Skip to main content

tv   Acting EPA Administrator Testifies on Agencys Agenda  CSPAN  August 2, 2018 1:29am-3:20am EDT

1:29 am
under the right policies which provide economic opportunities and incentives, we can grow the american economy at least at its historic rate which since world yeari from 1950 to the 3.5% a year after inflation and i see no reason why we can't replicate that with proper policies. nightre he kudlow, friday at 9:15 eastern on c-span, or listen with the free app. >> acting epa administrator at thewheeler assumed -- senate hearing today discussed exemptions to admissions rules for small refineries and california's auto emissions
1:30 am
regulations. this hearing of the senate environment and public works committee is one hour and 45 minutes. >> before we begin today's hearing, i want to thank acting epa administrator andrew wheeler for making it a priority to testify before the committee today. i have been impressed at how he has started his tenure. as acting administrator, mr. wheeler has emphasized transparency. i would encourage president trump to nominate andrew wheeler to the administrator of the. environmental protection agency. mr. wheeler is qualified for the position. he spent 25 years working in environmental policy and served as a career employee of the agency, a staffer on capitol hill, a consultant in the private sector, and now in a leadership role at the epa.
1:31 am
i believe andrew wheeler would make an excellent administrator of the environmental protection agency. with that i call this hearing to order. today the committee will hear testimony on the environmental protection agency work to protect the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the communities we call home. it is my pleasure to welcome back to the committee andrew wheeler in his new role as acting administrator of the epa. as you know, the way this committee works is sometimes there are roll call. i understand there are five rollcall votes starting at 11:00 this morning. there will be members coming and going during the hearing process. i appreciate your indulgence as we come in and out. mr. wheeler has served on this committee in a number of capacities, most recently as staff director. it is fitting that our committee be the first you testified before in your new role. since president trump has come to office come to office from his administration has made it a priority to pursue policies that
1:32 am
protect the nation's environment and allow the economy to grow. just last week we saw how the administration's progrowth and pro-job policies are leading to incredible economic growth. america's economy grew at an impressive 4.1%. over the last year and half, the environmental protection agency has been rolling back punishing regulations that hurts the economy in my home state of wyoming and communities across the country. under the previous administration, the agency created broad and questionable regulation that punished the communities epa claimed to be protecting. the so-called clean power plan would have cost wyoming energy workers jobs and close power plants across the country. the obama administration openly declared war on american coal and the workers who produce this critically important resource. so-called clean power plan was not just bad policy, it was illegal. 24 states including wyoming filed suit to block this regulation.
1:33 am
the supreme court has put the rule on hold because of the challenges. under the leadership of president trump, the epa is taking steps to undo the damage he will. the agency held listening sessions in several different communities to hear feedback on how the regulation should be changed or withdrawn. one of those listening sessions took place in campbell county, wyoming, and the city of gillette. wyoming is the leading coal producing state in the nation. the vast majority of coal from the nation comes from campbell county. americans cannot afford to leave energy resources stranded in the ground. i'm thankful epa took the time to listen to stakeholders and re-examine the deeply flawed rule. it was an important example of washington listings the people of wyoming. the administration has taken major steps on the wotus rule. this outrageous obama ever rule would have put backyard ponds and puddles under washington control.
1:34 am
under that rule, the epa told farmers and ranchers that the year irrigation ditches were considered navigable waters. and would be regulated by the federal government. the consequences were staggering. epa threatened to find one landowner in wyoming $75,000 a day. the crime he committed was digging a stock on in his backyard. this past january, the epa delayed the implementation date of this devastating rule. the epa should not punish ranchers and farmers for managing their land. it must replace the rule with commonsense policy that restricts states and local authorities. the agency has taken important steps to protect small refineries in wyoming and across the country. i applaud the trump administration for rejecting efforts to undermine the ability of small refineries to obtain hardship relief under the renewable fuel standards of eps. during the obama administration, the epa frequently ignored the law which requires the page
1:35 am
aggressively to small refineries suffer economic hardship. under rss. since then, two federal appeals courts have reviewed it agency for decisions denying hardship relief to small refineries. epa must not take any action that would limit the ability of small refineries to obtain hardship relief, restrict when small refineries can apply for hardship relief, disclose the confidential business information of refineries, or increase the burdens on other refineries. taking these steps would compound the problems that this only program has created for refineries and workers. i look forward to hearing more of what the agencies doing to protect the people of wyoming and america to keep our environment clean and support the nation's growing economy. acting administrator wheeler, thank you for taking the time to testify today and thank you for making the senate environment and public works committee your first stop on capitol hill. i turned to ranking member carper for his remarks. sen. carper: thank you very
1:36 am
much, mr. chairman. as my colleagues know on this committee and outside the committee, i have been asking for an oversight hearing within the epa administrator for many months. i'm pleased that our committee is holding that hearing today. i've got to be honest with you, i'm even more pleased that the person of the witness table is the acting administrator and not his predecessor. when mr. wheeler took the helm of the agency all of 25 days ago -- it seems like 25 months ago -- 25 days ago, "the washington post" noted that wheeler was noted for sipping organic juice infused with kale, for an acting administrator who collects coca-cola memorabilia. i have something to present to you as we begin this hearing to add to your collection, something that my staff found for sale in the senate cafeteria that i thought you might like to have. it is a bottle of coca-cola that
1:37 am
has the word "wheeler." [laughter] sen. carper: i don't know if there is a special deal, something in your life we don't know about. but this is your bottle. you probably need something strong here before we are finished. [laughter] sen. carper: but i'm encouraged that there will be a number of differences between mr. wheeler and mr. pruitt in the way that they approached this important leadership role. for example, i don't expect to hear as much of a peep from mr. wheeler about used mattress shopping or chick-fil-a or fancy moisturizers. what we do need to hear is how he differentiates himself from mr. pruitt and the range of environmental policies that are far more consequential. how we deal with significant damage that mr. pruitt has done to the epa. will the american public be able to trust the epa in its mission to protect public health and the
1:38 am
environment? i believe in giving credit where credit is due. the few weeks that mr. wheeler has been the acting administered , he has published conferences on his calendar on a daily basis. he has opened up the epa to work to ensure that the beleaguered crew staff once again feels valued, respected, and included. he withdrew mr. pruitt's parting act to stop enforcing air emissions standards for some of the dirtiest heavy-duty trucks on the road under the clear act, granting one company permission to continue building glider trucks for two years. thank you for that. there is a whole lot more to be done. mr. wheeler has told me repeatedly that he shares my bull and striking a deal between automakers and and states on fuel economy and tailpipe
1:39 am
standards. unfortunately, the administration's proposal could not be further from the win-win outcome on this committee and outside this committee that lays within reach. instead of providing flexibility and predict ability for the auto industry in exchange for more rigorous standards and clean vehicle incentives going forward, the top administration is proposing to freeze standards for seven straight model useful to we can do better than that, and we need to. the administration would remove all credits for air-conditioning and such a proposal is not the win-win outcome that the stakeholders are asking for, one that keeps the american auto industry competitive, creates good paying jobs at home, and protects our environment well into the future. instead, this administration has once again ignored common sense, turned its back on a solution that would allow for states like california to enforce its own clean standards, and decided to listen to the most extreme voices and is -- as it pushes
1:40 am
through -- listens to the most extreme voices pushing through a plan no one is interested in. mr. pruitt's epa had a warped sense of cooperative federalism. especially when it came to protecting downwind states from harmful air pollution. under mr. pruitt, epa failed to meet the deadlines to designate who was living in unhealthy ozone areas missions critical to downwind states. at the same time, mr. pruitt's epa rejected requests from downwind states to require upwind polluters to install or update existing pollution controls, try to cut air program funding, and weaken enforcement efforts. all of these efforts, all of these actions, were a disaster for people like those in my own home state of delaware and maryland, new jersey, new york, rhode island, massachusetts, and others who live at the end of what we call america's tailpipe.
