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Sessions and Vitter Demand that EPA Provide Accounting Of How Much Money is Spent on EPA’s Ozone Proposal

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R) from Alabama joined Senate colleague David Vitter and all the Republican members of the Senate EPW Committee in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.  A statement by Sen. Sessions’ office said that the Committee still has unanswered request for an accounting of taxpayer funds, “Wasted during EPA’s unnecessary, and ultimately abandoned, reconsideration of the ozone standard in the 2010-2011 timeframe.”

In the letter to Administrator McCarthy, the Senators wrote:

“We are writing to renew a longstanding, unanswered request for data related to federal funds and resources expended as part of EPA’s unnecessary reconsideration of the national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for ground level ozone in the 2010-2011 timeframe. As you know, ozone attainment status significantly impacts state and local transportation planning, energy production and use, and economic development. EPA’s reconsideration of the ozone standard in 2010-2011, years ahead of the regularly-scheduled review process established in the Clean Air Act (CAA), caused economic and regulatory uncertainty throughout the United States. Private businesses and organizations as well as federal, state, and local agencies incurred significant expenses analyzing EPA’s proposal as well as participating in the public comment process. As the Assistant Administrator with responsibility for EPA’s Office of Air & Radiation at the time, you led this ozone reconsideration effort and, as the Administrator, you are responsible for overseeing the current ozone review.”

The Senators said that, “Many recognized EPA’s reconsideration initiative as lengthy and unnecessary. For example, a recent report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) suggests that the reconsideration was done as a political, rather than legal, matter.”

The Senators said that the process to reconsider the 2008 ozone standard and replace it with a more stringent primary standard and a different version of the secondary standard were proposed in January 2010. After a year and a half of public comment and review, EPA sent a final set of standards to OMB for interagency, but that process was, “Short-circuited, however, by a Presidential decision to await conclusion of the next regular review—the review now nearing completion—before promulgating any change.”

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The Senators wrote that according to officials with the state of Ohio, “Attempting to implement a new standard while the previous standard is still being implemented has consistently caused strain, redundancy and inefficiency in the process and has led to seemingly endless rounds of litigation that takes the focus away from the important task at hand–real air quality improvements… U.S. EPA…should not add to the uncertainty and strain generated by the existing Clean Air Act obligations for attaining the ozone standard and generated by the five-year review of that NAAQS by prematurely reevaluating and reestablishing the ozone standard when neither law nor science requires it.”

Eventually President Obama directed EPA to not proceed with the ozone reconsideration process, he explained that he “Did not support asking state and local governments to begin implementing a new standard that will soon be reconsidered.” The Senators wrote, “In other words, following 18 months of an unnecessary federal regulatory process that was not mandated by the CAA, the President ordered EPA to stand-down.”

After the President’s decision, Senator Sessions wrote EPA in September 2011 inquiring about the “total costs incurred or expended by [EPA] … on efforts related to reconsideration of the 2008 [ozone standard].” In April of this year, Senator Sessions asked Administrator McCarthy directly for information about the amount of money EPA spent on the ozone reconsideration process.  According to the letter McCarthy promised to provide the Senate with that report.

The letter continued, “In those questions, you were specifically asked: “Did EPA incur significant costs as part of the ozone reconsideration process; if so, how much?”  You wholly ignored the question in your response to the Committee, violating your pledge before the Committee. Again, in May of this year, EPA staff wrote Senate staff: “We haven’t tracked down a response but are working on it….To date, no official EPA response has been provided. It has now been 26 months since the initial request.  We can only conclude, in the face of repeated refusals to respond to or acknowledge a legitimate question about how taxpayer money has been spent by EPA, that EPA either seeks to thwart our oversight role in this matter or cannot answer the question. Either explanation is deeply troubling. As Members of the Senate Committee with direct jurisdiction over EPA and the CAA, we have a responsibility to oversee Agency actions, including how it expends the resources made available to it by Congress. Our request is neither overly complex nor burdensome.”

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The Senator repeated their request, “That EPA provide to the Committee an accounting of EPA expenses incurred as part of its abandoned 2010-2011 ozone NAAQS reconsideration including the total costs incurred or expended by EPA from January 21, 2009 through August 31, 2011 on efforts related to the Agency’s reconsideration of the 2008 NAAQS for ground level ozone. The estimate should account for EPA staff time (including salaries and benefits); expenses associated with the public hearings in Arlington, Virginia; Houston, Texas; Sacramento, California; as well as any other public hearings or meetings; third-party expenses for consultants, scientists, or other persons; and any other expense incurred by the Agency as part of this effort. In addition to the monetary costs of these efforts, please also provide the total man-hours expended by EPA staff on this effort during the stated time frame.”

The Republican Senators gave EPA officials a deadline of January 7, 2014 to provide all of the information.

As Sen. Sessions explained in a September 2011 editorial that, “…EPA’s proposal would have drained as much as $90 billion annually from the U.S. economy-earning distinction as the most expensive environmental regulation ever proposed. According to the Manufacturers Alliance, this proposal would have put over 7 million jobs at risk by 2020. Under the EPA ozone proposal, many Alabama counties, including Mobile, Baldwin, Montgomery, Shelby, Jefferson, Tuscaloosa, Madison, and several others would have been at serious risk of becoming ‘non-attainment’ for ozone—a designation that can stymy economic growth and industrial development.”

Critics of the Obama Administration have charged that his regime has taken an extreme regulatory path on environmental issues to appease environmental extremists which have been supportive of President Obama’s campaigns. According to the critics, these policies on: oil drilling, power plant emissions, expanding American refinery capacity, expanding oil pipelines, car fuel economy standards, etc. have slowed the economy and hurt American competitiveness in numerous industries.

Senator Sessions is the Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee.

Senator Jeff Sessions has served in the U.S. Senate since his election in 1996 and faces re-election in 2014.  At this point Sen. Sessions faces no credible opposition (that ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ is aware of) from either anyone in his own party or from any Alabama Democrats.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Opinion | No peace, no calm, but that’s “normal”

“My students and I are on a first-name basis. But when I can’t call their names, it leaves me confused and frustrated. Like the world we live in today.”

Joey Kennedy

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(APR GRAPHIC)

I have more than 100 students in my classes at UAB, and I can call only a few by name. Masks are important, but I haven’t yet learned to memorize foreheads, and that’s really all I see when I look at a student’s face. A few, with either a distinctive hair cut or color, or who have other identifying features in the upper half of their faces, I can name. Not many, though.

My students and I are on a first-name basis. But when I can’t call their names, it leaves me confused and frustrated.

Like the world we live in today. Like these United States. Like Alabama.

A worsening pandemic, unrest across the country, a chaotic election a few days away, an economy in the tank, it is difficult for me to feel settled. Grounded. Peaceful. Calm.

The 300th or so hurricane just zipped through Alabama this week. The storm was named Zeta because we’re out of names for hurricanes. And there’s still fully a month remaining in the hurricane season. Eta is next.

We may not know who the next president will be even by the end of next week. Or we could know Tuesday night if it’s the blowout for Democrats that predictions say it will be. If former Vice President Joe Biden wins Florida, Michigan, or Wisconsin, it’s pretty much over for President Donald Trump.

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But, then, we know how well the heavily favored candidates sometimes do, right Hillary?

Remember, if Trump does lose in Jimmy Carter proportions, he’s still going to be president for another two-and-a-half months. There’s no predicting what he’ll do during that time, but we know this for sure: No peace. No calm.

Our hope in Alabama has to be that U.S. Sen. Doug Jones is re-elected. That’s the only choice that makes sense. A washed-up, mediocre football coach who doesn’t have a clue about government and who has spent most of his time in Florida will not represent the state well, especially if the Senate goes Democratic, as expected.

Jones is no “California liberal,” as one columnist with Alabama Political Reporter described him. That’s just a plea to the uninformed voter in a typical Republican effort to falsely spin Jones as something he is not. Hell, I wish Jones was a California liberal. We could use some of that in Alabama. Instead, for the most part, all our elected officials are simply philosophical clones of each other.

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There are no new ideas. No effort to take the state forward. In most every quality-of-life category, Alabama ranks at the bottom or near it. Our current leadership seems determined to keep us there.

Our elected officials don’t even learn from their mistakes. Anti-masker Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth contracted the coronavirus, and, thankfully, he recovered. Still, he remains against the mask mandate.

Trump contracted the coronavirus, too, and after being surrounded by a grumble of the best doctors at one of the best hospitals, he came back, snatched that mask off his face, and almost immediately began holding those foolish superspreader political rallies again.

The cult members attend, many without masks or social distancing, and some of the cult members die.

Meanwhile, Trump flies away in that fancy jet we taxpayers own, and, in at least one case, leaves his supporters stranded outside in the bitter cold for hours. Loyalty to the cult of Trump pays huge dividends, I write sarcastically.

There is no peace. No calm. This is not to be had in the America Trump made “great” again.

And I don’t know my students when I see them. I must memorize foreheads.

Even so, the masks are important, as is social distancing. I can ask a student what her name is, and when it’s one I have known for years, I can apologize. A small inconvenience to stay well.

The student always offers grace, always tells me it’s OK.

We both pretend that’s just normal.

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Opinion | Election Day is next week

This will be a memorable and historical election year. This 2020 pandemic year is hopefully only a once in a century event.

