With the November midterm election nearing, Republicans in Congress are focusing their fire on U.S. EPA, describing the agency's regulations on greenhouse gases and air pollution as the product of a "job-killing" Obama administration.
Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, has put together a laundry list of grievances about the agency's regulatory agenda. His report, which will be released this afternoon, is the latest in a series from Inhofe, who previously investigated the "Climategate" controversy and issued a report accusing the Obama administration of bungling its response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
"Unfortunately, the Obama EPA favors bureaucracy and heavy-handed intervention more than jobs and growth," says a draft of the new report that was reviewed by Greenwire. "In many cases, outmoded provisions of the [Clean Air Act] are no longer tools to achieve clean air, but blunt instruments for EPA to enact anti-industrial policies."
The report tallies potential job losses and economic impacts from the agency's new greenhouse gas regulations, emissions standards for cement plants, proposed emissions rules for industrial boilers and the proposed tightening of the ozone standard.
Inhofe struck a populist tone this morning while previewing the report in an interview with conservative talk show host Ed Morrissey.
"All this silly stuff that they're doing over at the EPA costs money," Inhofe said, "and it disadvantages the poor more than anybody else."
In at least one regard, the Obama EPA has been less bureaucratic than its predecessor, an agency spokesman said in a statement.
During the first year of Obama's presidency, EPA proposed or finalized about 80 rules. That rate, which has continued in 2010, is lower than the average of 130 regulatory changes per year over the last four years of the George W. Bush administration.
EPA has not yet received Inhofe's report, the spokesman said, "but the doomsday predictions we hear now are the same sort we have heard every time EPA has taken any step to implement the laws that Congress wrote to protect Americans from pollution in the air we breathe and the water we drink."
Inhofe is not the only congressional Republican attacking the Obama administration's environmental policies in the run-up to the November election.
Senate Democrats last night fended off efforts from retiring Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) to bring up for a vote a bill from West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller that would prevent EPA from regulating greenhouse gases from stationary sources for two years. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) objected to Bond's request for unanimous consent to begin debate on it (E&E Daily, Sept. 28).
"It's disappointing that Democrats again blocked bipartisan action to protect the American people from the backdoor national energy tax coming in the form of new job-killing carbon regulations from EPA," Bond said in a statement.
The Missouri Republican said he wanted the measure to be considered before the chamber is expected to recess later this week until after the November elections. He and other opponents of EPA climate rules have vowed to use all available legislative vehicles to block or delay EPA climate regulations, which are slated to kick in on Jan. 2, 2011.
The co-chairs of the House Rural America Solutions Group are planning a forum tomorrow titled "The EPA's assault on rural America: How new regulations and proposed legislation are stifling job creation and economic growth." The panel discussion, led by the ranking members of the House Agriculture, Small Business and Natural Resources committees will discuss how a range of agency rules affect rural communities.
EPA backers gird for battle
Supporters of the Obama administration's climate rules, meanwhile, are preparing to defend EPA's authority to regulate heat-trapping emissions under the Clean Air Act.
In a letter sent today to White House officials and members of Congress, a coalition of national and state health groups urged lawmakers to oppose efforts to thwart EPA climate regulations. The letter was signed by groups including the American Medical Association, the American Lung Association, the American Public Health Association, and dozens of other groups and health professionals.
"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for protecting the public's health from climate change, and we urge you to fully support the EPA in fulfilling its responsibilities," the groups wrote. "We also urge opposition to any efforts to weaken, delay or block the EPA from protecting the public's health from these risks."
Retired military leaders and veterans are also lobbying lawmakers this week to oppose efforts to stymie EPA climate rules, arguing that inaction on climate change poses a serious risk to national security. Veterans organized by Operation Free -- a coalition of veterans and national security organizations that advocate clean energy -- are urging senators from Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota to oppose congressional efforts to block EPA regulations.
"Veterans like me are furious at the U.S. Senate's attempt to hamstring the Environmental Protection Agency and ignore the advice of our military and security leaders," said Jonathan Powers, an Iraq war veteran and former U.S. Army captain who is now chief operating officer of the Truman National Security Project. "This isn't a political issue; this is a question of American security."
Click here to read the health groups' letter.
Story updated at 4:20 p.m. EST to include EPA's response.