April 2014

Senators act to thwart EPA emissions efforts

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On Jan. 21, a group of senators—three Democrats and 36 Republicans—introduced legislation to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, according to The Washington Post. The efforts could undercut one of the Obama administration's top domestic priorities.

The improbability of Congress passing a comprehensive climate bill this year has prompted EPA to move to enact regulations that could put costly limits on power plant pollution, which has caused concern among some industry representatives and Congress members.

"We're being presented with a false choice between unacceptable legislation and unacceptable regulations," says Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). "Here in Washington, federal bureaucrats are contemplating regulations that will destroy jobs while millions of Americans are doing everything they can just to find one."

Murkowski is part of the group of senators offering a "resolution of disapproval" that would prevent EPA from moving forward regarding emissions efforts by reversing its recent finding that greenhouse gases endanger the public's health and welfare. However, the resolution faces the challenge of having to pass the House and Senate.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, says the senators' resolution is "a direct assault on the health of the American people," stating that if the public waits for Congress to pass climate legislation, it might not happen for many years.

For months, most environmentalists and representatives of fossil-fuel-based industries assumed Congress would pass legislation that would override the plan in which EPA regulates greenhouse gases on its own—a plan that was empowered by a 2007 Supreme Court ruling. During the week of Jan. 18, EPA finalized its scientific finding that greenhouse gases qualify as a pollutant; by the end of March, the agency plans to finalize rules regulating greenhouse gases emitted by cars and trucks, as well as rules for identifying and regulating facilities emitting at least 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide.

The targeting of major greenhouse gas emitters such as oil refineries has sparked the litigation fight because of such industries' roles in the U.S. economy. But EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says ignoring the pollution's health issues is a serious problem.

"The Murkowksi resolution asks each senator to deny the overwhelming science that greenhouse gas pollution is a real and serious threat to the health and welfare of our citizens," she says. "It disregards the Supreme Court decision that directed us to act and ignores the evidence before our own eyes."

The House-passed climate bill blocks EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, power plants and other major emitters despite the Supreme Court ruling that allowed the agency to do so. But industry groups are trying to make that action law without a climate bill.

Although the Obama administration says it would like Congress to complete climate legislation this year, even backers of the bill are skeptical because of the lack of enthusiasm for the legislation.


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