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Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act--Motion to Proceed--Resumed

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. President, I rise again to continue the fight for our effort to extend the production tax credit for wind. I am going to continue to return to the floor every morning until we get the PTC extended.

It has a positive economic effect on each and every one of our States and we ought to immediately extend it. If we do not, there are tremendous risks because there will be uncertainty. There will be 37,000 jobs at risk, per the estimate of the American Wind Energy Association, in 2013, if we let this important, crucial tax credit expire.

On the other hand, looking at this prohibitively, a recent study by Navigant concludes that a stable tax policy would allow the wind industry to create and save 54,000 jobs. That is a clear choice. Do we want to lose 37,000 jobs or do we want to create and save 54,000 more?

Over the last number of years in tough economic times, the wind industry has been a bright spot. We have seen growth in the wind industry on the manufacturing side, and these are good-paying jobs. But we are at a make-or-break moment for wind energy. If we let the wind PTC expire, we will lose thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investment.

We also run the real risk of losing our position in the global economic race for clean energy technology. Other countries are taking note. While we are dithering in the Congress, our foreign competitors are literally eating our lunch.

I am about to attend a hearing in the Energy Committee on our competitiveness in the clean energy sector. We are going to be discussing how China is outpacing us in the clean energy economy. The witnesses, I know, will emphasize--because I have seen their testimony--that we have to improve and maximize domestic manufacturing capacity or we risk losing these jobs to overseas competitors.

I wish to give an example this morning. In North Carolina, there is a company, PPG Industries. It is a fiberglass company, hundreds of employees. They have been threatened by foreign competition in the last few years. Fiberglass is a primary component of wind turbine blades. The company has found new buyers in the wind industry.

I wish to quote the manager, Cheryl Richards, of this factory. She has urged us to act. She said:

That's investment in the U.S. That's investment in jobs, in technology, in the future, in clean energy. If we're not doing it, there are people across the ocean who will. And they'll be happy to sell their products here.

So while we cannot get our act together in Congress to pass the wind PTC, our economic competitors in Europe and Asia have moved ahead. They have developed robust manufacturing capacity to serve both their domestic demands, and now they are beginning to sell all over the world.

To emphasize how real this threat is, I wish to show all of the viewers and my colleagues what has happened in the past when the PTC has expired. Look back in 2000. There was a 93-percent drop. There was a 73-percent drop from 2001 to 2002. It does not make sense. I hear this from Coloradans. I hear this from Americans.

Wind project developers in the United States and American manufacturers are not receiving orders. We could see another boom-and-bust cycle, where we get a 73-percent or 93-percent drop in installations. Our economy does not need that, especially right now. So there is a time for leadership. It is time to show the American people we can bridge partisan divides in the Congress, we can act, and we can take urgent action.

Let's get the wind PTC reauthorized as soon as possible. It is within our power to stop sending jobs overseas, to prevent falling behind major economies such as China, Germany, India, and to stop harming domestic industries and manufacturing.

Again, look at this chart. This tells the story. We have to stand and do the right thing. Let's start by passing the wind PTC extension now. We can do it today. I am going to continue coming back to the floor of the Senate until we get the wind PTC extended.

TRIBUTE TO TEJAL SHAH

As my time begins to expire, I wished to take a moment of personal privilege and note that Tejal Shah, who has been working in my office as a fellow from the State Department, is leaving my office this week. She is returning to the State Department to continue doing her work there.

I wish to thank her for the phenomenal support she has given me, for the knowledge and skill she has brought to my office. I wish her well in her efforts at the State Department.

I yield the floor and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. President, I also, as my colleague Senator Whitehouse did, wish to thank the chairman, Barbara Boxer, for her hard work and her leadership to protect our air and our public health on this crucial vote that is going to come up later this month.

I rise in opposition to the resolution of disapproval that we expect Senator Inhofe to offer. This resolution would permanently block the EPA from reducing mercury and toxic pollution from powerplants in the United States. The standard is called the Maximum Achievable Control Technology standard or Utility MACT.

By blocking this standard, this resolution is bad for public health. This resolution is also bad for America's natural gas producers. This resolution is especially bad for electric utilities that did the right thing and followed the law. Environmental protection should be a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats both passed the Clean Air

Act, the Clean Water Act, and other environmental laws by wide margins.

I urge both parties not to support this resolution. Here are some key points on the public health issues that are before us when this resolution comes to the floor: The Environmental Protection Agency estimates this standard will save 4,000 to 11,000 lives per year by reducing toxic pollution. The EPA also estimates this standard will prevent nearly 5,000 heart attacks and 130,000 childhood asthma attacks.

Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin. It is mostly a threat to pregnant women and young children. We took lead out of gasoline, we can also take mercury out of smokestacks. Similar to many westerners, I know the Presiding Officer and I both enjoy fly fishing. In too many areas in America, we have mercury advisories for fish from American lakes and rivers.

In New Mexico, most of our streams are under mercury advisories, which means pregnant women and children cannot eat the fish from those streams. We cannot put a price on healthy children. But if we try, this rule produces tens of billions of health benefits each year.

This resolution of disapproval could permanently block these benefits. I would also like to talk about the impact of this resolution on natural gas. Natural gas has much lower toxic emissions than coal. It has no mercury. It has no soot, known as particulate matter. Recent discoveries of U.S. natural gas have led to a 100-year supply. Natural gas prices are low. While that is actually bad for New Mexico's economy in some places, it is good for consumers.

Natural gas has increased its market share in the power sector from 20 to 29 percent recently because it is a lower cost and cleaner fuel. EPA standards do not ban coal, but they do call on coal to compete on a level playing field and reduce its pollution. If we pass this resolution, we will inject further uncertainty into the utility sector, which is balancing its portfolio to more equal shares of coal and gas as opposed to being overly reliant on coal.

I support research in defining ways to clean up coal. If we put our minds to it, we may be able to take out the toxic pollutants.

I see the Senator from Arizona is on the floor. I first wish to thank him for allowing me a couple minutes to get my statement in.

I yield the floor.

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Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. I thank the Senator. I will take 1 more minute to finish.

Finally, I would like to note that this resolution is a bailout of companies that would rather spend money on lobbying than on pollution controls. The EPA standard does not harm responsible coal companies. It is achievable with current technology. It is my understanding that most or all of the coal plants in New Mexico already have the technology to meet these standards. The Public Service Company of New Mexico has invested in mercury controls to reduce pollution in our State. Across the Nation, many other utilities have as well.

A variety of business groups support EPA's mercury standard, including the Clean Energy Group of utilities, the American Sustainable Business Council, and the Main Street Alliance. Those standards are required by the Clean Air Act. If we block them, we will punish the law abiders and bail out the procrastinators. I urge my colleagues to oppose the resolution of disapproval.

Once again, I thank Senator McCain.

I yield the floor.

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