US Senate defeats bills to block EPA greenhouse gas rules

07 April 2011 00:14  [Source: ICIS news]

The US CapitalWASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US Senate on Wednesday defeated four measures that would have revoked, limited or delayed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases.

However, defeat of the four amendments was expected, and backers of the anti-EPA measures claimed a moral victory, noting that the various proposed limits on the agency’s greenhouse gases regulations gathered the combined support of 64 senators from both parties.

The US chemicals industry along with a broad array of other manufacturers, electric utilities and agricultural, foods and mining interests have long opposed the agency’s regulation of greenhouse gases (GHG), arguing that it would drive sharp increases in US energy costs without having any impact on the global climate.

The EPA began enforcing its greenhouse gases emissions restrictions at the beginning of this year.

The most aggressive Senate measure aimed at blocking the EPA’s role in climate-related regulation was an amendment sponsored by Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

That measure would have denied outright the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases for climate control reasons.

Other amendments, including two sponsored by Senate Democrats, would have postponed EPA enforcement of the regulations for two years,  exempted farmers and small businesses, or both.

But those half-measure efforts drew even less support, while McConnell’s bill to bar EPA regulation of greenhouse gases was defeated with a close 50-50 vote in the 100-member Senate.

Noting the combined total of 64 Senate votes for one or another of the four amendments, McConnell said that the tally “underscores the fact that both Republicans and Democrats oppose giving unelected bureaucrats at the EPA the power to impose a new national energy tax on American job creators and families.”

Many members of Congress contend that the EPA has overstepped its statutory authority in pressing ahead with a major expansion of regulatory power without specific authorisation from the legislature.

“We in the Senate will continue to fight for legislation that will give the certainty that no unelected bureaucrat at the EPA is going to make efforts to create jobs even more difficult than the administration already has,” McConnell said.

The US House of Representatives was expected to approve a parallel EPA-blocking bill later on Wednesday in what would largely be a symbolic gesture, since the Senate has failed, however narrowly, to approve such a measure.

Congressional opponents of the EPA’s GHG rules were now expected to refocus their effort on attaching revocation measures to spending bills that will come up in Congress later.

The Senate’s failure to rein in the EPA was unfortunate, said Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA).

But Drevna said he was encouraged by the fact that so many senators from both parties cast votes to restrict the EPA’s greenhouse gases rules in some manner.

“Sixty-four senators cast votes recognizing the harmful nature of these regulations,” Drevna said, adding: “We look forward to working with senators on both sides of the aisle on a bipartisan measure that would stop EPA from using greenhouse gas regulations to drive up energy costs.”

American Petroleum Institute (API) president Jack Gerard also hailed the Senate vote as a significant advance against the EPA rules.

“Today is another step toward victory for American consumers who can’t afford EPA’s unnecessary regulations that could raise the cost of energy and destroy jobs,” Gerard said.

“Today’s votes show that a growing bipartisan coalition recognizes that Congress, not unelected agency officials, should be setting the energy and economic policy of the US,” he added.

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

By: Joe Kamalick
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