US House, Senate launch bills to kill EPA climate regulations

03 March 2011 23:03  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--Bipartisan US Senate and House members on Thursday moved to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, charging that the agency has exceeded its authority.

Members of both chambers introduced companion bills that would bar EPA “from promulgating any regulation concerning, taking action relating to, or taking into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas to address climate change”.

The bills would add language to the Clean Air Act (CAA) to make clear that EPA does not have authority to impose limits on US industrial or transportation emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) or other greenhouse gases.

If approved by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama - who opposed a similar measure in the last Congress - the bills would essentially undo controversial regulations that the agency issued last year.

Under the regulations that began to go into effect on 3 January this year, the EPA has required electric utilities, refineries, petrochemical plants and other major production facilities to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and five other greenhouse gases.

Those rules have been strongly opposed by the US chemicals sector and a broad range of other manufacturing, business and agricultural interests.

The agency’s GHG regulations flow from a ruling EPA administrator Lisa Jackson made in December 2009 that carbon dioxide and other gases pose a health hazard because they cause global warming and consequently are subject to the agency’s regulation under the Clean Air Act.

However, that 2009 “endangerment finding” and the EPA’s subsequent rules were broadly opposed by a broad spectrum of US industry and business interests, including chemical makers, which argued that the rules would cause sharp increases in energy costs and force more US production capacity and jobs overseas.

That finding and the resulting regulations have been opposed by many in Congress and also have been challenged in multiple federal lawsuits by businesses and state governments.

The two bills introduced on Thursday - both named the Energy Tax Prevention Act - would bar EPA from regulating CO2 or other GHG “to address climate change”.

The principal House sponsor, Representative Fred Upton (Republican-Michigan), charged that EPA had exceeded its authority in moving to regulate greenhouse gases, even though Congress had rejected such a policy last year.

Along with others in Congress, among industries and state governments, Upton, who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, argued that the EPA greenhouse gases rules would only serve to drive up US energy costs while having no substantive impact on global temperatures.

“Whether at the pump or on their monthly utility bills, American families, farmers, and employers feel the pinch when energy prices go up,” said Upton on introducing the House version of the bill.

“The very last thing the federal government should do is make matters worse by intentionally driving up the cost of energy,” he said, “Yet that is exactly what’s in store if the EPA moves forward with its plans to regulate and penalise carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act.”

In the Senate, Senator James Inhofe (Republican-Oklahoma) was the chief sponsor of the bill, but he was joined by 41 other senators.

Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, also took issue with EPA’s action on constitutional as well as energy cost grounds.

“As the price of gasoline nears $4 a gallon, consumers can’t afford to pay for the Obama EPA’s back-door cap-and-trade regulations, which will inevitably mean higher prices for gasoline and electricity," Inhofe said.

He said his bill “also imposes accountability”.

“It takes power away from unelected bureaucrats and puts it were it belongs: in Congress, where the people can and should decide the nation’s climate change policy,” he said.

An earlier draft of the Energy Tax Prevention Act was given a preliminary hearing in a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee in early February, but Thursday's action marked the formal introduction of the bill.

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

By: Joe Kamalick
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