Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Remarks of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) -- Boiler MACT Rule

Posted on November 16, 2011

Mr. President, last week during the debate on clean air, in which I opposed overturning a rule that prevents dirty air from other States to blow into Tennessee, costing us jobs, and hurting our health, I said:  Why should we be picking on a good rule when the Environmental Protection Agency is a happy hunting ground of unreasonable regulations. 

I just wish to take a moment to talk about perhaps the foremost of those unreasonable regulations, which we call the boiler MACT rule.  This is a regulation that will force thousands of industrial boilers around America to install the maximum available control technology on their boilers.  This is important in order to clean the air of such pollutants as mercury. 

That is a good idea.  What is a bad idea is EPA only gives 3 years for companies to install this technology, a time frame that is completely unrealistic.  This is not like a lot of the other clean air laws and rules that have been around for years; this is an unexpected new rule on thousands of industrial boilers which are essential to our manufacturing jobs in America.  

First, there is not enough time to comply with the rule, and second, EPA used a flawed methodology in determining what fuels could be used.  As a result, little businesses and big businesses all over America are going to be forced to spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to comply with this rule instead of spending that money on creating jobs.

That is just not one Republican Senator saying this.  We have 12 Democratic Senators and a number of Republican Senators who have introduced legislation.  Senator Collins is the leader of this effort.  I am a part of it.  So is Senator Wyden, Senator Pryor, and Senator Landrieu.  What we are saying is, let's give the EPA enough time to fix the rule.  Fifteen months is what EPA has asked for.  Let's give the EPA additional authority to use the correct methodology so they can write a rule that makes some sense and does not act as though it is delivered from Mars or Venus or some other planet, and then let's give the industries enough time to comply with the rules, instead of 3 years, which is what the rule suggests, we will give them 5 years. 

Let me try to give some sense of the impact of this unworkable rule.  Its estimates that this rule will result in a loss of 340,000 jobs nationwide.  We just passed, in a bipartisan way, three trade agreements which the President said would create 250,000 jobs.  It took us 3 years to do that.  It was something Republicans and Democrats agreed on.  We thought that was a big step forward.  Yet here we are allowing this agency to go forward with an absolutely unworkable rule that will cost 340,000 jobs.  In my State of Tennessee, the cost to businesses is $530 million. 

I have talked to owners of small businesses who are facing a $1 million cost to try to implement this unworkable rule on their boilers.  They have told me they will close their plants.  They cannot possibly afford it comply with this rule in this short of a time period. 

I have talked to large industries that are affected.  Eastman Chemicals is one, they’ve been in Tennessee forever.  It is as an important part of our State as the Great Smoky Mountains are.  Thousands of Tennesseans work there.  This is what they say:  They are going to spend more than $100 million over and above the work they have already planned in order to bring five Eastman boilers into compliance with the EPA regulations. 

This is a company with $7 billion in revenue.  They are going to survive.  But some jobs will not.  Instead of creating jobs with that money; they will just be trying to comply with an unworkable government regulation.  The majority leader said on the floor:  Regulations don't cost jobs.  Here is a prime example that shows unworkable regulations do cost jobs.  And 12 Democratic Senators and at least as many Republican Senators agree on that.  We have a bipartisan way to fix this rule.  The House, in an overwhelming bipartisan vote, agreed with us by passing similar legislation. 

I want to call this Collins-Alexander-Wyden-Pryor-Landrieu legislation to the attention of the public, to the attention of the Senate, and say, there are some regulations that are before us that need to be changed.  They are costing jobs.  This is not Republican rhetoric or Democratic excuses.  It is Republicans and Democrats saying to the EPA:  We want to give you the authority to write a good rule.  We want you to fix the rule.  We want a clean air standard.  We do not want to change the end result of the rule, but we want to give you enough time to write the rule.  We want you to be able to use the correct method in writing this rule so companies can comply.  And we want to give companies enough time to install these technologies so they can make reductions in these harmful pollutants. 

Mr. ALEXANDER.  This is a rare piece of legislation, something we agree on across the aisle, that could immediately save 340,000 jobs, that keeps the clean air rule the EPA has proposed, but simply gives them time to write it properly, the authority to write it properly, and businesses the opportunity to comply with it within a reasonable period of time. 

I hope we will adopt it.