House Energy and Commerce's Latta talks postelection energy politics

How will the new House majority leadership move on liquefied natural gas exports, crude oil exports and U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan following the midterm elections? During today's OnPoint, Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, discusses the state of play on energy policy in Congress and talks about the impact he believes EPA's draft rule for existing power plants could have on Ohio's manufacturing sector.


Monica Trauzzi: Hello, and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. With me today is Congressman Bob Latta, Republican of Ohio and a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Congressman, it's nice to have you here.

Rep. Bob Latta: Thanks very much for having me.

Monica Trauzzi: So, Congressman, you've just introduced new legislation along with Congressman Pete Olson that would require EPA to consider economic impacts when issuing rules under the Clean Air Act. EPA uses economic modeling and certainly to estimate the social cost of carbon, they get into cost-benefit analysis tools. What is the legislation seeking to do beyond the current practices that EPA is employing?

Rep. Bob Latta: Well, you know, everybody out there wants to have clean air and clean water. I have 60,000 manufacturing jobs in my district alone, and Ohio is 70 percent coal, and we have a lot of varieties of businesses out there that are affected by these rules, but what we want are just for the EPA to have what they have come forward and regulations that people can live with and that go forward from those. So we want -- when Pete and I brought forward this legislation, we want to make sure that that legis- you know, the legislation has on the books that EPA will have to comply with because we don't want EPA putting things out there that people can't comply with, and we've seen that in the past and we deal with it all the time in committee, so that's really the big focus right there.

Monica Trauzzi: The agency recently announced it's pushing the deadline for public comments on its Clean Power Plan by 45 days to December 1st, and this came as a response to a bipartisan letter from Congress that was sent to Administrator McCarthy. Your district, as you said, is heavy on manufacturing jobs, a lot of coal use. How are Ohio regulators preparing for the Clean Power Plan, and what do you believe the impact could be on the manufacturing sector?

Rep. Bob Latta: Well, in Ohio, again, when you look at 70 percent of our energy coming from coal, that is massive. Several years ago, when the president had come out with, you know, the idea of having the cap and trade, or we like to call cap and tax, I had one of the groups here in Washington do a -- run an analysis of all 435 congressional districts. Mine have been the second-hardest hit when they looked at the amount of coal that was being used in the district and the amount of manufacturing. And then we looked at Ohio and Indiana compared side by side, and interesting enough, since I go right down the side of Indiana, have a lot of people who work in Indiana and vice versa, that we would've probably had the two top hardest-hit states in the country. So when you look at the regulations that the EPA want to impose, they've got to really look at the impact in committee. You know, I've asked those questions to folks that are being affected. The regulators and the state, you know, when the EPA's come in, have they talked to you about the impact on the power plants and how it's going to affect manufacturing, how it's going to affect, you know, farmers, how it's going to affect individuals and, you know, retired people out there. They say no. So what we really want to see is the EPA, when they're coming up, again, with regulations, that they've got to start looking at the impact, again, what it's going to do to the states because we will drive businesses out of the state of Ohio, and we don't want to drive them out of the country.

Monica Trauzzi: So once this public comment period closes, EPA's expected to go back and take a look at all the public comments, but also retool perhaps the formulas that they used to come up with the targets that are in the current draft plan. Would you consider that a success if those targets are retooled a bit?

Rep. Bob Latta: Well, it depends on how you -- again, it's always higher reach, you know, you're retooling those targets. You know, are they getting more strict or which way are they going to go. And that's the one issue out there. Sometimes they say, you know, you can go ahead and we can have these higher restrictions that will be imposed out there in our communities and how -- they don't look at really the impact in them. So sometimes you have to almost see how they're doing it because, again, EPA is kind of, in my opinion, especially in this area, a world unto themselves.

Monica Trauzzi: Clean energy jobs have revitalized manufacturing sectors around the word. What role should clean energy be playing in your district?

Rep. Bob Latta: Well, you know, in -- across -- not in Ohio, but across the country, you know, you go back 2008, the Republicans at that time came out with the whole all-of-the-above energy strategy. It wasn't something that came out a couple years ago with the president. We were talking about it back then. We were saying, you know what you need to look at out there is, you know, nuclear, clean coal. When you look at natural gas and you go down the entire line -- hydro, and then you get into the other areas for your alternative energy. But what you want to make sure is that the government is not picking winners and losers out there. We want to make sure that you've got a good base out there, but at the same time, we're talking about a base, like in my area, we have to have the ability out there to be able to turn these machines on in the morning and, you know, start flowglass facilities up, make sure that steel mills are running. So we have to make sure that we have a baseload capacity out there that's available 24 hours a day and just not on certain days.

Monica Trauzzi: There have been legislative attempts in the House to stop EPA from moving forward with its existing power plant proposal. What is the alternative plan that House Republicans have for reducing carbon emissions and addressing climate change? What's the plan?

