By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R) from Alabama released a report on Thursday with Environment and Public Works Committee Republicans entitled, “Neglecting a Cornerstone Principle of the Clean Air Act: President Obama’s EPA Leaves States Behind.” The 42 page report claims that President Obama’s EPA’s has increasingly departed from the cooperative federalism approach established in the Clean Air Act.
Sen. Sessions said, “Our nation’s level of air pollution and air quality has improved dramatically over the past four decades under the Clean Air Act. A cornerstone of this important law is the principle of ‘cooperative federalism,’ which recognizes that achieving environmental goals in our constitutional republic requires mutual collaboration between the States and Federal government. Regrettably, as shown in this report, the vast majority of States are increasingly concerned that EPA, under this administration, is not working with the States in the cooperative manner required by law. The evidence suggests that EPA routinely tries to ignore or circumvent the States or to control them by heavy-handed actions.”
Sen. Sessions concluded, “These kinds of unnecessary and improper actions by EPA threaten to undermine the very law that has helped to improve air quality in the United States. I believe Congress should take a close look at these concerns and take the time to hear from the States about ways to improve our nation’s air quality programs.”
According to the report, when enacting the CAA in 1970, Congress found that “air pollution prevention … and air pollution control at its source is the primary responsibility of States and local governments” and that “Federal financial assistance and leadership is essential for the development of cooperative Federal, State, regional, and local programs to prevent and control air pollution (42 U.S.C. § 7401).”
This report claims that President Obama’s Administration (EPA specifically) has worked to phase out State and local involvement. Instead of cooperating with the States the EPA is diminishing the role of the States. The report says,
“Since 2009, a majority of States have expressed concerns on a variety of fronts about EPA’s failure to adhere to the CAA’s cooperative federalism design. For instance, States are troubled by EPA’s practice of entering closed-door, secretive “sue and settle” arrangements, in which environmental organizations particularly friendly to this Administration will sue the federal government, claiming that its regulatory obligations have not been satisfied. In the ensuing negotiations, States are not included in the discussion as new regulations are created.”
The report continues,
“Evidence suggests that EPA entered more “sue and settle” agreements during this Administration’s first term than all three previous presidential terms combined. In addition, States are concerned that EPA is pursuing the unilateral revoking of long-standing, well-accepted provisions of State air quality programs. The data show that the current Administration is rejecting an unprecedented number of State Implementation Plan provisions. It is also apparent that EPA is imposing unreasonable timeframes for the States to review and comment on upcoming, complex EPA regulations; EPA is not providing equal treatment to the States in responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests; and EPA has created significant uncertainty among the States by prematurely reconsidering national air quality standards.”
Many state Governors, including Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) have expressed concerns over Obama’s “War on Coal” which has been conducted entirely through executive action as his controversial extreme environmentalist anti-coal agenda died in Congress in 2010. Alabama officials are concerned that pressure on Alabama Power and TVA to close coal powered electricity plants could lead to higher power rates for Alabama citizens and businesses for questionable environmental gains.
U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions is the Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety. Then Alabama Attorney General Jefferson “Jeff” Beauregard Sessions defeated state Senator Roger Bedford (D) from Russellville in 1996 to replace retiring Senator Howell Heflin.
Sen. Sessions faces re-election next year, but at this point in time Sessions faces no credible Democratic or Republican opposition.