The decision by the majority in the landmark Massachusetts v. EPA case was conclusive on both fronts. The justices determined that ``the harms associated with climate change are serious and well recognized,'' and they firmly and positively identified greenhouse gas emissions as the cause of those harms. In light of that assessment, they found that greenhouse gases ``fit well within the Clean Air Act's capacious definition of `air pollutant.' '' In light of that, the justices directed EPA to fulfill its obligation under the Clean Air Act to determine, based on scientific evidence alone, whether greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks pose a threat to human health or welfare. This ``endangerment finding'' was finalized in December of last year.

The resolution under consideration today, S.J. Res. 26, seeks to overturn this finding and permanently prohibit EPA from ever issuing a similar determination, regardless of the strength of the science and the urgency of action.

This resolution is not based in substance or in fact. We know that the threats of climate change are widespread, compelling and urgent.

In fact, on May 19, the National Research Council, our Nation's leading scientific body, declared in its most comprehensive study to date that the evidence of climate change is ``overwhelming.'' They urged ``early, aggressive, and concerted actions to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.''

However, the resolution we are debating today would achieve precisely the opposite goal. We are being asked to literally vote down the science, squander billions of barrels of oil savings, and shirk our responsibility to address the greatest energy, national security, and environmental challenge of our time.

By invalidating the scientific finding that greenhouse gases pose a threat to human health and welfare, this resolution would remove the legal basis for the landmark agreement that was reached last year to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, this agreement is on track to save American consumers a total of $34 billion and create 263,000 American jobs in 2020. This agreement also takes a tremendous step toward energy independence by reducing our oil consumption by 1.8 billion barrels. By removing EPA's authority to jointly implement these regulations with the Department of Transportation, this resolution comes at the very steep cost of 450 million barrels, almost one quarter of these oil savings.

And, that is just the minimum amount by which this dangerous resolution will increase our oil dependence. In light of President Obama's recent announcement that the administration plans to extend the vehicles standards beyond 2016, the prohibition on EPA action will eliminate significant additional opportunities in the future to reduce our Nation's oil consumption, increase our energy security, and draw a bright line between ourselves and those nations that would do us harm.

So why are we being asked to affirmatively reject a scientific finding based on ``overwhelming evidence'' and potentially billions of barrels of oil savings? Congress, we are told, needs more time to develop energy and climate legislation and the Federal Government must be stopped from making any progress in the interim.

As someone has been meeting with my colleagues now for over a year, sitting down with all the stakeholders, I am struck by the irony that many of the proponents of this argument are the very same people who at every opportunity have avoided engaging in a serious legislative effort to tackle these issues. On the one hand, they say it is a job for Congress not the EPA, then they stand in the way of Congress doing the job in the first place. And they stand in the way even at a time when we have brought together an unprecedented coalition of industry and environmental support for action in this Congress. If you do not want the EPA to act, but you will not let Congress lead, when are we going to solve this challenge?

Here is how Ron Brownstein, one of the keenest observers of Washington, summed it up: ``It's reasonable to argue that Congress, not EPA, should decide how to regulate carbon. But most of those Senators who endorsed Murkowski's resolution also oppose the most plausible remaining vehicle for legislating carbon limits: The comprehensive energy plan that Senators John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., recently released. Together, those twin positions effectively amount to a vote for the energy status quo.''

Let's not kid ourselves. The Senate has never solved a problem by delaying. And on the issue of climate change, we have delayed action too long, for two decades we have stood still. We have stood still while other countries race ahead, while we lose market share in a global market, and while China and India create jobs and profits racing ahead with technology that Americans invented.

Mike Splinter, the CEO of Applied Materials, crystallized our choice in his May 25 op-ed. He said, ``Our failure to act has consequences. Ten years ago, the U.S. accounted for 40 percent of worldwide solar manufacturing. Today that figure is less than 10 percent. Meanwhile, China has gone from producing five percent of the world's solar panels in 2007 to nearly half last
year ..... Over the next five years, China, India and Japan will out-invest the US in energy technology by at least three-to-one.''

And still here we are debating the science itself, still distracted by campaigns to foster the idea that climate change was ``theory rather than fact.'' That is the same campaign the tobacco industry waged for decades, arguing that the link between cigarettes and lung cancer was ``theory rather than fact.''

