US chems, others urge Congress to act now on greenhouse gas rules

29 September 2010 22:10  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--US chemical sector and other manufacturing leaders on Wednesday said they will try again later this year to convince Congress to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from imposing greenhouse gas restrictions that they fear will bring US industrial development to a halt.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) were among 17 major trade associations that urged Congress to use a last-minute spending bill being considered this week to include language barring EPA regulation of greenhouse gases (GHG).

On 2 January, the EPA is set to begin regulating and limiting emissions of greenhouse gases by power plants, refineries, chemical production facilities and a broad range of other manufacturing sites, which the agency calls “stationary sources”.

The agency ruled in December last year that carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases are pollutants within the meaning of the Clean Air Act. As such, because those gases are thought to contribute to global warming, they pose a danger to the country’s environment and must be reduced through mandatory regulation, the agency said.

That so-called endangerment finding and a subsequent EPA "tailoring rule" that seeks to limit greenhouse gases regulation initially to major industrial facilities are being challenged by multiple industry and state government lawsuits in federal courts. 

Both rules also are targeted by disapproval resolutions pending in the House of Representatives and the Senate, but congressional leaders have thus far declined to allow a vote on those measures.

The ACC and other industry trade groups had hoped to get Congress to include a ban on EPA regulation of greenhouse gases included in a so-called continuing resolution (CR) that Congress must pass this week.

The continuing resolution, a short-term and temporary federal spending authorisation, was necessary because Congress has failed this year to pass the formal appropriations bills for fiscal year 2011, which begins on Friday, 1 October.

Without the temporary spending authorisation for a variety of departments, agencies and programmes, federal government activities would grind to a halt.

The Senate Appropriations Committee earlier on Wednesday approved a continuing resolution measure, but it did not include any reference to or restriction on EPA regulation of greenhouse gases.

“We will now turn our efforts to promoting it [a congressional ban on EPA GHG rules] as part of a future CR or appropriations bill,” said Jennifer Scott, spokeswoman for the council.

The continuing resolution approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday was expected to get approval by the full Senate and the House later on Wednesday or early on Thursday, so that President Barack Obama could sign it into law before midnight Thursday when the 2010 fiscal year expires.

But the continuing resolution only maintains current-level funding for the federal government until 3 December. By that date, Congress must pass various appropriations bills or approve yet another continuing resolution.

The ACC, SOCMA and other trade groups now hope to secure a congressional ban on the EPA regulations in those upcoming appropriations measures or a new continuing resolution.

“Delaying EPA’s stationary source rule is an urgent issue that requires Congress to act as soon as possible,” Scott said.

In a letter to key members of Congress, the industry groups warned that if EPA is allowed to proceed, the greenhouse gases regulations “would impose a significant burden across the US economy”.

If implemented beginning in January, the EPA greenhouse gases rules would require almost any production facility, construction or plant modification project to demonstrate GHG reductions and limits in order to obtain EPA permits to proceed.

“There is the very real prospect that investments by businesses across the entire economy - investments that will drive economic recovery and job creation - will be delayed, curtailed or, even worse, cancelled,” the industry groups warned.

After voting on the continuing resolution spending measure, both the House and Senate are expected to adjourn by the end of this week so that members can go home to begin campaigning in earnest in the run-up to the 2 November US national elections.

Congress is not expected to reconvene until 15 November.

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