Incoming EPW Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer outlines agenda for 2007

As the Democrats prepare to take control of Congress, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is set to be chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). During today's E&ETV Event Coverage, Sen. Boxer discusses her goals and agenda for the Senate EPW Committee. She sets a goal of making the environment a bipartisan issue on Capitol Hill. Boxer also outlines plans to address toxics and pollution.


Sen. Barbara Boxer: Thank you very much for coming out today. What I want to do today is give an overview of how environmental protection is tied, in many ways, in terms of the struggle for resources, to Iraq. Then I'll move to the committee and what I plan to do. So I wanted to give you a picture, now this chart is old in terms of the numbers. The numbers are worse than they are here in terms of the deaths and the injured, but this is as of 12-04. The cost of the war in Iraq, we're headed to 3000 soldiers killed and 22,000 soldiers wounded. The total dead and wounded, we're headed to 25,000. The length of the war, as we know now, is actually now longer than we were in World War II. Total dollars, 379 billion. They're going to ask us for another 120 at least, so we get up $499 billion essentially the cost. And I just want to give you a sense of just some of the needs that we have for our infrastructure and our environment. So Carolyn will show you that, so remember, that's 499 billion. And here's just some of the things we need. We have a shortfall in the Superfund toxic waste cleanup program. This is from internal EPA document sourcing. This means that there are American families, including maybe some of yours, living close to Superfund sites all across the country. And in some of these sites the pollution is out of control, meaning it's still dangerous and we have to clean it up. We're short a billion, according to EPA, a billion two five. Funding needed to reduce air pollution from California ports and goods movement, and this is an interesting thing for California reporters. I had a visit from the mayor of Long Beach and I fully expected a totally different meeting, but he started off with the fact that the air pollution is so bad that they can't really expand their port operations. And it's very important. And then Senator Feinstein had a meeting with the Central Valley folks, including with the mayor of Fresno there. This is bipartisan. He is a Republican and basically saying the same thing. We're choking and we're having people dying because of the quality of the air. So that's just from California. And we need $10 billion.

The gap in the Energy Policy Act's authorized funding versus what's in the '07 budget, we needed 50 million more for biofuels, 235 million for wind research. The drinking water infrastructure needs 277 billion, that's an EPA document. Clean water infrastructure need, that's an EPA document, that adds up to 469 billion. The reason I go through this exercise is to just show you what some of our needs are, environmental needs are in order to continue to stay healthy and to grow our economy. And so much of it is going to Iraq. So I wanted you to take a look at that. Let me say that becoming the chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee is, for me, a dream come true. Environment has been a signature issue of mine ever since I ran for the Board of Supervisors in 1972 of Marin, where that was the only race I lost. But environment was the central issue, focus in that race. It's been a central issue ever since when I did get elected to the Board of Supervisors later and then onto the House and Senate. So I am very gratified, I am very humble about it, I am very excited about it. And I really have two major goals as I set out on this journey and one of them is to protect the health of the American people and to protect the planet on which they live. That's one goal, the overriding goal, and, secondly, to make the environment as an issue. Let me restate this, to make the environment once again a bipartisan issue here on Capitol Hill. This is the way it used to be.

I can personally tell you in every race that I've won, for the Senate three times, I wouldn't have really won, maybe the last one I might have, but without Republican votes. And so I always get about 17 percent of the Republican votes and the environment is one of the main reasons. So it has always been a bipartisan issue and I want to make it so on the committee. It hasn't really been in a very long time. I wanted to introduce just three people to you who are very special. The person heading the committee is Bettina Poirier. Michael Goo is her expert on air. Erik Olson is the expert on children's health and family's health. Bettina's been with me for a long time. These are all lawyers. They're all very expert in what they do and they'll be here to answer, if you guys want to sit down, I'd be happy if you can, any technical questions you might have on any subject whatsoever. I wanted to mention, Michael has been with the committee for some time. Erik we got from the NRDC, where he's been an advocate in that organization for very long time. Is it 15 years? It's 15 years. We're very thrilled and excited. I have all their resumes and press releases if you're interested, but I wanted you to see their faces here.

