One of the Senate's most ardent supporters of action to curb greenhouse gas emissions took aim today at House Republican plans to stop U.S. EPA from regulating emissions linked to climate change.
In a Capitol Hill briefing with reporters, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) especially criticized House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) for his pledge on Fox News over the weekend that the new Republican House majority would not allow "this administration to regulate what they've been unable to legislate."
"Let me correct him," said Boxer, who heads the Environment and Public Works Committee. EPA is following the will of Congress in implementing its carbon regulations, she said, pointing to a 2007 Supreme Court decision that found that the Clean Air Act grants the agency the authority to do so.
"These common-sense steps are exactly what Congress has directed EPA to do, through duly enacted legislation," she said. "By acting, EPA is following the law and following the science."
Upton has said he will hold hearings after Jan. 19 to investigate ways to stop EPA from implementing regulations like the Prevention of Significant Deterioration rules that took effect Sunday for large stationary emitters and to head off others that are in the pipeline.
Upton criticized Boxer today for not including language that would prevent EPA from regulating carbon under existing law in a climate change bill she shepherded through her committee last year. He noted that Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) did include more pre-emption in their bill, which passed the House in 2009.
"Well, we did know what her view was, since she didn't include the reversal of [the 2007 Supreme Court decision] in her draft bill last year, which at least the Waxman-Markey had," said Upton, when asked about Boxer's comments.
Boxer, who is fresh off a close fight for re-election, said voters would not support efforts to roll back clean air protections.
The senator has said California voters picked her over Republican challenger Carly Fiorina in part because of her support for strong environmental and public health laws, and she said that House Republicans would find little public support for weakening those protections.
"If anyone in Congress tries to work toward 'dirty air' policies, I will take that straight to the American people and do everything in my power to stop them," she said.
Boxer offered no specifics on how she will head off rollbacks to EPA authority, like a bill Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) plans to reintroduce in the coming weeks to place a two-year moratorium on stationary source regulations. She said she did not know whether an attempt like Rockefeller's would be successful this year.
"Let me just say, I haven't whipped this," she said.
Rockefeller introduced a similar measure in the last Congress, which drew broad support among moderates of his own party, and he said today that most of his returning co-sponsors would support the bill again. Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), who were not co-sponsors last year, said they would probably support it, as well. Rockefeller's new West Virginia colleague, Democrat Joe Manchin, said he supported Rockefeller's bill "1,000 percent."
If a bill like Rockefeller's passes the House and Senate, Boxer said she would expect the president to veto it.
"I mean, what he would be doing if he signed that is going against his own administration," she said.
Reporter Katie Howell contributed.