Two top House Democrats introduced a measure yesterday aimed at blocking U.S. EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases, mirroring the controversial effort launched on the Senate side by Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
The measure from Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (Minn.) and Missouri's Ike Skelton was also co-sponsored by Missouri Republican Jo Ann Emerson. Their resolution aims to use the Congressional Review Act to effectively veto EPA's finding that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare. That finding, released in December, opens the door for Clean Air Act rules aimed at slashing emissions from a broad range of sources.
The lawmakers warn that federal regulations will be unwieldy and could have crippling economic consequences.
"When Congress passed the Clean Air Act, it never gave EPA the explicit authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions for the purpose of stopping global climate change," Skelton said in a statement. "But, that is exactly what EPA has proposed to do."
Skelton said the joint resolution would stop EPA from implementing its proposed climate regulations "that would likely be very costly to farmers, business owners, Midwestern utilities, and consumers."
Democrats Travis Childers of Mississippi and Charlie Wilson of Ohio signed on as co-sponsors after the measure was introduced, Skelton spokesman William Chapman said.
Skelton, Peterson and Emerson introduced a separate bill earlier this month to amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit EPA from regulating greenhouse gases based on their effects on global climate change. That bill also seeks to advance several of the farm-state lawmakers' other priorities by stopping EPA from calculating land-use changes in foreign countries for determining U.S. renewable fuels policy, and by broadening the definition of renewable biomass.
Chapman said that bill still stands. The resolution is "not so much 'instead of' but 'in addition to'" that measure, he said, adding that the lawmakers sought the same outcome from both bills: to stop EPA from "continuing to hold a sword over Congress."
Murkowski applauded the bipartisan resolution introduced in the House, saying that it sends a clear message that there is bipartisan, bicameral support for blocking EPA climate rules.
"The Administration has urged members of Congress to work together and across party lines," she said in a statement. "This action adds to the evidence that we are doing just that, and we do not want EPA imposing economically-harmful climate regulations. Energy and environmental policies should be developed in Congress, where the best interests of the American people can be represented."
Murkowski spokesman Robert Dillon said today that the Alaska senator's office did not orchestrate the House effort. "We didn't know this was coming," he said, adding, "We appreciate this, and we think it's a wise move because we think there's a legitimate concern about this."
Murkowski's office says the senator has 41 Senate co-sponsors for the measure, including three moderate Democrats. The resolution would need 51 votes to clear the chamber. The senator is likely to seek a vote in mid-March, Dillon said today, before EPA is expected to finalize its pending rules for mobile and stationary sources of greenhouse gases.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, is still planning to introduce his own companion resolution in the House, a committee spokeswoman said today.
Measure to face fight
But many observers say efforts to block EPA using the Congressional Review Act would face a tough battle clearing the Democratic-led Congress and would face a veto from President Obama.
In the Senate, the resolution can circumvent the Environment and Public Works Committee with the backing of 30 senators. The resolution would then be placed on the Senate calendar, where it would be subject to expedited consideration on the floor and not subject to a filibuster.
The House cannot use the same expedited procedure as the Senate, but House lawmakers can use a discharge motion to bypass the committee of jurisdiction and bring the resolution to the floor.
Under House rules, co-sponsors need 218 signatures to send the discharge motion to the "discharge calendar." Once it has been added to the calendar, the motion can be adopted with a simple majority and the House can immediately consider the disapproval resolution, which would come to the floor in the form introduced with no amendments and no written report.
Daniel Weiss, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, said that despite the fact that Democrats are leading the charge with the resolution, it will be tough to get enough Democrats to sign onto the discharge petition.
A discharge petition is a tool the minority has to set the agenda for the House, Weiss said. "It's seen by the majority leadership as a very hostile act."
"Right now, this is a symbolic act by these House members," Weiss said. Even if they somehow got a vote in the House and cleared the Senate, the president would veto the measure, and proponents are not going to get the two-thirds majority needed, he added.
Obama's spokesman Robert Gibbs said last week that the White House would not support such legislation. "EPA," he said, "is doing what they were instructed to do as a result of a lawsuit by states to regulate those dangerous gases."
Several other top administration officials have blasted the measure this week, arguing that it would hamper the Obama administration's attempts to enforce new federal fuel economy rules (Greenwire, Feb. 25).
Other bids to clip EPA's power
Democrats in both the Senate and House have announced efforts to handcuff EPA's regulatory authority using other avenues.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) announced last week that he will introduce a more limited legislative plan that would delay EPA's stationary source regulations for six to 12 months beyond what the agency is planning.
And in the House, Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) has introduced a bill to strip EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions unless it receives explicit authority to do so by Congress.
Earlier this week, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson declined to say whether the administration would be willing to support any legislation to limit EPA's regulatory authority.
"Standing here right now, I can't talk about supporting any effort other than moving our country forward on a clean energy agenda," Jackson said Wednesday. "I haven't seen any legislation yet from Sen. Rockefeller; certainly one of our jobs at EPA is to provide assistance and response to legislation, and we would do that if there was something to see."
Click here to read the resolution.