Posted on February 18, 2011 by Michael Hockley
On February 2, 2011, representatives Fred Upton (R–MI) and Ed Whitfield (R–KY) released Discussion Draft Bill, H.R.____ “Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011” (the Bill) which would amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit EPA from regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In general, the Bill prohibits EPA from taking action to regulate GHG emissions to address climate change and would repeal certain rules and previous EPA actions, including EPA’s December 15, 2009 GHG endangerment findings under the Clean Air Act, the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) GHG Tailoring Rule, the authority to issue PSD permits containing GHG emissions limitations, or any other federal action applying a stationary source permitting requirement for GHG emission standards relating to climate change concerns.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power quickly moved the Draft Discussion Bill to a hearing on February 9. The testimony included many supporters of the Bill, but predictably, EPA administrator Jackson testified in opposition.
In her testimony, Administrator Jackson came out swinging, stating that the Bill is part of an effort by Congress “to delay, weaken, or eliminate Clean Air Act protections of the American public.” Moreover, she pointed out that in passing this bill, politicians would be overruling scientists on a “scientific question” by repealing the GHG endangerment finding that GHGs contribute to endangerment of American’s health and welfare. Although the Republicans may have sufficient votes to pass the Bill out of the House, it is clear from the Administrator’s reaction that if presented to the President for signature, it will be vetoed.
This veto likelihood raises the specter of whether the GOP will attempt to include the Bill or similar prohibitions against regulation of GHG emissions as a part of the pending 2011 budget authorization bill. If a budget authorization bill is not passed or extended by March 4, 2011, all federal funding will be cut off, and the federal government will be forced to close for business until an authorization bill is signed. Including a provision prohibiting EPA from regulating GHG emissions would force the President’s hand on whether to sign the bill and keep the government’s doors open, or veto it and shut down the government.
In a February 11, 2011 interview, representative Mike Simpson (R–Idaho), the head of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, said that he doubts whether spending legislation would be held up if it does not include language preventing EPA regulation of GHGs. E&E News PM (02/11/2011). Nevertheless, other Republican colleagues, including some freshmen, may offer amendments to insert such prohibitions when the appropriations bill comes to the House floor because including provision prohibiting regulation of GHG emissions to the appropriations bill could reduce the likelihood of a Presidential veto. Id.
For now, it seems more likely that any bill limiting EPA’s authority to regulate GHG emissions will move through the normal committee process responsible for environmental legislation. Whatever the result, however, the fight between the GOP to limit GHG regulation and the current administration’s efforts to regulate GHGs promises to be a no holds barred donnybrook.