The Senate's most vocal climate change skeptic has taken a key role in crafting two bills to be introduced next week that would both permanently stop U.S. EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who famously called climate change the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people," will unveil a bill with House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) that would strip EPA of its authority to limit carbon emissions from power plants, refineries and other stationary sources.
At the same time, he will be a "first co-sponsor" of a much broader bill that would bar the federal government from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under any existing environmental law. That measure will be introduced Monday by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who serves on the Environment and Public Works Committee, on which Inhofe is the ranking Republican.
"I think you'll find the Republicans are pretty lock step in this," Inhofe told E&E Daily yesterday. "So we're supporting both. [Barrasso will] support me, I'm supporting him."
Inhofe and his staff consulted on both the bicameral bill with Upton and on the Barrasso effort, said Inhofe spokesman Matt Dempsey.
"He's got a level of expertise on this that he wants to work with both members on," said Dempsey. "He's helping develop both bills, he and his staff."
Barrasso spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore noted that the base for her boss' bill was a measure introduced last Congress by former Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), but added, "As a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Barrasso and his staff work closely with Senator Inhofe and his committee staff."
Dempsey said the bill his boss crafted with Upton is more limited in scope not because Inhofe does not support more widespread pre-emption of federal authority but because the House committee Upton leads does not have jurisdiction over the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and several other laws that Barrasso's bill would affect.
"That is correct, we do not have jurisdiction over those environmental laws, and so those would not be matters we would tend to take up at the committee level," said a Republican aide for the House committee.
Environmentalists and others have sued federal agencies under a variety of laws to regulate carbon and other emissions linked to climate change. Barrasso's measure would make it impossible for carbon emissions to be regulated under the Endangered Species Act, for example, because of the effect of climate change on an endangered species.
Upton is expected to move his bill easily through committee, and it is likely to pass the House. But an EPA pre-emption bill is likely to meet with resistance in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats and where 60 votes are needed to pass controversial legislation.
Many Democrats have said they will support a third EPA pre-emption bill being drafted by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), which would place a two-year stay on EPA rules for stationary sources of GHG.
Barrasso's bill had no Democratic co-sponsors as of last night, though both Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) have said they are considering it.
But while Rockefeller's bill has the most bipartisan support, Inhofe yesterday said he would not support that measure because it would take the place of a bill that would offer broader, more permanent pre-emption of environmental laws.
"That would mean we would not be able to pass any of our legislation," he said. "They would say 'Why do we need that?'"
Inhofe said his opinion could change, however, depending on which bill can garner the votes to pass.
"We're all in the business of vote-counting, and we don't know where the count is right now," he said. "What I would tell you today might not be true next week."