Wanted for Questioning: The EPA

The new Republican majority in the House is targeting EPA proposals for limits on toxic emissions from boilers, a revised national standard for smog, and more

Representative Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says he plans to summon Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson to Capitol Hill for questioning on her policies so often that he's going to reserve a parking place for her.

Among Jackson's proposals targeted by the new Republican majority in the House are limits on toxic emissions from boilers, a revised national standard for smog, and the first-ever greenhouse-gas-emission curbs, which Republicans along with some Democrats say could raise energy prices and cost jobs.

"The EPA has its foot firmly on the throat of our economic recovery," Upton said in a Dec. 23 statement, referring to the agency's planned carbon regulations.

Keeping the EPA from imposing greenhouse-gas cuts after Congress rejected climate legislation last year is highest on the GOP's to-do list on energy, Upton says.

The greenhouse-gas rules will spur investment in clean energy and create jobs, Jackson said in a Dec. 23 statement. She also pledged to move forward in a "measured and careful way" to reduce the threat of climate change.

Aric Newhouse, senior vice-president of the Washington-based National Association of Manufacturers, says the group was pleased the EPA decided in December to delay its boiler rule, after businesses complained of the economic impact, and opted to push back new smog rules until summer. Even so, Congress should perform a "robust examination of what the proposals will mean for jobs and economic growth, both on large and small companies," he says.

Like Jackson, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar can expect frequent commutes to the Capitol. Representative Doc Hastings, a Washington Republican who heads the House Natural Resources panel, pledged "thoughtful oversight" of the Obama Administration's moves to "lock up public land to energy development" through new drilling rules and its decision to block oil companies from developing swaths of territory offshore. "All of these issues have serious implications on American jobs and our economic competitiveness," Hastings said in a statement.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu may have to defend what Congress has already given him: billions of dollars in stimulus money for clean-energy programs. More than $20 billion of the $33 billion originally appropriated in the 2009 economic-recovery bill hadn't been spent as of Dec. 31, according to the Energy Dept.

Upton wrote Chu on Nov. 23 to ask how many jobs had been generated by the stimulus funds, which is probably a precursor to a Republican push to rescind the money, says Michael Schmidt, a Washington lobbyist at Chicago-based GolinHarris. Says Schmidt: "He's not going to be as frequent a visitor up there as Lisa Jackson, from what we hear, but he'll come under a lot of scrutiny, for sure."

The analyst's take: According to data compiled by Bloomberg, the EPA under the Obama Administration has conducted 20.5 major regulatory reviews per year, compared with 10.8 a year under George W. Bush. If House Republicans question every EPA move as they've promised, the agency's rulemaking activity could slow.

The Cost of Controlling Ozone

When a fight breaks out in Washington, facts are the weapon of choice. Armies of researchers are marshaled and studies lobbed back and forth. A smog-fighting proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency that would impose tougher ozone standards is a classic example. The government and a business group have carefully analyzed the economic impact—and their bottom lines vary by nearly $1 trillion.

GDP CostsEPA: Not analyzedAlliance/MAPI: $676.8 billion in 2020

Health BenefitsEPA: $39-$114 billion in 2020Alliance/MAPI: Not analyzed

Jobs EffectEPA: Not analyzedAlliance/MAPI: Net loss of 7.3 million jobs by 2020, or 4.3% of the projected labor force

Attainment CostsEPA: $68 billion—$118 billion in 2020Alliance/MAPI: $1 trillion in 2020

Data: Bloomberg, EPA, Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, NERA

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