Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Disapproving the Rule Submitted by the Federal Communications Commission with Respect to Regulating the Internet and Broadband Industry Practices

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. MURKOWSKI. Madam President, there is a lot of discussion, of course, about jobs in this country--where they are, and what we can do to help incent them. I had the opportunity while I was in my State last week to host three different townhalls that focused on the state of our Nation's economy and what is happening with jobs and job creation. As I asked Alaskans for their input, what I heard consistently from community to community was: We can allow for job creation that is meaningful. We can allow for opportunities here in our State and across the country. But the first thing you can do is to get the government out of the way. That was probably my biggest takeaway out of the townhalls with Alaskans: Get the government out of our way so we can move forward as small business owners and operators, as those who are looking to advance jobs in resource development. Move the government back, and we can make some things happen.

I think one of the key ways we can create real jobs is by moving the Federal Government out of the way of the private sector. Yet this administration is doing exactly the opposite. Our economy struggles to grow and many Americans, of course, are out of work, but what we are seeing out of the White House is this effort that essentially buries job creators under a mountain of paperwork and regulations. Businesses waste hours and productivity on checking the right boxes and making sure they have filled out the right form in the right way, rather than creating new opportunities for employees. Far too often, our small businesses are being judged by how well they keep their safety records rather than the actual safety records themselves: Did you check the right box? Did you fill out the right form? If you didn't, we are going to fine and penalize you. But is the focus on making sure they have a strong and sound safety record?

Many of the regulations--and, unfortunately far too many coming from the EPA--unnecessarily raise the cost of energy and other vital goods and services. I, as the ranking member on the Energy Committee, have spent a lot of time and a lot of focus on what we are doing in this country to help reduce our energy costs. Unfortunately, far too often we are seeing increased costs to our families and to our businesses because of the regulations that come at them. While we all support responsible environmental regulation--I want EPA to do its job--we also want to protect other vital national interests such as affordable and reliable energy and a strong economy.

Remember too that unreliable or unduly expensive energy has broad negative impacts on all aspects--public health--all aspects of our day. When I hear from Alaska's business owners, they say two things. I told my colleagues what the first one was, which is get government out of the way, and let us get to work. Business owners across the country agree--there was a Gallup poll last month--small business owners indicated that complying with government regulations is the most important problem they face today.

The No. 1 issue on the minds of small business owners is the fact that complying with government regulations is burying them. What we hear from businesses is that they need the regulatory agencies to follow the rule of law and strike a proper balance between the many important national interests our laws protect.

When it comes to regulation, in my opinion, this administration has gone further--they have pushed past that rule of law in striking that proper balance. What we are seeing is a level of overreach, which I think is unprecedented, by the agencies reaching out and expanding their jurisdiction, if you will, and setting policy as opposed to implementing the laws that have been passed.

The resolutions of disapproval we will have before us for a vote tomorrow--Senator Paul's resolution on the cross-State air pollution and Senator Hutchison's resolution of disapproval as it relates to the Internet--are both incredibly important for the issues they raise but even more so speaking to what we are seeing right now with agency overreach. As the Chair may recall, last year I led an effort on this floor to push back against the EPA in an area where the EPA was, for all intents and purposes, setting policy when it came to greenhouse gas emissions in this country. I strongly and firmly believe the role of the agencies is to implement the laws we have passed, not to set policy. So I share the concerns Senator Hutchison and Senator Paul have raised with the two rules that are at issue today. They are utilizing a tool under the Congressional Review Act which allows us as a Congress to step in when Federal agencies go overboard with trying to make businesses comply with costly regulations, in effect, that overreach.

Let's first discuss very briefly Senator Paul's resolution of disapproval regarding the Environmental Protection Agency's cross-State air pollution rule. I have seen it referred to as the acronym CSAPR or ``zapper,'' but because neither one of those sounds like anything we can relate to, I will refer to it as the cross-State pollution rule. This rule should not go forward at this time for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its potential impact on electric reliability. Independent grid operators and the independent professionals whom we count on to assess electric reliability have expressed concerns about subjecting generators of electricity to the rule, especially on the current timetable they are dealing with. The EPA simply needs to take another look at those impacts and what this rule will do to electricity costs.

There have been a number of independent studies that have pointed to the impact of EPA's rules generally, including the cross-State pollution rule and what that impact would be on existing electric generation capacity. The predictions differ on magnitude but project the retirement of as much as 8 percent of the Nation's installed electric generating capacity. Again, I will grant you, there is a range of difference here, but potentially as much as 8 percent of our country's installed generating capacity could be brought offline. That is significant. I have asked for a reliability analysis. We have gone back and forth in terms of getting that assessment. There will be a technical conference at the end of the month that hopefully will lead to a better understanding, but the long and the short of it is right now, we know that we don't know exactly how much could be impacted by this rule and others.

More specifically, the rules generally and the cross-State pollution rule alone could lead to more intense regional impact. Texas, for example, wasn't even included in the proposed rule but, as a consequence of the final rule, could see some very significant powerplant retirements and hence potentially significant adverse impact on reliability. The Midwest, according to the grid operator there, could also see retirements of electric capacity with attendant challenges for keeping the lights on.

In addition to the reliability impact, there is also going to be a cost impact. The cross-State pollution rule is the first of a number of pending rules to go final and the EPA has made some major changes between that proposed rule and the final rule. The agency has even proposed significant technical adjustments as recently as last month, even though the rule is slated to go final by the beginning of this next year.

Putting aside the merits of the corrections--and I understand they don't go far enough--the EPA should be sent back to the drawing board to learn more, understand more about the potential reliability impact, and then should amend the substantive requirements of the cross-State pollution rule so that those required to comply can comply. If EPA had looked carefully at that time-reliability issue in the first place, there probably wouldn't be reason for the delay, but they acted in haste, and haste makes waste.

I wish to speak quickly to Senator Hutchison's resolution of disapproval regarding the FCC net neutrality rule. The rule put into place by the FCC in 2010 circumvents Congress. It assumes an authority that this body never consented to. We cannot allow the executive branch to go down this road. We just should not allow it. No provision of any statute explicitly gives the FCC the authority to impose these sweeping rules on the Internet. In fact, section 230 of the Communications Act makes it the policy of the United States ``to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation.'' The Internet, we would all agree--I heard the comments of the Senator from Minnesota--has been a huge boon for small businesses and jobs throughout our country. We recognize that. We want to ensure it continues in that way.

To quote FCC Commissioner McDowell from a Wall Street Journal op-ed:

Net-neutrality sounds nice, but the web is working fine now. The new rules will inhibit investment, deter innovation and create a billable-hours bonanza for lawyers.

So unless the administration is trying to create jobs for lawyers, I don't find any justification to expand the government's reach to regulate the Internet as the FCC proposes. Once again, what we are seeing is an agency stepping in to regulate in an area where the laws simply did not contemplate.

For all of these reasons, and because the Federal Government needs to stop overburdening our country with costly regulations at a time when we can least afford it, I support the resolution of disapproval from Senator Hutchison as well as the resolution of disapproval from Senator Paul.

I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


Source:
Skip to top
Back to top