US energy official expects Obama to sign EPA-blocking bill

04 February 2011 19:22  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--A top US energy sector official on Friday said that there is broad bipartisan support in Congress for bills to bar Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) climate rules, and that President Barack Obama would now accept such a measure.

“We see wide bipartisan support for such legislation,” said Khary Cauthen, director of federal regulations at the American Petroleum Institute (API).

“We’ve seen in the last week or so members of both parties in the House and Senate looking at legislation that would stop EPA regulation of greenhouse gases,” he said.

“And we believe there is bipartisan support to move forward with a bill that President Obama would sign to stop EPA so that Congress can take the next step forward in tackling this issue.”

Cauthen was referring to multiple bills being considered in both the House and Senate to deny the EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

Even among many in Congress who believe that the US should limit GHG emissions, they feel the legislature should formulate that policy rather than an administrative agency such as the EPA.

Last year the White House indicated that if any of the then-pending bills to block EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions were to pass Congress, the president would veto them.

But Cauthen said he does not think that Obama would now veto such a bill if it passed both the House and Senate.

“I think it is more likely this year,” Cauthen said of congressional approval for a blocking bill.  “The numbers of bipartisan members in both the House and Senate who are looking at stopping EPA in this are greater now, and the political landscape is different than last year.”

Last year Democrats held majority control in both the US House and Senate.  But as a result of the November 2010 elections, Republicans now hold a strong majority in the House and have narrowed the Democrats’ majority in the Senate to just a few votes.

“In his state of the union speech and in his announced plan to review and reduce the number of federal regulations, the president said he is focused on job creation and job growth, and this [legislation blocking EPA GHG rules] would fit right in with his objectives,” Cauthen said.

The EPA’s regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions by major industrial facilities, refineries and power plants took effect in January.  The rules are widely opposed by chemical producers and a broad range of other manufacturers.

On Thursday, Republican members of the House and Senate introduced companion bills that would deny outright the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

Cauthen said API prefers that approach over a Democrat-sponsored bill in the Senate that would only suspend EPA regulation of greenhouse gases for two years, allowing Congress time to craft a more comprehensive climate policy.

“For one thing, we don’t know what would happen with permitting during a two-year delay.  Does EPA simply hit the pause button and everything stops?” Cauthen asked.

“We’re fearful of what a two-year delay would mean for job growth and whether construction across the country would be able to go forward," he said.

Under the EPA’s greenhouse gas restrictions, US industries would be denied permits to build new or expand existing production facilities unless their plans include the best available technology to sharply reduce GHG emissions.

The EPA plans are also the target of multiple lawsuits, but opponents of the agency’s greenhouse gases rules worry that the court cases would take too long to reach resolution and that in the meantime EPA’s rules would stifle growth and jobs and force more US productive capacity offshore.

($1 = €0.72)

Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy
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