So what are my plans for the committee? My plans are to have a set of intensive hearings on the issue of global warming, to start that very, very soon. We don't have any specific dates, but in January it will begin. We want to hear on colleagues from both sides of the aisle. We want to hear from senators, not just the senators on the committee, but in addition all the senators who have an interest in this, who have something to say about this subject, pro or con. We want to hear their ideas. Many of them have bills. We want them to talk about those approaches. We're going to have, in addition to that, hearings bringing in the various states and local governments who have taken action on global warming.

In my own state I am very proud. We really do have the gold standard bill in California and it was a product of bipartisanship. And we're excited, and the people who made that happen, we're going to invite them to come and tell America that this can be done. We're going to, of course, hear from the EPA and the administration. I was heartened that just 24 hours about after we won and it was stated that I'd be the chair, we got a call from the Council on Environmental Quality, an e-mail that Bettina received with congratulations, let's sit down and talk. And we're very happy, because let me just tell you, and this is an unequivocal point, our record in this country at beginning to face the challenge of global warming is dismal. It's actually worse than dismal, it's disastrous. Why do I say that? Out of the 56 biggest emitters of carbon in the world, and you rank them in order of what each country has done to reduce emissions, America is 53. America, Michael, that's not acceptable.

Let me say it again because I think it is so important. Out of the 56 largest emitters of carbon in the world, if you rank them in order of who's doing most to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, America is 53 out of 56. And if you're interested to know who is worse than us it would be China, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. So for me to stand here, as an American who really cares about the environment, and to tell you that this is our record is more than embarrassing. I'm already getting calls from people around the world, some global leaders from other countries, saying are you going to change things? And the answer is we are. Senator Lieberman, Senator Bingaman and I sent a letter that was just read out loud apparently at the last conference in Nairobi, recently. We stated that we were moving toward a cut in carbon emissions and people were very happy to hear this. If America is to be a leader in the world we must act here. We cannot expect others to act if we won't act. So it's important that we set an example. And that's why I'm so very proud of what California has done. We'll also hear from outside groups. Environmentalists will be heard. And faith-based organizations have reached out to us and we to them. And we've been working with them on this issue and others. And they are part of our coalition and we'll be hearing from faith-based organizations. The business community will be heard. We have some very interesting things that are happening in the business community and we're going to spotlight those. The technology sector, we're going to look at what would the worst-case scenarios be if we fail to act. And our military has actually laid out some very sobering accounts of what would happen if we do nothing. I know Senator Biden has told me he's very interested in that aspect of the global warming question. So I assume that he's going to address some of that. So that's the plan for global warming. Listen, listen, listen, hear all the ideas, and then we'll put some legislation together. We're going to take our time. We're going to do it right. We're going to look at what we have to do to get people to agree that we need to move forward. So that's happening.

The second priority is the health, as I mentioned, of our families. And we are going to be looking at, yes, cleaning up the Superfund sites to protect our families. What about children and asthma? I talked a little bit about that. This is turning into a great economic issue, when you have workers who get sick with asthma and we have kids who can't go to school because they have asthma. We're going to look at children and toxic chemicals in toys and everyday products. We have people you would know whose kids have been impacted by lead in products. We're going to look at perchlorate in drinking water and its risk to kids and pregnant women. I mentioned lead and toxic chemical exposure in general, like children's health. So there's a lot we need to do in protecting our families and making sure our communities have the right to know because EPA has been moving backwards on that. We believe this is a free country, a free society, and the days of these rollbacks without questioning and without oversight, the days of that are over, no more. The EPA does a rollback, we're going to look at it, we're going to bring them forward, we're going to say why is this in the public interest to rollback this regulation or weaken that regulation? We'll be no longer having a country in which these things are happening to our families and nobody shines the light on it.

Public works, I'm not forgetting about public works, environment and public works. We need public works to keep our country moving. As you know, some of us are trying very hard to get WRDA done, the Water Resources Development Act, now in this lame duck. I can report to you that it's still alive. It's got a pulse that varies from being strong to weak. At the moment I'd say it's between strong and weak and we are working hard with the players on both sides to see that we can get this done. This is an important project and it needs to get done. And if we don't get it done in this Congress, it'll be a priority in the next Congress. Of course we'll be looking at goods movements and the new transportation bill that will be having to be passed in '09, but we've got to get ready for that and hold hearings and look at what we need to do to meet the needs of the business community there and the people. And last, I wanted to mention that I've spoken with both Senators Landrieu and Vitter, they want us very much to come to Louisiana to hold hearings about the post Katrina efforts of the Corps, what remains to be done and to look at what we can do to restore wetlands and other issues. We will be going to Louisiana as soon as we get all our ducks in a row and get ready to go and help them through that rebuilding process and make sure we don't face this again. So this is just a little bit of what I've been working on in these couple of weeks. And I'll be happy to answer any questions you have.

