Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Contentious House Hearing On EPA Climate Change Rules

Feb 9: The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, chaired by Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY), hold a hearing on "H.R. ___, the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011" [See WIMS 2/3/11]. The hearing on the draft legislation, began at about 9:30 AM and is still underway. The draft legislation is the Republican bill sponsored by U.S. Representative Fred Upton (R-MI), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Representative Whitfield, Chairman of the Energy and Power Subcommittee, and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. According to the sponsors the hearing was to "provide stakeholders directly affected by the administration's runaway regulatory policies the opportunity to address the consequences of proposed regulations on job creation and economic growth." They indicated that the bill "is a sensible, narrowly crafted 'fix' to clarify that the Clean Air Act was never intended to be used to impose cap-and-trade by regulation.
    According to a release from the sponsors, "The Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011" would: Stop EPA bureaucrats from making legislative decisions that should be made by Congress; Clarify that the Clean Air Act was not written by Congress to address climate change; Stop EPA bureaucrats from imposing a backdoor cap-and-trade tax that would make gasoline, electricity, fertilizer, and groceries more expensive for consumers; and Protect American jobs and manufacturers from overreaching EPA regulations that hinder our ability to compete with China and other countries.
    Witnesses testifying at the hearing included: Lisa Jackson, U.S. EPA Administrator, Senator Inhofe and representatives from: Attorney General State of Texas; National Black Chamber of Commerce; The Timberland Company; Santee Cooper; Lions Oil Company; Troutman Sanders LLP; American Public Health Association; California Air Resources Board; US Steel Corporation; Illinois Farm Bureau; FMC Corporation; Nucor Corporation; and the American Council for Capital Formation.
    Subcommittee Chairman Whitfield opened the hearing saying the hearing "will focus on a greenhouse gas (GHG) rulemaking within the Environmental Protection Agency that many of us believe attempts to address an issue properly within the purview of the Congress, and legislation that would restore the proper balance to decision-making affecting it. The Obama Administration EPA has been the most aggressive in recent memory. Six rules were issued on Christmas Eve and there is a pipeline full of regulations waiting to be issued and states are not being given adequate time to examine and re-write state implementation plans to respond to this aggressive pace. I have been besieged with calls from entities all over the country complaining about EPA's attempt to regulate greenhouse gases.. . Although Congress has made its position abundantly clear not to regulate GHG's, we now have unelected staff at EPA and the Courts pushing the United States down a path that in my opinion will cost jobs and make us less competitive in the global market place. . ."
    Full Committee Chairman Upton opened the hearing saying, "Job creation.  It's a simple goal, but unfortunately, one Washington lost sight of in the last few years. Well, no more. Cap and trade legislation failed in the last Congress, but now we face the threat of Environmental Protection Agency bureaucrats imposing the same agenda through a series of regulations. Like cap and trade, these regulations would boost the cost of energy, not just for homeowners and car owners, but for businesses both large and small. EPA may be starting by regulating only the largest power plants and factories, but we will all feel the impact of higher prices and fewer jobs. These regulations go after emissions of carbon dioxide -- the unavoidable byproduct of using the coal, oil, and natural gas that provides this nation with 85 percent of its energy. . . Needless to say, the Chinese government and other competitors have no intention of burdening and raising the cost of doing business for their manufacturers and energy producers the way EPA plans to here in America. Our goal should be to export goods, not jobs."
    Senator Inhofe testified that, ". . .it is unfair and unacceptable to ask the steel worker in Ohio, the chemical plant worker in Michigan, and the coal miner in West Virginia to sacrifice their jobs so we can reduce temperature by a barely detectable amount in 100 years. Yet this is exactly what the EPA is doing. The Energy Tax Prevention Act would stop EPA and protect those jobs.  It would ensure that America's manufacturers can stay here and compete against China.  And it would put Congress back in charge of deciding the nation's climate change policy. . . EPA's actions under the Clean Air Act are part of the cap-and-trade agenda.  That agenda wants higher energy prices for consumers, higher taxes for citizens, more regulations on small businesses, more restrictions on choices, and ultimately less freedom.   Supporters believe these things will stop global warming. They won't. . ."
    The full Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Bobby Rush (D-IL) released a 10-page analysis of the "Upton-Inhofe Energy Tax Prevention Act" and indicated that, "EPA does not have taxing authority, nor has EPA proposed to establish a cap and trade program. In fact, EPA officials have recently stated that they will not establish a cap on carbon pollution. The Upton-Inhofe draft would broadly eliminate EPA's authority to address emissions of greenhouse gases and the danger of climate change. . . The discussion draft overturns the landmark Supreme Court case Massachusetts v. EPA, which held that greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, are 'air pollutants' under the Clean Air Act that EPA must regulate if they endanger public health or welfare. . . would legislatively repeal EPA's scientific determination that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare, commonly known as the endangerment finding. . ." The detailed analysis provided many more implications of the draft bill.
    Additionally, Rep. Waxman sent a letter to Chairman Fred Upton highlighting the views of former-EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, articulated in a private letter to President Bush in 2008, that the climate change science supported the agency's positive endangerment finding on carbon emissions. Waxman pointed out that Administrator Johnson wrote: "A robust interagency policy process involving principal meetings over the past eight months has enabled me to formulate a plan that is prudent and cautious yet forward thinking. … [I]t … creates a framework for responsible, cost-effective and practical actions." He added that actions to reduce carbon emissions "should spur both private sector investment in developing new, cost-effective technologies and private sector deployment of these technologies at a large scale." 
    Senator Inhofe issued a response to the Waxman release of the Johnson letter. Inhofe said, "Johnson's letter came six months before EPA released the 'Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR): Regulating Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act,' which explored the multitude of scientific, technical, legal and economic problems associated with making an endangerment finding for GHGs under the CAA.  As former Administrator Johnson wrote in the ANPR . . ."
    EPA Administrator Jackson testified that, "Chairman Upton's bill would, in its own words, repeal that scientific finding. Politicians overruling scientists on a scientific question-- that would become part of this Committee's legacy. . . Chairman Upton's bill would block President Obama's plan to follow up with Clean Air Act standards for cars and light trucks of Model Years 2017 through 2025. Removing the Clean Air Act from the equation would forfeit pollution reductions and oil savings on a massive scale, increasing America's debilitating oil dependence. . ." She also said the bill would block a "reasonable approach" for limiting carbon pollution and would hamper the growth of the clean energy sector of the U.S. economy. She said, the bill "would have additional negative impacts that its drafters might not have intended. For example, it would prohibit EPA from taking further actions to implement the Renewable Fuels Program, which promotes the domestic production of advanced bio-fuels."
    Access the hearing announcement notice (click here). Access the hearing website for links to all testimony and a background memo (click here). Access the opening statements of Rep. Whitfield and Upton (click here). Access the statement from Sen. Inhofe (click here). Access the Waxman-Rush analysis (click here). Access the Waxman letter to Upton with links to the Johnson letter (click here). Access the Inhofe response to Waxman's release (click here). Access the discussion draft of the bill (click here).
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