House subcommittee votes to block EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, March 10 - In a party line voice vote Thursday, the House Energy & Commerce Committee's Energy & Power Subcommittee “favorably reported” a bill to restrict EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. HR 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, introduced by House Energy & Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton, R-Mich., has nine co-sponsors including House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn. The companion Senate bill introduced by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., is co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

The bill which the subcommittee passed without amendment proposes “To amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from promulgating any regulation concerning, taking action relating to, or taking into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas to address climate change.”

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In a lively markup session, Republicans charged that if the EPA is not reined in, its new greenhouse gas regulations already taking effect will drive up energy costs dramatically, drive jobs overseas, and give “unelected bureaucrats” sweeping new powers. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., explained that “Republicans believe that greenhouse gases are not a criteria pollutant, the EPA should not regulate it, and if they do, in doing so they will raise energy costs which will hurt jobs. The other side wants to regulate greenhouse gases, wants to increase energy costs, which will attack jobs. That's the debate.”

Democrats expressed sharply different views, insisting that the way to create new jobs in the U.S. is to pursue clean energy technologies in this country, boosting the U.S. economy while protecting Americans' health. Otherwise, they warn, the U.S. will cede leadership to counties like China and Germany which are already racing ahead in developing clean energy and capturing the “green jobs” of the future. Citing a 2007 Bush administration executive order and recommendations from the Bush administration's EPA, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., pointed out that the current EPA is simply pursuing a course laid out in detail by the Bush administration.

Engel said based on Bush administration documents, “the steps that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is proposing under the Clean Air Act are moderate and appropriate. They are also remarkably similar to the measures that former EPA Administrator Johnson recommended to President Bush. As Administrator Johnson's letter makes clear, EPA under both Republican and Democratic administrations has had the same view of the science that carbon emissions are definitely a serious threat to our nation's welfare.”

Engel cited a Jan. 2008 letter from Johnson to President Bush which stated that “The latest science of climate change requires the Agency to create a positive endangerment finding.” Engel then won reluctant agreement from the subcommittee's staff counsel that “it would be unprecedented for Congress to overturn” the EPA's scientific endangerment finding. Engel concluded that “this will be the first time that our committee will substitute its scientific views for those of an expert agency and I think it would be an act of striking arrogance for a group of politicians to overturn the scientific determination made by an agency based on the work of thousands of expert scientists.”

Following the subcommittee's vote Thursday, HR 910 will now move to the full House Energy & Commerce Committee for consideration.

To read the nine-page Energy Tax Prevention Act, click HERE. To read the testimony from the subcommittee's March 8 Climate Science hearing, click HERE.

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