Questioner: Senator, what kind of water related issues do you expect to come before your committee in the next session? For example, when ... decision?

Sen. Barbara Boxer: Well, I'll have Bettina talk about the details of this. But let me just say in general safe drinking water, the Clean Water Act, all these things are key. EPA passes a regulation in the dead of night, they no longer say a permit is required to spray pesticides over bodies of water. Of course we're going to look at this. And if there's confusion on any decisions we will sort it through and sort it out. So I could say to you right now that any issue, and I say this, really, mindful of what I'm saying, that is causing confusion in the communities, we're going to really look at it. Do you want to add to that, Bettina?

Bettina Poirier: Yes, I would say that I think there's an important opportunity now to look at the Rapanos decision coming out of the Supreme Court. And to evaluate exactly the implications and whether further action is required in order to address that decision and ensure that waterways are protected.

Sen. Barbara Boxer: And that's what our object will be.

Questioner: Do you intend to review past Bush administration actions such as New Source Review and other texts or rules that have come out during the Bush administration?

Sen. Barbara Boxer: We're definitely going to be looking at rollbacks because we believe that the committee just didn't do that and to the extent that they are stopping our environmental progress, hurting our people, our families, our kids, we're going to look at all of it. So nothing's off the table. I can't, you know, obviously tell you today every single piece of oversight we'll be doing. But you can know that the more controversial issues will be looked at for sure.

Questioner: Senator, there are a growing number of factory farms in California, indeed around the country. And in the Ag bill this week there are some issues ...

Sen. Barbara Boxer: Yes, there are.

Questioner: - coming up about livestock manure. Do you consider factory farm runoff, factory farm excrement an environmental pollutant? Is that something that your committee will be looking at?

Sen. Barbara Boxer: Well, it is covered. It is definitely covered. And there are those who want to get it out from under the EPA and we object to that and that's why we're opposing that. And anyone who has lived near that understands it. You know, the fascinating thing is there was an article in the paper yesterday, and I think it was a California paper and I can't remember which, excuse me, but it was very interesting about how you can use the methane in the manure to create energy and to solve all these problems. For every time we're faced with a problem there may be a solution that turns out to be a good solution for the people, for the farms. So I certainly am opposing any kind of move that would take that waste out of the oversight of the EPA. Yes?

Questioner: Senator, you talked about the rollbacks of the Bush administration but only what their position has been on global warming. How, other than holding hearings and ... can you really get at these issues? Can you really stop these rollbacks and what can you do when you have a bill that then ends up at the ...

Sen. Barbara Boxer: Well, I'll give you a real-life example where we did stop them and that was on arsenic. And I think the way you stop these rollbacks is to shine a light on them. Once you shine the light on them the public gets outraged. And even the Bush administration, which I think has done too often the bidding of the special interest, even they back off. I'll give you another example, the CHEERS program where they wanted to spray little kids with pesticides and they gave families a few dollars, I forget, $900 and a camera, something like that.

Bettina Poirier: They had a plan to do that.

Sen. Barbara Boxer: Yeah, that was their plan and we stopped it in its tracks by shining the light on it. So I think when you say you can do oversight, you can just do oversight, I think oversight function, we tried to say this during the campaign, is enormously important because not every single problem has to have a fix with the legislation if you can convince people that what they're doing is wrong and there is a better way to go about it. And by shining the light of truth on a lot of this we will get it done. So those are just two examples. I would also say, in terms of global warming, they did reach out to us, which we feel very happy about.

Questioner: I though I'd ask, did you know that there's a fight for the ranking member position between John Warner and Mr. Inhofe? If you could comment on what you think the position of the committee would be if Warner was ranking member versus Inhofe.

Sen. Barbara Boxer: I think I'll stay out of that.

