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Electricity Security and Affordability Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WAXMAN. Mr. Chairman, the underlying bill prevents EPA from setting a standard or requirements for new--new coal-powered plants.

Instead of telling a new coal-powered plant they have to use technology to reduce their carbon emissions, this bill says they can't require that of new plants, unless new plants are already using technology to reduce emissions.

Well, okay, if they are already using technology, we can say everybody ought to use that technology; but then the underlying bill goes further and says: Well, not only are they using technology that accomplishes the goal, but there has got to be six plants represented all over the country that are achieving the standard using technologies, and then EPA can consider a standard for new power plants.

This is like the belts and suspenders. They can't look at foreign technology. They have to use six plants that are using technology.

Of course, one would ask: Why would anybody spend money to use technology to reduce carbon pollution if they are not required to do it? It costs money.

So it is so unlikely that they are ever going to be able to set a new standard at the Environmental Protection Agency, given the underlying bill.

But the bill also says, if there are six plants that are using technology, they better not use technology that has been funded by the government. Well, why not? That is what the government does.

We provide DOE grants to have demonstrations of new technologies. That is what the underlying bill says. If they are achieving reductions in carbon pollution because it is involving government funds, we are not going to count those.

Well, now, we have the Latta amendment that says: Well, wait a second. What if it is funds for demonstrations that are not using Federal dollars, but local dollars?

Well, fine. I don't have any objection to that, but I don't know why we would say Federal dollars can't be used to demonstrate technologies that are successful, so the Latta amendment narrows the underlying bill, but really doesn't accomplish much.

Why, I would ask: Would we want to say that the Department of Energy, using taxpayer dollars for projects to find new and better ways to improve air quality for the American people, should not be used by EPA to set a standard for future power plants?

These projects funded by the Federal Government help companies figure out how to reduce air pollution more effectively and at a lower cost. The whole point is to develop technologies that can be applied across the industry to reduce air pollution.

So if the Federal Government funds those new technologies and they are successful, we are not going to let a standard be based on that; but if the State funds the development of the new technologies that accomplish these goals, oh, we can use that, but they better be part of six, and they better fit this underlying standard--this underlying requirement that there be six in different parts of the country and on and on and on.

Well, I don't object to this amendment. I don't see what the amendment particularly does to make the bill any better. It doesn't solve any particular problem that I see, but I just want to point out how offensive this underlying bill is to not let EPA set standards for new plants when we know that technologies can reduce the carbon pollution.

But we are not going to look at it for real, unless they meet a higher standard, which is six plants; but they better not be using government-funded technologies from the Federal Government, which would be the case if this amendment is adopted.

So I just want to make these points rhetorically because I think people ought to understand how offensive this bill is.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. WAXMAN. Mr. Chairman, President Obama reached out to the Congress, to the Republican majority of this House, and he said: Let's work on ideas that could help us deal with this problem of climate change.

But he also said he wanted to make it very clear that, if the Republicans won't act because this House majority won't do anything to address climate change, he will.

The bill we are considering today shows that the Republicans' plan on climate change is to give up hope. Their plan is to let our children and grandchildren suffer the effects of climate change without lifting a finger to protect them; worse, the Republicans' plan is to stop any meaningful action to slow climate change. I think this position is indefensible.

Today's bill would amend the Clean Air Act to ensure that coal-fired power plants are able to pollute indefinitely with impunity. This bill would condition EPA's authority on conditions that simply can never be met or at least not as long as it is cheaper to dump pollution into the air rather than clean it up.

Republicans complain they don't like EPA's approach. Well, what is their plan to address climate change? For years, Democratic Members have shown that we are willing to consider any suggestion to reduce carbon pollution and to slow climate change.

We could put a price on carbon. We could put a limit on carbon pollution. We could support the development of clean energy. In the bill that I authored with now-Senator Markey, we dedicated $60 billion to deploy carbon capture and sequestration technology on new coal power plants.

But what Congress can't do is simply say no to everything, no to a price on carbon, no to a limit on carbon, no to regulation on carbon.

What my amendment suggests is, if they don't want EPA to act to reduce the pollution from carbon coming from coal-burning power plants, we are saying: All right, address this problem, make sure we have some other alternative that will work.

Because if they don't have an alternative that will work, in effect, the Republicans are saying: We are not going to do anything, either we don't believe there is a problem called climate change, the scientists are all lying to us--of course, we will never let them come before our committee and testify because they will only lie to us about it--the science is wrong, we don't have to worry about it.

We have heard over and over again from Mr. Whitfield that 96 percent of the problem is naturally occurring carbon. Well, naturally occurring carbon is balanced; it is absorbed by photosynthesis and other processes.

But that 4 percent is upsetting the balance, and that balance that is being upset is a threat to this planet. It is a threat to our atmosphere. It is a threat to our Nation when we see hurricanes, floods, droughts, all these climate events that we hear about every night in the evening news.

So what is their alternative? If they don't want coal-burning power plants regulated, give us an alternative that will reduce that 4 percent that is upsetting the balance.

I would suggest that they are telling us they have no alternative whatsoever. I don't think that is an adequate answer to what many experts believe is the leading threat to our survival on this planet.

I would urge that we adopt this amendment. If they don't like what EPA is doing, tell us their plan. If they have other ideas for reducing carbon pollution to prevent catastrophic climate change, let's hear them; but if they don't, they should step aside and let the President lead.

I urge support for this amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. WAXMAN. Mr. Chairman, my amendment doesn't stop EPA from acting if we can get an alternative, an alternative that would reduce the carbon pollution to the same level the EPA is proposing.

My friend and colleague, Mr. Whitfield, said the President, if left unchecked, would make these commitments. Well, President George H. W. Bush made a commitment on behalf of this country that we would try to achieve reduction of carbon to 1990 levels.

If the Republicans want to do something on their own and not let the President do it, tell us how you can accomplish these goals. If you don't want to achieve these goals, it is either because you don't believe we need to achieve them or you are not willing to do anything about the problem.

I urge support for the amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.


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