Well, you can delay the inevitable only so long. If you put science on trial, as they did in the famous Scopes Monkey trial in 1925, the truth will win out. And I will tell you the science on climate change is more definitive than ever and more troubling than ever.

Globally, temperatures are at an all-time high, with the first decade of this century conclusively establishing as the hottest decade on record. Man-made pollution is acidifying our oceans at a rate at least 10 times faster than previously thought, creating inhospitable physical conditions for shell-building animals that serve as the basis of our ocean food chain. Sea level rise is threatening cities like Boston, where city officials are actively planning for how to manage 100-year floods that are now becoming 20-year floods, in the face of global sea level rise of three to six feet by 2100. Worsening drought conditions will create persistent drought in the Southwest and sharply increase Western wildfire burn area. And the National Academy of Sciences has confirmed that these damages may be irreversible for 1,000 years.

Those who say we are not ready, we need more time, miss the fact that we know what we have to do and we know how to do it in a way that makes economic sense. We have debated bipartisan energy and climate legislation in the Senate for years, beginning in earnest with the McCain-Lieberman bill of 2005. The House of Representatives passed a comprehensive energy and climate bill nearly 1 year ago, and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee reported out a similar bill last fall. Over the last several months, Senator LIEBERMAN and I, with the help of Senator GRAHAM, built on these efforts to develop the American Power Act.

Our legislation adopts the formula originally developed by Republicans and implemented by President George H.W. Bush, that environmental goals should be achieved at the lowest possible cost to American consumers and businesses. In fact, the nonpartisan Peterson Institute for International Economics just completed the first independent analysis of the American Power Act, and found that the bill would generate a decade of multimillion-dollar investments, creating 200,000 new jobs a year and reducing foreign oil imports by 40 percent. The study also says that because of the strong consumer protection provisions in the bill, American families will see a $35 net decrease in energy costs annually through 2030.

The Senate can and must take action this year, and the American Power Act provides the foundation for getting the job done. I urge my colleagues who recognize the threats caused by our oil dependence to close the gap between words and action and join us in passing a bill this year. We have collectively kicked the can down the road long enough, and the Nation is less secure as a result. It is time to stand with 75 percent of the American people and pass energy and climate legislation that makes a meaningful and lasting difference.

Before I yield the floor, I would like to make one final point. While many members have come to the floor today to eviscerate the EPA and create a caricature, the reality is that the Agency is taking a thoughtful, measured, step-wise approach to regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Administrator Jackson has logically committed to addressing the largest sources first: new power plants or factories that emit over 100,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, or existing plants that undergo significant expansions representing over 75,000 tons, and they won't go into effect until over a year from now. Contrary to the wild claims you have heard today, these regulations will not impact small businesses or family farmers, and will remain focused on only the largest polluters for at least the next 6 years.

Mr. President, protecting our environment does not have to be a partisan issue. On the first Earth Day in 1970, more than 20 million Americans, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, all turned out to protest the pollution of our environment. And later that year, President Nixon signed the EPA law because Republicans recognized as much as Democrats that we had to put an end to rivers catching on fire, Great Lakes dying, and air pollution so great that on some days here in Washington you could barely see the Capitol from Arlington Cemetery.

It has been 40 years since we put the EPA in charge of cleaning up our water and air, and its track record is indisputable. Russell Train, the EPA Administrator during the Nixon and Ford administrations, emphasized in a recent letter opposing the Murkowski resolution that the economic benefits of the Clean Air Act have exceeded its costs 10 to 100-fold. But the resolution under consideration today would stop the EPA in its tracks, without any sort of alternative plan for addressing the greatest environmental threat of our time. Let's stop the demonizing and get to work.

Today we should be debating how to craft comprehensive energy and climate legislation, not how to reverse the important progress that is underway. This amendment is a distraction. It is an excuse. It is time for the Senate to do what this institution was meant to do, and provide leadership on an issue that is crying out for it.

I have been listening carefully to a whole bunch of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle come to the floor and talk about what this is not about. Every single one of them has laid out a rationale for doing away with something as if it were a regulation. They come to the floor and, frankly, there have been very few facts here, because I keep hearing about the tailoring rule of the EPA, that does not take effect until 2016, which lays out a whole process by which we normally do things.

But we keep hearing our folks on the other side of the aisle say this is not something that Congress intended, or this is not something we should leave to the bureaucracy. Neither could be further from the truth.