Questioner: Senator Boxer, on global warming, the argument from your Republican colleagues and some Democrats for that matter has been if you cap emissions you're going to send jobs overseas and wreck the economy. Can you speak to that poll?

Sen. Barbara Boxer: Of course. You know, I've been in this world of politics, as I said, since the 70s and every time we've put forward a piece of environmental legislation that has been the outcry. I remember when I was in the air pollution district and the Bay Area of California said, oh my God, you're cracking down on tailpipe emissions. That's the end of everything. That's the end of the world. And it's never happened. What has happened instead is that we have proven, as the economy has grown, that these green technologies are exportable technologies. They have created many jobs. We're very successful because of them and our people are healthier. So I would just have to say, truly, if you look at the remedies for global warming, and there's a whole analysis that's been done and there's 15 wedges to put together, how you get to the kind of cuts in emissions that we have to get to. Honestly, every one of those is going to be beneficial because at the end of the day, when you fight global warming, you're going to get us off of foreign oil, which is very important for our foreign policy, for peace in the world. This is a very important piece. You're going to have cleaner air. People won't be coughing as much and getting sick and dying. In the Central Valley alone they said something like 2000 deaths in the Central Valley of California. And nationwide it must be over 20,000.

Bettina Poirier: 9000 in California.

Michael Goo: More than 40,000 nationwide.

Sen. Barbara Boxer: 40,000 deaths from pollution, so I would go head to head with the people who say that when you make environmental progress you harm the people. I would go head to head with them on every score, on every front, on the economic front, on the air quality front, on the water quality front, on the foreign relations front. How many things could you truly say that when you fix them you have so many beneficial results? So I believe that we need to look at these charges. Look, tomorrow we're going to have a hearing at the EPW committee. I don't know how many of you are aware of this. What's the name of the hearing?

Michael Goo: "Climate Change and the Media."

Sen. Barbara Boxer: "Climate Change and the Media," and the premise of my friend, who is my really good friend, Jim Inhofe is, that the media has made this up essentially. This has been absolutely exaggerated, blown out of proportion. And we're going to spend the whole time arguing over whether the media is to blame for the perception of more and more people that there really is global warming. And that is a waste of time. Now I am going there. I'm going to sit. I'm going to listen to every word. Why do I say it's a waste of time? Why don't we look at the issue you raised? What can we do to fight global warming, to meet this challenge and do it in a way that is really beneficial for the whole society? That's what I want to get into, not blaming the media for stories that they write about global warming. So there's going to be a seat change on the committee. We're going to get right to the very important issue you raised and we're going to look at it. I mean I can assure you, California, which is the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world, looked very hard at that question. And yet and still, after all their analysis, they decided they had to do something about it. When I had the mayor of Long Beach sitting in my office and the mayor of Fresno telling me they can't have any more economic growth because they're choking, then you see the relationship between a clean environment and the economy is actually one that just fits. You can't have robust growth if you don't take care of these issues of the environment. And you can't have a clean environment if you're just blind about it. You've got to be smart about it and you've got to listen to all the voices and come up with the solutions. Yes?

Questioner: What does your instinct tell you about your approach to climate change? I mean will you be able to do something big and bold or are you going to have to take incremental steps?

Sen. Barbara Boxer: Um-hmm, it's a good question.

Questioner: Because you're going to have a very close partisancy margin here, and even if you get something through here, there's a guy at the other end of the street to stop it.

