The War on Coal

Floor Speech

Date: April 16, 2015
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate you making time to be down here with me today.

Mr. Speaker, I am down here to talk about the war on coal. And when I say ``the war on coal,'' people think of that as if we can actually go and attack a natural resource. I am not worried about attacking natural resources. I am worried about the impact it has on American families. In particular, I am worried about the impact it has on families in my district in Georgia.

Mr. Speaker, you can't see this chart, but it is a chart that represents section 111(d). It is the language that the President used to create his new carbon emission targets. I am not saying that Congress passed a law to do this, because Congress didn't pass a law. The President just decided he was going to do it. I am not saying that the House and the Senate got together and debated it, because we didn't get together and debate it. The President just decided this was the way it was going to be.

It is 292 words that were already in statute. The President has turned it into a 130-page regulation that he is implementing on the country--hundreds more pages of technical support documents going behind that. This is what President Obama's constitutional law professor had to say.

Again, this is a regulation that the President, Mr. Speaker, is implementing without any action of Congress whatsoever.

Laurence Tribe, the Harvard law professor who was President Obama's constitutional law professor, said this in December of last year: ``To justify the Clean Power Plan''--the President's energy plan--``the EPA has brazenly rewritten the history of on obscure section of the 1970 Clean Air Act''--that is these 292 words I talked about--``passed by Congress in 1970.''

Professor Tribe goes on to say: ``Frustration with congressional inaction cannot justify throwing the Constitution overboard to rescue this lawless EPA proposal.''

Mr. Speaker, a Clean Air Act passed in 1970--and I will get into some charts that show the successes we have had of previous Clean Air Acts in 1970, 1990. The President wants to do things differently than the law of the land allows, and he is frustrated, as described by Professor Tribe, that Congress refuses to do what the President wants us to do.

I am going to talk about why it is we don't want to do what the President wants us to do. We don't want to do it because it is destructive to the American economy and it is destructive to American families. We don't want to do what the President wants to do. The President hasn't come up here to lobby Congress to try to get Congress to do what the President wants us to do.

The President, to quote Professor Tribe, is ``throwing the Constitution overboard to rescue this lawless EPA proposal.''

We will come back to Professor Tribe. I want to talk about it in terms of my constituency, Mr. Speaker. I am right there in kind of the northeastern Atlanta suburbs there. It is only two counties, Mr. Speaker, but they are two of the fastest growing counties in the State of Georgia. They have also just been named two of the healthiest counties in the State of Georgia.

This is what we are talking about in Georgia. This is our Georgia Public Service Commission, that group of elected officials in charge of keeping energy prices affordable for Georgia families, that group that is tasked with keeping energy supplies reliable in Georgia, that group that is tasked with regulating energy in the State of Georgia.

It is not the EPA; it is not President Obama. It is the Georgia Public Service Commission. They say this about the President's rule:

This rule will be unduly burdensome on Georgians, placing upward pressure on electricity rates, an outcome that is not acceptable to our organization or the citizens that we serve.

These are not Republicans and Democrats, Mr. Speaker. These are folks who are concerned, literally, about how families are able to keep the lights on. How do you keep the lights on? We talk about getting the mortgage paid. We talk about getting the car note paid. How do you keep the lights on? The Georgia Public Service Commission is concerned about the burden of this new rule.

The Clean Power Plan--that is what the President calls his plan--has nothing to do with clean power. It has to do with a war on America's energy security.

He says this:

The Clean Power Plan is illegal, unfair, and unwise.

That is Georgia's attorney general. That is the one elected official in Georgia that is tasked with enforcing the laws of the land as they exist in Georgia, a statewide elected office. He calls this plan illegal, unfair, and unwise.

It is not just President Obama's constitutional law professor, Laurence Tribe, calling it unconstitutional. We hear it from our Georgia State attorney general as well.

This is from one of our power suppliers in Georgia. You may think of power suppliers, Well, of course, they want to pollute. That is what those big energy companies do--nonsense.

Oglethorpe Power is the group that supplies power to all of the electric co-ops in the State. Mr. Speaker, I know you have electric co-ops in your State, as I do in mine. These are citizen-owned utilities. These are citizen-owned companies that make sure the lights stay on.

Oglethorpe Power provides the power to those citizen-owned groups. This is not some big investor-owned utility. This isn't some dirty power producer. This is the group of citizens that represents every single one of us in the State of Georgia who receive our power in this way.