1:41 am
instead of prioritizing and protecting the polluters, i hope mr. wheeler will prioritize and protect the people being harmed from those emissions. under mr. pruitt, the epa has acted to roll back a clean water protections by dishonestly inflating the cost of those rules to industry while minimizing environmental benefits to the public. mr. wheeler needs to describe how he plans to ensure that clean water and other rules are based on credible data from how they comply with the law. mr. pruitt misguidedly banned any scientist who had received epa grant funding from serving on the scientific advisory committees. he proposed to have epa ignore and not consider some of the best scientific studies in the world. it is my sincere hope that mr. wheeler will share his plans for ending epa's war on science. disappointingly, there is no aspect of epa's inflammation of the toxic substance control act
1:42 am
that will not be litigated. mr. pruitt's epa chose to blatantly disregard of the unambiguous law we wrote on this committee, which congress past with unanimous support. this kind of blatant disregard for the rule of law needs to end here. mr. wheeler needs to describe how he plans to stop wasting taxpayer funds and epa lawyers' time defending proposals that are clearly illegal and restore the agency to one that respects the rule of law and is guided by science. the day after mr. pruitt resigned, i sent mr. wheeler a letter and told him, "you have been granted an enormous challenge and responsibility, but even greater opportunity." the damage that scott pruitt has done to this agency will not be easily undone. while you and i have not always agreed and will not always agree on every environmental policy matter, it is my hope and expectation that you will carefully consider the lessons of the past as you prepare to chart the agency's future.
1:43 am
we look forward to a continued dialogue and today's hearing. welcome. sen. barrasso: thank you so much, senator carper, and i will hear from our witness in a few seconds, the honorable andrew wheeler. the acting administrator to the u.s. environmental protection agency. i want to remind mr. wheeler that your full written testimony will be made part of the official hearing records of the official hearing record so please keep your comments and statement to about five minutes so we will have time for questions from members of the committee. i look forward to hearing your testimony. mr. wheeler. mr. wheeler: good morning, mr. chairman, ranking member carper, and members of the committee. when senator barrasso called me to ask if this would be my first hearing, i jumped at the opportunity because i cannot think of another committee on wanted to testify in front of first. when president trump appointed me acting administrator, he asked me to focus on three things -- clean up the air, clean up the water, provide regulatory relief to help the economy and provide more jobs for american workers. i believe we can accomplish all three of the same time.
1:44 am
in fact we have already made , progress on all three in the past few weeks. we have not slowed down and not missed a step. yesterday we released to the annual report on air quality, and we have great news to share. from 1970 to 2017, the combined emissions of the six key pollutants dropped by 73% while the u.s. economy grew more than 260%. this is a remarkable achievement that should be recognized and celebrated. the u.s. leads the world in terms of clean air and air quality progress. on my first day as acting administrator, we sent to omb the interagency review the proposed rule that sets state guidelines for greenhouse gas omissions from power plants. we recently finalized the first set of revisions to the 2015 regulations for the disposal of coal ash. these actions will provide state and utilities much-needed flexibility in the management of their ways. last week we issued a final goal that codifies reporting
1:45 am
exceptions that were signed into law in the fair agriculture recording method, the farm act, senator fischer's legislation. we also included pathways for biodiesel and sorghum. this lays the groundwork for more homegrown fuels under the renewable fuel standard. it adds diversity to the nations biofuels mix. we commemorated the one-year anniversary of the task force report and highlighted the extraordinary progress we have made cleaning up sites and returning them to productive use. just this week, we reached a framework to address the outstanding issues of the anaconda smelter site in montana. this framework will allow us to meet our goal of delisting the site by 2025, and this site has been on the list for decades. as you can see, we are continuing the president's agenda posthaste. the combination of regulatory relief and the president's historic tax cuts continues to spur economic growth across the country, particularly in communities that were previously
1:46 am
and wrongly ignored or forgotten. one way we can fulfill the president's agenda is providing more certainty to the american people. a lack of certainty from epa hinders the environmental protections and creates paralysis in the marketplace. we will prioritize certainty into three areas -- certainties of the states and local governments, including tribes, certainty with the epa programs such as permitting enforcement actions, and certainty in risk communication. we need to provide more certainty to the states who are the primary implementers and enforcers of our programs. we will work closely with the states to in short our mutual responsibilities under the law are fulfilled. secondly, we need to provide more certainty with epa programs. for example we need to improve , our permitting processes. our goal is to make alternate decisions up or down in six months. i'm not suggesting that we approve all permits within a set amount of time. on a similar front, we must
1:47 am
provide more certainty in our enforcement actions. when epa's enforcement actions linger for years, it hurts the competitiveness of american businesses. let me be clear, i'm not advocating for letting people off the hook or reducing fines. i'm advocating for taking enforcement decisions in a timely and consistent manner. third and finally, we need to provide more certainty and risk communication. as an agency, we must be able to speak with one voice and clearly explain to the american people the environmental and health risks they face in their daily lives. we have fallen short in this area from our response to 9/11 to recent events surrounding the gold king mine in colorado and most recently in flint, michigan. we owe it to the american public to ensure that this does not happen again. we are prioritizing our efforts to state and local governments in preparing for and responding to natural disasters an extreme weather events.
1:48 am
readiness is all, to quote my favorite author, shakespeare. there is no doubt in my mind that we will make improvements in all of these areas. i believe in this agency, i believe in its mission, i believe in its personnel. i would like to take a minute to talk about my fellow epa employees. i know how dedicated and passionate they are and it is a privilege to work alongside them -- sen. barrasso: if i could have the witness suspend and ask the officers to remove the disturbance. sen. barrasso: apologize for the delay. mr. wheeler: quite alright. i would like to take a minute to talk about my fellow employees. i know how dedicated and passionate they are, and it is a privilege to work alongside them. i told them my instinct will be
1:49 am
to defend their work and i will seek the facts from them before drawing conclusions. we exist to serve the public. we should conduct our business in a manner fully deserving of the public's trust and confidence. earlier this week i issued my own fishbowl memo which lays out the principles and protocols that will guide our efforts to be transparent, open, and accountable to the american public. our success as an agency depends on it. thank you, and i look forward to answering your questions. sen. barrasso: thank you very much for your testimony. we will start with questioning, and i wanted to start by mentioning what i see happening in the state of washington. the state of washington is abusing section 401 of the clean water act to block the development of coal export terminal in that state. the terminal would ship coal from wyoming, montana, utah, and colorado to markets in asia. the state of washington has cited reasons for objecting to the terminal that have nothing to do with water quality, if they are using section 401 of the clean water act.
1:50 am
i introduced a bill this week to address this problem. we cannot allow states to block the export of american energy. will you commit to working with me to identify legislative and regulatory solutions to stop these abuses? mr. wheeler: yes, i will. sen. barrasso: recently there have been some stories in the press discussing recusals from former clients and meetings that you took -- your recusals in terms of meetings you have taken as deputy administrator. i would like to give you the opportunity to address the stories and clarify the record. visit with us about that and tell the committee how you honor recusal from former clients. mr. wheeler: absolutely. i've committed under the trump ethics pledge and ethics regulations to follow all the guidelines. i've worked with our career ethics officials at the epa. the first time before i was nominated to go over what the
1:51 am
requirements would be, and i have not met with any of my clients that i have represented for the two years prior to joining the agency. there was one article that mentioned that there was a former client that was in a couple meetings i attended. i want to clarify that those were not meetings, those were speeches. i gave speeches at two trade associations and the client was in the audience in those speeches. according to ethics, as long as there was more than five people -- there was five times as many people as that in the audience. i can't control the people that attended a public speech. sen. barrasso: thank you. the clean air act requires the epa grant relief to small refineries, which suffer disproportionate economic hardship under the fuel standards. the law explicitly states that the small refineries in addition to epa for hardship relief at any time. do you agree that epa does not
1:52 am
have the authority to limit when small refineries can apply for hardship relief? mr. wheeler: absolutely, we cannot limit when they apply for the relief. sen. barrasso: the law further states that the epa must act within 90 days upon receiving a petition from a small refinery. do you agree that the epa does not have the authority to delay decisions beyond 90 days? mr. wheeler: i'm not sure to the extent we have met the 90-day requirements, but we certainly try to meet all the requirements under all of our statutes. sen. barrasso: in december 2017, i said administrator pruitt a letter encouraging the epa to withdraw its proposed rule on uranium recovery, isr. the obama administration proposes a rule on january 19, 2017, the final day before president obama left office. since then the nuclear
1:53 am
regulatory commission, our nation's principal nuclear regulator, has stated there is no health or safety jurisdiction for epa's rulemaking. uranium production is vital to our country's national security energy security. wyoming produces more uranium than any other state. when can we expect the epa to scrap this unnecessary regulation, a midnight regulation that came out on the final day of an eight-year administration? mr. wheeler: i have not had the opportunity to be briefed on that the last four weeks, but the nuclear regulatory commission has concerns on that and we will work on that expeditiously. sen. barrasso: during the first year of the trump administration, it is my understanding that epa finalized 22 deregulatory actions. according to your agencies can save over $1 billion in regulatory costs to americans. last july it was announced that the american economy grew 4.1%. this continues the trend of strong economic growth under the trump administration. in your opinion, is the administration's approach to
1:54 am
environmental deregulation under the epa protecting the environment while also helping the economy? essentially, can we have a strong economy and healthy environment at the same time? mr. wheeler: yes, we can, and the data shows that. sen. barrasso: sen. carper. sen. carper: again, welcome -- mr. wheeler: thank you, thank you for the coke. i need to clear through ethics. [laughter] sen. carper: if it doesn't clear -- mr. wheeler: i would be happy to buy it from you. [laughter] sen. carper: you told me what than once -- the deal between automakers in california on tailpipe standards, a real win-win is what we are looking for. the auto industry in the state of california told me that they want a deal.
