Climate Change

Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 29, 2016
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Environment


Mr. BENISHEK. Mr. Speaker, as a lifelong resident of northern Michigan, I know how important it is to protect and conserve our precious natural resources. Northern Michigan's economy depends on our Great Lakes and our outdoor spaces for tourism, agriculture, and sporting activities.

Generations of people in my district have grown up experiencing the outdoors from the shores of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to Isle Royale National Park. However, we need to make sure that there is a balance and that we do not undertake rash and unproven regulatory policies that are almost guaranteed to negatively impact our economy in the hope of some potential--and often unquantifiable--environmental gain.

I just got back from northern Michigan. As a matter of fact, I was in Ottawa National Forest hunting. What strikes me about the regulatory nature of the Federal Government is it doesn't really take into account what is happening in the wild. The Ottawa National Forest, for example, hasn't been properly managed. The regulations as far as managing the forest make it so difficult that the forest is aging and the trees are actually falling down and rotting rather than being harvested. This is just one of the policies of this administration, and I am really hoping, now that we have a new administration coming forward, there will be a lot of change in the regulatory policies to actually develop policies that make sense for our environment and make sense for our people. That is why I wanted to speak tonight about many of these policies that affect our environment and global warming.

A lot of policies of the last administration, even the administration before that, really don't have the globe at the forefront of solving these problems. What they have been doing is just writing more and more regulations that stop whatever we are doing, and they don't have any particular effect on the global environment.

I am bringing this up for a reason. I just brought this little pollution-by-country chart, and this is the global pollution for the whole world. We know the United States is a pretty big part of that. The EU is a big part of that. India is big, and China is the biggest. The rest of the world provides, probably, the largest. But what strikes me about this is the fact that we in America haven't done things right all the time, but we are constantly striving to make improvements.

My problem with the way that the regulations are written under this administration is the fact that we are killing our economy to improve the global environment, and yet we are a relatively small part of the problem of pollution and global warming--if you believe that it is manmade--and we are not really doing anything about the rest of this.

We are putting so many regulatory burdens on our industry, like, for example, energy production. The cost of energy production is a big part of making steel, for example. Many of the countries around the world are buying steel not so much from us but from China and India because they are polluting the planet in order to produce cheap steel, and we are really helping the environment with all our regulations and everything to the point that we are losing all of our jobs. That doesn't make any sense. If we were allowed to harvest our energy in a very environmentally friendly way, we would have more jobs here in this country. These guys would have less jobs. I want to keep jobs here in America.

This is just one of the examples. Wait until you see some of the pictures I have.

My district was once a huge mining area. We mine iron ore, construction sand and gravel, salt is produced in Michigan, and copper. And these are all good-paying jobs.

I am going to give you a great example of one of the weirdest regulations that have come out of this administration. And that is we do have a mine in my district that recently opened, a new nickel mine, the first nickel mine in this country, I think, in over 50 years. The road to the mine, there is no good road to the mine. There is 68 miles of road through a downtown and around a roundabout to the processing mill to process the nickel ore.

The local county road commission wanted to build a 22-mile road that would bypass the 68 miles of road through a downtown, but they can't get a permit to build the road because EPA blocked it. Now, the Federal Government in Washington, D.C., is telling a local county in my district that they can't build a road because it involves some wetlands. Well, there is about 5 acres of wetlands that have to be filled in order to build this road. Believe me, you can't build a road anywhere in this country without filling in some wetlands in order to have the grade be safe.

We have had environmental laws in this country that said: if you are going to fill in some wetlands to build a road, you have got to create some wetlands somewhere else to mitigate for the fact that you have taken away some habitat from some species maybe and that sort of thing. Well, the road commission put up 100 times the acreage of the wetlands that they were going to use for the roadway to mitigate for that. But that wasn't good enough for the EPA. As a matter of fact, the EPA stopped the road without even listening very well to the mitigation plan.

This was bad for jobs. It makes it difficult for the mine to do business. It makes the longevity of the mine not as good because it is more expensive to process the ore. And it creates more pollution because the trucks are driving 68 miles to the ore processing plant versus the 22 miles on a new road. Besides, the new road would open up a lot of other areas for economic development as well.

Well, this is the type of rule and regulation that doesn't make any sense to the people that want to protect their environment with fewer miles on the road with diesel trucks and also provide economic opportunity in an area that needs jobs. So I am really hopeful that we will continue with a new administration to improve and stop this ridiculous rulemaking that has absolutely no effect on the environment--if anything, it makes it worse--all because people in Washington here under this administration have decided that they know better than the people in Michigan who actually live there, and they can't make a decision for themselves because you can't possibly know it would be good for the environment because you are just living on the UP and you don't really know what is what. That has been my frustration in my time here in Congress. That is a really good example of what is going on.

