The battle has been joined in Congress over the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of greenhouse gases emitted by factories and power plants.
The Republican-led effort to kill the embattled agency’s most-hated initiative is in full swing, with House and Senate bills introduced last week, following months of Republican declarations that they would “rein in” EPA’s authority.
The agency has become Public Enemy No. 1 to Republicans and even a few Democrats, who consider it an overly powerful source of job-killing, anti-business regulatory excess.
And of all the EPA initiatives now under siege, the Greenhouse Gas rules (GHG's), which took effect Jan. 2, top the opponents’ charge.
‘Out of Control’
The congressional bills— introduced March 3 by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton of (R-MI) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK)—would bar EPA from mandating emission limits from factories and power plants. Opponents say the regulations would fuel already-skyrocketing energy prices.
The measure would allow a previous agreement the Obama administration reached with automakers to cut vehicle tailpipe emissions.
The House bill has support from Democratic Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Nick Rahall of West Virginia, and Dan Boren of Oklahoma. Democrat Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, is a Senate co-sponsor.
“EPA is out of control, and we have
to send them a message,” said Rep.
Collin Peterson (D-MN).
“EPA is out of control, and we have to send them a message,” Peterson told Bloomberg Business Week.
Rahall, who had favored a two-year delay of the regulations proposed by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), now says he is “dead-set” against them.
"The Congress—the place where the People's will reigns—is the appropriate body to design a program with such sweeping ramifications," he said in a statement.
And Manchin said in a statement: "It's time that the EPA realizes it cannot regulate what has not been legislated. Our government was designed so that elected representatives are in charge of making important decisions, not bureaucrats. The simple fact is that the EPA is trying to seize more power than it should have, and must be stopped. I hope that Democrats and Republicans can come together to stop the EPA's jobs-destroying power grab."
On the other hand, Rahall told Bloomberg Business Week that Rockefeller’s bill probably had a better chance to pass. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) agreed, telling the New York Times that he did not think Inhofe’s bill could gain 60 votes in the Senate.
The Republican bill has the fierce support from the well-heeled power industry as well as several trade associations.
The EPA draws its regulatory authority on GHG from a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that found that GHGs, including carbon dioxide, are air pollutants covered by the CAA. The Court said EPA was required to determine whether GHG emissions from new motor vehicles contributed to air pollution that endangered public health or welfare.
Eventually, the EPA signed a finding of endangerment and, from there, determined that the vehicle rule’s GHG requirements would also trigger CAA permitting requirements for stationary sources on Jan. 2, 2011.
Beginning then, large industrial facilities that already required CAA permits for non-GHGs were also to include GHG requirements in these permits if the facilities were newly constructed and would emit at least 75,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) annually, or if changes made at a facility increased GHG emissions by that amount.
“These permitting programs are proven tools for reducing air pollution, and can be used to control GHG emissions,” EPA has said.
EPA: Veto Likely
Like every federal agency, EPA is currently reviewing its regulations and proposals under an Executive Order issued Jan. 18 by President Obama. And prior to that date, EPA said that it would defer, for three years, greenhouse gas (GHG) permitting requirements for carbon dioxide emissions from biomass-fired and other biogenic sources.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says
the legislation would be vetoed if
it reaches the White House.
But the agency has drawn the line at abandoning the current rules, and Administrator Lisa Jackson vows that Obama will veto any attempt to stop them.
Last week, the Government Accountability Office issued its government-wide analysis on “Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue,” but the 345-page report did not mention the GHG rules.
Jackson, testifying last week on EPA’s FY 2012 proposed budget, said the rules had not caused the "construction moratorium" or shuttered businesses that opponents had predicted.
Jackson said EPA had already received about 100 air permit applications that would require greenhouse gases to be factored into their proposals. Twenty-six applicants have already performed needed analyses, she said, and two have received permits.