1:55 am
unfortunately, the administration's proposal released this week is reported to freeze standards at model year 2020 levels, eliminate technology incentives, and preempt california the 12 states that have followed california's lead, which i believe would be a lose-lose-lose situation. a loss for an industry that needs a certainty of predictability. a loss for consumers. and a loss for our environment. the largest source of air pollution is not coal plant utilities. it is mobile sources. that is number one. i have a number of questions. if you were presenting with a proposal that the auto industry and the state of california and 12 states aligned with them could support, would you welcome such a compromise. mr. wheeler: i would certainly welcome such a compromise. the proposal we have this week
1:56 am
-- it is a proposal. we are taking a range of comments from the flatline approach all the way to the numbers that president obama's proposal have them and a number of steps in between. we are taking comments on all of those levels and we would welcome comments and proposals from any of the impacted groups, absolutely. sen. carper: just to follow up, could we assume on this committee that if there was such a deal, essentially a 50-state deal, there would be no effort to preempt california? mr. wheeler: i mean, it is my goal, the administration's goal to come up with a 50-state solution, and we want to 50-state solution that does not necessitate preempting california. however, it is important that there is a number of goals in the proposal, important goals on highway safety. we would have to make sure that those are met. the proposal would save 1000
1:57 am
lives per year which i think is very important, and we maintain that in any final regulation. sen. carper: i do a lot of customer calls and i know my colleagues do as welcome businesses large and small. delaware used to build more cars and trucks per capita than anywhere in america. we had to gm plant, chrysler plant and employed 8,000 people. those plans lost both in the great recession. i ask them three questions. how are you doing, how are we doing, and what can we do to help? unanimously they say with respect to this what you can do is give us predictability and certainty. we don't want to have to build one chevrolet malibu in some states and a different model for the other 37 states. they say we are happy -- we want near-term flexibility on these standards, but we want more rigorous standards going forward. we don't want to be in court for the next five or six years with california and other states will to enable us to compete with the rest of the world and we get to
1:58 am
2025. i ask you to keep that in mind. cross-state pollution. delaware and other states have made great strides in cleaning up ozone pollution, yet in northern delaware where my family and i live it still does not meet the ozone health standards to two emissions not from within our states, but dirty cars and power plants drifting into our state. 94% of our pollution comes from outside of us, largely through the west. in 2016, delaware filed four clean-air petitions, showing that for fossil jewel land -- fossil fuel plants are contributing to our unhappy ozone. the facilities in pennsylvania have clean air pollution technology install. they don't use it. they don't use it. facility in west virginia, my native west virginia, they could
1:59 am
go natural gas. it would help not only their of quality but ours as well. we thought delaware's case was a slamdunk. i was shocked when epa rejected these positions. just a couple yes or no questions if i could. before making a final decision, would you commit to reviewing delaware's rebuttal through epa's proposed rejections come which were sent to you july 23, 2018? i asked you to commit to review our rebuttal. mr. wheeler: i would be happy to review that. sen. carper: since epa has refused to have a hearing on this issue in delaware would you commit to me officially with state of delaware officials before making a final decision on this matter at the place and time of your convenience? mr. wheeler: i would be happy to talk to the officials in delaware. sen. carper: yes or no -- i don't usually ask yes or no questions, so bear with me. when making final decisions on any 126 section or petition,
2:00 am
would you follow this spirit and letter of the law, which requires the epa to prioritize the residents of the state which received the pollution? mr. wheeler: yes, senator, we will follow the letter and spirit of the law. i would add also on the cross-border side, we are working with states to develop technical tools to help them facilitate the good neighbor state plans. on the ozone, we are showing that all of the areas -- the few areas that have been long-standing should be in attainment by the early 2020s. we looking very positive, the data coming in on that. sen. carper: if i could in closing, everybody on this committee -- i know some folks here pretty well, treating people the way we want to be treated.
2:01 am
the idea that folks in states to our work -- to our west put up pollution keep your air clean, , health-care costs low -- dirty air and high health care costs, not fair to our neighbors. thank you. sen. barrasso: before turning to senator inhofe, we will start voting shortly, and i will turn to the chair over to senator inhofe will be chairing the committee until i return. sen. inhofe: thank you, mr. chairman. first of all, i like your opening statement. it is certainty that we want, that we deserve and have not been historically given. i want to elaborate a little bit with the question and ask it a little bit differently than the comments by the ranking member. last year the epa from all along with the department of energy, granted 33 of 34 hardship exemptions to refineries due to high costs. the epa was sued on one petition.
2:02 am
it ended up losing in court. opponents of these exceptions and say that the refiners are not under hardship, even though they are paying more than their payroll to comply with the mandates that are out there. if you look at the fact that the epa has now lost twice in court for not approving exemptions to the epa simply applying the law when it does grant them come and it should be approving more of them how does the epa thread this needle? mr. wheeler: it is a difficult needle to thread. we are following the statute, and we have had two court cases that have ruled against the agency on the granting of the exemptions. we have appropriations language to remind us to grant the refinery exceptions. one area we are trying to do is provide more transparency on the
2:03 am
decisions we are making on exceptions. that will clear up a lot of the concerns around the issue. sen. inhofe: i think it will. president trump and you have committed to returning epa to cooperative federalism, which i applaud. some have confused that principle with coercive federalism, where one state dictates their standard to all others. when it comes to the auto industry, the last administration handed over car emissions standards to california, but other states did not get to weigh in. because of this, my state of oklahoma is paying more for suv's and trucks to subsidize electric cars so california drivers can afford them, which i personally find offensive. i applaud the epa for revisiting the midterm review done by the obama administration. the epa does not have any
2:04 am
statutory direction for auto regulations, but nhtsa does. do you think they should harmonize relations so technological feasibility and consumer costs are considered? mr. wheeler: yes, senator, i do. that is what we have done. sen. inhofe: lastly, i had the honor of attending your opening statement. it was a very good statement. you had all the employees come i don't know how many were there, but you got a very fine response. you mentioned the fact that the united states is the gold standard worldwide for the environmental protection, and pollution regulated as drop 73%. you mentioned this again in your opening statement. nobody ever talks about this, the success we have, that we are riding on. meanwhile our economy has , expanded over three times over and pollutions have dropped 73%.
2:05 am
the problem we have had in the eight years of the obama administration is the use of regulations to punish industries and states to reshape our economy with little to no benefit to the environment. can you elaborate on how you have both a clean environment without handcuffing our in our economy? mr. wheeler: if we provide more certainty to the american people, so everyone understands the decisions we are making and why we are making them, we will continue to improve the environment. sen. inhofe: are there instances when regulations such as the new source review can get in the way of reducing pollution? mr. wheeler: it can. it can be a disincentive for installing cleaner technologies and we are trying to stop that.
2:06 am
sen. inhofe: thank you very much. sen. barrosso: senator cardin? sen. cardin: i noticed your comments about the improvement in air over the last 50 to 60 years, we have seen a dramatic improvement in the chesapeake bay. it has also been a program developed with state flexibility, state blueprints agreed to by the surrounding states of the chesapeake bay watershed as well as the district of columbia, and it has had the strong support of congress and this committee, as well as from the environmental protection agency. my first question, recognizing the importance of the chesapeake bay, not just to the surrounding states but to our region, the largest estuary in our hemisphere. will you continue the traditional support for a strong
2:07 am
federal role in coordinating the work done on the chesapeake bay? mr. wheeler: my first week as the deputy administrator, i attended the chesapeake bay commission and next week i will attend the chesapeake bay leadership council in baltimore. it is a high-priority for us. i live in the chesapeake resource protection area and it is a high priority for the agency. mr. cardin: i do not consider that to be a conflict so you can do whatever you want to protect our bay. i would ask you to work closely with members of this committee and congress that have a deep interest in the chesapeake bay. mr. wheeler: i will. mr. cardin: thank you. the epa inspector general released a report on the lead contamination crisis in flint, michigan. will you accept in implement the recommendations of the inspector general?