This is what Oglethorpe Power says:

Consequently, there is substantial probability bordering on certainty that Oglethorpe Power will suffer economic injury if the EPA finalizes the proposal in its current form or in any substantially similar form.

Mr. Speaker, it is a bad idea to do it because Congress wasn't involved in it. It is a bad idea, as Professor Tribe suggests, to do it because the Constitution doesn't allow. It is a bad idea, as Georgia's attorney general says, because it is unfair and it is unwise and it is unlawful.

It is a bad idea to do it, as Oglethorpe Power says, because it is going to burden every single American family, particularly these Georgia families that Oglethorpe Power serves, if that goes into effect.

Mr. Speaker, who is going to get hit the hardest? I will just use my State of Georgia because I get so tired on this House floor of pitting one group of folks against another.

There is that part of me, Mr. Speaker, that remembers when President Obama was first running for office, and he promised to be the President that had the most transparent administration in American history, and he promised to be a uniter, bringing America together, as we have not heretofore been together in recent times.

That is not what I see, Mr. Speaker. What I see is division. What I see are politics of division each and every day, so often along economic lines.

I would argue what is the right metric is not how much money you make in a day. It is how much money you are able to make tomorrow. The opportunity is the metric on which we ought to measure. Do you have opportunity for tomorrow? Do you have choices that you can make to make your life better?

Quoting an energy economist who testified before the Energy and Commerce Committee just this week, Mr. Speaker, he said this:

Lower-income groups will bear the burden of higher energy costs imposed by the EPA's plan but will be among the least likely to invest in or benefit from the energy efficiency programs that the proposed rule envisions.

I want you to think about that. The President has big plans in this unlawful rule, this unconstitutional rule, this undebated rule; but he has big plans.

It is twofold. Number one, he is going to get American families to invest in energy-efficient products in their home which, in theory, Mr. Speaker, if I am using less electricity in my home, I am going to be spending less money on that electricity.

The President's plan is if I can get families to have more efficient products in their home, I can drive up the cost of electricity to the home, but families are still going to be out about the same amount of money. That is not the way the economists see it, Mr. Speaker.

Look at families with their aftertax income of less than $10,000 a year. Now, that is not altogether uncommon in the great State of Georgia, and certainly, those are the folks who already have a tough time keeping the lights on.

Thirty percent or more of their income, on average, is dedicated to energy costs. Thirty percent or more of everything that family has is dedicated to paying their energy costs. This rule proposes to run those costs up dramatically.

Now, you move up to folks who are making aftertax incomes higher than $50,000, Mr. Speaker, and you are down below 5 percent of their income that they are spending on energy costs.

The folks who can handle an increased rise in energy prices are also going to be those folks who invest in the more energy-efficient system. It is those folks who are trapped at the bottom of the income ladder, who don't have those opportunities to invest in more energy-efficient products, who are going to be hit the hardest by rising energy prices.

Mr. Speaker, there is not a man or woman in my District--700,000 strong--who doesn't want to see clean air, but the President's rule isn't about clean air. It is about picking winners and losers in energy production. The President doesn't like coal. He doesn't like coal miners. He doesn't like coal processors. He don't like coal power plant operators.

This isn't about clean air. It is about coal. Is going to have an economic impact on constituents in my District.

Mr. Speaker, let me go back to the words that folks use. This is the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. They obviously have an obligation to grow the economy in Georgia.

Let me just tell you that you can't pay taxes if you don't have a job, right? It is an essential point of basic government economics. You need people to work. You need people to be successful because, if they are not successful, they cannot pay their taxes.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to success in our part of the world. They say:

EPA's regulations will impose billions of dollars in costs on the United States--and Georgia's--economy but fail to meaningfully reduce CO2 emissions on a global scale.

If EPA adopts policies that substantially increase the cost of energy, thereby decreasing the competitiveness of the United States, investments and emissions will be sent to other, less efficient countries with higher CO2 emission intensities.

As a result, overly restrictive and costly United States policies to reduce emissions will not only be offset around the globe, but could actually result in a net increase.

I want you to think about that, Mr. Speaker. I want you to think about that. We just had this conversation in respect to the Keystone pipeline. The President vetoed bipartisan language passed in this House, passed in the Senate, to build the Keystone pipeline.

This pipeline has been in the approval process for longer than it took to build the entire Hoover Dam. The entire Hoover Dam, start to finish, was built faster than we can even get an approval. This law wasn't to mandate the building of the pipeline. This law was to mandate that the approval process come to conclusion.