Sen. Barbara Boxer: It's a very important question in looking ahead. I will know more about how to answer that question. I will answer it now, but I will give a better answer a little bit further down the road. Because I think what's happening is there seems to be, I would use this word, a groundswell to do something about global warming in the country at large. And since this is a body, the Senate, of elected people I think that's beginning to seep into the consciousness of senators. For example, I spoke to Senator Murkowski, who has not been on board in past votes, and I just went up to her right afterward the election will we were in for a week, I said, Senator, I don't really know, we've never talked about it. How do you feel on global warming? You know what she said to me? I know we have to do something about it now. And I would say, I would think, that maybe a little bit of a different answer. You are in a position to find out more than I as to where everybody is and that's the reason I'm opening up the hearings to all my colleagues. But here's where I am, I'll do with this as I've done in my career, I will set a gold standard, what I consider a gold standard, and it will be very close to the California bill. And that will be out there. Will I make it everything I want? No, I can tell you right now. But if I want to go this far, from here to the clock with legislation, and I get half way to where the woman is with the lavender, that's half way there. And I'll be very happy. If I only go a quarter of the way I won't be as happy, but I'll say we've gotten started. Here's the point, we've been nothing virtually, seriously. And so we need to get started on this. And it's almost like we've been paralyzed on it, but to be 53 out of 56 nations is just unacceptable. So the answer will I get everything that I want, meaning a bill that looks like California? I would doubt that. But I will know that at the end of the day we have taken it as far as we could possibly take it with the make up here in the Congress. And, remember, everybody faces the voters, the whole House, the third of the Senate and people are going to be mindful because I think people in the country are beginning to really wake up to this. They are concerned. Yeah?

Questioner: Can you talk about the specific issues the subcommittees will look at?

Sen. Barbara Boxer: Sure.

Questioner: I mean California Environmental Justice was a big issue.

Sen. Barbara Boxer: Yes.

Questioner: And a lot of the national folks don't think it was ...

Sen. Barbara Boxer: Yes, as a matter of fact that's in Hillary Clinton's subcommittee, so it's a very big and important thing. And I will tell you the different subcommittees if you bear with me. Do you guys have the list handy? Natalie, do you know? Thank you. Okay, I don't know how many of you want me to go through all this, but I'll do it very quickly. I have talked to each of my subcommittee chairs and I'm very excited about their participation. They're going to be extremely involved. In my own subcommittee I have global warming as relates to public sector solutions. I have children's health protection and NRC safety and NEPA and I said oversight, that means oversight over everything that the committee does. Then there's the subcommittee on transportation infrastructure, that's pretty much the highway bill, transportation and public buildings, where the, Stafford Act, there's a lot here. It's Max Baucus that's going to retain that subcommittee that he had the last time. It's pretty close to where it was. Then we have a new subcommittee on global warming. It's private sector and consumer solutions. And that is Senator Lieberman's committee because, as you know, he's been very active in the cap-and-trade, so we want to bring him his portfolio. And so he'll have private sector and consumer solutions. He'll also have wildlife protection, because, as you pretty well know, wildlife is also affected by global warming. And then clean air, nuclear plant security and community development will be Tom Carper. Hillary Clinton will have a subcommittee on Superfund and Environmental Health is the title. It has jurisdiction of the Superfund and Brownfields Resource Conservation Recovery Act, including recycling, federal facilities and interstate waste, tax exceptions control act, emergency planning and community right to know, which is very important, persistent organic pollutants, environmental justice and risk assessment. As you know, Hillary has taken a lead on protecting the workers who were working in the pit after we were attacked by Osama bin Laden five years ago. And working to get those health workers help and I'm going to be working with her on that issue very actively. And then the last subcommittee on transportation, safety, infrastructure, security and water quality is Senator Lautenberg, and he'll have jurisdiction over drinking water, chemical and waste water security, Clean Water Act, including wetlands, Safe Drinking Water Act, coastal zone management, invasive species, transportation safety and Outer Continental Shelf lands, which a lot of people don't realize that we have jurisdiction over the Outer Continental Shelf. Yes ma'am?

Questioner: So it's a privilege for the committee to take its time and do it right when it comes to global warming. So are we looking at legislation next year or will it be ...

Sen. Barbara Boxer: And as we get it done. I can't say. I don't want to say, but I would think it would probably, I'm trying for this year. I mean when I say this year, meaning '07. But I can't be sure of that and there may be little pieces of the puzzle that we will bring to the floor if we have a consensus that a certain piece of it is popular and could get through and we will help, that's another way to go. But that answers your question about incremental. You know, I believe where you can get progress you should do it. And so I do hope to legislate on this in '07, yeah.

Questioner: Yes, Senator, I'm wondering what you're planning to do or how you're planning to address the shortfall in the Superfund funding. And also, have you gotten the information you requested from the EPA on various past legislates?