2:08 am
mr. wheeler: yes, sir. i know our staff has reviewed the recommendations and we are in the process of planning and implementation program. i have not been fully briefed on how we are going to implement them yet, but it is a high priority for the agency. we are looking to make sure something like flint, michigan does not happen again. mr. cardin: the inspector general gives an independent view and it is important that there report receives them respect from the age -- the respect from the agency. mr. wheeler: it is. mr. cardin: i appreciate what you said about the workforce, people that work at the epa. the first question i have, i recognize the struggle that every person has with omb. will you be an advocate for the funds necessary for the epa to be able to carry out its work, and be there fighting for the resources you need to carry out your mission?
2:09 am
yes. i am in advocate for the resources we need and we will fully implement the appropriations congress gives us. sec. cardin: a former staffer, you understand the questions coming. that's good. let me just follow up on that. you said you wanted to to respect the recommendations given to you by your scientists and professional staff. i assume that also means the science advisory board. that is a resource that you have and it has been called into challenge in the last two years. are you committed to allowing the experts to give you unfettered information for you to make decisions that need to be made, and will you commit to allow that to participate in policy conferences so you can have the interaction which we ofe seen over a long period time with epa.
2:10 am
mr. wheeler: yes, i would commit to both of those. sec. cardin: let me just ask you about your vision as to what you need in support in order to carry out your mission. the epa is responsible for clean air, clean water, a clean environment. new you have a new toxic chemical that has been working on. there is concern that chemicals are not being treated as intended by congress. you pledged to work with us and outside interest groups to make sure we get an independent evaluation of issues such as toxic chemicals to make sure they are given the independent valuation as to whether they need to be regulated? mr. wheeler: yes, senator, i do. i started my career in the toxic chemicals program at epa in 1991 i worked there for four years and i'm excited to be part of the implementation of the new chemical law. we want to make sure we are implementing it in the same
2:11 am
manner that congress intended when they passed it. sec. cardin: if you have information, you will consider the information sent to you? mr. wheeler: yes, senator. sen. barrosso: senator bozeman. senator bozeman: thank you, chairman, thank you for being here to testify. senator inhofe mentioned the importance of certainty. one of the think like asking june is the fact that on 27, then epa administrator pruitt issued an email reorienting the approach to how and when it would veto clean water act permits issued by the u.s. army corps of engineers. recognizing the agency has not acted on the authority often, only 13 time since the threat 1980, remains that the epa
2:12 am
could stop and infrastructure project that has are really gone through a lengthy and expensive permitting process and already received approval to proceed. uncertainty and jeopardizes support for infrastructure projects. will epa under your direction proceed with rulemaking to align the process with the june 27 memo. mr. wheeler: we are looking into that, and as we move forward, it is important to provide that certainty. i agree that even though it has been rarely used by the agency, it has created a lot of uncertainty, even when it wasn't used. sec. boozman: we would appreciate you looking at that. you will have a highly influential role in advising the president on how to implement the regulatory policy of the environment for our nation. how do you think your past experiences will help with how the epa engages with all stakeholders?
2:13 am
mr. wheeler: having started my career at the agency as a career employee, that has helped me a lot in understanding the processes and people at the agency. 14 years working here in this committee and meeting with a wide variety of stakeholders from a number of states across the country and internationally as well, has given me a appreciation for the conflicting policy areas we have at the agency, and we need to make sure we are talking with all groups before we move forward with regulation. sec. boozman: the criticism of the epa was the disconnect with rural america. rural america is having a difficult time. many hard-working americans felt they did not have a voice and their opinions did not matter. what have you done and what is your planning in the future to facilitate a stronger level of trust between epa and rural america?
2:14 am
mr. wheeler: it is important to make sure all of our regulatory actions take into account the impact on rural america. the announcement we made last week on the sort of pathway, that will help a lot of rural communities across the upper midwest. making sure we take actions like that to help grow the economy in rural areas is very important. sec. boozman: epa during the obama administration encroached into other agency's jurisdictions, resulting in them making decisions where they lacked the expertise. can we count on you to work with other agencies and take their expertise into careful consideration when developing and implementing rules and regulations? , yes we we are taking this into consideration. boozman: it seems our air
2:15 am
permitting system is in desperate need of updating. the system we have sometimes overstates the air quality impacts of new projects, which can lead to canceled investments and lost opportunities. what does the agency plan to do to fix the broken permitting and new source review programs? mr. wheeler: we have implemented several guidance documents, new guidance to the states and the community on new source review. we are looking to see which ones we need to move forward for regulatory actions to make sure we provide that certainty. often times, it can be counterproductive on cleaning up the environment when it is a disincentive for installing cleaner and more efficient technologies. sen. boozman: companies have made billions of dollars in investments complying with the 2013 boiler maximum achievable control technology rule. while it was expensive, it was generally achievable.
2:16 am
unfortunately regulatory , uncertainty remains given recent court decisions sending a couple of issues back to the epa to address. when will the epa complete this rulemaking so they will have met all their boiler obligations? mr. wheeler: senator i am not , positive on the timeline, but i will look into that and get back to your office. sen. barrosso: thank you. senator booker? senator booker: good to see you here. mr. wheeler, i want to focus on epa's implementation if i can, and i'm pleased with the strategic plan the epa released to decrease animal testing. i hope this is an issue we can move together on working forward. i am concerned about how the epa is choosing to implement the changes that my colleagues and i in a bipartisan way worked so hard on last congress.
2:17 am
you are probably aware of that. one area i am concerned about the epa's failure to consider all sources of exposure that people have to the toxic chemicals the epa has started to review. in our amended law, epa was told by congress to examine the safety of all known, intended, and reasonably foreseeable uses of a chemical, and the combined impact. when making the determination of whether a chemical presents the unreasonable risk of harm. epa's problem formulations have dramatically narrowed the conditions that the agency will use to evaluate the safety of the first 10 chemicals. epa is now indicating it will ignore known exposures to those first 10 toxic chemicals, including the known carcinogen tce. the epa has warned that it has caused cancer.
2:18 am
in 2017, they proposed a ban of specific uses. but under scott pruitt's leadership, the epa voted to indefinitely postpone the ban on this chemical. in new jersey, many communities have been harmed by tce. i want to focus on franklin, indiana. the community has high levels in their water and in the air. children are getting cancer at inordinately high rate. kerry and matt reinhardt, their daughter died four years ago from brain cancer when she was 13. stacy and matt davison, who are also here, their son has leukemia but thank god it is currently in recession. high level exposures of pce makes these families part of a vulnerable population, but the epa will ignore exposure from
2:19 am
land, water, and air, ignoring what these families have in so painfully endured. pceeciding whether or not is safe. the scaling back of our bipartisan chemical safety law, one of the prouder moments i was set in a senator motion by scott pruitt and i hope you will reverse course on what i think is a bad decision. as part of the evaluation process, but you commit to comprehensively review and the risk of chemicals by including known releases of chemicals into our air, water, and land, releases a threat to our community? mr. wheeler: i'm trying to keep track of all of the parts of your question. it is tragic for any chemical to cause the death of a child. my heart goes out to those families impacted by that.
2:20 am
absolutely, we need to be moving forward to do something on this and other chemicals, which is why we included it on the list of the first 10 chemicals for review. sec. booker: would you commit to comprehensively reviewing the risk chemicals by including known releases into our land, air, and water? mr. wheeler: it is my understanding we are looking at those pathways as we look at the chemicals on the list. i will need to double check with our chemical office on that. it is my understanding that as i will need to double check with part of the 10 chemicals, pce being one of the first chemicals we will examine. sec. booker: i am worried that is something that will move forward and we need to reverse that decision. mr. wheeler: i think i
2:21 am
understand what you are saying, but let me check on the status. sec. booker: methylene chloride in january 2013, epa proposed banning all uses in paint strippers. the ban was never finalized. in may, your predecessor agreed to meet with mothers of sons who died suddenly using paint strippers with this toxic chemical, and scott pruitt said they will revise the proposed rule and send it out, but we have seen nothing. the mothers who were hoping to prevent other families from experiencing the loss of loved ones. my simple question -- will you commit to sending the proposed ban of consumer chemicals uses to omb for the final review in the next two weeks? mr. wheeler: we are continuing to work with omb and the other agencies that have equity on that issue. we're trying to move it forward.
