More Democrats join congressional effort to halt EPA GHG program

US Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) introduced a bill to suspend potential US Environmental Protection Agency regulation of greenhouse gases from stationary sources for 2 years.

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Mar. 4 -- US Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) introduced a bill to suspend potential US Environmental Protection Agency regulation of greenhouse gases from stationary sources for 2 years. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-W.Va.) plans to introduce a similar bill, co-sponsored by Reps. Rich Boucher (D-Va.) and Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.), Rockefeller’s office said.

The four federal lawmakers apparently are acting because of concerns for domestic coal producers, but oil and gas producers also oppose EPA’s effort to develop regulations following a 2007 US Supreme Court decision that GHGs fit within the federal Clean Air Act’s definition of pollutants. The agency began the process after it issued an endangerment finding on Dec. 7.

Rockefeller said a 2-year suspension of EPA’s effort would give Congress time to properly address GHG emissions, which are a major part of the global climate change issue. “Congress, not EPA, must be the ideal decision-maker on such a challenging issue,” he maintained.

Congressional Republicans already have spoken out against EPA’s action. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) and 85 other House GOP members in early March introduced a resolution of disapproval against what they consider “a back-door, job-killing, national energy tax.” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alas.), the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s ranking minority member, originated the tactic in January with her disapproval resolution cosponsored by 35 Republicans and 3 Democrats.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and others have responded that legislatively overturning a federal regulatory program based on a scientific finding would create a dangerous precedent.

‘Not appropriate’
“Debating policy choices regarding the appropriate response to unchecked climate change is fair, and the Senate will continue to evaluate the best tools for addressing greenhouse gas emissions, but repealing an endangerment finding based upon years of work by America’s scientists and public health experts is not appropriate,” she and the committee’s other Democrats said in a January letter to other senators.

Other critics of EPA’s effort contend that the science behind the finding is dubious since it is relied on the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report where researchers allegedly suppressed dissenting views. That makes EPA’s finding and the program taking shape in its wake highly questionable, Independent Petroleum Association of America Chairman Bruce H. Vincent told reporters. “Peer reviews don’t make any sense if you have peer pressure,” he observed.

“The endangerment finding that EPA put out last year is fatally flawed,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), the Energy and Commerce Committee’s ranking minority member who co-sponsored H.J. Res. 77 with Boehner and 84 other House Republicans. “We want to send a very clear signal that what EPA has done is wrong and should be overturned by the elected members of the House and the Senate.”

Rockefeller said as he introduced his bill that when he sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson 2 weeks earlier challenging the agency’s potential regulation of GHGs, she responded quickly and showed some willingness to move its timetable for regulation to the end of 2010. “This is a positive change and good progress, but I’m concerned that it may not be enough time,” the senator said.

“Sen. Rockefeller’s legislation is further evidence of the growing, bipartisan, and bicameral resistance to EPA’s back-door climate regulations,” Murkowski said. “Given this overwhelming opposition to these actions, I’m hopeful that this bill will draw additional support and advance quickly. If that does not occur, the disapproval resolution is guaranteed consideration in the Senate. It’s imperative that senators have an opportunity to vote on whether or not they support EPA’s costly, unilateral, and unprecedented attempt to impose these command-and-control regulations.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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