Sen. Barbara Boxer: I'm going to have Bettina explain to you what we did receive from them. But all of this is a matter of priorities and that's the reason I put it up on the board. I mean the fact that the President would sign a bill that has authorized money for biofuels and wind research, as just an example, and then he doesn't fund it, and they're relatively small. That's not right. Why sign the bill? Why sign No Child Left Behind and then not fund it? So it's a matter of priorities. And the reason I put up the Iraq spending is to show where the funding is going. And it's a question of priorities. So I will fight for sure to clean up these Superfund sites. Now to give you a sense of what's going on, we've had a falloff from 80 plus cleanups a year under Bill Clinton to 40 plus cleanups a year. And that's just unacceptable. We have many sites. And as you know the only way, you may know, the only way we're able to get the list of the sites, the detailed list, the explanation of how much it will cost to clean up every site, how long will it take, what are the impacts, can children play on those sites and all these things that are in the EPA's hands, is that we held up an appointment of Susan Bodine and that was the only way I could get my friend, Jim Inhofe, to allow us to have a Superfund subcommittee hearing. Which I did with Mr. Thune, Senator Thune, and we did get more information. Now the question is, I can't give it to you though, because my chairman has said that those are ...

Bettina Poirier: Confidential documents.

Sen. Barbara Boxer: ... confidential documents.

Bettina Poirier: Privileged.

Sen. Barbara Boxer: Privileged documents is the word. Now let me just say right here and now, as I understand it from my chief counsel, the chair has the ability to decide whether it's privileged documents. And so we will be giving you all that information. Because I just think it's in the public interest to know. Did I leave something out about the information they gave us, Bettina?

Bettina Poirier: No, that's correct. There's a little bit that we don't get very clearly at all, which is what the funding shortfalls are for sites around the country. It's very difficult to get clarity on that, which then makes it hard to set up a funding process. Then we got some documents that are marked privileged and we've been instructed not to release them. So that's kind of the package.

Questioner: Is this why they ... 2004, because you can't get any greater number?

Bettina Poirier: Yeah, I mean the numbers that we get, we get through leaks and piecemeal and we get some explanation. They've had a much less paper oriented process as we understand it. The groups that means on priorities, planning and funding have been apparently meeting in a different way and with less documentation. So it's quite difficult to get the information and that's a very powerful thing to do, not to make that information available because it makes it very hard then for Congress to know what should be funded and where.

Sen. Barbara Boxer: Exactly, and I would just say, you know, this is the pattern of keeping people ignorant. The American people pay the salaries of the people at EPA and I'm going to demand that the people know exactly what's happening. What are the needs? What are the problems? What are the dangers? So we're going to be very much for openness, transparency, community right to know, all of this. And there's just no reason why. I mean I had to show, Barack Obama and Dick Durbin were very concerned about a couple of sites in Illinois, I had to show them this piece of paper, just literally make sure, you can't have it because if it gets to the press, I can't do it because it's marked privileged and just, it's ridiculous. This is something that we need to deal with. The lawsuits are long gone on these, so it's not a question of that. It's just this desire to keep these facts from the people, which I think is about the fact that they don't want to fund it. They don't want to. And so they keep the facts from the people, it is really wrong and we're going to have to put an end to that and get the facts out to the people and to the lawmakers and to you. Did you have a question? We'll do two more after you.

Questioner: What are your plans on national air standards? I'm thinking of the particulate matter standards which you imposed on the EPA science advisers regarding ... And next year EPA has got to come out with an ozone standard as well in review of that national standard. What are your plans both on the ...

Sen. Barbara Boxer: A very good question. Well, these issues are extremely important to the people of the country. In California they're just off the chart important. And, again, what has happened here is so little oversight on the EPA. As far as I know, and please correct me if I'm wrong Michael, because Michael's been the clean air person on the committee, I don't recall a hearing to do oversight on the EPA on the particulate matter. Maybe we had one.

Michael Goo: We did have a hearing about the particulate matter, senator.

Sen. Barbara Boxer: OK, we had one. Well, Michael why don't you talk about what our options are now?

Michael Goo: Well, there's two standards that have come out, the particulate matter standard, where EPA disregarded the advice of their independent science advisers. And that's now been promulgated and it will go to litigation. We don't really know totally what happened there and there's oversight that we could do to find out that story. Upcoming, a very important rule will be a proposal on the ozone standard, which is the other big, big air pollution standard. And we're understanding that there may be similar issues with that coming out in January. So we will take an aggressive look at that and try and conduct oversight to make sure that that decision doesn't come out the way the particulate matter decision came out and that it's based on sound science, as expressed by the independent scientific advisory board, which has very recently made a very clear conclusion that the standard needs to be revised and revised significantly.

