GOP energy leaders float draft bill to halt EPA's GHG effort

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 4 -- US House and Senate Republican energy leaders released a draft of their bill aimed at keeping the US Environmental Protection Agency from imposing carbon emissions limits under the Clean Air Act to address global climate change. They said they were doing so to stimulate bipartisan debate. Democrats immediately condemned the proposal.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Energy and Power Subcommittee Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Minority Member James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) said on Feb. 2 that their draft legislation would keep EPA from making decisions that should be made by Congress; clarify that the CAA was not intended to address climate change; halt an indirect cap-and-trade tax that would increase gasoline, fertilizer, and electricity prices; and protect US manufacturers from overreaching EPA regulations that put them at a disadvantage next to foreign competitors.

EPA has said that it is implementing regulations to control gases under the CAA in response to a 2007 US Supreme Court decision, which stated that the agency has that authority. Federal lawmakers in both parties and the Obama administration have both said that Congress would do a better job. The House approved a bill by a 7-vote margin in 2009 with a provision which would have established a carbon cap-and-trade program to address global climate change, but the Senate did not act on it. Instead, John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) early in 2010 proposed a 2-year delay in EPA’s implementation to give Congress time to act, while Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.) tried to use a legislative maneuver to halt the program.

“With this draft proposal, we are initiating a deliberative, transparent process that we hope will prevent EPA from imposing by regulation the massive cap-and-trade tax that Congress rejected last year,” Upton, Whitfield, and Inhofe said in a joint statement. “We firmly believe federal bureaucrats should not be unilaterally setting national climate change policy, and with good reason: EPA’s cap-and-trade tax agenda will cost jobs, undermine the competitiveness of America’s manufacturers, and, as EPA has conceded, will have no meaningful impact on climate. In other words, [it will be] all cost with no benefit.”

Halt, not delay
Their bill would go beyond Rockefeller’s proposal and fully halt EPA’s effort because they believe a 2-year delay would not provide meaningful certainty for businesses creating jobs, and simply punt the decision past the next election, the three GOP federal lawmakers said. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has scheduled a hearing on the proposal for Feb. 9. US Sen. John A. Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who serves on both the Energy and Natural Resources and Environment and Public Works Committee, and 10 other Senate GOP members offered another bill aimed at halting EPA’s carbon emissions program implementation under the CAA on Jan. 31.

Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee responded that Upton, Whitfield, and Inhofe’s proposal simply would roll back carbon pollution protections. "Bipartisan environmental laws are now under attack,” said Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the committee’s chairwoman. “EPA's common-sense steps to address carbon pollution follow the law and the Supreme Court decision that the agency must consider this threat. Congress should not turn its back on the American people by prohibiting EPA from doing its job to address carbon pollution."

"These attacks on the Clean Air Act will only take us backwards to a time when big polluters dirtied our air with impunity and hurt the health of our children,” said Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), chairman of the committee’s Superfund, Toxics, and Environmental Health Subcommittee. “If Republicans want to tear down the progress we have made to make air cleaner in America, they're going to get a fight from those of us who are committed to the public health of our communities."

Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), the Energy and Commerce Committee’s ranking minority member, and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), the Natural Resources Committee’s ranking minority member, jointly said on Feb. 2 that Upton, Whitfield, and Inhofe’s draft bill would legislatively repeal the scientific determination that carbon pollution seriously threatens public health which EPA reached before beginning its program. They cosponsored the climate change bill which the House narrowly approved in 2009 when Waxman chaired the full committee and Markey chaired its Energy and Environment Subcommittee.

“The Republicans have a lot of power, but they can’t amend the laws of nature,” Waxman said on Feb. 2. “Gutting the Clean Air Act is only going to make our problems worse. This proposal threatens public health and energy security, and it undermines our economic recovery by creating regulatory uncertainty.”

“The groundhog didn’t see his shadow today, signaling that spring is on the way,” Markey added. “However, Republicans in Washington seem bound and determined to deliver an interminable winter of environmental and economic discontent for Americans who want cleaner air, water, and more clean energy jobs created here in America.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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