Critics point to Inhofe's record
BY JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau
Nov 30, 2002
8/09/08 at 6:05 AM
fear the senator will look
after the interests of big
business, and not theirs,
in his new role.
WASHINGTON -- Environmental
groups that see the historic Republican takeover of the federal government leading to a rollback in major
air and water protections look no further than U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe to
make their case.
In the next Congress, the Oklahoma Republican will become chairman
of the Senate Environment and Public
Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal bills governing pollution.
Inhofe, whose style usually is as
consistent as it is blunt, certainly has
handed critics plenty of ammunition.
Just days after the November election gave power in the Senate back to
the Republicans to go along with a
GOP White House and House of Representatives, the Clean Air Trust of
Washington, D.C., compiled several of
Inhofe's past comments in a column
titled "Quotations from Chairman
They included his comparisons of
Carol Browner, President Clinton's
head of the Environmental Protection
Agency, to Tokyo Rose and
the EPA to a "Gestapo bureaucracy."
"I think our overall sense is
one of apprehension," said
the Clean Air Trust's Frank
On certain issues, O'Donnell said, Inhofe tends to be
on the "outer edge."
"He has been a very consistent opponent of the U.S.
Agency's efforts to clean up
the air, particularly regarding
. . . the way the EPA sets national health standards for air
pollution," he said.
Inhofe dismisses much of
the criticism, terming concerns that Republicans do not
care about a clean environment as much as Democrats
do as a "terrible rap" on the
"Between all my kids and
my grandkids, I have 19 of
them," he said.
"I've done a poll, and they
all want a good environment
to grow up in."
That leaves only one area
of disagreement separating
himself and certain environmental groups, according to
"I want sound science, and
they do not want sound science," he said.
"I have said several times
before that we are going to
use sound science and use
cost-benefit analysis so the
people in the country will
know what we are doing and
what the costs of it will be. I
call it truth in government."
Inhofe's specific plans include reviving a scientific
committee assigned to do
"If this disturbs some of
the more radical groups, I am
sorry, but I can assure the
general public will be better
served," he said.
Such talk, typical of Inhofe
when he was a leading critic
of the Clinton administration's
unprecedented attack on soot
and smog in the 1990s, is encouraging to pro-business
"Under Senator Inhofe,
there likely won't be a rush
to produce a legislative solution on environmental issues
that is out of step with the
problem," said Jim Owen,
spokesman for the Edison
Other trade associations, including those representing
the oil and gas industry, also
have weighed in with predictions that, under Inhofe's
leadership, the committee will
take a more balanced approach.
Inhofe points out that not
all of the so-called pro-environment efforts in the past
have had happy endings.
Specifically, he cited the
federal mandates on ethanol
and the ingredients that ended up contaminating water.
"They can vilify me like
they have been doing. They
won't change my behavior
pattern," the senator said of
the groups waiting to challenge his agenda.
"It may be good for their
fund-raising efforts, but this is
not good for America."
Recalling a story in which a
local business was threatened
by what he saw as an overzealous EPA, he said federal
agencies must be there to
serve -- not to rule.
So far, though, the usually
vocal Inhofe has been all but
silent since the GOP victory
put him in line for the new
In his only official statement on his plans as chairman, he offered a short list of
priorities, such as strengthening the nation's infrastructure,
continuing strong environmental protections and improving national security.
Even when the EPA created a minor firestorm last
week with its decision on
plant pollution, he took a
"I look forward to carefully
reviewing these regulations
and working with the administration and my colleagues in
Congress to develop and implement needed reforms," Inhofe said.
Having a Republican chairman willing to be a partner
with the White House on
such politically sensitive issues could be the first major
change resulting from the
GOP election victory.
As chairman, Inhofe is succeeding Sen. Jim Jeffords of
Vermont, the Republican-turned-independent who was
willing to use the committee's
subpoena power to challenge
the Bush administration on
Inhofe has made it clear
that those days are over.
But even though the senator insists that he will not
back down from criticism by
what he calls the "radical
left," he concedes that his
role as chairman will be quite
Inhofe is delaying an announcement on his priorities,
saying he first wants to visit
with the other 20 or so members of the committee.
"I want to talk to all of
them so they don't read
about my agenda in the
newspaper," he said.
Membership of the committee in the next Congress is
expected to run the political
gamut, and the senator said
he wants to work toward a
O'Donnell agrees that such
an approach is critical.
If Inhofe pushes too hard
on major issues, he predicted,
he not only will face certain
opposition from Democrats
on the committee but also
from its moderate Republicans.
"Polarized committees tend
not to be very effective,"
Jim Myers, World Washington
Bureau reporter, can be reached at
(202) 484-1424 or via e-mail at