Washington, D.C. – The Science, Space, and Technology Committee today held a hearing to review actions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) to block the Pebble Mine from development before the project applied for any permits.
Documents obtained by the Committee and a recent deposition of former EPA employee Phil North make clear that the decision to undertake a pre-emptive action to limit the Pebble Mine was not based on sound science. Mr. North admitted under oath that he provided edits to an official petition letter from a third party sent to EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran. The letter requested that the EPA stop the Pebble Mine before it applied for any permits. Testifying today, Administrator McLerran was questioned by Republicans about collusion and the lack of due process this case highlights.
Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “In the course of the Committee’s investigation, we discovered that EPA employees colluded with third party Pebble Mine opponents. While the EPA has been quick to minimize Mr. North’s role in the agency’s decision making process, his influence to promote the idea to stop the Pebble Mine is clear. Mr. North readily admitted to the Committee that he opposed the Pebble Mine and advocated among his colleagues that the agency use the Clean Water Act to stop it.
“We may never know the true extent to which Mr. North and EPA employees worked with outside groups to establish a process to stop the Pebble Mine before it applied for a permit. But we know enough to conclude that EPA employees violated ethical standards by giving outside groups unprecedented access to internal EPA deliberations, allowing for close collaboration on agency actions and strategy.
“If we allow the EPA to pursue this path of action, the agency will have set the precedent to tell states, local governments, and even private citizens how they can develop their land before a permit application has ever been filed. This is harmful to economic development and dangerous to the democratic process. Science and due process should lead the way, not pre-determined outcomes by activist EPA employees.”
In response to a question by Chairman Smith, Administrator McLerran admitted that the Pebble Mine could not be granted a permit by the Army Corps of Engineers because EPA has already invoked the section 404(c) process. Meanwhile, Administrator McLerran and the EPA continue to publicly state that the project could apply for a permit at any time. In response to other Committee Members, McLerran made clear his decision is final and there would be no revisiting their current position.
Today’s hearing follows a November, 2015 hearing to review a report released by the Cohen Group that raised questions about the fairness and biased nature of EPA’s use of the Clean Water Act with regard to the Pebble Mine. The Cohen report found that EPA employees may have had inappropriate contact with outside stakeholders opposed to Pebble Mine and arrived at a predetermined conclusion before any scientific evidence was gathered.
For more information about today’s hearing, including witness testimony and the hearing webcast, please visit the Science, Space, and Technology Committee website. Read More
H.R. 5049, the “NSF Major Research Facility Reform Act of 2016”, approved by voice vote.
Loudermilk 015, offered by Mr. Loudermilk (R-GA), approved by voice vote.
Johnson 001, offered by Ms. Johnson (D-TX), approved by voice vote.
Foster 059, offered by Mr. Foster (D-IL), withdrawn.
Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) Read More
Washington, D.C. – The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology today approved the NSF Major Research Facility Reform Act of 2016 (H.R. 5049), a bill introduced by Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.). This bill improves the management and oversight of major multi-user research facilities funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and requires more transparency and accountability for how the agency uses taxpayer dollars.
Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “The Committee seeks to enforce that taxpayer dollars are not wasted on mismanagement and questionable costs. This bill will achieve that goal. It addresses gaps in project oversight and management through solutions identified by the NSF Inspector General, auditors, an outside review panel, and the Committee’s own work for a year and half.”
Last September, the Committee learned that National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) was likely to be $80 million over budget and 18 months behind schedule. Thousands of taxpayer dollars for the project were spent on expenses such as a Christmas party, premium coffee service, professional lobbying, as well as liquor for office happy hours and trips to a high-end resort in France.
Last December, NSF Director France Córdova agreed to commission a study by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to take a closer look at how NSF could better manage large-scale projects. In February, the Committee heard from the NAPA study committee’s project director about 13 recommendations NAPA made to improve NSF’s management and oversight of cooperative agreements.
Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.): “This bill will ensure that NSF makes the systematic changes necessary to restore confidence in federally-funded research projects, and that taxpayers can trust us with their money knowing that it will be spent in the manner intended.”