The process still hasn't come to a conclusion--the President won't do it--as if, if America decides not to build the Keystone pipeline, oil will not be harvested in the independent nation of Canada--nonsense.

Canada didn't ask us whether or not they should bring the oil out of the ground. They asked us to help them get the oil to market. They are America's largest trading partner.

They said: America, will you help us with this pipeline?

The answer should have been: Absolutely, yes.

If not yes, perhaps the answer could be no; but, instead of a yes or no, we had 7 years of delay.

Well, that oil is going to come out of the ground. It is going to be shipped to a port in Canada. It is going to be shipped overseas to China. I promise you it is not going to reduce emissions. It is going to increase emissions because they are not going to process it in China as responsibly as we process it here.

What is the President asking of us? We are talking about how this is going to raise the cost of producing goods.

Again, just in Georgia, between 2005 and 2012--the last 7 years, Mr. Speaker--we have reduced carbon emissions in Georgia by 33 percent. The President's targets have Georgia needing another 44 percent in reductions by 2030--44 percent.

According to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division--again, these aren't the folks who are in charge of polluting the air; these are the folks who are in charge of protecting the air, our Georgia EPD, which is our equivalent of the EPA. They are tough on polluters; they are tough on folks who don't want to be good corporate citizens.

They say, ``The CPP''--this is the President's proposal--``does not provide flexibility to Georgia. In fact, the CPP is inflexible and punitive to States that have taken early action.''

I want you to think about that. If you were sitting around doing nothing; if you didn't come from two of the healthiest counties in the country, as I do, Mr. Speaker; if you weren't worried about protecting the planet, about our stewardship responsibilities to the Earth; if you weren't worried about any of those things, the President is going to set some targets for you.

Again, these are the unlawful, unwise, constitutional targets, but he is going to set some targets for you that you need to achieve. If you have been working, as we have in Georgia, to do the right thing ahead of time, he is still setting those targets for you, giving you no credit for the good things you have done in the past, asking you to do even more in the future.

It is not going to be economically feasible. Georgia, number six in the Nation, is being asked to do the most by the White House in this unwise, unlawful, unconstitutional rulemaking.

Let's talk about the dollars and cents that are required here. For the Nation, Mr. Speaker, we are talking about between $360 billion and $480 billion to implement the President's proposal--again, the unlawful, unwise, unconstitutional proposal--but the President's proposal, $360 billion to $480 billion.

According to the economic projections, Mr. Speaker, that is going to be about a 12 or 13 percent increase in electricity prices across the country--a 12 or 13 percent increase in utility prices, electricity prices, across the country.

Now, in Georgia, that translates into about $400 a year. We have a pretty mild climate in the great State of Georgia, but it is about $400 a year per family. In my District, Mr. Speaker, it is about $94 million a year.

You put all of my constituents together, all those folks who are the boss of the Seventh District of Georgia together, we are talking about almost $100 million lost to implement the President's plan, Mr. Speaker.

Now, my question is, for what?

My folks are responsible folks, Mr. Speaker. They are dedicated to their stewardship responsibilities. They are dedicated to doing the right thing for the right reasons.

We are not a district where we try to figure out who is to blame. We are a district where we try to figure out how to fix it. How do you fix it?

But the current worldwide carbon emissions--again, this isn't about clean air. This is about carbon dioxide in the air. Carbon dioxide is in the air. It is a natural part of the air. It is a required part of the air.

Carbon dioxide emissions across the country, Mr. Speaker, across the world, rather, if we talk about developed nations, we generally talk about the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD.

Carbon emissions of those developed nations, Mr. Speaker, are projected to be relatively flat for the two-generational future. Two generations from now, still flat. You are not seeing those increase.

You look at non-OECD nations, Mr. Speaker, those emissions are projected to double, and then triple.

From 1990, when we passed the Clean Air Act, you see level emissions coming from both OECD and non-OECD nations. About 2000, Mr. Speaker, you begin to see those lines diverge, and there is no expectation that non-OECD nations are going to change their carbon dioxide emissions.

There is a funny thing about the Earth, Mr. Speaker: we are all in this together. I don't know if you have reflected on that. There is no escaping this big ball of rock that we are all floating through space on. We are in this together. We will succeed or we will fail together.

