With some of the biggest players in the debate over carbon regulations set to spar at a public hearing this morning, the committee's top Democrat took a pre-emptive swing at climate skeptics last night.
House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) circulated a letter that former President George W. Bush's third U.S. EPA administrator wrote in January 2008 saying climate science was settled and indicated a danger to public health, months before he announced that EPA would not issue such a finding.
In a private letter to the president dated January 2008, then-EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said that current science would only support a finding that rising temperatures linked to greenhouse gas emissions threaten public safety.
"The latest science of climate change requires the agency to propose a positive endangerment finding, as was agreed to at the Cabinet-level meeting in November," he said in a letter to Bush. "The state of the latest climate change science does not permit a negative finding, nor does it permit a credible finding that we need to wait for more research."
The letter was sent six months before Johnson overrode EPA scientists' determination and announced the agency would continue to evaluate evidence to determine whether a positive endangerment finding was warranted. In 2009, current EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson finalized an endangerment finding for carbon and other greenhouse gases, paving the way for their regulation under the Clean Air Act.
Waxman sent the Johnson letter to Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and made it public last night in advance of today's hearing on Upton's bill that would knock down the EPA endangerment finding and bar the agency from regulating greenhouse gases.
The hearing will feature side-by-side testimony from Jackson and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who famously called climate change the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." Waxman has been aggressively criticizing the Upton-Inhofe climate bill, which Upton has been promoting in a round of media interviews this week.
"As Administrator Johnson's letter makes clear, both Republican and Democratic administrations have had the same view of the science: carbon emissions are a serious threat to our nation's welfare," Waxman said in his letter to Upton. "I urge you to leave the science to scientists and drop your effort to use legislation to overturn EPA's endangerment finding."
But staff for Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, shot back last night, pointing to a different statement Johnson made in July 2008 that suggested regulating greenhouse gases under existing law would cause legal, economic and technical problems.
"One point is clear: the potential regulation of greenhouse gases under any portion of the Clean Air Act could result in an unprecedented expansion of EPA authority that would have a profound effect on virtually every sector of the economy and touch every household in the land," Johnson said as part of EPA's July 2008 decision not to immediately regulate greenhouse gases under the law.
Inhofe's office said the Obama administration had opened a Pandora's box of economic and logistical problems when it decided in 2009 to reverse Johnson's decision.
"It is now dealing with the consequences: a regulatory morass that is stalling economic growth and keeping people unemployed -- all for no meaningful impact on climate change," Inhofe's EPW Committee staff said.
Inhofe has said that at today's hearing he will challenge Obama to drop regulations the senator sees as burdensome, starting with carbon emissions.
House and Senate Republicans -- and some Democrats -- have offered a variety of proposals to head off EPA carbon regulations that are already in place or that will be promulgated over the next few years.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said yesterday that he believes members in both chambers will use the Congressional Review Act to limit EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gases.
"You know the Congressional Review Act provides the opportunity for Congress to express itself on bureaucratic overreaching," McConnell said, responding to a question about Republican plans to pre-empt EPA. "And that tool is available, and I anticipate it will be used one or more times in the House and Senate during this Congress."
In fact, the CRA is no longer available -- at least as a tool to prevent EPA from moving ahead with carbon regulation. The law sets a time limit of 60 legislative days in which Congress can pass a resolution of disapproval, knocking down an executive rule, finding or regulation. The endangerment finding was finalized in December 2009 and is no longer subject to CRA provisions.
McConnell's office did not respond to requests for clarification late yesterday.
Like what you see?
We thought you might.
Start a free trial now.