Congressional Republicans’ attempt to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions took a step forward in the House of Representatives this week.
A House Energy & Commerce subcommittee on March 10 adopted a bill, H.R. 910, that would prevent EPA from controlling carbon dioxide, hydrofluorocarbons, methane, nitrous oxide, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and water vapor. The measure would exclude these greenhouse gases from the definition of “air pollutant” in the Clean Air Act.
Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) has introduced identical legislation in the Senate (S. 482). Although the bill will likely be approved by the House, it’s probably not going to fly with Senate Democrats.
The bill “codifies climate denial,” Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) said before the House vote. But the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), responded that the legislation is “not about whether the science shows global warming to be a problem, it is about whether EPA’s regulations are sensible.”
If enacted, the bill would override a 2007 Supreme Court decision that greenhouse gas emissions are pollutants that EPA can regulate under the Clean Air Act. It would repeal EPA’s finding that greenhouse gas emissions pose a danger to public health and mark the first time Congress has overturned an EPA scientific decision.
The bill aims to abolish a rule requiring major sources of CO2, notably coal-burning power plants, to report their emissions to EPA. In addition, it would prevent the agency from regulating black carbon—an airborne particulate that results from combustion—to help control climate change. Under the legislation, however, EPA can continue to control black carbon as a health threat.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who leads the Environment & Public Works Committee, denounced the bill, saying it stops “EPA from protecting our children and families.” Boxer was joined by four other Democrats, all promising to block Senate passage of the measure.
Action on H.R. 910 is part of House Republicans’ efforts to pare federal regulations. During the past two weeks, House committees have held more than six hearings critical of federal regulations. Most have focused on environmental regulations.
A subcommittee of the House Oversight & Government Affairs Committee on March 9 took up the impact of regulations on manufacturers. Witnesses were united in their opposition to environmental regulations. They included speakers from trade associations representing basic industries—metal forging, brick-making, forest products, cement makers, and chemical manufacturers.
Michael P. Walls of the American Chemistry Council, a chemical industry group, criticized EPA for failing to consider the cumulative impact of environmental regulations. He also warned that new regulations could impinge on the chemical industry’s ability to take advantage of a huge supply of natural gas being retrieved from shale, which he called the “most significant energy and feedstock development in a generation.”
EPA officials did not appear at the hearing. In a letter to the committee, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson cited confusion and disagreements over the hearing format as reasons for the absence. She also noted that nine EPA officials had already appeared at congressional panels in the first nine days of March.