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Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. WAXMAN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 5 minutes.

This week is Dirty Air Week in the House of Representatives. Yesterday, in the Energy and Commerce Committee, we considered legislation that will increase emissions of mercury and other dangerous chemicals from industrial sources. Today the full House considers legislation to cut the heart out of the Clean Air Act.

Mr. Speaker, this is the most anti-environmental House of Representatives in history. Since February of this year, the House has voted again and again to block action to address climate change, to halt efforts to reduce air and water pollution, to undermine protections for public lands in coastal areas, and to weaken the protection of the environment in other ways.

My staff prepared a database last month on every anti-environmental vote in this Congress. The tally was 125--125 votes to weaken clean air, clean water, safeguards to make our drinking water less safe, to weaken environmental standards in dozens of different ways. This is an appalling and dangerous environmental record. The full database is online at

Today the assault continues on the Clean Air Act. The bill we consider today, the TRAIN Act, will block and indefinitely delay two EPA rules that reduce pollution from power plants: the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule and the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. These rules are critical to protecting the public health. Each year these rules will prevent tens of thousands of premature deaths, tens of thousands of heart attacks, and hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks. They will also prevent over 2 million lost workdays. If this legislation is enacted, these public health benefits will be lost, and more babies will be born with birth defects and learning disabilities.

And this is not all. Today we will consider amendments offered by Chairman Whitfield and Representative Latta that will make this bill even worse. The Whitfield amendment will eviscerate the law's ability to require power plants to install modern pollution controls.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told us this morning that if the Whitfield amendment is enacted, EPA will never be able to issue a rule to prevent emissions from power plants in one State from polluting the air in a downwind State. She also said that the amendment could destroy the agency's ability to ever reduce toxic mercury emissions from power plants.

The Latta amendment is even worse. It will reverse 40 years of clean air policy, repealing the health-based standards that are at the heart of the Clean Air Act. The Latta amendment would allow our national goals for clean air to be determined by corporate profits, not public health.

These radical amendments were never examined in hearings or debated in the Energy and Commerce Committee or in any other committee. Members are being asked to vote on major changes to the Clean Air Act without any idea of their terrible impact on air quality and public health.

My Republican colleagues will argue that we need to gut the Clean Air Act because it is a job-killing law. That is categorically false. The last 40 years proved we could have both economic growth and a clean environment. We do not have to choose between jobs and toxic mercury emissions that endanger our children's health and poison our lakes.

The rules that are being overturned are job creators. If these rules are allowed to go forward, the utilities that operate our oldest and dirtiest power plants will have to install new pollution controls. This will create 1.5 million jobs by 2015. This bill puts these jobs on the chopping block.

I urge all Members to oppose this legislation and protect the Clean Air Act.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. WAXMAN. Mr. Chairman, my colleague, Mr. Whitfield, just said that the EPA found that the mercury reduction benefits were so insignificant by EPA. Well, what they found was they couldn't put a pricetag on the avoided birth defects and brain damage to babies. If that's insignificant, I just think people ought to put this whole effort to deregulate the efforts to protect the environment in perspective. I think the Republicans think it's insignificant because we can't put a dollar figure on birth defects and brain damage to an infant--and so many Republicans call themselves pro-life.


Mr. WAXMAN. Mr. Chairman, I want to set the record straight because I think we're getting a lot of false information. We are told that this bill doesn't weaken any existing law. That's not correct. The Cross-State Rule has already been finalized, which means if you are living in an area where pollution's coming from another State, and there's nothing you can do about it, the State that's causing the pollution has to reduce that pollution in order not to affect you. And that's going to be repealed by this legislation that's before us.

We're told all that's going to happen is we're going to delay some of these rules. Well, yes. We're going to delay the rules. And then Mr. Whitfield is going to offer an amendment to make sure that EPA can never adopt any of those rules.

And the thing that just galls me is the statement that the benefits from reducing mercury are insignificant. Well, EPA was unable to quantify or monetize all the health and environmental benefits associated with the proposed toxic rule, but EPA believes these unquantified benefits are substantial. We are talking about impaired cognitive development, problems with language, abnormal and social development, potential for fatal and nonfatal heart attacks, association with genetic defects, possible auto-immunity effects in antibodies. This is not insignificant. And I think that it's not accurate to tell us that this bill simply provides some transparency. I think the authors of the bill ought to provide us a little bit more transparency.


Mr. WAXMAN. Mr. Chairman, the Republican spinmeisters like to come up with slogans. So they've come up with the slogan ``job-killing regulation.'' Well, let me tell you what we're talking about: children-killing pollution.

And I just think that when we hear the statements that they're not going to weaken or delay any rules that protect public health and the environment, we shouldn't take their word for it.

I have a letter here from the National Association of Clean Air Agencies. They represent the State and local air pollution control people who are on the ground every day working to improve the Nation's air quality. What they say is that if this bill is adopted it ``will create regulatory delays that could lead to thousands of premature deaths, remove important regulatory tools upon which States and localities depend, impose additional costs on government as well as small businesses, create regulatory uncertainty, cause job losses, and defund an important and cost-effective air pollution control program.''


