Story updated at 10:10 a.m. EST
House Republicans kept up their steady drumbeat against U.S. EPA's greenhouse gas regulations on stationary sources yesterday with legislation that would permanently block the agency from implementing such measures.
A bill crafted by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) was introduced in the House yesterday after it had been floated in draft form last month. The final bill, in addition to having the support of Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), also netted the support of four Democrats as co-sponsors: Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Reps. Nick Rahall (W.Va.), Collin Peterson (Minn.) and Dan Boren (Okla.).
"The EPA has gone unchecked for far too long," said Boren in a statement. "Administrator [Lisa] Jackson has tried to legislate rather than take direction from Congress that is elected by the people."
For his part, Rahall said that he is "dead-set" against EPA moving ahead with greenhouse gas regulations. "The Congress -- the place where the People's will reigns -- is the appropriate body to design a program with such sweeping ramifications," Rahall said in a statement. Peterson, too, said that he believes EPA "needs to be reined in."
While both Boren and Rahall opposed cap-and-trade legislation offered in the House in 2009, Peterson did support that bill after some careful maneuvering to secure farm-friendly exemptions. In a July 2009 statement, he said that he got involved in helping with climate legislation because he believed greenhouse gases would be regulated eventually and if Congress acted it could help avert a "bureaucratic nightmare."
"This is not a responsibility we want to leave in the hands of EPA," he said at the time.
Now, with congressional efforts to regulate greenhouse gases off the table and EPA at the helm on this issue, he said that agency's regulations are the "last thing we need when our economy is beginning to show signs of recovery."
Upton's bill, in addition to securing more congressional support, also offers some changes from its draft form.
Taking note of a pair of concerns expressed by House Democrats about the draft bill, yesterday's legislation offered new language geared toward insuring that implementation of the renewable fuel standard and the Montreal Protocol -- an international treaty that phases out pollutants that harm the ozone layer -- would not be affected.
David Doniger, policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate Center, said that this bill would still have lingering problems.
"The only thing this does is make it clear they are not intending to interfere with the phaseout of ozone-depleting chemicals directly," he said.
This bill would still bar any future regulation of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, since they are greenhouse gases -- even though there has been growing support in the international community for also phasing out this substance under the Montreal Protocol (Greenwire, Nov. 30, 2010). HFCs are commonly used as a substitute for other ozone-depleting substances.
60-vote hurdle in the Senate
NRDC was still looking at how the bill would affect the renewable fuel standard at the time of publication.
Environmental groups were quick to slam the legislation as an attempt to hurt the environment and said that such legislation will also result in greater dependence on oil. Operation Free, a coalition of veterans and national security organizations, blasted the bill on the grounds that it would threaten national security. Meanwhile, the American Petroleum Institute and the National Mining Association are both backing the bill.
California Rep. Henry Waxman (D), ranking member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, called the Upton-Inhofe bill "an affront to science."
"I remain committed to fighting this and other Republican efforts to weaken the laws that form the cornerstone of public health and environmental protections in our nation," he said in a statement.
On the Senate side, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) also introduced his own form of the legislation -- alongside 42 Republican co-sponsors, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.). West Virginia Democrat Manchin has also signed on.
The reception the bill will face in the Senate remains unclear. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D), a strong advocate for clean energy legislation, said yesterday that he did not know if Inhofe's legislation could muster 60 votes.
Kerry said he would be "surprised" if the Senate voted to permanently strip EPA authority on greenhouse gases, but acknowledged that a measure to delay those rules for two years -- as legislation from Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) would do -- could achieve "more votes."
100 applications received
Rahall yesterday told E&ENews PM that if the Upton-Inhofe bill reached the president's desk, it would likely be vetoed. Still, the congressional effort would send an important signal, he said (E&ENews PM, March 3).
The Upton-Inhofe bill was introduced the same day EPA Administrator Jackson first testified on the administration's proposed fiscal 2012 budget request before House Republicans who voted to block EPA from regulating greenhouse gases for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Jackson mounted a defense for greenhouse gas regulations focused on their benefits to public health and arguments that they have not been a significant burden to businesses. The climate rules, which went into effect in January, have not resulted in the "construction moratorium" or shuttered businesses as opponents of the regulation feared they would, she said.
EPA has already received about 100 air permit applications that would require greenhouse gases to be factored into their proposals, she said. Twenty-six of those applications have already performed needed greenhouse gas analyses, she said, and two projects have received permits.
Reporter Evan Lehmann contributed.
This story was updated to note that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is now a co-sponsor of legislation seeking to block U.S. EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources.