Home Energy and Environment Video: Rep. Connolly Rips Ken Cuccinelli’s “Witch Hunt,” Waste of Taxpayer Money

Video: Rep. Connolly Rips Ken Cuccinelli’s “Witch Hunt,” Waste of Taxpayer Money


Rep. Connolly delivered this statement, including the segment in the video above, in response to Virginia’s national embarrassment, Ken Kookinelli, testified against proposed EPA regulations concerning power plant emissions, known as Utility MACT. To put it bluntly, Virginia’s Attorney General is using his power to fight for powerful, polluting corporations, NOT for the health and well being of the people and environment of Virginia. That is a disgrace to the office of Attorney General of Virginia, not that this rabid ideologue gives a rat’s hindquarters.

Statement of Congressman Gerald E. Connolly

Oversight and Government Reform Committee

October 27th, 2011

It is a shame that the Committee majority shows no interest whatsoever in legislation that might promote technological innovation or improve management of federal information technology.  Part of our Committee’s core jurisdiction includes improving information technology across the entire federal government.  Instead, we are conducting another partisan hearing like today’s that focus on how to allow more toxic pollution by power plants.  Now the Committee is holding a hearing to attack commonsense EPA limits on mercury, arsenic, dioxin and other pollution.  

Consider the pressing technology-related topics on which this Committee has not held a hearing: cloud computing, data center consolidation, implementation of the Chief Information Officer’s 25 Point Plan, or improvements to the acquisition workforce.  We have not held hearings on filling the gaping holes in our acquisition workforce, or about how to improve training for acquisition personnel.  We have held markups of legislation to create new unfunded mandates and private sector regulations-the DATA Act-but not on legislation to streamline or expedite data center consolidation or the shift to cloud-based data storage and processing.  Under Republican leadership, this Committee has abandoned the most important issues in federal technology and management issues-which are of vital importance to one of the most important job-creating sectors of the economy–technology.

Instead of taking on these important topics, the Committee majority has decided to attack limits on mercury and other toxic pollution.  The EPA is updating standards to regulate toxic mercury pollution because the courts found that a prior rule, issued under the Bush Administration on behalf of polluters, violated the Clean Air Act.  Under the Obama Administration, the EPA actually is trying to do its job and reduce toxic pollution as Congress directed in 1990.  As the EPA attempts to administer the Clean Air Act, it is worth recalling that the Clean Air Act used to have bipartisan support.  It was signed into law by a Republican President 40 years ago and strengthened substantially by a Republican President and Democratic Congress in 1990.  By any empirical measure, the Clean Air Act is a wild success.  It saves 160,000 lives annually by preventing deaths that would otherwise be caused by pollution.  Major regulations implemented under the Clean Air Act have saved far more money than they have cost to implement.  Since the Clean Air Act was passed, the U.S. economy has grown by 200% and we have fostered a vibrant new clean energy industry that can create jobs without creating diseases associated with fossil fuel production.

The regulation that the Committee majority is attacking today is typical of Clean Air Act regulations in that it will save lives and money.  According to the Congressional Research Service, the Utility MACT rule would save 6,800 to 17,000 lives per year, with net savings of at least $48 billion annually.  The Republicans claim to be concerned that this life-saving public health standard will threaten the reliability of electricity supply.  Once again we are presented with a false choice, in this case an absurd false choice between electricity and clean air.  Those of us who have been outside today breathed cleaner air right here in the nation’s capital as a direct result of the Clean Air Act, and yes there are far more cars on the road and kilowatts of electricity being produced than when Congress passed that bill in 1970.

The primary Republican witness, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, has focused his office’s resources-paid for by taxpayers-on narrow ideological issues.  For example, he subpoenaed former UVA professor Michael Mann in 2010 because he believed that Mann’s well-regarded climate research might qualify as “fraud” under Virginia law.  Not surprisingly, a Circuit Court disagreed, and now Attorney General Cuccinelli is appealing to the Virginia Supreme Court.  Thomas Jefferson said that founding UVA was his proudest achievement, so it is both ironic and tragic that the Virginia Attorney General would attack academic freedom at the University.  This witch hunt has drawn condemnation from more than 800 Virginia scientists, the conservative Richmond Times-Dispatch and every other major newspaper in Virginia, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and others.  In addition to litigating against his own state’s premier university, he filed a lawsuit against the federal government for the EPA’s finding that greenhouse gas pollution poses a danger to human health and welfare.  He also sued to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  His opposition to the mere implementation of the Clean Air Act is baffling for a state likeVirginia, which stands to benefit disproportionately from reductions in pollution from upwind power plants.  Unfortunately, Northern Virginia and many other Virginiacommunities still are non-attainment areas for ozone and particulate pollution, as dramatic reductions in automobile pollution must be accompanied by similar reductions in pollution from power plants in the Ohio River Valley.

I would suggest that Chairman Issa adjourn this hearing and turn our attention to issues that are within this Committee’s jurisdiction and might actually create high-tech jobs or improve federal information security.

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