I want to show you a couple of pictures of some places around the world that aren't managing the environment, such as the United States is. Here we have a factory, a Chinese factory that is putting out all kinds of pollutants without any significant environmental controls on them at all. These are the kind of factories that we are competing with, with our factories, which are much better.

We just had a coal-fired power plant stopped in my district several years ago by the EPA because of this administration's war on coal. This coal plant was a state-of-the-art coal plant. It didn't even produce CO2 because, in my district, they are able to harness the technology to capture the CO2 and sell it and actually use it to pump in the ground to help the production of local oil wells. The CO2 is not an issue. So we are actually competing with people that do this to our environment, and losing jobs overseas because of the tight regulations we have here, but we are not doing anything about this that is going on across the world. None of the policies that we have instituted on our industry are in effect over there. We haven't put any significant demands on the Chinese to make them stop doing this.

I was talking to some biologists from the University of Michigan. We have an environmental research station in my district. The University of Michigan has been studying the environment for the last 100 years or so. And one of the things that I found really interesting was the fact that one of the great concerns about coal mining and coal used for energy production was the mercury in the air. I was talking to these guys from the University of Michigan and they said: we solved the mercury problem in this country decades ago; that is not a problem anymore.

Most of the mercury that is in our environment here in the United States comes from China and India. Because it is over in China and India doesn't mean that it is not a global problem. That stuff goes up in the atmosphere. It takes the jet stream, and it comes all the way over here. The majority of the pollutant mercury in our country is coming from places like this. This administration has done nothing about it except for putting more stringent controls on our energy production, making our energy more expensive, and making people want to buy steel and other products from countries that do this to our environment.

This is not the right way to deal with this issue. If we are going to deal with global pollution, global production of harmful toxins, or global warming, we have to talk to people that are bad actors around the world and make them do their part and not make our industries really the joke of everyone else in the world because they are making money and we are losing our jobs and it doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

Let's see another picture here. This is a pretty good one from India. This is a river in India. This is all trash in the middle of the river in India. I went to India, and I was appalled by how filthy it was and the lack of environmental rules. This is what we are dealing with.

Now, I know the Indians and, perhaps, the Chinese are not as developed as we are, but they are competing in the same environment for industry as we are along the globe. I am hopeful that the coming Trump administration is going to take this kind of stuff seriously, unlike the Obama administration, which his only answer to global warming and global pollution is to put more and more restrictions on our industry, killing jobs in this country and giving more jobs to people around the world that do this.

This picture is a good example of the way things are done across the world. Now, I come from a timber district where we want to harvest responsibly the timber that we have in our national forests. That means cutting trees down as they mature in a logical fashion so that there are a lot of healthy trees in the forest that are not overcome by disease and fire, which is what we have seen out West over the last couple of decades because those forests are not being managed.

Originally, the national forests were developed as a place for multiple use--for harvesting for logs, for entertainment to go hunting and fishing. I hunt and fish in a national forest. But when the trees become over mature and they are not managed in a way that allow new growth, there is a limited amount of species that can exist in that type of a forest.

This is what they do in Indonesia. This is a forest in Indonesia that was clear-cut for miles and miles and miles. This is the way it was left. Now, that is not the way it is done in Michigan, not where I live, not in my Federal forests. The problem is we are not doing enough of the select cuts, the limited clear-cuts that allow spreading of new growth. We are competing on our timber products with people that do this to their environment.

Now, in this country, private forests and State forests are managed with the stewardship program where third-party stewards of the forest, who are registered, licensed, and trained how to manage forests, are given the opportunity to manage forests over decades, over centuries, so that there is always a healthy forest with mid-term growth, long- term growth, new growth. There is a multiple of species that can live amongst that. People can hunt and enjoy that area. I just want to try to, Mr. Speaker, make sure the American people are aware of the fact that our environment is a place where we live, we want it to be good and healthy, and we want it also to be able to provide jobs for the people that live in my district and across the country.

Some of the statistics I could give you about the Chinese, for example, is that in 2012, China was responsible for over a quarter of the pollution worldwide. As you saw in that circle, the total pollution in China currently equals the pollution from the United States and the European Union combined. This is expected to only increase.

Now, China is run by a centralized government that has not traditionally respected the environment or the concerns of the locals when it comes to major decisions or projects. This is the type of policy that we can talk to the Chinese and have a discussion about what they can do to improve their behavior.

India is currently the world's fastest growing economy and already the fourth largest polluter. As the Indian economy grows, these emissions are going to continue to rise.