For more information on the markup, including amendments, please visit the Committee’s website. Read More
Last December, President Obama and his environmental-activist political appointees traveled to Paris to persuade other nations to sign up for his radical climate-change agenda. This administration doesn’t care that many Americans believe climate change is exaggerated, that the scientific justification used for his regulations are flimsy, or that the models he uses to predict climate-change impacts are often biased. Instead, the administration recently launched investigations to intimidate anyone who disagrees with them.
If climate change is the real threat the Obama administration says it is, and the science is as “settled” as we are told by the liberal national media, why does the administration need to use tactics often reserved for the mafia to try to protect its own interests? What is the administration afraid of?
A few days ago, the president signed the United Nation’s Paris climate-change agreement, knowingly entering America into a contract that puts us at an economic disadvantage. Hardworking American taxpayers don’t want their government to work against their economic interests. And the president’s promises will do little to impact climate change.
The former head of the Department of Energy’s Fossil Energy Office, Charles McConnell, testified before the House Science Committee that the Clean Power Plan, the cornerstone of the president’s climate agenda, will reduce sea-level rise by the thickness of three sheets of paper. The same regulation would also reduce global temperatures by a measly 0.03 degrees Celsius, yet the plan, if implemented, would cost billions of dollars annually. That is all pain and no gain. The regulation would reduce global temperatures by a measly 0.03 degrees Celsius.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court issued a stay for the Clean Power Plan, halting its implementation. This single regulation underpins the administration’s entire climate-change agenda and accounts for the lion’s share of the president’s promises in Paris. But the Environmental Protection Agency consistently ignores the tremendous costs of regulations and relies on hidden scientific data to justify them.
Last year, the House passed the Secret Science Reform Act of 2015, which would greatly improve transparency and accountability at the EPA. The bill simply requires the EPA to base its regulations on publicly available data, not secret science. That should be a minimum requirement for government activities paid for by U.S. taxpayers. In the past, the administration itself has supported public access to the underlying data. In 2012, the president’s science advisor testified before the Science Committee that “the data on which regulatory decisions . . . are based should be made available to the Committee and should be made public.”
Now the administration opposes this concept. President Obama threatened to veto the bipartisan bill. What is the administration hiding?
It is bad policy to regulate the future when evidence is suspect, or worse, contradicted almost weekly. For instance, the administration’s newest alarmist report about the negative health impacts of climate change uses extreme weather as evidence of increased health risks. But extreme-weather events have not increased in frequency, intensity, or normalized damage for many decades. Specifically, hurricanes have not increased since the 1900s and tornadoes since the 1950s. The same is true of other extreme-weather events.
There is one thing we do know: Predictions far into the future are unrealistic and unreliable. Take a recent study in Nature magazine, for example. The study attempts to predict rates of ice melting and sea-level rise all the way out to the year 2500 — almost 500 years from now! Predictions this far into the future, coupled with the poor accuracy of climate models, are little more than a guessing game. These predictions serve little purpose other than to scare the public and drive a political agenda.
The president’s U.N. climate deal in Paris would increase Americans’ electric bills, ration energy, and slow economic growth. It will cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars and risk thousands of jobs, all for little impact on the environment. The administration is selling its agenda with alarmist rhetoric that lacks scientific evidence. Meanwhile, those who raise valid questions about the very real uncertainties surrounding the understanding of climate change have their motives attacked, reputations savaged, and livelihoods threatened. Silencing debate is contrary to the scientific method. If these groups were confident about their arguments, they would welcome more debate to test their theories.
In short, the administration’s climate-change promises in Paris ignore good science and seek only to advance a partisan agenda at the expense of the American people.
— Lamar S. Smith represents the 21st district of Texas in the House of Representatives and is the chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.
Washington, D.C. – Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today released the following statement ahead of Sec. John Kerry’s signing of a United Nations climate deal scheduled for tomorrow morning. The deal was negotiated in Paris last December and the president pledged that the United States will cut its greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 28 percent over the next decade and by 80 percent or more by 2050.
Chairman Smith: “The Paris climate agreement is a bad deal for America. The president’s promise is an unworkable political gesture. This administration has put ideology ahead of what’s best for hardworking American families. This deal will raise electric bills, ration energy and slow economic growth.
“The Clean Power Plan, which is the cornerstone of the president’s pledge, would reduce global temperatures by just one one-hundredth of a degree Celsius. Further, the courts have blocked the Clean Power Plan’s enactment because so many states oppose it. Why put Americans out of work and our nation at an economic disadvantage for little environmental benefit?