We created the law on which this is based. The Congress passed the Clean Air Act, and the Supreme Court of the United States, not a bureaucracy, made a fundamental health finding decision that, in fact, global climate change is happening, and that the pollutants of greenhouse gases are, in fact, included in what the Clean Air Act envisioned.

The Supreme Court has dictated this policy, and they dictated it as a matter of health, not as a matter of some bureaucratic rule. We do not have a rule in front of us right now. We have a process by which the EPA is going to go through, determine what they may or may not do.

I heard my colleague from South Dakota come to the floor and say: Well, all we are trying to do is delay this so Congress can act. This is going to be the great hypocrisy test resolution. We are going to see how many of those folks who are here on the floor saying: We need to leave it to Congress, how many of them are actually going to show up and vote to do what we need to do in order to change things. How many of them are going to be on the front lines trying to, in fact, make the things happen that have to happen in order to restrain greenhouse gases?

We heard him say: We are just delaying this. No, they are not just delaying it. That is not true. Because under the Administrative rule act, when you reject a resolution, have a resolution of rejection, as this is, you are specifically not allowed to come back with the rule or anything like it.

Let me read specifically from there. It says:

A rule shall not take effect if the Congress enacts a joint resolution of disapproval.

That is what this is.

(2) A rule that does not take effect under paragraph 1 may not be reissued in substantially the same form, and the new rule that is substantially the same as such rule may not be issued.

There it is, plain and simple, folks. That is what is happening here. This is an effort to permanently prevent the EPA from ever taking up the question of greenhouse gases and their right to restrain them.

Let me read exactly what the Supreme Court said. This is the Supreme Court. And let me put a little politics history behind this. In 1999, under the Bush administration, the first Bush administration, they did not want to do this, for all of the same reasons people do not want to do it now. So people went to court to get them to do what they are supposed to do in the public interest. But it was challenged. It went all the way to the Supreme Court, and here is what the Supreme Court of the United States said. Greenhouse gases ``fit well within the Clean Air Act's capacious definition of air pollutant.''

So the Supreme Court of the United States, not a bureaucracy, found that the intent of Congress was properly being fulfilled in the effort to restrain greenhouse gases. What Senator Murkowski and colleagues are trying to do here is undermine the health finding. This, in fact, is represented by the Supreme Court.

The Court found that climate science has already indicated that rising levels of greenhouse gases were warming and harming the Earth. They go through that reasoning. The Court then said they reviewed the history of the Clean Air Act and found that in 1970, Congress added a broad definition of ``welfare,'' including ``effects on climate.''

Finally, the Court found that the Clean Air Act's sweeping definition of ``air pollutant'' unambiguously includes greenhouse gases. That is why we are here today.

What our colleagues are trying to do is prevent this from happening. They are repealing an entire health finding.

It is kind of interesting. Look at the people who represent health in the United States: the American Academy of Pediatrics, Children's Environmental Health Network, American Nurses Association, American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, National Association of County and City Health Officials, Trust for America's Health, Physicians for Social Responsibility, National Environment Health Association, American College of Preventative Medicine, and on it goes. All of them are opposed to what Senator Murkowski is doing because it does not represent the health interests of the country.

We have heard a lot of arguments, but for all the discussion and rhetoric, the choice before us is stark and simple. This is not a simple delay. This is brought to us by some of the same people who have resisted doing anything about many of these things for ages. Why is it that the United States is more dependent today on foreign oil than we were before September 11? It is because we haven't done anything to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We have an opportunity to do it now. This is about that.

The same people have resisted changes through the years--resisted CAFE standards, resisted changing where and how we produce oil, a long list of things that have been prevented from happening. The American people today are paying $100 million a day to Ahmadinejad and Iran in order to buy oil because we haven't reduced it.

The option is whether we are going to get serious about those other things. This is a vote between whether we recognize the greatest environmental risk of our time or whether we legitimize deniers of that. It is a choice between protecting the health of our families and the air we breathe or whether we continue a pattern of pollution that threatens our children and communities. That is what the EPA was set up to protect. It has protected that through the years. This is a question of whether we are going to get serious about policies that will put America on a path to energy independence or increase our Nation's oil dependence by another 450 million barrels.

The stakes for our country are enormous. If Members have any doubt about that, every day on television everybody is seeing what is happening in the gulf, the result of one single accident, one single offshore oil well.