For the price tag of $400 per American family, for the price tag of $100 million a year, just in my one congressional district, Mr. Speaker, for the price tag of more than $400 billion a year--that is about 10 percent of everything we spend in this country, about 10 percent of the Federal budget--is the cost of implementing the President's unwise and unlawful regulation.

And what we get for that, Mr. Speaker, what we get for that investment of American treasure, what we get for disadvantaging American businesses relative to foreign businesses, what we get for raising the costs of American products so that other products around the globe can be cheaper, what we get for that--golly, Mr. Speaker, I don't know if you can even see it--is this little bitty red line in terms of carbon reductions.

What I have charted here, Mr. Speaker, are metric tons of carbon being produced, carbon dioxide being produced around the globe. This is the entire globe here.

I have 1990, I have 2010, I have 2020, I have 2030.

The benefit of disadvantaging American workers, the benefit of disadvantaging American manufacturers, the benefit of raising prices for every single American family is that the amount of carbon produced on the entire planet will drop the distance of this little bitty red line.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think you can see it. Now that is 2020. 2030, perhaps the line gets visible enough to see. It is virtually nothing. Virtually nothing.

The President talks about this unwise, unlawful, unconstitutional proposal as if it is designed to save the world. It is not. It is not designed to save the world. It is not designed to reduce carbon emissions around the globe. It is designed to put coal out of business in America.

We are the Saudi Arabia of coal, Mr. Speaker. We have coal. We have clean coal. We have coal.

Now, if we pulled up the charts of the Energy Information Administration, they are not going to tell you that coal production in America is going to go to zero. It is not. It is falling off dramatically. We are putting coal mining families out of business in record numbers.

If you go into coal mining country, Mr. Speaker, it used to be all Democrats, all the time. You know, there is not one Member of this Chamber from the Democratic Party that represents coal country today because coal miners threw every one of them out, not because they, as individuals, were bad Members, Mr. Speaker, but because the President was driving those individual families out of business.

Those families said, We are doing honorable work. We are doing lawful work. We work hard for a living, and we are providing a national service.

They are absolutely right.

$500 billion annually in American treasure for virtually no reduction in carbon around the globe.

Now, if we were actually going to talk about clean air, Mr. Speaker, and I wish we would. I wish we would get out of the business of picking winners and losers and talk about clean air. I wish we would get out of the business of having an ax to grind about energy producers and get to talking about clean air.

If we were going to talk about clean air we would talk about things like NOX and SOX. That is nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide, Mr. Speaker, NOX and SOX.

We passed the Clean Air Act of 1990--and I will remind you, Mr. Speaker, that was a Republican President and a Democratic Congress--that bipartisan legislation where the President just didn't decide what he wanted to do; he came to Congress and worked with Congress to craft the law. It went after what at that time was so frequently referred to as acid rain, Mr. Speaker.

You would get this nitrogen oxide, this sulfur oxide in the air. It would come out of the air when it rained. It had an impact around the country. NOX and SOX we went after in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.

The dark green line represents the sulfur, the yellow line represents the nitrogen. 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

We came together as a nation, Mr. Speaker. We targeted these pollutants in the air, and we changed the way we produced power in this country. We didn't abolish

coal; we made it cleaner coal. We didn't abolish electric power coming from these big power plants; we changed the way the scrubbers and the smokestacks worked, and we positively impacted air quality in this country.

We didn't pass the Clean Air Act of 1990 because we had an ax to grind; we passed the Clean Air Act of 1990 because we had a problem to solve. And as you can see by this chart, we solved it. We didn't just spend money to feel better about it; we solved it. We weren't just trying to pick winners and losers; we were trying to solve a problem.

Mr. Speaker, I want to quote the Associated Press. They are talking about coal in this country, talking about the President's rule, talking about carbon production. They say this--they say it is leaving this Nation's shores, but not the planet. The fossil fuel trade which has soared under President Obama soared because we have had record exploration going on on private land.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, the President has completely eliminated exploration on public lands. Those permits are not going out the door. Private exploration has soared under President Obama's administration.

They said this fossil fuel trade threatens to undermine his strategy, the President's strategy to reduce the gases blamed for global warming.

It also reveals a little-discussed side effect of countries acting alone on a global issues. As the U.S. tries to set a global example by reducing demand for fossil fuels at home, American energy companies are sending more dirty fuel than ever to other parts of the world, exports worth billions of dollars each year.

Let me go back, Mr. Speaker. When we were working together, when we were working together in Congress, working together with the administration, we changed the way we produced energy. We changed the way we burned this coal to drastically reduce the pollutants coming from that coal.

