Friday, March 05, 2010

Key House & Senate Dems Push To Halt EPA Climate Regulations

Mar 4: In what has to be interpreted as a Democratic pushback and a setback for the Obama Administration's climate change legislative and regulatory agenda, key legislators from the Senate and House have introduced legislation to suspend potential U.S. EPA regulation of greenhouse gases (GHG) from stationary sources for two years. In the Senate, Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation introduced S. 3072. In the House, Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV), Chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources introduced the companion legislation (H.R. 4753) along with cosponsors Representatives Alan Mollohan (D-WV) and Rick Boucher (D-VA).

    In a release from Senator Rockefeller he said, "Today, we took important action to safeguard jobs, the coal industry, and the entire economy as we move toward clean coal technology. This legislation will issue a two year suspension on EPA regulation of greenhouse gases from stationary sources -- giving Congress the time it needs to address an issue as complicated and expansive as our energy future. Congress, not the EPA, must be the ideal decision-maker on such a challenging issue."

    Senator Rockefeller said further, "Two weeks ago, I sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson challenging EPA's potential regulation of greenhouse gases [See WIMS 2/23/10]. Administrator Jackson responded quickly and showed some willingness to move the agency's timetable for regulation to the end of 2010. This is a positive change and good progress, but I am concerned it may not be enough time. We must set this delay in stone and give Congress enough time to consider a comprehensive energy bill to develop the clean coal technologies we need.  At a time when so many people are hurting, we need to put decisions about clean coal and our energy future into the hands of the people and their elected representatives, not a federal environmental agency." 

    Although Senator Rockefeller's bill did not have any original cosponsors, it's important to note that he was joined by Senate Democrats Mark Begich (AK), Sherrod Brown (OH), Carl Levin (MI), Bob Casey Jr. (PA), Robert Byrd (WV), Claire McCaskill (MO), and Max Baucus (MT) in the letter to Administrator Jackson. That letter said, "We write with serious economic and energy concerns relating to the potential regulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from stationary sources under the Clean Air Act. Ill-time or imprudent regulation of GHGs may squander critical opportunities for our nation, impeding the investment necessary to create jobs and position our nation to develop and produce its own clean energy. We strongly believe this is ultimately Congress' responsibility, and if done properly, will create jobs, spur new clean energy industries, and greatly advance the goal of U.S. energy independence. If done improperly, these opportunities could be lost."

    Representative Rahall and his cosponsors issued even stronger statements. Rahall said, "I am dead-set against the EPA's plowing ahead on its own with new regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. This is reasonable and responsible legislation that will protect a vital industry -- coal -- and essential jobs for West Virginia and the Nation." Mollohan said, "EPA must be stopped from moving further down this very dangerous road -- one that would throw West Virginians out of work and increase energy prices for all Americans. Climate change will remain deeply controversial, but our approach is the only one that has a chance of bringing all sides together to stop what most everyone agrees is a very bad idea -- EPA pushing ahead with its own regulations." Boucher said, "EPA regulation of greenhouse gases would be the worst outcome for the coal industry and coal related jobs. Our bill is a responsible, achievable approach which prevents the EPA from enacting regulations that would harm coal and gives Congress time to establish a balanced program."
    In background information included with Senator Rockefeller's release he indicates that, "The bill will give Congress the time it needs to design and pass well thought-out legislation. Comprehensive energy legislation should be crafted with a combination of certainty and incentives to create the right business atmosphere for coal's continued use well into the 21st century. In order to give businesses, energy company CEOs, and investors a reason to invest in technology, they need to know there will be a market for that technology and some level of comfort around the certainty of future environmental regulations. 

    In April 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. EPA that EPA must make a determination (i.e. "endangerment finding") when it comes to regulating motor vehicle emissions. On December 15, 2009, EPA published its final rule in the Federal Register, stating: "The Administrator finds that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere may reasonably be anticipated both to endanger public health and to endanger public welfare." The Supreme Court ruling gives the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Senator Rockefeller indicated that, "If Congress wants to change or alter that authority -- or suspend it long enough to pass comprehensive legislation -- Congress must be able to pass a bill that addresses the real life economic impacts that EPA is not equipped to consider."

    The latest efforts by House and Senate Democrats only adds to the already significant resistance to the White House and EPA efforts to develop climate change and energy legislation and regulations. In the House, the Republican leader John Boehner (R-OH) and 85 other Republicans have cosponsored  H.J. Res. 77, a resolution of disapproval on U.S. EPA's anticipated rules to regulate carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas (GHG) as a pollutant [See WIMS 3/3/10]. In the Senate, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced her disapproval resolution S.J.Res. 26 which has at least 40 cosponsors [See WIMS 1/22/10].

    Access a lengthy release from Senator Rockefeller with links to the letters to and from EPA (click here). Access a release from Representative Rahall (click here). Access legislative details for S. 3072 (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 4753 (click here). Access legislative details for H.J. Res. 77 (click here). Access legislative details for H.J. Res. 76 (click here). Access legislative details for S.J.Res. 26 (click here).