Sen. Barbara Boxer: I would just like to pick up on that because I would like to send a message to the people in the EPA and the people who really went to work for the EPA believing that it's supposed to protect the environment not degrade it. You know, help is on the way. And I just want them to feel good about their work. I want them to know how much their work is appreciated. I want them to know that they need to get in touch with us. They need to let us know what's happening inside the agency. It's very important because I think the way things have gone people are fearful to contact us. They do and they're afraid for their jobs. They're afraid for their work. And that's over. That is just plain over. We can't have that. And so we're just sending that message to the people there. We respect you. We want you to stay working. We think what you're doing is very important. So two more after you, now let's see, you and, oh my God, I can't, you already said something, so, you already said something. Okay, one, two, three and I'm done. Yeah, just, four.

Questioner: In the past, the environment committee, when it was under Democratic leadership, Senator Jeffords tried to move a bill just focused on power plant pollution.

Sen. Barbara Boxer: Yes.

Questioner: Will you focus on broader issues in terms of the entire US economy? Or are you restricting yourself, are you broadening yourself out to everything?

Sen. Barbara Boxer: Right, well, you know, we're going to take a broad look, but we are not in any way backing away from looking at certain areas where there's trouble and acting in those areas. And I would say Tom Carper, who has the responsibility for the Clean Air Act under his domain, he and I are talking this afternoon. We've talked before. He has a good bill on the power plant issue, right? And so I think we're going to see some movement in that regard. So, again, it's a question of measuring the support. Can we get it down there to the Senate floor? We want to move legislation. We don't want to waste our time. So we will be looking for those consensus areas. All right, yes?

Questioner: Along those lines, when you're looking for support among the public, you said you see a groundswell of support for dealing with climate change. At the same time there is an aggressive effort by some people and groups to try to debunk the impact.

Sen. Barbara Boxer: Right.

Questioner: And they're going to be featured at this hearing tomorrow. What does that require you to do laying the groundwork for dealing with Inhofe? Does that mean more time on public relations, education, hearings to go back over data that's been out there for a while? You know, how much of that do you have to do to do it?

Sen. Barbara Boxer: Well, the purpose of the hearings are really to look at the truth about global warming and that's part of it. But really, as I go over my briefing materials, whether you look at our own National Academy of Sciences or 11 of the leading National Academy of Sciences around the world, if you look at the Pentagon, if you look at all the documentation that has been done by our people whose job it is to tell us what to do, it's all there. And so yes, you're going to have a few people who are out of the mainstream and we're going to hear from them and we're going to take a look at where they stack up in relation to the rest of the world. Look, when you have the Bush administration saying, in reference to their Asian, Asia-Pacific, I don't have my finger on it, but they issued a statement. Do you remember it by heart?

Michael Goo: Yeah, we know the earth is warming and that human activities are contributing to the problem, would be my paraphrase of it, which was a press release from the White House released when they released the Asia-Pacific Partnership.

