House Republicans will keep U.S. EPA's new Clean Air Act rules front and center between now and next year's elections in part to ramp up the pressure on vulnerable Democratic senators from states where environmental regulation is hurting the local economy, a key GOP leader on energy issues said this morning.
Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), who heads the House Energy and Power Subcommittee, has said for months that he plans to take a comprehensive look at the Clean Air Act in order to reassert Congress' oversight of that landmark environmental law. Today he said he does not see legislation to rein in EPA's rules passing both chambers of a politically divided Congress.
"I don't think much can pass in the Senate," he said at a briefing with reporters this morning. "It never does. I'm not particularly optimistic."
Still, he plans to continue holding hearings and producing legislation to take on environmental rules he says are onerous to business, if only to keep the issue alive going into next year's election. A disproportionate number of Democratic senators are up for re-election next year, many running in states that rely on coal and manufacturing.
"We want to keep passing things on the House side that would reverse things EPA is doing simply because we'd like to see those 22 Democratic senators up for re-election next year vote on some of this," he said. "Because it's all about jobs."
Whitfield has said that EPA's new and proposed rules for a range of emissions would burden industry at a time when it is struggling to deal with a sluggish economy and international competition. He sees EPA's pursuit of new safeguards as a contradiction of the president's economic message.
"While the president certainly talks about creating jobs -- and I'm sure he wants to create jobs just like all of us do -- the fact is that his administration, particularly through EPA, is being so aggressive on putting out new regulations in so many different areas that I genuinely believe that it is a significant detriment to economic growth," Whitfield said.
Whitfield's subcommittee was very productive the first half of this year, producing one bill (H.R. 910) that would permanently bar EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources and another (H.R. 2401) that would create a cross-agency committee chaired by the secretary of Commerce to analyze the economic impacts of environmental regulations.
The latter passed the House in April, and the former cleared the full committee in July and was attached to a spending bill that was pulled from the floor earlier this week.
Whitfield has said his subcommittee will take up legislation this fall that would delay and limit EPA rules for hazardous air pollution from industrial boilers, cement kilns and electric utilities, among other things.
While none of these bills is likely to clear both chambers on its own, Whitfield said legislation might pass as part of a combined spending package, or omnibus appropriations bill, this fall.
"If we're going to be able to accomplish anything legislatively, it's going to have to be put in a [continuing resolution] or omnibus bill," he said. "And all of us know that when you have one party controlling the Senate and another party controlling the House, it's very difficult for anybody to get what they want."
Reporter Katie Howell contributed.