Rep. Bob Latta: Well, you know, again, everybody out there wants to make sure you have a clean environment, you know, and so one of the things you want to -- when you look at it, again, with the EPA, when they're selling, like, a power plant, well, you've got to even go lower. Well, they've been going lower to begin with, and so when -- they're going to hit a point that they can't get any farther too where they're at. And one of the things that the administration really hasn't looked at either, what's happened in nuclear. If you want something out there that's carbon-free, you might say it's on the nuclear side. Now we do have some plants being built finally since the 1970s, but then again, the administration, on the other hand, when you look at Yucca Mountain, we have no place to store, and so you have this -- you know, these nuclear plants that have to store on-site, the spent rods. So, you know, we want to make sure that we're exploring everything. You know, we have, you know, right now in the United States you have natural gas, you know, 25, 30 years ago, people would have said, natural gas, we're out. We don't have any more natural gas. Well, now we're No. 1 in the world, so we have all these different supplies out there, but we have to be able to get to them and use them.

Monica Trauzzi: How closely aligned are your views on energy policy with the views of the new House majority leadership?

Rep. Bob Latta: Well, I think we're pretty much all on the same view. Again, you want an all-above energy policy. You want to make sure that we're creating jobs out there. You know, when you look at the number of jobs that can be created on the energy sector alone, it's massive. And that's one of the things out there that some [have] forgotten. One of the things when I go back to my district, and I go across my district in 14 counties having meetings all the time. People will hear all the bad news coming out of Washington. There's one great big bright spot out there, and it's energy. And when I can tell them that, you know, we're now the No. 1 producer of natural gas in the world, that we've -- you know, we've surpassed Saudi Arabia in oil production, anybody that goes back 25, 30-plus years ago can remember when you had to get gasoline -- some days you couldn't buy gas. Some days you had to buy gas if you -- depending on your license plate, if it was an even or odd number. And today we're past that so, you know, we've had these great things occurring, but it's not because of what the administration is doing. The exploration and this energy being brought up in this country is occurring because it's happening on state lands and private lands. The president has pretty much taken us off the federal side. If we can open up the federal lands and offshore more, we can even bring in more energy to make sure that we're more energy-independent in this country, and that's one of the things that I think we need to look at in this country. We should say let's set a goal in this country. Let's set a goal like in five years we'll become North American energy-independent and say that's where we're going to get our energy from. We're not going to have to buy energy from parts of the world from people that don't like us.

Monica Trauzzi: And then does exporting our energy affect our ability to be energy-independent?

Rep. Bob Latta: Well, it all depends because, you know that we've got Cory Gardner's bill that's out there with LNG. Even a couple years ago, I had folks coming in from Eastern Europe into my office saying that, you know, they looked into a crystal ball and saw what was going to happen with the Russians by shutting off their LNG going into their countries. And so when you saw -- they saw it coming, we need to look at how the United States can help our friends and allies out there because, again, these folks are very concerned that, if they're getting 80, 90 or 100 percent of all their energies coming from Russia, they've got a real problem.

Monica Trauzzi: But should we really be deciding the export issue, whether it be LNG or crude oil, on geopolitical merits? I mean, don't we need to look at what's happening here in the United States?

Rep. Bob Latta: Well, you know, and that's a good point because, again, we want to make sure that we take care of ourselves here first but -- and in some times, we have an issue that where are you going to store your energy at? You've got a storage issues in some cases, but in other issues, you come up with -- that we can help people across the world keep their independence and it's just -- today, in fact, you know, we had the president of Ukraine speak before a joint session of Congress, and again, you look at their situation and where they're getting their energy from, they're, we might call stuck that they need help from the outside.

Monica Trauzzi: I want to talk about fracking for a second. Ohio is currently crafting regulations to govern fracking. We've seen so much local action on fracking, including certain localities banning the practice. How important is the oil and gas industry to your state's economy, and what path should Ohio take on crafting these regulations?

Rep. Bob Latta: Well, you know, that's a great question because early on, I had some meetings in Ohio with our state regulators and people from across the state that were dealing in the oil and gas, and the state, you know, in our opinion, especially on the Republican side, who can better craft the regulations out there -- somebody in Washington that's going to give you a kind of a cookie-cutter type of piece of legislation or regulation that one size fits all or the people in the states who actually know their states best, and I think Ohio's done a very, very good job, not just on crafting the regulations, but also enforcing them. And also the legislation that's been passed out there because, again, we want to make sure that we have an industry out there that's helping the state, and when you look not only on the natural gas and the oil coming up, but especially on the natural gas side, there's a cracker just south of Pittsburgh that's going to be built and will be able to crack that natural gas, turn it into a lot of different chemicals and create more jobs in the chemical industry, not just in Ohio, but across the country. But I think it's really -- what Ohio has done is they've done a very good job of making sure that we've got the regulation and laws on the books to make sure it's not only safe, but it's also making sure that the industry can exist in Ohio.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, Congressman. We'll end it there. We'll see you after the elections.

Rep. Bob Latta: Thank you very much.

Monica Trauzzi: Thanks for your time.

Rep. Bob Latta: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

[End of Audio]



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