2:22 am
to a specific timeframe, but we are trying to move that forward. sec. booker: a lot of families from paint stripping chemicals are relying on you to save lives here it there is extraordinary injustice is going on with inaction of your agency and i hope you will move with all deliberate speed to address these speeds. sen. barrasso: thank you senator booker. senator ernst. senator urged. ernst: thank you, mr. chair and mr. wheeler, for being here. there has been a lot of talk about the small refinery exemption so i will dive in with you. over the past year and a half, epa has taken actions that benefit refiners at the expense of farmers and by granting an unprecedented number of exemptions, epa effectively waived 2.25 billion gallons from refiners 2016 and 2017
2:23 am
rfs obligations. not only do these actions contradict president trump's congressionally mandated volumes but they have destroyed corn and ethanol demand leading to lost income for iowa farmers at a time when foreign income is at its lowest level since 2006. yes or no, do you believe that rfs should be implemented in a manner consistent with the original intent of congress? mr. wheeler: yes, i do. sec. ernst: thank you. let's distill this further. for compliance year 2017, the epa granted 29 small refinery exemptions totaling 1.45 billion gallons, which removes that many gallons from obligated parties'compliance requirements. which is the 15 billion gallons, the implied corn ethanol requirement
2:24 am
minus the 1.45 is 13.55 billion gallons. you take the 15 that is implied, that is the requirement minus the 1.45, and it gives you 13.5 5 billion gallons. that is about 10% below the statutory requirement. is that correct? it would be about 10%. mr. wheeler: i will trust your math, senator. sec. ernst: it is about 10% below the statutory requirement. if these gallons are reallocated somewhere, then you are not implementing the rfs in a manner consistent with the original intent of congress, correct? mr. wheeler: part of the original intent of congress was also to grant the waivers, and there was not a provision for reallocating that. we are taking a look at that issue. we are trying to be much more
2:25 am
clear and transparent as we grant any small refinery waivers. we have been sued twice on this for not granting enough and we have lost both times. sec. ernst: i understand that. there is also an obligation of 15 billion gallons. those gallons that have been granted waivers for, we have to figure out a real allocation strategy. mr. wheeler: i agree, we have to figure out a real allocation strategy, but we are confined by the law. sec. ernst: the law requires 15 billion gallons. last november before this committee, you were committed to issuing a determination on whether or not the epa can grant the reid vapor pressure waiver. last week in iowa, president trump expressed support for removing the outdated barrier preventing the sale and indicated his administration is "very close to implementing the
2:26 am
rvp waiver." can you state that epa has the authority to provide rvp relief for ethanol blends of e-15 and higher? mr. wheeler: we certainly can start that process. there is people that do not believe we have that authority. the legislation this committee considered last year would have been very clear in giving epa that authority. we are looking at that issue as you and i have discussed a few times, and i would be happy to discuss with you further moving forward. sec. ernst: we find that is very important, something the president has committed to. i will say in closing that rvp parity is a no-cost solution that will expand the domestic market for farmers who have been
2:27 am
adversely affected by retaliatory tariffs. rvp parity would boost economy prices -- acting administrator acting administrator wheeler, i encourage you to follow through on the president's directive and remove this unnecessary and ridiculous restriction. i look forward to working with you on these issues. i know we will have many discussions to follow. mr. wheeler: i look forward to those. sen. inhofe: taking the prerogative of the chairman, i want to recognize myself for a unanimous consent. last week, a story -- the article was from sandra dunphy, an independent analyst who
2:28 am
testified before the energy and commerce committee. i ask unanimous consent to enter this article into the record at this point. without objection, so ordered. senator whitehouse. senator whitehouse: i viewed your predecessor's tenure as one characterized by a tawdry behavior in office, a desire to do damage to the agency that he led a , flagrant absence of transactional integrity and horrible environmental policies. i see you as a remedy to three of those four. so, in that sense i welcome you. appreciate itu i very much your courtesy and having the in. i very much hope that you follow through on putting teddy roosevelt's picture on your wall. i think that would be a good reminder and signal.
2:29 am
a lot of what needed to be repaired at epa had to do with process stuff rather than the substantive disagreement you and i may have on environmental issues. some of the process that had to do with enforcement. in the first nine months of the trump administration, which we have data for, enforcement actions declined by 30% compared to the first nine months of the bush administration and 35% compared to the first nine months of the obama administration. in that same period epa sought 50% less and finds an money for environment of cleanup. 90% less than the obama administration. some of that appears to have been a decision made by the epa office of compliance and enforcement to seek headquarters's approval before beginning investigatory actions. i have the memo here, effective immediately, review is required
2:30 am
prior to issuance of information request under the clean air act and the clean water act. what is your intention regarding that headquarters review stymieing what had always been a prerogative of the different regional agencies in getting information about potential environmental regulations? -- i have notot seen that memo. is there a date? 31.his memo is dated may >> of this year or last year? >> 17. so it has been in effect for a while. if you have to an information request for headquarters, that could create massive
2:31 am
institutional delay or put the kibosh on the investigation in the first place. that does not seem like the role of headquarters. >> i've not seen this memo. i do want to point out that we did not have a senate confirmed person until december of last year. i believe that is the longest time the agency had ever gone without a senate confirmed person. numbers have gone up significantly since susan took over the office and i think the program itself -- >> i would ask you to get back to me on whether this memo is still in place. additionally, one of the problems that bedeviled people trying to get information is requests were customarily provided slowly and often only after litigation. members of congress, myself included, were told, we get you the information you asked for
2:32 am
when we get around to it. i don't think either of those is good practice for a public agency. which is let me know what you're doing with respect to foia compliance? >> first of all, at the beginning of this administration, we had a 700 case backlog. some cases were back 2008. we have cleaned up the entire backlog and i would point out for the administrators office, we saw 415% increase in the number of requests. intonsolidated the program one office under the general counsel's office and we are in the process of hiring additional people. committee --to the i worked hard to make sure they received information from the agency and i will continue to do
2:33 am
that as the acting administrator of the epa. >> i will send you a list of the ones that remain outstanding and you can plow through those. i knew you have worked very closely with industry for a long time and i hope that you will give your very serious and ernest consideration to people like me from coastal states. we are seeing climate change driven sea level rise that will force us to redraw the map of my state. to makeis not something a senator serious about protecting it, i do not know what is. i hope that you will take into industryhe concerns of -- not only the concerns of industry and the square states in the middle of the country
2:34 am
that do not have coast, but those of us who are looking to after redraw the map because of what is happening. thank you very much. >> thank you. >> sen. rounds:. welcome to the committee. it is good to see you. i appreciate your interest in your opening statement regarding certainty and the desire to forward with certainty and transparency. i do think what senator ernst was trying to get out with regard to renewable fuel standards in the small refinery limitation for them, how those fit together, i'd like to explore that a little bit, because it is critical that the that this renewable fuel standard remain in effect. they have invested billions of dollars in creating an ethanol industry that is expected to
2:35 am
last until the year 2022. clearly, there was a traditional 15 balance -- 15 billion gallon per year allowance. we also understand within the same legislation that you could make exceptions for hardship for small refineries. there was nothing we can find that indicates that would limit or reduce the 15 billion gallon minimum for traditional production. can you share with me what you -- where you would come up with or where there would be logic in reducing renewable fuel standard from the 15 billion to follow what was already included in the original law? when congress wrote the law, they understood that 15 billion was there and made clear. they understood we would take into account that small refineries may have a hardship. there was nothing to indicate
2:36 am
the 15 billion would be reduced. can you share your thought process on why you would not continue to push and reallocate for the 15 billion gallons? mr. wheeler: as one of the former congressional staffers who helped write that section of the law, i wish we had spent a little bit more time on some of the details of it now that i'm helping to implement it. i would start by saying we are working to provide more transparency around the small refinery exemption program. we are creating a dashboard where we will publicize all the information about when we grant a waiver and circumstances around the waiver. we have to balance that with the confidential business information of the impacted companies. we are working to be more transparent on that side of the program and see what we can do
2:37 am
as far as making up the difference when we have to grant a waiver from the 15 billion gallons. it is not -- >> i don't think and i don't find any place where it says waiver from the 15 billion, it says an individual refinery may get from their responsibility, but that does not absolve us from meeting the 15 billion gallon limit. >> i agree, but then you have the problem that waivers are being requested and granted after members have been set. we are talking about whether we can go back retroactively to change the numbers and compliance numbers for the other people in the industry. >> i like the fact you are looking at transparency within the process and in fact i think you are moving in the right direction. i sent a letter to your predecessor dated april 13 of this year. i requested the epa provide more information on the factors that go into the granting of