Steve Flowers

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Well, folks, it is finally here. The presidential race is next Tuesday. However, a good many Americans have already voted. True early voting is available in a half dozen states and every American can vote by absentee ballot and a good many have taken advantage of that right. A record number of Alabamians have voted absentee. However, the election for president will be decided next week when most voters go to the polls.

This will be a memorable and historical election year. This 2020 pandemic year is hopefully, only a once in a century event. 2020 is a pivotal presidential year. Never before in my lifetime have I seen our country more divided politically into extremely partisan corners. We are really two nations, and we are split almost 50-50. This is understandable because the country is truly divided philosophically.

Back in the day our own George Wallace would run around the country running for president as a third-party candidate in a Don Quixote mission espousing the rhetoric that there is not a dimes worth of difference between the national Republican and Democratic parties. Nobody could say that, even in demagogic form, today.

Folks, there is a world of difference today. The Republican Party is very conservative, and the Democratic Party is extremely liberal. This divide between the two parties is enhanced and perpetuated by the media, especially, the television networks. If you are a conservative Republican you watch Fox News. If you are a liberal Democrat, you watch CNN. It is like seeing the nation’s politics and dogma through two different prisms.

The two parties should and could more aptly change their names. Republicans should be labeled the Conservative Party and the Democrats the Liberal Party. CNN, and to a large degree ABC, NBC and CBS, should take down any pretense of being impartial and simply have their broadcast from the Democratic National Headquarters. Conversely FOX News should broadcast from the Republican National Headquarters. MSNBC should be broadcast from Moscow

We in Alabama are definitely in the conservative Republican tribe as are most of the other southern and midwestern and rural states. The left coast of California and the eastern urban coast of New York are the bastions of liberalism and the Democratic party.

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We do not elect our president by direct popular vote whereby the person who gets the most votes nationwide wins the presidency. Under our Electoral College system, the person who gets 50 percent plus one vote gets all of that states’ electoral votes. The number of electoral votes is determined by the number of congressional seats plus two senators. For example, California has 53 seats in Congress plus two Senators for 55 electoral votes. We in Alabama have seven congressional seats plus two senators which gives us nine electoral votes. Therefore, it does not take a math genius to tell that the liberal Democratic states like California, have more votes than rural, conservative states like Alabama.

President Donald Trump, who has been a proven conservative Republican, has been behind the eight-ball having to fight through the coronavirus disaster. It is not his fault that the Chinese sent this pandemic to the world and the United States, but voters will want to blame someone and he is the one in the Whitehouse and the one on the ballot.

In mid-September Trump’s reelection numbers and chances were dismal. However, in late September the much-discussed October surprise occurred. The death of liberal U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave the conservative President the opportunity to appoint a conservative to the Supreme Court. Trump is blessed to have a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.

This opportunity for President Trump to place a third conservative Justice to the nine-member Tribunal could be a game changer. This will energize evangelical voters throughout the country as well as devout, mainstream, Catholic voters in the crucial battleground states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona. The election will be decided in these six key battleground states.

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The hay is in the barn in most other states. California will vote Democratic and we in Alabama will vote overwhelmingly Republican. President Trump will carry Alabama in a landslide. This third conservative appointment to the Supreme Court is like manna from Heaven and icing on the cake for Trump in the Heart of Dixie.

The Trump train will provide some long and heavy coattails, which will prove disastrous for our anomaly, liberal, national Democratic senator, Doug Jones. The crescendo Republican wave in Alabama will drown Democrat Jones into a watery grave. It has not helped Jones’s cause that during his short tenure he has voted right down the line with the left-wing Democratic leadership.

We will see next week.

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Opinion | Doug Jones’s pathway to victory: Substance over lies

Jones said his work in the Senate should prove to the people of the state that party matters less than productivity. 

Josh Moon

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Alabama Sen. Doug Jones speaks during the Democratic National Convention.

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones believes voters will ultimately see through Tommy Tuberville’s lazy campaign and lies, and that enough of them will be moved by his work over the last two years to send him back to D.C. 

Jones’ comments came during a lengthy interview on the Alabama Politics This Week podcast. He also discussed his plans to address some of Alabama’s most pressing issues and also praised Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican.  

But it was Jones’ comments about Alabama voters — and whether too many of them are incapable of moving away from the Republican Party — that were most interesting. Jones still believes there are open-minded voters in the state, and that there isn’t enough attention being paid to polls showing a growing dissatisfaction in Alabama with President Donald Trump. 

“There are a number of things that Donald Trump has done that people (in Alabama) don’t agree with,” Jones said. “There are a number of things that he’s done that’s hurt Alabama and that they’re not OK with. That’s where I come in.”

