U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

03/10/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/10/2021 10:37

Opening Statement of Ranking Member Capito for Hearing Addressing Climate Change in the Electricity Sector

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing entitled 'Building Back Better: Addressing Climate Change in the Electricity Sector and Fostering Economic Growth.' Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), as prepared for delivery:

'Thank you, Chairman Carper, for calling today's hearing.

'I also want to thank our witnesses for joining us here today and remotely. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about an issue that's extremely important to everybody.

'The recent cold weather disaster in Texas, and similar weather-related outages in the past few years have revealed two major challenges in the electric sector that policymakers must address.

'One is most certainly reliability: we need to ensure our energy systems are resilient to the impacts, such as an extreme winter storms, wildfires, or cyberattacks.

'If an emergency occurs, we want to make sure that any of those impacts are minimized and are remedied quickly.

'The other is affordability.

'Building and maintaining a power system, especially with innovative technologies, comes at a price.

'We need to make sure we are not making it unaffordable to turn on those lights, especially during and after an external challenge to grid reliability. And also for those who are in the low- to mid-incomes where the higher cost of utilities are particularly difficult to manage.

'I would suggest there are two key strategies this committee can support to advance these related goals.

'First, we need an 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy.

'Clean energy isn't just wind and solar power.

'It includes nuclear energy, low-carbon natural gas, hydropower, geothermal, battery storage, and electricity generated conventionally from fuels like coal with innovative technologies, such as carbon capture utilization and sequestration.

'Fuel diversity will pay dividends in addressing reliability by providing the flexibility to switch sources if some generation becomes unavailable.

'Despite the progress some may seek to ignore: American emissions have steadily decreased in the power sector over the last decade, while global emissions have risen - especially in China.

'As of 2019, carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector have decreased by 33 percent since 2005, and 2017 marked the ninth time this century the U.S. reduced emissions more than any other nation, thanks primarily to the revolution in domestic natural gas production.

'We need to continue to build on America's energy leadership and invest in innovative ways, which directly ties in with a theme I've mentioned before: we can't build back better if we can't build anything at all.

'While general oversight of the grid is not within this committee's jurisdiction, project permitting absolutely is.

'Certaintyin permitting and consistency of regulations - is essential for building the relevant infrastructure to achieve our goals of reliability and affordability.

'For too long, states and project sponsors have been stuck in a regulatory purgatory, seeking endless approvals from up to 13 different federal agencies.

'Additionally, dozens of state and local approvals are typically required before construction.

'Building on the streamlining provisions enacted under Title 41 of the FAST Act and the creation of the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council, the One Federal Decision policy called for early coordination and predictable timelines to deliver decisions in a timely manner without compromising any environmental protections.

'However, One Federal Decision was revoked under one of President Biden's first actions in office when he signed Executive Order 13990.

'It will be hard to deliver on clean energy if permitting complexity represents an insurmountable challenge.

'As one example: new wind and solar projects are often constructed hundreds of miles from consumers, far from existing transmission lines to move that electricity to where it is needed.

'Without the ability to timely permit new transmission, the ambitious goal set by President Biden of zero emissions by 2035 is just a costly pipedream.

'If there was any doubt as to the path my Democratic friends want us to think about, I think that if we look at what's happened-and I see my colleague here from California and I'm really pleased that we have Mayor Garcetti on the panel because I want to look at specifically what's going on in the city of Los Angeles.

'According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in January, Los Angeles households paid 52.2 percent more for electricity than the nationwide average in the same month - and that's despite LA's famously beautiful and mild weather.

'That is also nearly 7 percent more than Los Angelenospaid last January.

'So, the trend is bad and heading the wrong direction on affordability in the City of Angels.

'On reliability, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2019: the average American lost power for 4.7 hours, including as a result of extreme weather events like floods, blizzards, and hurricanes.

'In California, also in 2019, customers had 9.78 hours without power, which is more than a five-hour difference, on average. This doesn't sound like much, but when you look at it percentage wise, it's double-double the amount of time.

'Wildfires and controlled outages aren't the only blame - outages in non-fire months were also up compared to 2018.

'And, Los Angeles led the way, with 5,787 blackouts in the year 2019, impacting more than 6.4 million customers.

'This is before ambitious plans to electrify transportation and shutter the state's remaining nuclear plant and pressure its natural gas plants.

'So, California-its demand for power and lack of generation stresses the systems also of neighboring states.

'For now, it looks like things will continue to go in that direction in California - and I suggest that we can do it a better way for the rest of the country.

'But, I do not disagree on everything with the Mayor.

'In his testimony, he hit on my other premise of where I think we need to go. I was very pleased to see that Mayor Garcetti is interested in permit streamlining aspect of getting cleaner energy to every household.

'This is certainly something I agree with him on and believe should be a priority for our committee.

'Thank you Mr. Chairman. I yield back my time.'

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