Illinois state Rep. Dan Reitz, a Democrat and a former coal miner, is worried that pending federal climate change rules will cripple the economy, and he wants Congress to step in and stop it.
Reitz, who represents the 116th District in southern Illinois, launched his own assault against U.S. EPA climate rules when he introduced a resolution urging Congress to postpone greenhouse gas regulations for factories, power plants and other so-called stationary emission sources. The Illinois House approved his resolution earlier this month.
"I believe that Congress should adopt legislation if we're going to regulate greenhouse gases from stationary sources," Reitz said in an interview. "We should be able to do that within the context of a bill and not do it within the regulatory measures that are out there right now."
Reitz is among at least 25 legislators in 17 states who have introduced measures aimed at blocking or limiting EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Five of those bills came from Democrats.
At least seven such measures have been adopted. In addition to Reitz's resolution in Illinois, legislators in Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah have passed measures encouraging Congress to step in and block EPA climate rules or for the agency to halt its regulatory plans.
EPA this week is planning to issue the first national greenhouse gas standards for automobiles, a rule that will ultimately require the agency to regulate stationary sources' emissions of the heat-trapping gases. The Supreme Court ordered EPA in 2007 to determine whether greenhouse gases pose a threat to public health. EPA did so last year, paving the way for new emission rules.
The Obama administration and environmentalists argue EPA is compelled by the law and by science to begin clamping down on the emissions. EPA officials insist that they can do it in a way that won't cripple the economy.
But Reitz and many other state legislators do not see it that way.
"Regulating greenhouse gas emissions from 'stationary sources' under the Clean Air Act would be a great anchor on manufacturing and the economy in general," Reitz's resolution says, and EPA's efforts would impede environmental improvements and economic recovery by imposing onerous permitting requirements on industrial facilities.
Like Reitz's resolution, many of the state legislative proposals urge Congress to postpone or block EPA because of economic concerns. Some question the science behind global warming; others would prevent state enforcement of federal programs to slash greenhouse gases.
But not all state legislators want to handcuff EPA. For one, Illinois Democratic Rep. Elaine Nekritz filed a motion to reconsider after Reitz's resolution cleared the House.
"I don't support the resolution," said Nekritz, who represents Illinois' 57th District, encompassing a suburban area northwest of Chicago.
"Under the Clean Air Act, they've been given the right to do that," Nekritz said of EPA's actions. "States don't need to upset all that pre-existing law."
Judi Greenwald, vice president of innovative solutions at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, said it is important to distinguish between measures that have passed and those that are still pending.
The resolutions that pass may be reflecting the mood of constituents in a given state, Greenwald said, but introduced resolutions that haven't moved don't have much effect at all. Resolutions are often introduced around the country on a host of issues, she said, "and most of them never go anywhere."
Warnings of economic consequences
States that rely heavily on coal as a fuel source have been more likely to adopt measures to block EPA, said Glen Andersen, a program principal at the National Conference of State Legislatures. "I think it's partially just states seeing the potential costs based on what their [fuel] mix is."
Andersen said that the number of bills and resolutions introduced by state legislators doesn't strike him as unusual, given widespread concern about how EPA's actions will affect states. Often, if states see federal regulation or legislation as extremely costly or impinging on their authority, he said, "this type of response isn't completely unusual."
In Kentucky and South Carolina, state Houses adopted measures from Kentucky Democratic Rep. Jim Gooch and South Carolina Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan encouraging Congress to postpone EPA climate rules "until Congress adopts a balanced approach to address climate and energy supply issues without crippling the economy." The Tennessee state Senate adopted a similar measure earlier this month from Sen. Jack Johnson (R).
If EPA were to start regulating stationary sources, "it could have a tremendously detrimental impact on our economy," Johnson said in an interview. He said he hopes to see more state legislators follow suit. "If enough states do it, and I hope others will do it, then maybe we'll begin to have some impact."
A resolution adopted last week by the Kansas Senate urges EPA not to move forward with its planned climate rules. "Lawmaking that impacts entire sections of the American economy should not be done by administrative fiat, but rather such laws and regulations should be made by elected members of the United States Congress," the resolution says.
Additional measures pending in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Missouri warn of dire economic consequences that will ensue if EPA pursues greenhouse gas regulations. Some of those request that EPA rescind its endangerment finding; others ask Congress to intervene.
Oklahoma state Sen. Todd Lamb (R) introduced a resolution stating that the Oklahoma Senate supports any legislative action to suspend EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases using the Clean Air Act. EPA's proposals to regulate greenhouse gases would burden the nation's farmers, the proposal says.
A bill pending in Washington's Senate would block state implementation of programs to address greenhouse gases or motor vehicle fuel economy. The bill would require express legislative authorization for such a program to move forward, following a complete assessment of the economic and administrative impacts that the program would have on Washington's budget, economy and consumers.
Attacking climate science
The Utah legislature last month approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Kerry Gibson (R) to halt its greenhouse gas reduction policies and withdraw its finding that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare until a full investigation into global warming science is conducted. The measure asserts that "global temperatures have been level and declining in some areas over the past 12 years," a downturn that "climate alarmists" are unable to account for.
Utah's measure also cites a recent scandal involving e-mails hacked from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit -- a prominent climate research center -- as cause for further investigation. Contents of the e-mails exchanged between climate scientists have fueled attacks by climate change skeptics, though it is widely agreed they do not upend the conclusion that man-made emissions are contributing to global warming.
Greenwald of the Pew climate center lamented the Utah bill. "From our perspective, I think the thing that's most problematic is something that would try to deny the science," she said.
Maryland Republican Delegate Charles Jenkins introduced a bill similar to the one approved in Utah citing concerns about global warming science. The bill urges EPA to halt its carbon dioxide reduction policies and to withdraw its endangerment finding "until a full and independent investigation of the climate change conspiracy and science can be undertaken."
Supporting congressional bids to curb EPA
A measure enacted in Alabama from Rep. H. Mac Gipson Jr. (R) urges Congress to approve a bill from U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) that would strip EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases unless the agency was provided explicit authority to do so from Congress.
Bills introduced in Alaska, Rhode Island and West Virginia ask Congress to enact a resolution from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that would disapprove EPA's endangerment finding and prevent EPA from moving forward with climate regulations.
The Alaska measure warns that those rules would negatively affect the state's economy and the livelihoods of Alaskans by eliminating jobs and increasing costs.
The Rhode Island and West Virginia bills say Congress ought to prevent EPA from regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant while there continues to be a "vigorous, legitimate and substantive debate in Congress and the scientific community regarding the need" for any such regulation.