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Mr. President, I rise to offer an amendment to S. 2262 that will prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from a massive regulatory overreach.  This is a similar amendment I offered last September to the Energy Efficiency bill, unfortunately the Senate Majority Leader blocked amendments from being considered. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen this time.

My amendment is simple and straight forward.  It promotes the right of each state to deal with its own problems.  It returns the regulation of regional haze to where it properly belongs – in the hands of the state officials who are more familiar with the problem and the best way to address it.  I hope my colleagues will support my effort.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s move to partially disapprove of the State of Wyoming’s regional haze plan will create an economic and bureaucratic nightmare that will have a devastating impact on Western economies.  The decision by the EPA ignores more than a decade’s worth of work on this subject by officials in my home state and seems to be more designed to regulate coal out of existence than to regulate haze.  The haze we most need to regulate, in fact, seems to be the one that is clouding the vision of the EPA as it promotes a plan that would impose onerous regulations on power plants that will in turn pass those increased costs, in the form of higher energy prices, on to consumers.

That tells me that the EPA’s purpose is to ensure that no opportunity to impose its chosen agenda on the nation is wasted.  It doesn’t seem to matter to them that their proposed rule flies directly in the face of the state’s traditional and legal role in addressing air quality issues.

When Congress passed the 1977 amendments to the Clean Air Act to regulate regional haze, they very clearly gave the states the lead authority.  Now the EPA has tossed them into the back seat and grabbed the steering wheel to head this effort in its own previously determined direction.  That isn’t the kind of teamwork and cooperation that Congress intended.

The goal of regulating regional haze is to improve visibility in our national parks and wilderness areas.  The stated legislative purpose for the authority is purely for aesthetic value and not to regulate public health.  Most importantly, the EPA shouldn’t be using regulations to pick winners and losers in our national energy market.

This is a state issue, and Congress recognized that states would know how to determine what the best regulatory approach would be to find and implement a solution to the problem.  The Courts then reaffirmed this position by ruling in favor of the state’s primacy on regional haze several times.  Unfortunately, that is not what happened in this case.  The EPA ignored all of that clear precedent and instead handed a top-down approach that ignored the will and expertise of the State of Wyoming.

This inexplicable position flies in the face of the State of Wyoming’s strong and common sense approach to addressing regional haze in a reasonable and cost effective manner.  The EPA’s approach will be much more costly and it will have a tremendous impact on the economy and quality of life not only in Wyoming, but in neighboring states as well.  Clearly, we can’t allow this to happen.

Every family knows – when the price of energy goes up, it’s their economic security – as well as their hopes and dreams for the future – that are threatened and all too often destroyed.

The EPA’s determination to take such an approach would be understandable if it would create better results than the state plan.  It doesn’t.  That’s another reason why it makes no sense for the EPA to overstep its authority under the Clean Air Act to force Wyoming to comply with an all too costly plan that will in the end provide the people of Wyoming with no real benefits.

The plan doesn’t even take into account other sources of haze in the state such as wildfires.  Wildfires are a problem on Wyoming’s plains and mountains every year.  It is a major cause of haze in my home state.  It makes no sense for the EPA to draft a plan that fails to take into consideration one of the biggest natural causes of the very problem they are supposed to be solving.

The State of Wyoming has spent over a decade producing a plan that is reasonable, productive, cost-effective and focused on the problem at hand.  The EPA has taken an unnecessary and unreasonable approach that violates the legislatively granted job of state regulators to address this issue.  We cannot afford to increase the cost of energy to families, schools and vital public services by implementing an EPA plan that won’t adequately address the issue of regional haze. 

I know my colleagues will see the importance of this matter and support my amendment that will stop the EPA in its tracks and end its interference with Wyoming’s efforts to address this issue.  It only makes sense to me that Wyoming’s plan, which results from a more than 10 year effort, be given a chance to work. 

It’s not only fair, it’s the right thing to do.