2:38 am
small refinery exemptions. mr. chairman i would ask the copy be submitted to the record. a response to the issue as requested. this is an issue of serious consequence to my constituents in south dakota and throughout the upper midwest. reading thismit to request and responding to it in a substantive manner? >> i would do that. >> i understand information that is designated as confidential business information, but there must be aspects of the epa decision-making process that do not strictly fall under this definition and i hope you would continue in an open and transparent process to share with us the process you are using in granting these. the other piece of this, the rvp across the united states, as the president has indicated his
2:39 am
interest in doing it i would , hope we could expect the process to market this product across the u.s. year-round. if that happens, i think a lot of the issues surrounding meeting that would be handled because with those markets available year-round it means people would buy the equipment and have it available if they could use it throughout the year. those pumps are expensive and they don't want to use it if the epa says you can use it six months out of the year but not year-round. would you commit to trying to expedite that part of the process to see if we can help this industry to succeed? mr. wheeler: as i'm sure you know, that was part of a broader package of a deal trying to address concerns of the oil refining industry along with concerns of the ethanol producers. i'm looking actively -- >> i appreciate that. mr. chairman, i know my time has passed,
2:40 am
but you have taken care of the small refineries, what about the small farmers? what about folks producing on a year-to-year basis enough to get body and a time in which we have got trade issues in front of us and a time where they expect an rfp would be honored by the government that we made several years ago. you have taken care of small refineries but not small farmers. o number for 2019 is 500 million gallons more than what it was the previous year. we also added the sorghum pathway to help farmers in finding another biofuel feedstock. we are looking very actively to see what we can do to provide more. now just more flexibility in the program but more assistance. >> i look forward to working with you. mr. wheeler: thank you. >> senator van hollen. senator van hollen: welcome. i had a question along lines of senator carper asked you. he asked you about the delaware
2:41 am
filing under the good neighbor petition provisions of the clean air act. petitionalso filed a in the epa did not respond to it november, 2016. until just a few months ago at which time they said they proposed to deny the petition. this is an issue that has united all marylanders, republicans and democrats alike. all of the members of our congressional delegation sent a letter to the epa. they asked the epa to take in another look at this, the republican governor hogan has asked the same thing. so the first ask i would have is the same senator carper made of you. would you commit to meet with our maryland department of environment secretary to go over maryland's position on the good neighbor petition? mr. wheeler: i would be happy to meet with him.
2:42 am
i have known him for years and worked with him. sen. van hollen: i appreciate it. the letter we got back from the epa said there was not enough information. i think ben, if you know him, he is very diligent. i looked at it, he provided a lot of information and that it was too costly even though what we were asking for is plants to apply already existing technology. do you have any details on why the epa proposed to deny the maryland petition? mr. wheeler: i don't and i have not looked at the maryland petition in the four weeks i've been acting administrator. sen. van hollen: i appreciate your willingness to do that. i think it is important, because it is simply unfair in the clean air act that some states are doing their job to clean up their air, but their air gets polluted by states that are not doing their job and so i hope we can resolve this issue. i think you live in the
2:43 am
chesapeake bay watershed of virginia? mr. wheeler: i do. sen. van hollen: the bay agreements over a long period of time have been one of the great environmental success stories. you always feel like you are running in place with the bay, because they are such a train h basin from so much development, but the good news is as a result of these agreements and most recently the 2014 agreement, we appear to be making progress. a long way to go, but progress. the most recent agreement included a provision with respect to the total maximum daily load. can you commit that you as the acting head of the epa will continue to enforce epa's role within that agreement? mr. wheeler: absolutely. it is good news on the bay. we have a lot of work to do but over the last 10 years the seagrass has gone up from 34,000 acres to 100,000 acres and that's one of the first indicators of a healthy bay.
2:44 am
we have made a lot of progress and we continue to make progress. sen. van hollen: i appreciate that. our house colleagues attached a provision to the environmental appropriations bill to eliminate epa's enforcement of authority under that agreement and i'm assuming you would oppose that limitation on your authority. mr. wheeler: we would like to keep all the enforcement authorities that we can. sen. van hollen: thank you. just last week epa released a 2016 to 2017 milestone and midpoint progress report on the bay. as you indicated there's been some progress. it did note the state of pennsylvania is not meeting its targets for agriculture and urban suburban runoff. as part of the farm bill, we've arked on a partisan basis -- bipartisan basis to increase the
2:45 am
funds available under the regional conservation partnership program so hoping that will go forward. what actions can epa take? a lot of the pollution comes down the susquehanna river. a major tree terry to the bay. tributary to the bay. this has been an ongoing challenge. what can epa do to help all of us improve pennsylvania's performance? mr. wheeler: we are trying to work more cooperatively with all the states in the chesapeake bay region. in my first week as a deputy administrator i attended a chesapeake bay commission and next week, i will be attending the chesapeake bay leadership council meeting in baltimore and that will be my meeting on the bay since i first assumed my duties. we looked a little bit more into what we can do to work with pennsylvania but we are trying to work with all the states in the area. sen. van hollen: i appreciate that and epa has played a vital role so i appreciate your commitment there. as your own report indicated,
2:46 am
the pollution coming down the susquehanna river from pennsylvania remains a major challenge. we want to work cooperatively with pennsylvania as well, but we need your help. so, thank you. mr. wheeler: thank you, senator. >> thank you for being here with us today. i would first like to take a moment to express my appreciation for your emphasis on improving transparency and increasing good governance practices of the epa. from what i've heard in the testimony thus far, a very cooperative spirit on both sides of the aisle to not just help with national issues but state issues as well. certainly appreciate that. as you know west virginia bore , the brunt of the last eight years of bureaucratic red tape coming out of washington, a lot of it from the epa. we are climbing out of that and our unemployment is near the lowest since 2008. our growth rate is tracking the national average
2:47 am
and in some cases exceeding the national rate. this is in anticipation of things going on now. the regulatory relief you've been a part of at the epa. the tax reform and infrastructure investment. we are encouraged by what we see but we still have a labor participation rate that is lower and we need to use our skilled workforce deployed in responsible and innovative utilization of our natural resources, which we have in abundance in my state. my first question is on the clean power plan. as i'm sure you know, appalachia was essentially ignored when the clean power plan first rule was proposed. we could not get the epa, subsequently, this epa held its first hearing in west virginia and heard opinions from all sides on this plan. i've talked about our growing economy in west virginia and being led by our energy sector.
2:48 am
i would like to know how do you plan to address the failings in the previous clean power plan? where are you on this and do you expect your rule to move to an inside the fence approach and use technology that is commercially available? that was another sticking point, requiring technologies that were never commercially viable and touting them as being a panacea, which we knew did not really exist. your comments on the clean power plan? mr. wheeler: thank you, senator. on my first day as acting administrator we sent a new proposal to omb for interagency review for replacement for the clean power plan. the difference i would say between this approach and the approach of the obama administration is we are following the four corners of the clean air act in what we are proposing. the 2015 proposal had the
2:49 am
dubious distinction of being the first environmental regulation to have a stay issued by the supreme court. i believe that was done because it was outside of what the law directed us to do. so we are going to follow the law and hopefully the proposal will be coming out for public comment in some time in the next 30 to 60 days. sen. capito: thank you. i want to talk about chemical safety thresholds. i would encourage a particular emphasis on a chemical that's been found in water particularly in the parkersburg and martinsburg area of our state. i have previously urged transparency with the former administrator when it came to the release of the toxicological report. it was really long and
2:50 am
complicated, so i can't really interpret it for you. i'm hoping you will do that as well. would you agree that the issue is a serious concern and is a high priority within the epa? mr. wheeler: absolutely. it's a serious concern and high priority. it was one of the first briefings i requested from the staff when i first started as deputy administrator and it is -- it remains a priority for me and the agency. sen. capito: thank you for that. i'm concerned we still don't have a leveling of the appropriate levels both in safety levels either in the soil or in the water and it is causing a lot of concern for me as a representative of our state. let me talk a little bit about coal because it is come back to a reasonable level.
