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Public Statements

Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. JOHANNS. Mr. President, Senate amendment No. 2187 offered by Senator Kerry has now been voice voted onto the farm bill. It is unfortunate that this significant change of USDA policy occurred without a recorded vote.

While it may sound innocuous to add commercial fishermen to the list of those eligible for USDA emergency farm loans, it is not without its negative implications.

Support for commercial fishermen has typically been the responsibility of the Department of Commerce. Thus, USDA has little to no experience serving commercial fishermen.

Additionally, funding for farm emergency loans is limited. Amendment No. 2187 would further dilute this limited pool of funding and divert it from its core mission--assisting our farmers and ranchers.

While this amendment may have been voice voted, I would have voted nay on this amendment had there been a recorded vote. I hope this is an issue that we can revisit and rectify in conference committee.


Mr. JOHANNS. Mr. President, I rise today to support S.J. Res. 37. The rule addresses emissions from powerplants. However, in my judgment, this rule goes too far, too fast, and tries to achieve too much in too little time, at too high a cost to our families.

Oftentimes, we hear concerns in my office about rules and regulations. Too often, those rules and regulations come from the EPA. And when EPA rules are the topic, sometimes I have to ask: Which EPA rule are you talking about? Because, let's face it, the list of EPA job-killing regulations is downright dizzying.

However, this resolution addresses only one, which hammers coal-fired electricity generation, especially large coal-fired plants.

In Nebraska's case, the rule would require the addition of expensive new equipment to control particulate matter and certain exhaust gases. Well, how expensive would these additions be? One of our States's largest utilities has estimated they would need to spend about $900 million to $1.3 billion over the next 3 years to get into compliance. So one might ask, where is that money going to come from? Well, in our State, every single penny of these capital expenditures comes directly from users--essentially every Nebraskan. You see, in our State, the State of Nebraska, we are 100 percent public power. That means no stockholders, no shareholder equity, no profits to draw down.

How quickly would they need to come up with that money? The compliance period is just 3 years. These are major projects, so 3 years is not an adequate timeline. Now, 3 years may sound like plenty of time to some, but the actual process that needs to occur, all in a specific sequence, makes a 3-year timeline especially challenging. Preliminary engineering comes first, then financing, then opening the projects for bidding, and bidding, and then determining whether compliance with bidding has occurred before you could even start the project. For public power, there are rules and procedures that control each one of these steps. In other words, there is no shortcut.

Normally, our utilities try to get these projects done in the periods known as the shoulder months. In Nebraska, these are the months of early spring and early fall--before the summer heat hits the Midwest and before the winds of winter knock at our door and take temperatures down. If the compliance schedule precludes the powerplant from using these shoulder months, then the project costs go up because of the need to buy power from outside of the system. So what does that mean? It means we are faced with compliance that is nearly impossible. And the compliance dates keep changing. The cross-State air pollution rule--another rule the EPA has finalized just in the last several months--was put on hold by a Federal court after many States affected by the rule challenged the EPA. And we may hear any day now as to whether the court will tell EPA to go back to the drawing board and rewrite the rule.

But the main point is that the stream of rules coming out of EPA is huge and compliance is nearly impossible.

In Fremont, NE, a Nebraska city manager described it this way:

Smaller utilities in rural areas ..... will have difficulty in getting vendors and contractors to supply and install the equipment in this timeframe. Being Public Utilities we have to follow a public letting process and cannot just negotiate a design build contract with a contractor as an investor owned utility can.

So what happens to Fremont's 26,000 residents? Well, they will face rate increases of between 20 and 25 percent to cover the compliance costs of this rule, when combined with the requirements of two other rules. Increasing electricity bills by one-fourth is huge. It is a huge impact on Fremont families.

The city of Grand Island, NE, estimates that the Utility MACT rule will cost $35 million and require 3 to 5 years of planning and financing and construction.

For Hastings, NE, the same sobering outlook--big expense, rushed timeframe, and a worried community trying to figure out how they pay for it. For Hastings alone, the costs of compliance with this rule and the cross-State rule are estimated to be $95 million over 5 years. Now, Hastings has 25,000 residents. You do not need a degree in economics to know this is an enormous burden for the small businesses, small manufacturers, and households. They will carry the load.

So the vote for this resolution is a vote to tell EPA their approach is not achievable. It cannot work. It is a vote that means there is substantial opposition to the rule and the country does not support EPA.

It is also important to note what this vote is not. No. 1 and most significantly, this is not a vote against clean air. Everybody in my State wants clean air. Everybody wants to comply. They just want some clear, achievable rules on a timeline that is reasonable. The Agency needs to go back to the drawing board.

No. 2, this resolution does not strip EPA of its power. If the resolution passes, EPA would not be barred from trying another rule----


Mr. JOHANNS. Let me just close by saying that I hope my colleagues will support us on this resolution.

Thank you, Mr. President.


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