As you see from Indonesia, there is deforestation and clear-cutting in the rain forest. I want to have responsible and sustainable forestry practices because timber is a renewable resource.

Now, our environmental actions have been incremental in nature, but, until this last administration, they haven't been killing our industry. Now with the Obama administration's war on coal, significant areas of our economy have fallen into disrepair. I am so thankful, frankly, that we have a new administration coming in that is going to, hopefully, put a stop to those policies that have been driving our jobs overseas and making it difficult for us here at home.

I just want to show another graph here for U.S. employment in manufacturing industries. Now, starting in 1980 into 2014, as you can see, thousands of jobs in the manufacturing industries have gone down.
I am not saying that environmental regulations are the complete cause of this, but I think this should be a pretty major part of our decisionmaking process as to how we do these things.

We have a regulatory and approval process in the United States that most other countries don't even approach or even pretend to go through. Having incremental change consulting with industry and still having strict standards, I think, can all happen at once. But when the current administration has had a policy of killing our industry and not doing anything about these foreign people, we need to put a change to that and turn this manufacturing number around and bring manufacturing back to where it should be.

This slide was made up before the election, so I wasn't sure it was going to happen in the next administration.

Here are the economically significant regulations this government has put out all the way back to 2000. The number of regulations are expected to cost $100 million or more to the American people. You can see that, consistently, from the beginning of the Obama administration that that number has significantly increased. I am so happy to hear that Mr. Trump has promised, for every new regulation, to cut two.
Let's start with the cutting.

At the end of the day, we need to protect our environment. However, hamstringing our economy will not save our environment. The other people on the planet provide for most of the pollution and for the other things that people are afraid of in the environment--more than we are by far. All too often, the consequences of overburdening regulations here in America is the flight of manufacturing and industry to nations such as China, Indonesia, and India. I am hopeful that my colleagues here in the House and in the Senate, along with a new administration, will change that and make logical regulations. I think this will benefit our planet. It will certainly benefit the American citizens. We shouldn't be implementing expensive nonsolutions to a problem of which the extent and impact remain uncertain.

I have been criticized in the past for talking about global warming and what the future is going to bring. With anything you talk about with regard to the administration's being over-regulatory, then you are accused of being a polluter of the planet. I ran for election several times, and these are the types of arguments that people will make to try to make you look bad, to make you look as if you want to pollute the planet. I think, really, Americans are tired of that baloney. We want to have a decent living; we want to have a clean planet; we want to make sure that the people around the world have the same values and interests that we do in that, if we are going to work hard to try to make our planet cleaner, they should, too, so that we are competing on an even scale here. With what we are doing now, we are not competing on an even scale.

It is very important that we don't allow people to intimidate us when we say: ``I want to have more mining in this country. I want to be able to use coal.'' They just immediately say that you are an anti- environmentalist, and it is just torture. Most of the people who say this kind of stuff have never been to a community that actually does mining. They just see it from afar. They don't see the end result of a mine that has been rehabilitated and that is covered with green.

They don't have any idea what is really going on. They just use it in fear so that the American people don't really realize the truth of what is going on, and they want their vote. They are causing fear in the American people by their saying: ``This guy doesn't want to protect the environment.'' I mean, I want to protect the environment. I come from one of the most beautiful places in the country, I think. I want it to be clean and healthy for my children as well, and it is going to be really clean and healthy if nobody lives there because there are no jobs. We need to protect our environment, have policies that allow jobs to continue to occur in this country, and have reasonable regulations that make sense and that have sound, scientific studies.

This administration has hid the scientific studies behind closed doors in many cases. I am a physician. I wrote research papers. I had to show my evidence to the world and have other people criticize what I wrote so that they could say: ``You didn't do that right,'' or ``your technique was flawed,'' or ``the study you did didn't really show what you said it shows.'' That is what happens in scientific research--you have to have your research open to criticism. This administration has used science in the way that they say: ``The scientists say `this,''' but they don't want to show you the data because they don't want other people to criticize what they have done. They say that other people who might criticize them are just politicized when they, themselves, are politicized. They also don't want the other side to speak, because they will say: ``You are just anti-environment.''

We need to have an open discourse of scientists on both sides of issues--and consensus--before we make policies and regulations that kill millions of jobs and that cost families as their raises for the last 8 years have been meager. We need to be sure that science is open and not politicized as it has been in this administration.

I encourage my colleagues to not be afraid to stand up for what is right and for jobs in this country. I encourage the people who may be watching, too, to think about what the politicians they listen to are saying and how it affects jobs and how it really affects the environment because, although we want a clean environment, we are not going to write rules that kill jobs and that do not do anything about the real polluters on this planet, who care nothing about the environment, and who are causing the majority of the problems around the globe.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.