Opposition grows in US Congress to EPA on climate rule

05 March 2010 21:15  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--At least seven resolutions and bills are pending in Congress to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gases, and proponents said on Friday that President Barack Obama may be forced to accept a shutdown of EPA’s plans.

Opposition among Republicans and Democrats in both the US House and Senate has been mounting all week as members of Congress expressed increasing worry about the potential economic and jobs impact of EPA’s planned climate regulations.

Robert Dillon, spokesman for Senator Lisa Murkowski (Republican-Alaska) said that bipartisan opposition to EPA’s plans is growing fast.

“You’re seeing more and more bipartisan interest in stopping EPA,” he said.

“There is growing concern on both sides of the aisle about this EPA action when the economy is struggling to recover, we have 10% unemployment and rising debt load,” Dillon said, adding: “These are not partisan issues.”

Congressional Republicans have launched two measures to block EPA and Democrats have introduced five similar bills. All seven bills or resolutions have varying levels of partisan or bipartisan backing.

Murkowski, along with 37 other Republican and three Democrat senators, has sponsored Senate Joint Resolution 26 (SJR-26) to bar EPA from regulating greenhouse gases (GHG) by declaring the agency’s 7 December 2009 “endangerment finding” to be without force or effect.

In that December ruling, EPA held that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases cause global warming and thereby threaten Americans’ health and the environment, making GHG subject to the agency’s regulation under the Clean Air Act.

In the House, Republican Joe Barton of Texas has introduced a parallel measure, House Joint Resolution 77 (HJR-77), that also would nullify EPA’s endangerment finding.  Barton’s measure has 85 cosponsors, all Republican.

But Democrats lead the field in opposing EPA’s plans to regulate greenhouse gases.

In the Senate, Democrat Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia has introduced S-3072, a bill that would suspend for two years any EPA action to regulate emissions from what the agency calls “stationary facilities”, meaning plants and factories.  Newly introduced, Rockefeller’s bill had no cosponsors as of Friday.

In the House there are four Democrat-sponsored bills or resolutions seeking to thwart EPA action, including House Joint Resolution 76 (HJR-76) by Representative Ike Skelton (Democrat-Missouri).

Like the Murkowski resolution in the Senate and Barton’s House resolution, Skelton’s effort also would simply nullify the EPA endangerment finding.  HJR-76 has 12 Democrat and 12 Republican sponsors, including Skelton.

Skelton also is the sponsor, along with Democrat Collin Peterson of Minnesota, of HR-4572, which would amend the Clean Air Act to remove greenhouse gases as qualifying pollutants subject to EPA regulation.

House bill HR-4753, sponsored by Democrat Representative Nick Rahall of West Virginia, is a companion bill to Rockefeller’s Senate measure and would suspend for two years any EPA action on greenhouse gas emissions by stationary facilities.

Rahall’s bill has two Democrat cosponsors.

The seventh measure seeking to block EPA is HR-4396, a House bill sponsored by Democrat Representative Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota.

With four Republican and 14 Democrat cosponsors, including Pomeroy, this measure seeks to block EPA greenhouse gases regulation by denying funding to the agency for any action related to the December endangerment finding.

Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), said the actions by Murkowski and Rockefeller in particular are welcome.

Quoting Murkowski, Dooley said the legislative efforts by those two senators and other congressional measures to block EPA are signs of “growing resistance to EPA’s back-door climate regulations”.

“It is imperative that Congress step in, suspend development of the regulations, and assert firm control over national climate policy,” Dooley said.

To win approval in the Senate, the Murkowski disapproval resolution would need only 51 votes in the 100-seat chamber. She is expected to seek a floor vote later this month.

In the House, the disapproval resolution also would need only a simple majority vote of 218 representatives in favour.

But even if both chambers approve legislation barring EPA regulation of greenhouse gases, the bill would need President Obama’s signature to become law, and he could veto the measure.

But Murkowski spokesman Dillon said that the White House may find it difficult to thwart Congress on this issue.

“If you have a bipartisan majority in both houses saying they are concerned about this and the president wants to override them, well, I’m not sure the president is going to be willing to buck Congress on that,” Dillon said.

EPA did not respond to a request for comment on the multiple congressional challenges to its greenhouse gases regulatory plans.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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