2:51 am
in the brief time we have, could you say from your perspective -- i know you have experience with coal, how do you see this in terms of a more robust coal industry and the environment and where you are planning to go with that? it's a big question. mr. wheeler: it is. let me address it this way. i have always believed in all of the above on energy sources and i don't believe it is the epa's job to pick winners or losers. it is our responsibility to enact the laws that congress passes. under my leadership, we will not pick winners and losers between the different fuel sources, that is what the market will have to decide. it's important we don't enact regulations that penalize one energy source over another or emphasize one energy source over another.
2:52 am
last week i visited a solar panel facility in massachusetts. for the first time two weeks ago. i had never been to the marcellus shale to see the drilling, we are trying very hard to be straight down the road and not pick winners and losers on energy sources. i don't believe that's the epa's responsibility. >> thank you very much. >> thank you, senator. senator markey. >> thank you mr. chairman. mr. wheeler, since 2010, the new fuel economy emissions standards have saved consumers more than $63 billion at the pump, kept 540 million barrels of oil in the ground, reduce carbon pollution by 250 metric tons. over the lifetime of the current fuel economy standards, consumers will save $1 trillion
2:53 am
on gasoline and will keep 12 billion barrels of oil in the ground. that is the simple formula for fuel economy. you save consumers money and you save the planet at the same time. that is why big oil is attacking these standards, the oil industry is scared to death that the billions of barrels of reserves they are currently claiming on their balance sheets to the securities and exchange commission will end up as so-called stranded assets. they are scared to death that $1 trillion will stay stranded in the pockets of consumers. that is why the trump administration is moving to roll back these standards. there has been a lot of news recently about a rift between president trump annalee --
2:54 am
president trump and the koch brothers, president trump and the koch brothers might disagree on politics, but they are always in agreement on petroleum. that is why this rollback of fuel economy standards is really all about petroleum. it is oil above all. according to a leaked draft of the proposed rule, the trump rollback fuel economy standards, the number one option the trump administration is considering is freezing the standards at 2020 levels. that we do not increase the fuel economy standards after 2020. mr. wheeler, yes or no, do you agree freezing the fuel economy emissions standards at 2020 levels would lead to more oil being consumed then if we cap the standards at their current trajectory? mr. wheeler: i am not sure on that. i want to be on the record
2:55 am
saying i have not talked to anybody in the oil industry or received information from them. sen. markey: i asked you would more oil be consumed if we froze the standards at 2020? mr. wheeler: i believe the analysis shows that more oil would be consumed. sen. markey: that is correct. even the -- mr. wheeler: but will also save 12,000 lives. sen. markey: the -- even the draft report says we will consume 500,000 more barrels per day if we freeze these standards. by the way by 2030, we back out under existing standards if they continued 2.5 million barrels of oil per day from saudi arabia and other opec countries. that's the number. 2.5 million barrels of oil per day. do you agree that freezing the standards at 2020 levels would mean consumers would pay more to fill up their gas tanks than
2:56 am
under the current standards? mr. wheeler: that i do not know. i know we have $500 billion in savings to the american consumers under the proposal. sen. markey: according to the union of concerned scientists, freezing the standards would cost american drivers an additional $20 billion alone in 2025 due to higher spending on gasoline. that is money that is transferred right out of the pockets of consumers into the big oil coffers. yes or no, do you agree a freeze on increasing the fuel economy standards would lead to more climate pollution than if we maintained the standards? >> i believe our data shows it would be negative will between the obama proposal and our proposal. >> you are wrong. freezing the standards would mean an additional 2.2 billion metric tons of global warming pollution by 2040 equal to 43
2:57 am
coal-fired power plants. there is a famous line in the movie "all the president's men," follow the money. when you look at the $1 trillion that big oil will never receive from american consumers and the 12 billion barrels of oil they will never produce under the current standards, it becomes pretty clear why big oil would want to attack these standards. all the auto industry has to do is sit back and drive the getaway car. so let me ask you one final question. administrator pruitt committed to release the epa scientific report on the curse and engine formaldehyde -- on the carcinogen formaldehyde but never did so. will you commit to releasing this report? mr. wheeler: are you referring
2:58 am
to the iris report? i have not been briefed specifically on the iris fermeldahyde report. i am trying to get more on the process and figure out how the assessments will be used and it is my understanding that we still have a number of steps to complete. sen. markey: when will you release it? mr. wheeler: the question i have is whether or not the data they've used in the assessment is still current because i know they started it before 2010. sen. markey: will you commit to releasing that report? mr. wheeler: we will release it, but i need to make sure the science and report is still accurate. what i've asked not just for that report but for everything we are doing on the program to make sure we know the purpose of the assessment because we have a lot of chemicals that we should and could be assessing under the iris program and i want to make sure they are being used in a regulatory process as we have other chemicals that need to be assessed. that's one of the questions i've asked.
2:59 am
sen. markey: pruitt committed to releasing it and i hope you well -- you put it at the top of your list and get it released so the public will understand those dangers. mr. wheeler: on the different reports you mentioned, we should be one out in the next day or two and i hope those organizations will submit those reports the record. >> we are now into the second vote and we are about halfway through, i want to get to the additional. thank you for your comments. senator fischer. senator fischer: thank you for being here today. many of my colleagues have already discussed this issue but i would like to also visit with you about small refinery exemptions. as you know, the law allows refineries that produce 75,000 barrels or less per day to seek an exemption from the rfs. for the reason of disproportionate economic hardship. the epa in consolation with the
3:00 am
department of energy must consider the findings from a 2011 doe study and quote other economic factors. this disproportionate economic hardship is the critical factor in determining whether small refineries are awarded an exemption. how is that calculated? that is what is of great interest to small refineries because it could decide whether they have to comply with the rfs or whether they get a free pass. my constituents in nebraska and others for whom the rfs is a very important item would be interested in how you interpret that process. for the purposes of making sure the law is being upheld and for congress to understand how you calculate disproportionate economic hardship is vital for purposes of making sure you are carrying out that law as we
3:01 am
intended. for these reasons i would like to discuss how you are doing the analysis. it's my understanding the law does not define disproportionate economic hardships. it's my understanding that epa regulations do not define disproportionate economic hardship. by its definition, disproportionate means you are comparing the impact on the petitioner to the impact on one or more others. is that correct? mr. wheeler: i believe that is correct, senator. if i could say on the small refinery process, we work with department of energy, they do the initial analysis and then we work with them on providing additional analysis as well. what i have committed to do and we are going to do is provide more transparency in how we make these decisions. we are in the process of developing a dashboard to put all the information out publicly
3:02 am
so people know when we are issuing a small refinery waiver and the circumstances around that. we have to make sure we take into account any confidential business information of the company applying for the small business refinery exemption. we want to try and be as transparent as we can and put that information, including our process to the public. sen. fischer: just to confirm, are you saying the epa compares the high cost of compliance relative to the entire refinery industry? so all you basically have to prove is that you are a small refinery and produce less than 75,000 barrels a day and that is your ticket in the door? mr. wheeler: if i could respond back to you in writing on that, i don't know, i want to be very careful. this issue is being looked at very carefully not only by us, but everyone else and i want to
3:03 am
make sure i am giving you the correct information. if i could respond in writing i , would appreciate sen. fischer: i would appreciate that. what about the disproportionate economic hardship? the court in 2017 said the epa cannot go so far as to require a refinery be at risk of going out of business to exempt them from the rfs. but i believe it is equally unacceptable for the epa to merely exempt a refinery because they fit the definition of a small refinery. i would think you would agree that there is space between those two options. mr. wheeler: i would agree. there is space between those two options. just because a company is a small refinery does not mean it should be entitled to an exemption. there are market and business concerns that go into that analysis. sen. fischer: when the agency awarded those 48 small refinery
3:04 am
waivers retroactively for 2016 and 2017, i think it effectively established a de facto cap, do you agree with that? mr. wheeler: a de facto ren cap? we take that into account. we take into account the going forward for the next year. i'm not sure it was a de facto cap because we do look at the numbers available before we set the next rvo. we try to factor that into our analysis. sen. fischer: if i could get your questions on this complex issue, i would appreciate answers in a timely manner. mr. wheeler: absolutely, senator. sen. fischer: thank you mr. chair. thank you, administrator.
