CLIMATE:

House subpanel set to approve bill to handcuff EPA

The House Energy and Power Subcommittee is poised to mark up a bill tomorrow morning that would permanently halt U.S. EPA regulation of power plants, refineries and other stationary sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

Although yesterday's final subcommittee hearing on the bill from Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) examined the scientific evidence of man-made global warming, Upton said Republicans are not moving the bill because many of them are skeptical of the science of climate change. Instead, he said Republicans are concerned about the cost of EPA's plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, which the GOP says will be considerable.

"I'm led to believe that if these greenhouse gas regulations go forward, you could see gas prices jump another 30 cents or so," Upton said. "That's not something that we need as we try to move into a recovery."

"It seems like the Obama administration is really bent on raising the citizens of this country's utility rates and raising gasoline prices," said committee Vice Chairman John Sullivan (R-Okla.). "If something like this were to go into effect, every household in America would be taxed more."

Upton said he and other Republicans were basing their cost estimates on analyses for the economywide cap-and-trade bill that cleared the House in 2009, sponsored by then-Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). Democrats and Republicans used different cost estimates at the time, and Democrats argued the scheme would be a net positive for the U.S. economy.

Upton said that in his view, EPA's current and planned regulations for greenhouse gas emissions would be virtually identical to the Waxman-Markey bill.

"We are trying to stop a regulated cap-and-trade bill, of which we view this," Upton said.

But EPA's current and planned stationary source regulations do not cap industrial greenhouse gas emissions and allow them to be traded, as the Waxman-Markey bill would have done. They regulate individual sources of emissions under the Clean Air Act by requiring the use of best available control technologies now, and the agency is planning to set New Source Performance Standards for electric utilities and oil refineries. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has ruled out using cap and trade for any of these.

The committee Republicans said they had not conducted an analysis of the cost of these regulations but had been told by refiners that they would be expensive.

"EPA did not do the economic analysis, so I think there is some missing information," said a Republican aide. "But I think it is very clear that these regulations are designed to achieve the same ends as cap and trade, so I think it is fair to assume that we would have the same if not worse ... consequences."

Many amendments are expected to be offered during tomorrow's markup, but Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) said he and Upton do not have any plans to tweak their bill between now and then.

"We feel pretty confident about this bill the way it is," he said.

The congressmen and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) did make some changes to the bill compared with an earlier discussion draft, including the addition of language that would exempt the renewable fuels standard from all provisions of the bill. They also left in place an emissions reporting requirement for electrical utilities that would have been jettisoned under the discussion draft.

The bill is co-sponsored by three House Democrats and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and Whitfield told reporters he still hopes more Democrats will support it in committee and on the House floor. At yesterday's subcommittee hearing, Waxman -- now ranking member of the full committee -- asked Whitfield not to hold a markup of the bill but to instead sit down with him and other Democrats to craft a compromise on energy legislation.

"I am not wedded to the language in last year's energy bill," Waxman said. "We can start from a blank piece of paper."

But Whitfield said that members had "significant disagreements" on climate and energy policy and promised an open committee process where members could offer amendments to Upton's bill.