Jones said his work in the Senate, where he’s sponsored the most bipartisan legislation over the last two years, should prove to the people of the state that party matters less than productivity. 

“I tell everyone, you owe it to yourself to look at every candidate and every issue,” Jones said. “I do that. I’ve been a Democrat all my life but I don’t think that I have ever pulled a straight lever. Because I look at every issue. I will tell you that there have been times that I didn’t vote for people who are Democrats for whatever reason — I just couldn’t do it. I think we owe it to ourselves to do that.”

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Jones had the perfect example to drive the point home. 

“Y’all all know our state auditor, Jim Zeigler? Jim wasn’t always a Republican. Jim’s first runs for office were as a Democrat. 

“I rest my case.”

You can listen to the full interview at the Alabama Politics This Week website, or you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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Opinion | Counting on good Neighbors

Even though Neighbors is likely a long shot, he’s at least got a shot. The people of District 4 need to vote in their best interest this year, not to help Aderholt get richer off the taxpayers’ hard-earned money.

Joey Kennedy

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Congressional candidate Rick Neighbors at a campaign stop. (VIA NEIGHBORS CAMPAIGN)

There’s a lot of reasons we know it’s an election year — political ads on television, presidential debates, Donald Trump super-spreader campaign rallies.

Oh, and Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt is back in his congressional district. Every couple years, Aderholt shows up. So he can “appear” connected to Alabama’s 4th Congressional District.

The 4th Congressional District starts just north of Birmingham and stretches horizontally across the state. The district includes Colbert, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Lamar, Lawrence, Marion, Marshall, Walker and Winston counties as well as parts of Blount, Cherokee, Jackson and Tuscaloosa counties.

Aderholt pops in for a few campaign events, and then pops out to his real residence in suburban Washington D.C. He’s no more an Alabamian than Florida’s Tommy Tuberville.

Aderholt does have opposition this year in Democratic nominee Rick Neighbors, a Vietnam veteran who truly helps his neighbors. Early in the pandemic, Neighbors was passing out masks door-to-door in the district. He’s continued to help his neighbors throughout the pandemic with anything he can do.

“Being in Congress means being here and working with the people,” Neighbors says on his website. “In 24 years, Rob Aderholt has left us behind to focus on his radical agenda and gotten rich in Congress.”

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That’s from a campaign website, but it’s absolutely true. Aderholt is still talking about expanding broadband access in his rural district. It’s one of the few issues he talks about every two years, for 24 years, without ever getting anything done.

Seriously. Name something Aderholt has done for his district or Alabama in the more than two decades he’s been in Congress. I won’t hold my breath.

And if you don’t think Neighbors’s campaign isn’t a little worrisome for Aderholt supporters, why are all the Neighbors signs disappearing from his district?

Adults, acting like sixth-graders, love to pull up political signs. Even in my comfortably Democratic neighborhood, some Doug Jones for Senate signs disappear. And, oddly in my neighborhood, I saw an actual Tommy Tuberville sign that had been pulled down in front of some misplaced person’s yard. It happens on both sides.

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But in the 4th Congressional District, and especially in the Cullman County area, it’s hard for Neighbors and his staff to keep signs in place.

“Cullman has come down, and we have had to replace almost all our signs in Winston County,” said Neighbors’s campaign manager Lisa Ward. As for Winston County, Ward said, “we were told those are gone again.”

Can anybody be more junior high?

“We’ve seen places where our sign was, and it’s been replaced by Aderholt signs,” Ward said. “When we put signs out, we leave his and put ours next to his. We joke and say everyone needs friendly neighbors around.”

The Neighbors campaign does have the right spirit. They just work to replace the signs that disappear. But it is aggravating, to say the least.

“Someone told us that Aderholt is really worried if people find out he has an opponent or doesn’t live here he could struggle,” said Ward. “That’s why he’s not mentioning (Neighbors’s) campaign. And why we think they’re taking his signs down. So people don’t know. It’s really about people not getting a chance to know they have a choice. And there is no time to hear who he is.”

Well, here’s who he is: Neighbors served three tours in Vietnam during that war, enlisting when he was 17 years old. After the service, he got a college degree, then spent 35 years in the apparel business in North Alabama.

Neighbors and his wife, Judy, have three children, and Neighbors recently earned an MBA from the University of North Alabama.

Neighbors would be a breath of fresh air for Alabama in Washington. He won’t live there. He’ll be grounded in the 4th Congressional District.

If Aderholt wins, we won’t see him again until 2022. Twenty-four years in Congress is plenty of time to get something done. But with Aderholt, there’s not much to show for all that time.

And even though Neighbors is likely a long shot, he’s at least got a shot. The people of the 4th District need to vote in their best interest this year, not to help Aderholt get richer off the taxpayers’ hard-earned money.

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