Hearing of the Oversight Subcommittee of the Environmental and Public Works of the Senate Committee - Natural Resource Adaptation: Protecting Ecosystems and Economies


Date: Feb. 25, 2014
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Oversight, today delivered the following opening statement at an oversight hearing entitled, "Natural Resource Adaptation: Protecting Ecosystems and Economics".

As prepared for delivery:

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing today. It is important for us to conduct oversight on all aspects of the President's Climate Action Plan to uncover the impact it will have on our nation.

Last month, during a hearing on the Climate Action Plan, I spent the bulk of my time raising concerns with the Environmental Protection Agency's rollout of its greenhouse gas regulations, which I found to be alarmingly hypocritical. On the one hand, the Administration says these regulations are urgently needed; on the other, the EPA intentionally delayed the rule's publication to prevent it from being implemented prior to the midterm elections this fall.

And does anyone other than me care that fewer than 35% of the members of either the House or the Senate would even vote in favor of legislation granting EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gases? And yet we continue to spend countless time debating the issue.

This is alarming, but what's more concerning is that I see similar behavior taking place across the government, including at the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act, passed in 1940, protects our national bird from hunting, poaching, and other activities that could harm it. The act states that without a permit, it is illegal to "take, possess, sell, [or] purchase" any bald eagle.

Wind turbines, with their massive blades, kill an estimated 1.4 million birds per year as their turbines spin through the air. Some of these casualties have been protected birds like the bald eagle.

Federal law stipulates that the illegal killing of bald eagles be punished with fines and/or jail sentences, but this won't be the case for the wind industry. On December 6, 2013, the Administration said that it would begin granting waivers to wind farm operators so that they would be able to kill bald eagles for a period of 30 years without fear of any retribution.

While I'm not particularly bothered by the fact that the permits are being offered, I am extremely concerned by the systematic practices of this Administration to use its powers to help its friends in renewable energy while punishing its enemies developing traditional fossil fuels.

Other species receive similar protections to the Bald Eagle under the Endangered Species Act. One covered species is the American Burying Beetle (ABB), many of which are located in Eastern Oklahoma.

For the past two years, Eastern Oklahoma has been without a General Conservation Plan, making it illegal to engage in nearly all activities that could disturb the ABB.

Despite repeated attempts by my office, the State of Oklahoma, and dozens of private entities, we have not managed to get anything out of the Service. This is a big deal because many companies are planning to build new neighborhoods, develop new oil and gas wells, and construct new pipelines, but because the GCP is not final, they cannot do it.

When this is compared to the new permits the Service may offer wind industry, I can't help but think this is a startling double standard.

Justice is supposed to be blind. Treatment of different industries is supposed to be equal under the law, including the energy industry. And while the President says that he has an all-of-the-above energy strategy, evidence shows -- whether at EPA or the Fish and Wildlife Service -- that his real strategy is focused primarily on restricting traditional fossil fuels while assisting the development of renewables.

This favoritism also extends to the way the government thinks about the adaptability of our nation to changing circumstances. Renewable energy requires massive amounts of land to make very small quantities of power, but the government seems to ignore this fact. One recently constructed solar farm takes up 5 square miles but only makes enough electricity to power 140,000 homes. By contrast, a typical natural gas power plant may, in total, take up only a half square mile but can generate enough power to support over one million homes.

Despite the true impacts of renewables on the environment, the Administration continues to turn a blind eye to them. It's my hope that during this hearing, we'll be able to uncover some of these facts and provide a better framework for comparing the relative benefits and costs of different forms of energy.