Mr. WAXMAN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I want to correct some of the statements that have been made. The gentleman from Oklahoma talked about the clean air in his area. That's fine. They have attained the standards for protecting public health. But there are a lot of other areas where they don't have that attainment of health-based standards.

Market forces alone will not correct problems that hurt our public health and the environment. Why should any business spend money to install pollution control devices if they don't think their competitors are going to do the same thing? So government must establish some standards so that everybody knows what the rules are going to be and the investments will be made.

Approximately two-thirds of the coal-burning power plants in this country have the up-to-date controls in those power plants. What we're talking about for the most part are those third we were told were going to be retired. But they're not being retired. They're still being used, and they're still polluting. And those power plants ought to come up to compliance with the reductions in their emissions.

One of the other speakers on the other side of the aisle said we don't have a real economic analysis of all of these regulations. That's not true. There are thousands of pages of economic analysis before these regulations have been promoted.

Another person on the other side said a lot of these rules are so onerous that they should be blocked because we're going to be threatening the reliability of the Nation's electric grid by causing these old, inefficient power plants to put modern pollution controls on them. Well, that's not the testimony that we received on September 14, 2011, in the Energy and Commerce Committee where Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff took a different position, as did FERC Commissioner John Norris, and former DOE Assistant Secretary for Policy Susan Tierney. A stack of independent analyses confirmed that these protections that will require controls on these power plants will not threaten the reliability of our grid.

And over and over again we've heard unless we adopt this TRAIN Act, we are going to lose jobs. Well, the TRAIN Act blocks and indefinitely delays two of the most important clean air regulations of the past few decades: the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which are, again, directed at those power plants that emit toxic air pollutants, including mercury and carcinogens; and then the other rule is the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule to reduce power plant emissions that cause pollution problems in downwind States.

I don't believe they're telling us the facts when they say we're going to lose jobs. The truth of the matter is, according to the Economic Policy Institute, they reported in June that the Air Toxics rule would have a positive net impact on overall employment, creating up to 158,000 jobs between now and 2015.

The Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts released a report showing that the utility investments driven by the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the Air Toxics rule would create nearly 1.5 million jobs by 2015.

Moving toward a cleaner, more efficient power sector will create capital investments such as installing pollution controls and constructing new capacity. These new investments create a wide array of skilled, high-paying jobs.

And I must say to my Republican friends, if we want to create jobs, let's pass the President's jobs bill. I'd like the Republicans not to block every effort by this administration to create new jobs in this country.

There are numerous groups that are on record in opposition to the TRAIN Act. Obviously, the public health groups are opposing the bill: the American Lung Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Thoracic Society, and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. The American Public Health Association called this ill-conceived legislation that would prevent EPA from protecting the public's health from dangerous and deadly air pollution. The National Association of Clean Air Agencies, the ones that are doing the job of protecting our environment, groups that represent millions of Americans, particularly all of the environmental groups, oppose this.

Scientists have told us--and I know a lot of Republicans deny science--but scientists, I think, are to be respected. And they say sacrificing tens of thousands of Americans' lives will not create more jobs. Poisoning the air our children and our families breathe will not stimulate the economy.

Three hundred sportsmen organizations representing our Nation's hunters, anglers, and the businesses that depend on our wildlife and natural resources support EPA efforts to cut mercury pollution and strongly oppose any efforts to weaken the Clean Air Act.

The Evangelical Environmental Network opposes these efforts to block the Mercury and Air Toxics rule because they point out that in the developing brains of fetuses and children, this will cause learning disabilities and neurological problems, and is not something that people who claim to be pro-life ought to support.

The Obama administration opposes this TRAIN Act. They threaten to veto this legislation if it reaches the President's desk. Americans don't support weakening the Clean Air Act or blocking EPA's efforts to reduce dangerous air pollution from power plants.

I think, my colleagues, that this TRAIN Act and some of the amendments that are going to be added to it are reason enough to oppose this legislation, and I urge opposition to it.

I am going to reserve the balance of my time if the gentleman, the chairman of the subcommittee, is not ready to close on the legislation.


Mr. WAXMAN. The EPA did an economic analysis looking at the cost and benefits. And on the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, they said that the costs would be less than a billion, but the benefits would be up to $280 billion per year, 150 to 350 times its cost.

I want the chairman of the subcommittee to answer a question when he closes. I believe the Republicans have misrepresented this bill during the debate, but false information was put on their Web site tonight. They claimed hundreds of groups support the TRAIN Act, and immediately two groups came forward, and maybe others will as well, saying that they would never support the TRAIN Act--Clean Water Action Committee and the Clean Air Watch.

I'd like to know if the information that is on the Web site is being checked for accuracy, because I know that a lot of things that have been said in this debate from the other side of the aisle have not been accurate.

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