US House votes to kill EPA greenhouse gas regulations

07 April 2011 23:16  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US House of Representatives on Thursday voted to revoke the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from factories and utilities, a move welcomed by US chemical producers and other manufacturers.

The House voted 255-172 to approve HR-910, the “Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011”, which amends the Clean Air Act (CAA) to bar EPA from issuing regulations or taking other actions regarding greenhouse gases in connection with climate change matters.

The bill also excludes greenhouse gases from the act’s definition of air pollutants.

The measure passed with a 60% vote, largely on the strength of 236 House Republicans but including support from 19 Democrats. The bill needed 217 votes to pass.

The bill now would go to the US Senate, where senators on Wednesday narrowly defeated a similar measure to deny EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

In January this year, the agency began enforcing its controversial rules to regulate and limit GHG emissions from so-called “stationary sources”, meaning factories, electric utilities, refineries, chemical plants and other industrial sites.

That policy was widely opposed by US business and industry and several state governments on grounds it would sharply increase US energy costs and thereby force some plant closures and worker layoffs. The EPA action has been the target of as many as 75 lawsuits.

The EPA has conceded that those regulations would have little or no impact on the global climate, because other major GHG-emitting nations, including China and India, have declined to implement similar measures.

The House vote was hailed by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), with council president Cal Dooley saying that the approval of HR-910 and support for a parallel measure in the Senate on Wednesday are “welcome signs of growing support in Congress for stopping the EPA greenhouse gas regulations for stationary sources”.

In the Senate vote on Wednesday, the bill that would have shut down EPA’s regulatory authority for greenhouse gases was narrowly defeated in a 50-50 vote.  In the 100-member Senate, 51 votes would be needed for simple approval of a bill, and 60 votes would be required to ensure an end to debate and final passage.

But Dooley said that the House passage and the near-approval in the Senate show that “lawmakers from both parties agree this is a critical issue for the country, economic recovery and protecting American jobs”.

“Congress must stop EPA so that business growth and hiring can continue,” Dooley added.

Marty Durbin, executive vice president at the American Petroleum Institute (API), also welcomed the bipartisan support in both the House and Senate for some sort of measure to block EPA regulation of greenhouse gases.

He noted that 17 Senate Democrats gave support to one or another of the four different Senate bills that would have revoked, delayed or otherwise restricted EPA’s greenhouse gases role.

Durbin said the House and Senate votes should indicate to President Barack Obama that there is a growing bipartisan coalition in Congress opposed to the EPA “overstepping its authority”.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) also hailed House approval of HR-910, as did the US Chamber of Commerce.

NAM president Jay Timmons said the bipartisan votes “demonstrate that our nation’s lawmakers ... are willing to stand against EPA regulations that would prevent job creation and economic growth”.

The chamber’s senior vice president for regulatory affairs, Bill Kovacs, said that “the chamber agrees with the strong bipartisan votes in the House and the Senate that Congress needs to determine the scope of the Clean Air Act, not EPA”.

Opponents of EPA’s greenhouse gases regulations are expected to refocus their efforts on amendments to spending bills that Congress was expected to act on in weeks ahead.  Language barring EPA action on GHG emissions was expected to be attached to one or another of several must-pass spending authorisations.

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

By: Joe Kamalick
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