“Meanwhile, the administration is selling its agenda with alarmist rhetoric that lacks scientific evidence. The American people deserve policies based on good science, not an extreme agenda based on science fiction.”
The Science Committee held several hearings to examine the various scientific and policy issues surrounding the president’s promise to the U.N. to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Read More
Washington, D.C. – The Energy Subcommittee today held a hearing to examine progress in fusion energy sciences as well as a status update on the ITER project, a long-term multi-nation collaboration to prove the feasibility of fusion as an energy source.
Energy Subcommittee Chairman Randy Weber (R-Texas): “Fusion energy science is groundbreaking because researchers are working towards a goal that seems beyond reach – to create a star on earth, contain it, and control it to the point that we can convert the immense heat into electricity. Fusion clearly is high risk, high reward research and development. It is important that this Committee continues to scrutinize the progress of ITER to ensure that it remains a good investment of tax payer dollars.”
The ITER project is a major scientific collaboration between the European Union, Japan, South Korea, China, India, the Russian Federation, and the United States to design, build, and operate what will be the world’s largest tokamak reactor.
The potential benefits to society from a net-power fusion reactor are beyond calculation, yet fusion energy science remains one the most challenging areas of experimental physics. The Department of Energy (DOE) supports fusion research primarily through its Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) program within the Office of Science. FES funding has declined in recent years.
Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “Unfortunately, the president has not provided the leadership that is necessary and has repeatedly cut funding for fusion science. Despite the president’s promises to support clean energy R&D, his lack of support for fusion energy is more than disappointing. Fusion energy is the type of technology that could someday change the way we think about energy. To maintain our competitive advantage, we must continue to support the basic research that will lead to next generation energy technologies.”
For more information on the hearing, including witness testimony and the archived webcast, please visit the Committee’s website. Read More
Washington, D.C. – The Space Subcommittee today held a hearing to examine the current state of the small satellite commercial launch industry, which generates hundreds of billions of dollars of economic activity and serves both the private and public sector. Several companies are currently working to supply the growing demand for commercial launches. Witnesses today discussed various policy challenges that may need to be addressed.
Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas): “I am committed to addressing the critical issues facing our commercial space industry and finding common ground and responsible solutions that meet the needs of our nation, grow our economy, and maintain our leadership in space. There is a great deal of promise in the future of space. But if we fail to provide long-term solutions to the issues our nation faces, we may well lose our leadership in space. I, for one, will not allow that to happen on my watch.”
Significant research and development (R&D) investments are being made in the United States to create and manufacture new types of small satellite technologies and applications. One of the largest barriers that small satellite companies face is the cost of launch.
A number of American companies, in various stages of development, plan to offer dedicated launch services to the small satellite industry in the next few years. These companies promise to provide more flexible launch services such as delivery to unique orbits and rapid replenishment.
One significant policy question surrounds excess intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) motors. These government-owned Cold War era rockets have the potential to provide commercial launch capabilities. However, it is long-standing national policy that excess ICBMs should not be used for commercial launch services.
Those in favor of allowing excess ICBMs to be used for commercial launch services argue that many U.S. small satellites have launched on Russian DNEPR vehicles, derived from Russian ICBMs, and that by modifying existing U.S. policy, U.S. launch services could compete with Russia and bring this business back to America. Those in favor also argue that there is a cost to the taxpayer associated with storing excess ICBMs. By allowing the U.S. commercial launch industry to use excess ICBMs, you not only lower the tax burden, but also create potential revenue derived from the sale of these motors.
However, those that oppose the policy change raise legitimate concerns that allowing excess ICBMs to be used for commercial launch purposes could distort the market in the United States, undermine future investment, and delay innovations that are on the horizon.
Witnesses today also discussed policy implications surrounding access to foreign launch services. A number of companies that build and operate small satellites contend that there isn’t enough capacity in the market at a price they can afford to meet their needs. India has stepped in and offered to fill, in part, this demand and is launching smaller U.S. satellites on their Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) vehicle. Several members question the current ad-hoc policy governing U.S. commercial satellite access to Indian PSLV launches.
For more information on the hearing, including witness testimony and the archived webcast, please visit the Committee’s website. Read More