3:05 am
>> having just voted i assume we've gone through and you have a request, sen. carper for one last question. senator carper: senator duckworth, other people came ahead of her and she will try to get back with us. thanks for that mr. chairman. i want to follow up on your previous answer on pollution. in your answer you may recall you stated, i went to paraphrase you essentially , stated most areas will be into for the of for ozone the 20 20's. here is my question. epa has not modeled the effects of all of its planned clean-air rollbacks on cross-state ozone pollution. given that, can epa be certain
3:06 am
that delaware, maryland, new jersey and these other states on these coast -- how can the epa be certain that those states will be in containment in 2023 as epa claimed it would be. it is not modeled. it seems a we are the cart ahead of the horse. mr. wheeler: i can't predict with certainty on that but what i am told by the career staff at the agency is that our analysis shows that most areas of the country will be able to reach attainment in the early 2020's. there are of course factors that could change. on the current pathway we are on with the emissions we forecast, we anticipate most areas of the
3:07 am
country will be there in the early 2020's. >> may be areas, but many areas are not in attainment right now. it seems counterintuitive that epa has not modeled the effects of its planned clean-air rollbacks on cross-state pollution. yet, the epa feels like delaware and other states will be in containment in 2023 doesn't add up. we will follow up questions for the record to get some clarification. >> thank you senator carper. senator whitehouse? >> i wanted to follow-up on something he said in response to a question to another senator. and it had to do with not picking winners and losers in the energy industry. and that you would treat all energy sources equally. if you are presented with a polluting energy source on the one hand and a nonpolluting
3:08 am
energy source on the other, how do you treat them equally when it is epa's duty to protect against pollution? mr. wheeler: if one energy source has emissions of a criteria pollutant or any other pollutants that we regulate, we will regulate the pollutants for that industry. i'm not suggesting that every environmental law would apply to every industry and we would treat across the board, there are obviously different -- the co-combustion residuals would only apply to power plants. we wouldn't apply that to solar or wind. my point is we should not be enacting regulations that favor one energy source over the other. we will implement all the laws that are passed by congress. sen. whitehouse: how would a regulation protective against pollution not advantage nonpolluting energy sources over a polluting energy source? mr. wheeler: i believe some of the criticisms of the obama
3:09 am
clean power plan is that it gave preferential treatment to some energy sources by the way they calculated emissions, but my point in saying that is it's not epa's role, we are trying to be very evenhanded and not pick winners and losers for definitive energy sources. sen. whitehouse: i get that. i just want to make sure your view of what is preferential among energy sources isn't driven by whether or not they are pollutants. because if you are not going to prefer in the sense of putting regulatory protections up against polluting versus nonpolluting sources, we have a problem on our hands. mr. wheeler: we are regulating sources that pollute. that have emissions. sen. whitehouse: so if a
3:10 am
polluting source has to bear a regulatory burden to protect against pollution, that's not what you mean. mr. wheeler: that is not what i mean. sen. whitehouse: thank you. >> thank you, senator. we are going to come to an abrupt stop, but we will make an exception because senator duckworth wants to be heard, but she will be the last one to ask questions and then we will close the meeting. senator duckworth: you are very generous and quite a gentleman. >> that is because you cosponsored my aviation bill. >> [laughter] senator duckworth: i talked to pilots and they are big fans of yours. mr. wheeler, although we don't see eye to eye on most issues, i believe you are making a good faith effort to reverse the course of epa and operate in a transparent manner. i support your memo calling on your colleagues to be open and accessible and committing to leading by example on open government efforts. i thank you for that. i think it's a first step to
3:11 am
restoring the public's trust in the epa. as you know, congress provided you with an incredibly broad authority under the safe drinking water act to hire 30 individuals without regard to civil service laws. for years under republican and democratic administrations, congress has trusted administrators to handle this special hiring authority. however your predecessor gay -- however, your that is sizer violated this trust to give lavish pay raises. member carper and i introduce the special hiring authority transparency act. our bill requires epa report to congress whenever it makes an appointment. to restore confidence in the use of this authority, will you commit to supporting our legislation to improve transparency and make sure the committee is notified in regards to who is being appointed under the authority and why?
3:12 am
mr. wheeler: i would be happy to work with you on your legislation and provide a list of people we have hired with that authority. sen. duckworth: thank you. sen. duckworth: where i believe we can work is reducing lead exposure. it is a dangerous neurotoxin for vulnerable populations like young people pregnant women and , the elderly, it can be life-threatening. under your predecessor, an interagency task force was convened but congress is not been briefed on the work of this agency, it's unclear if the administration understands the urgency and whether they are genuinely compelled to address the issue. will you support reporting to congress on the finding of this task force? mr. wheeler: yes i will. sen. duckworth: will you commit to releasing all the records on the superfund task force? mr. wheeler: i thought we had already done that but i will look into it and will have to
3:13 am
get back to you. sen. duckworth: thank you. i would appreciate that. finally, i want to address the critical program. the bipartisan renewable fuel standard program that has been discussed at length. mr. wheeler: a few times. sen. duckworth: we all are out there to support our farmers. i'm alarmed by the efforts to undermine this program. even brett kavanaugh, the nominee for the supreme court, has sided with the oil companies in several cases. mr. cavanaugh argued the oil and coal companies were negatively affected by the epa's allegedly illegal waiver and standing to directly challenge the wavering -- the waiver in court. as you discussed with my colleagues, the epa has been under mining and abusing the small refinery exemptions.
3:14 am
will you promise to report on how these decisions are being made, provide public notice and bring greater transparency to the work? mr. wheeler: absolutely. we are developing a dashboard so the whole public can see what we are doing on the issue and when and how we are granting the waivers. we have to be careful there are confidential business claims by some of the refiners when they apply so we have to guard that but we want to make sure we release as much as we can to be transparent and let everyone know what we are doing. sen. duckworth: i need to stress again ethanol is an american grown and produced product as opposed to foreign oil that we have sent troops for a decade to fight over. i would rather support american farmers growing american produce to put in american gas tanks. i understand the epa may be constrained by laws as you testified and i look forward to working with my colleagues on a legislative fix and i very much thank you for being here and
3:15 am
enjoy our discussions and i very much appreciate a return to transparency you are pledging to bring to the epa. thank you. >> thank you senator duckworth. i appreciate your being here. have two unanimous consent requests for the record. there will be no other questioners. i would note last week 21 senators sent a letter to the epa opposing the reallocation of small refinery obligations to other refineries under the rfs. i ask that this letter be made a part of the record without objection, so ordered. secondly i have a chart, i think it is important. i'm understand while i was voting that somebody came up some complaints with responses and a want to complement you and the epa. the chart is one of the examples
3:16 am
of a huge increase in correspondence. for the administrators office, it is over 400% increase in fiscal year 2017 over the previous two fiscal years. again this is for the administrators office and does not include other programs like air, water, general counsel research and development and , chemicals and all that. in total the epa has so far responded to 84% of the inquiries elected offices have sent in, federal, state and local. the epa has responded to 81% of minority members oversight letters. 65.5% of all inquiries. it is not doing so. 23,450 documents have been been delivered to minority members
3:17 am
and i don't know if the minority has had time to read all of these, i suggest, probably they haven't. but it doesn't sound like an agency ignoring anyone. i want to commend you to get this on the records of people are aware of the great job we are doing with the epa. mr. wheeler: thank you, senator. >> you are welcome. if there are no more questions, members may submit follow-up questions for the record. the hearing record will be open for two weeks. i want to thank the witnesses for their time and testimony today and we are adjourned. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017]
3:18 am
>> here is some of what we are covering on thursday. a.m., live coverage of
3:19 am
the national conservative student conference. at 6:00 eastern, live coverage --the net root -- netrrot netroots conference. at 8:45, the airline pilots association annual air safety forum. president trump hold a rally in wilkesboro, pennsylvania. >> supreme court nominee bret cavanaugh continues to meet with senators on capitol hill. follow the confirmation process on c-span leading up to the senate confirmation hearings and the vote. watch live on c-span, watch anytime on, or listen with the free c-span radio app. afl-cio spoke with reporters at a breakfast.


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on