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Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed--Resumed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COATS. Madam President, I just returned from a week back home in Indiana where I had the opportunity to meet with Hoosiers from all parts of our State and on all kinds of different issues. One of the common themes that came out of my week back home was the sentiment that we just are not growing as fast as we need to as a nation in order to get people back to work.

We held a job fair in Lafayette, IN. About 2,200 people showed up at this job fair looking for work opportunities.

While many walked away with job offers in hand, clearly there are not enough viable opportunities out there to get the people back to work who really want to get back to work.

As I talked to businesspeople across the State, particularly with small business owners, there was a common theme that came forward: they are very reluctant to hire. It is not that their businesses aren't improving. We have seen some significant improvement, particularly in Indiana, with some drop in the unemployment rate. But they say it is not specifically that they don't have the work, it is that they are afraid to hire. They are afraid to hire new people because there is so much uncertainty about what their taxes are going to be, what new regulations are going to come forward, what new items are going to be imposed upon them by the regulatory authorities in Washington, DC, and by the health care reform bill which puts some new mandate on them.

To hire new employees, they say, we have to factor in all of these various uncertainties in terms of our ability to continue this business on a profitable basis. So whether it is talking to farmers in southern Indiana who are upset about the various proposed regulations affecting their businesses or whether it is manufacturers in northwest Indiana or to small business people across the State, I am hearing this repetitive response--that Washington is trying to impose too much, and there is too much uncertainty about their ability to deal with the future and make decisions about hiring.

One of the latest things we have been hearing is that the EPA is imposing significant new regulations relative to the Clean Air Act on emissions that will affect Indiana utilities in a very significant way. Another thing our businesspeople mentioned is they don't know what their utility rates are going to be in the future because of these new regulations coming out, and the utilities are basically telling them they are going to have to pay more in the future because of these new regulations.

I stand here as someone who voted for the Clean Air Act and supports the Clean Air Act. We are all for clean air. However, there are those of us who are trying to propose reasonable ways of achieving that goal without negatively impacting our ability to hire people and the ability of consumers to pay their utility bills and the ability of corporations and businesses to have reasonable rates so they can compete worldwide in producing products. They are not asking for a return to dirty skies. They are not asking for a return to dirty water. They are citizens of the United States. They breathe the same air we all breathe. What they are saying, however, is that they need a solution to the problem handled in a responsible, reasonable way, and an affordable way that gives them time to implement these regulations. There has been a lot of talk recently about two items the EPA has been imposing on the power industry, and after visiting with Indiana utilities it is clear the EPA timeline will result in more job loss and skyrocketing rates. So, again, while we all want to support clean air, doing so in a way that also keeps our people at work and keeps our utility rates at a reasonable level is not being considered by the EPA.

I joined with a Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, to bring forward legislation that meets the standards and meets the goals but does so in a way that gives those power-producing utilities the opportunity and time and cost opportunity to be able to accomplish that. All we have done is just extend, in the case of one of the regulations, for 2 years, and in the case of another, for 3 years to give those utilities time to comply because the immediate compliance requirements of the EPA on these utilities means they are going to have to shut down the plants.

Some of them are in retrofit as we speak; however, that retrofit may not meet the EPA deadline. Therefore, they are asking for the right to get a waiver for an extension. That is what Manchin-Coats--Coats-Manchin--does. It provides a reasonable way of achieving the goals of clean air, but doing so in a way that doesn't have a devastating impact on our States as these regulations would do.

One is the CSAPR Rule, which deals with sulfur and nitrogen oxide emissions, and the other is called Utility MACT, which reduces mercury emissions. In particular, there is a movement underway now to remove mercury from these emissions. But if we don't do it in a responsible way, the consequences of the EPA regulations coming down hard mean closing up to six powerplants in Indiana and a skyrocketing of utility rates.

There is a particular impact on small business. Small business, as we know, provides most of the hiring and those small businesspeople don't have the backroom support to comply with all the written and required regulations that are being imposed on them. I have talked to so many people who have said instead of being out on the showroom floor, being out front at the counter, they have to be back half the time in their business complying with regulations. A hospital administrator told me of the 12,000 people under their employ, 6,000 provide care and 6,000 fill out paperwork for compliance with regulations, compliance with reimbursement, administrative costs, many of which are imposed by legislation or regulation, in most cases, that comes out of Washington.

So as we look at opportunities in the Senate to responsibly address some of these issues, in this business it is always tempting to politicize the process so that if someone doesn't immediately step up and salute the latest EPA regulation, we are harming people here or denying people there; that there are safety concerns, and we are risking harm to people and so forth. All we are asking for is a reasonable way to go forward to meet reasonable health and safety standards. What we are saying is that the surge of regulations that is pouring out of Washington upon our people and upon our businesses within the last 2 or 3 years is staggering, and it is clearly holding down growth. It is clearly holding down economic recovery. It is clearly holding down the ability of businesses to hire and put more people back to work.

So whether it is the Inhofe resolution of disapproval, which I strongly support, or any of a number of other proposals, I am going to support those. The blank check that has been given to regulatory agencies, because it is not possible for this administration to pass it through Congress as they did in 2009 and 2010 with a total majority no longer exists. Therefore, the regulatory agencies appear to have been given a blank check, and they have just run amok with regulations. So as we look at these regulations, let's take a reasonable look in terms of what we need to accomplish and in terms of providing for the health and safety of our people and what the consequences are of trying to do it in a way that jeopardizes our economic recovery and getting people back to work.


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