In April of 2007, the Supreme Court, for the first time, issued a ruling on the issue of climate change. Some people don't like it. The Roberts Court was asked to consider the Bush administration's refusal to issue greenhouse gas standards for cars and trucks. The case hinged on just two things: Does the Clean Air Act authorize the regulation of greenhouse gases, and, if so, should the EPA set emission standards for motor vehicles?

The decision by the majority was conclusive on both fronts. In light of that, the Justices directed the EPA to fulfill its obligation under the Clean Air Act to determine--I emphasize--based on scientific evidence whether greenhouse gas emissions for cars and trucks pose a threat to human health.

On May 19, the National Research Council, which is our Nation's leading scientific body, declared in its most comprehensive study to date that the evidence of climate change is overwhelming. They urged early, aggressive, and concerted actions to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The resolution we are debating today would achieve absolutely the opposite goal. We are being asked to vote down the science, to squander billions of barrels of oil savings, and shirk our responsibility to address the greatest national security and environmental challenge of our time.

Some may say, no; they are just trying to restrict the bureaucrats from doing this. Everybody understands what this battle is all about. By invalidating the fundamental scientific finding that greenhouse gases, in fact, pose a threat to human health and welfare, this resolution would remove the legal basis, the legal foundation for the agreement that was reached last year to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, this agreement, the agreement to which I am referring, is on track to save American consumers a total of $34 billion and to create 263,000 American jobs in 2020. The agreement also takes a huge step forward toward energy independence by reducing our oil consumption by 1.8 billion barrels. If we remove the EPA's authority to jointly implement those regulations with the Department of Transportation, then we lose the foundation for proceeding forward with that benefit. That is the minimum amount by which this resolution would increase our oil dependence.

In light of President Obama's recent announcement that the administration plans to extend the vehicle standards beyond 2016, the prohibition on the EPA action would eliminate significant additional opportunities in the future to reduce our Nation's oil consumption, increase our energy security, and draw a bright line between ourselves and those nations that want to do us harm.

Why are we being asked to affirmatively reject a scientific finding that has been based on overwhelming evidence, and why would we be asked to reject potentially billions of barrels of oil savings? We are told Congress needs more time to develop energy and climate legislation. The Federal Government has to be stopped from making progress in the interim.

I have been meeting with my colleagues now for over a year at least, over 20 years that I have been working on this issue. The distinguished chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, similarly, and others, have been at this for a long time. I am struck by the irony that many of the proponents of this argument are the very same people who, at every opportunity, have avoided engaging in a serious legislative effort to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or deal with climate change.

On the one hand they say it is the job of Congress, not the EPA. Then they stand in the way of Congress doing its job in the first place. They stand in the way even at a time when we have built an unprecedented coalition of industry--the faith-based community, the national security community, businesses small and large, environmentalists, all of whom believe we now have a method by which we can grow jobs in our country, increase energy independence, and reduce pollution all at the same time.

Let me share with colleagues what Ron Brownstein, one of the keenest observers of Washington, summed up in writing the following:

It's reasonable to argue that Congress, not EPA, should decide how to regulate carbon. But most of those Senators who endorsed Murkowski's resolution also opposed the most plausible remaining vehicle for legislating carbon limits.

I want to make sure we understand something as we do this. A lot of people have come to the Senate floor to eviscerate the EPA and create a caricature of that Agency, when that Agency, frankly, is taking a thoughtful, measured, stepwise approach to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Administrator Jackson has said she is committed to addressing the largest sources first, new powerplants or factories emitting more than 100,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and then going to those over 75,000 tons. None of that will even go into effect until a year from now through the normal administrative public process that we have set up for our agencies to represent us.

It is astonishing to me that this has become a partisan issue. In 1970, 20 million Americans came out of their homes to march in the streets because they saw the Cuyahoga River in Ohio light on fire. They wanted to stop the pollution. We passed the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, marine mammal protection, coastal zone management. The history of the implementation of those acts has been to clean up rivers, clean up lakes, and see fish swim again where they didn't, to be caught again by kids who go fishing with their parents. We brought that back. Now we are trying to undermine the ability to continue that job, to make the health and welfare of our citizens better, and to lead the world with respect to these technologies. The United States is not leading in one of these technologies today. It is time for us to understand, we need to get our act together.

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