The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate greenhouse gases blamed for climate change may be in jeopardy as the House and Senate vote on measures that would restrict the agency’s authority.
The Republican-led House today is considering legislation sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, and the Democratic-controlled Senate will vote on at least four measures to ban, delay or restrict EPA limits on emissions spewed from tailpipes and smokestacks.
President Barack Obama’s administration is at odds with Republicans and some Democrats about whether the economy can withstand curbs on pollution tied to global warming. Opponents say rules will destroy jobs without providing any environmental benefit, while advocates say the country can’t afford inaction.
“We ought to deal with climate change,” Senator Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, said today on the Senate floor. “We also ought to do so in a manner that doesn’t hurt the economy.”
Baucus is among at least three Democratic lawmakers who offered EPA amendments to legislation aimed at helping small businesses. Baucus’s measure keeps the greenhouse-gas rules under the Clean Air Act in place, while exempting farmers, ranchers and owners of small businesses.
Baucus said his proposal would ensure that about 15,000 stationary polluters, such as power plants, are covered by the EPA carbon rules.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky offered an amendment that would go the furthest in prohibiting the EPA rules under the federal Clean Air Act.
Carbon Rules Barred
McConnell’s measure and Upton’s legislation would bar the agency from regulating any polluters and prohibit carbon limits on vehicles after an agreement between the EPA and automakers expires in 2017.
McConnell said his amendment would “prevent unelected bureaucrats at the EPA from imposing a new national energy tax.”
Senator Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, offered an amendment that would delay the EPA rules for two years to give Congress time to craft new U.S. energy policy.
The EPA’s rules, which took effect in January, were put into place after Congress failed to pass legislation backed by Obama to create a cap-and-trade system for pollution allowances.
Lawmakers such as Upton said the Clean Air Act was never intended to regulate emissions such as carbon dioxide, an odorless, invisible gas unlike smog, which is the law’s target.
Should Upton’s legislation reach Obama’s desk, aides would recommend a presidential veto, the White House Office of Management and Budget said yesterday.
A February poll commissioned by the American Lung Association found that 60 percent of people questioned said Congress shouldn’t stop the EPA rules and 35 percent thought lawmakers should bar the agency from limiting discharges of carbon dioxide, a primary greenhouse gas.
The survey of 500 probable voters Feb. 7-14 by Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Republican pollster Ayres, McHenry & Associates, according to the Washington-based association, a health-advocacy group. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.