Sen. Barbara Boxer: So, I mean we have even this administration reaching out to us wanting to do something. They are saying there's global warming and humans are contributing to it and so on and so forth. So I don't think it will be a very difficult task to make that case. And we have our colleagues coming up before the committee. I think they'll be very persuasive, many of them, hopefully from both sides of the aisle, making that case. We know Olympia Snowe, for example, stepped out in a very bold way on this subject with Jay Rockefeller and wrote a letter to Exxon Mobil and said why are you funding a group that's out there to debunk the fact that there's global warming? And Exxon Mobil said, well, essentially, we'll do whatever we want. Well, does ExxonMobil have a dog in the fight? You bet. They don't want to see clean fuels. So I think the American people are very smart and they see people of integrity like Olympia and Jay. And the Wall Street Journal, if anyone's here from them, did a vicious editorial against them, a vicious editorial against them for it. So for all the point that there's so much bias on the other side, you have to see that. So I don't feel that my, the biggest hurdle I have, to me, is not convincing my colleague that there is global warming. Because I think that even this administration has said so in very clear terms. They've reached out to us. We see, for example, leaders like Tony Blair, who this President admires, leading the charge. I just think it's just a question of how we can build consensus for exactly the first steps we want to take. And I don't think it will be too difficult, this is just my view. Now let me give you some more proof of why I say this. Jeff Bingaman had a very important resolution on the floor. I think it was an amendment to the energy bill. And it said there ought to be mandatory reductions of carbon and we should act next year or this year. It was very strong. It got 53 votes. It got Republican votes and Democratic votes. That was before this election. I mean you have new people here who, I think, see it very clearly. Do we have challenges? Yes. We'll look at clean coal. We have to deal with that. That's an area that's potentially very exciting if we can really sequester the carbon. Yesterday there was another article that I read where fly ash from coal plants was used in concrete in a project, I believe it was in California, and it made the concrete much better. It's going to be much longer lasting. So you can use this fly ash, which is a contributor to global warming in concrete and it's a help and you do away with the problem, the greenhouse part of it. So there's so many opportunities. And, as I say, it's just a question of the way this will look at the end of the day. I can't tell you that now. I can only tell you it's going to be my job to put together the kind of coalition to pass legislation. Yes?

Questioner: What are your views on some of the chemical issues?

Sen. Barbara Boxer: I'm sorry?

Questioner: On some of the chemical issues, chemicals in relation to ... Are you considering legislation on that, like some of the legislation that was introduced this session that was kind of modeled on the REACH regulations in Europe and if you were looking to do any kind of legislation on hearings with this in mind for the POPs treaty?

Sen. Barbara Boxer: Actually, it will be before the committee, the POPs treaty, yes, that will be before the committee. And I think in terms of chemicals, and I've mentioned this before, as business goes more and more global, what you see happening is within a lot of American companies it's starting to harmonize with the rules, like say at the EU. I'll give you an example of this, is packaging. I don't know if you've read some of these stories that the businesses are now using different packaging so as not to use so much energy up on packaging a product. And the reason they're doing it is because of the EU. That's why we have the subcommittee headed by Joe Lieberman on what's happening in the business sector. There, again, in many ways getting out in front, which is very, very helpful. But I think we will certainly look at the progress that's being made in other countries on getting rid of these toxic chemicals that could be so dangerous for our families, critically our children, pregnant women, our elderly. And we owe it to them to make sure that they're not poisoned essentially. And so, yes, we'll be very interested in the whole issue of chemicals and also passing legislation that would set a standard, a better standard, so that when we issue rules and regulations, for example, for the Clean Air Act for example, for Superfund, that the standards are set to protect our most vulnerable. I was able to get that through on the Safe Drinking Water Act, but we were stymied on the other landmark laws. Last one, I promise.

Questioner: You mentioned perchlorate in passing, but safe drinking water in general, what do you see as the most pressing concern in the drinking water supply of the nation? Or is the problem in pockets, you know, where there are ...

Sen. Barbara Boxer: Oh, perchlorate is a very, very widespread problem. I'll show you the maps. There's only a few states that don't have perchlorate. So I view this as a very, very big issue. MTBE is an issue.

Questioner: So do you see that as the most pressing drinking water issue?

Sen. Barbara Boxer: Well, I can't tell you what the most pressing one is, but I would say perchlorate is right at the top of the scale. And particularly since a lot of it came from defense contractors and so there's federal involvement. I'm going to close this. I just wanted to point something out to you. It's not making any news here, but I think it's important for just getting into my head on some of these issues. When I started out, so I'll close the way I started out, I said my two goals were to protect the health of our families and the health of the planet, and also to bring bipartisanship back. And I wanted to point out a few things to you, you may not know. If you look at the landmark environmental acts that we've had, the legislation, I want to give you a sense of it. Nixon set up the EPA and signed the Endangered Species Act. Carter signed the Superfund Act. Ford signed to the Safe Drinking Water Act. Bush I, the Clean Air Act amendments, Clinton, Safe Drinking Water Act amendments. So wherever you look you see that the environmental values of this country have been shared by both parties and this is what I hope to bring back. If I can do that I'll have accomplished a lot and I just thank you very much for coming out today. Thank you.

[End of Audio]



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