US refiners look to Congress to block EPA greenhouse gases rule

13 December 2010 16:37  [Source: ICIS news]

Refiners seek halt to greenhouse gas rule enforcementWASHINGTON (ICIS)--US refining, chemical and broader manufacturing and business leaders on Monday expressed disappointment over a court’s decision to not halt federal enforcement of a new greenhouse gases rule, instead putting their hopes on blocking action by Congress.

Frank Maisano, a long-time energy policy analyst and senior principal at the Washington, DC-based law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani, said industry hopes of blocking regulation of greenhouse gases (GHG) by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now depend on action by Congress.

Maisano’s firm represents refiners, electric utilities and manufacturers who want to block the EPA from implementing its plan - scheduled to start on 2 January - to restrict emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases by so-called “stationary sources”, meaning power plants, refineries, chemical facilities and other manufacturing sites.

The agency’s plan to limit industrial emissions of those gases has been challenged by more than 40 lawsuits by trade groups, individual companies and several state governments.

Those lawsuits likely would not be resolved by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and ultimately the US Supreme Court, before 2012 at the earliest.

In the meantime, various industries have warned that the EPA’s GHG rule would raise energy costs significantly, force some production capacity to shut down and trigger the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs.

In hopes of forestalling that outcome until the lawsuits can be resolved, industries had asked the Court of Appeals to stay or temporarily halt the EPA from enforcing its rule until the court could reach a decision on the merits of the case.

But late on Friday last week, the court denied the plaintiffs’ motion for a stay, meaning that EPA can proceed with enforcement - unless Congress steps in to block the agency.

A bill pending in the US Senate would deny funds to EPA to enforce its greenhouse gases rule for two years, giving Congress time to craft and pass a comprehensive climate law.

However, chances of that bill being passed by both the Senate and House in the few days remaining for the 111th Congress appear slim.

Alternatively, congressional action to block the EPA could come early in the 112th Congress that convenes in January. 

That new Congress, with its new Republican majority in the House and a larger Republican contingent in the Senate, is expected to be more hostile to EPA on its greenhouse gases regulation and other recent environmental rules issued by the agency.

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