In a classic example of Federal overreach, Mr. Speaker, again, acting alone, unlawful, unwise, and unconstitutional, the President has said, I want to do more. And in doing more, according to the AP, which is no conservative defender, in doing more, what the President is doing is telling these energy companies, Don't try to do better; don't try to be cleaner. We are going to put you out of business in America, so bring these products out of the ground and ship them overseas.

Mr. Speaker, where do you think our overseas competitors rank in terms of reducing these pollutants? Where do you think? Where do you think India ranks? Where do you think China ranks? Where do you think these nations competing with American workers rank?

Do you think they are producing it as cleanly as we were in 2012? Maybe you think they are a little worse like they were in 2000. Maybe you think they are as bad as when we started way back in 1990.

Nonsense. They are way back here off the chart altogether.

If you believe in a stewardship responsibility to the planet, if you believe we have a multigenerational obligation to care for our environment, then you know that only nations with a robust economy have a robust environmental protection program.

You think about that, Mr. Speaker. You will not find a single nation living in poverty that has advanced environmental protections. You can't afford to care about the environment if you can't keep the lights on. You can't afford to care about the environment if you can't feed your families.

We do both in this country, Mr. Speaker. In the name of protecting the environment, the President is forcing these natural resources overseas, which has the combined negative effect of polluting the planet to a greater degree and making American workers competitive to a lesser degree.

You are shipping cheap energy overseas, which makes that manufacturing more productive. You are raising energy prices in America, which makes our manufacturing less productive.

Mr. Speaker, I am all about making a difference. I am all about solving a problem.

The President wants to spend half a trillion dollars, more than 10 percent of what we spend in this country every year, focused solely, solely, solely, on reducing carbon emissions by the size of this line that you can't even see.

And the people who are going to pay the price for that, literally, the price, are going to be American citizens with higher energy bills and American workers with fewer job opportunities.

We have two models that we can choose from, Mr. Speaker. We can choose from the model that we used in the Clean Air Act of 1990, where we came together in a bipartisan way, and we solved a problem together. We identified the problem, we solved the problem, and we have measurable results.

Or we can go it alone--and by alone, I don't mean America going it alone. I mean the administration and the EPA going it alone--unlawful, unwise, unconstitutional, spend a half a trillion dollars more than the size of our budget deficit this year, making us less competitive, trapping more American families in poverty, to achieve absolutely no result at all.

Mr. Speaker, I will end where I began, an obscure section, section 11(d), 292 words that were never intended to allow the President to do what the President is doing; where the President's own constitutional law professor, Laurence Tribe, says the President's desires cannot justify throwing the Constitution overboard to rescue this 130-page proposal; this 130-page proposal which promises to do virtually nothing to change global emissions but promises to disadvantage the American economy in a global economy.

Mr. Speaker, we can solve our energy challenges. We can find energy independence in this country, energy security in this country. We can solve our environmental stewardship responsibilities. We are doing things cleaner and better today than we ever have, and we will continue to do so.

Mr. Speaker, the value of divided government, as it is today; the value of folks who hold different ideas, as we do today. Two ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, Mr. Speaker: the President and the Democratic Party on one end, and Republicans and Congress on the other. The value of that divided government is that it allows us to do the big things, the big and necessary things. If it is all Republicans or all Democrats, folks just tend to try to jam their own ideas through, whether America likes it or not. That is not the way to build a stronger nation. Divided government requires--not just allows, but requires--that we come together to solve problems. Every time the President goes it alone, every time Congress goes it alone, we miss an opportunity to come together and solve a problem.

To justify the clean power plan, the President's power plan, the EPA has brazenly rewritten the history of an obscure section of the 1970 Clean Air Act. Frustration with congressional inaction cannot justify throwing the Constitution overboard to rescue this lawless EPA proposal.

We have an opportunity to do better, Mr. Speaker; and more importantly, we have the ability, with the men and women in this Chamber, Mr. Speaker--the men and women who serve this entire institution, this entire Nation, good men and women on both sides of the aisle who care about American workers and who care about the American economy and who care about not just America's environment, but the global environment--we can come together, and we can do better. But this proposal by the President is not it.

Mr. Speaker, I hope you will help me to encourage all of our colleagues to reject this proposal, to rein in this overreach, and then to work together to do those things that matter to our constituents--our bosses back home.