A classic struggle is in store for the new Congress over a dead issue that, however, could put at risk hundreds of thousands of jobs, raise energy prices for consumers, and wound many of our nation’s manufacturers.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Jan. 2 will put into effect its greenhouse gas emission standards for “light-duty vehicles.” On that date also “Clean Air Act permits for stationary sources must address GHGs (Greenhouse Gases). That means, the agency said Dec. 23, greenhouse gas standards under the Clean Air Act “for fossil fuel-fired power plants and petroleum refineries, that make up nearly 40 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.”
It could also mean regulation of emissions from schools, hospitals and maybe even homes.
Republicans, with new muscle in the House of Representatives, have pledged to block or postpone the EPA from regulating the gases which the agency says will cause global warming, according to a Reuters story Dec. 23. Regulation by the EPA is replacing legislation that failed in the last Congress to try to affect the climate. This sets up a power match over what is a bizarre issue—global warming. Why? Because the EPA’s own researchers have found that the tough new rules on gas emissions would reduce the global temperature by only 0.006 to 0.0015 degrees in 90 years.
The greenhouse gas issue and the EPA’s power to regulate carbon dioxide and other gases reached a landmark in 2007. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision in the case of Massachusetts vs. the Environmental Protection Agency, ruled in 2007 that the EPA had the authority to regulate greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2). Massachusetts and eleven other states had sued the EPA for not regulating emissions of four greenhouse gases. They claimed that human-influenced global climate change was causing adverse effects, such as a rise in sea level. (As if coastal states were in danger of being washed away by the Atlantic Ocean.) The Court said the EPA had to protect public health as mandated by the Clean Air Act.
A bipartisan group of senators is pressing the administration to release a study they say predicts major job losses from the EPA regulations to restrict air pollution from boilers used to heat and power a variety of buildings across the country, according to a Dec. 9 column from ThenewAmerican.com. The senators claim the EPA refuses to release a Commerce Department analysis which, they say, indicates the EPA rules would “cause significant economic harm.”
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson seems increasingly dismissive of the authority of the legislative branch under the Constitution. She has adopted a pattern of simply enacting sweeping changes to entire industries, despite the threat which such changes pose to the whole economy. The 21 Democratic senators who must run for reelection in 2012 and who saw voter reaction at the November election are opening their eyes to the need to restrain agencies running rogue under President Obama. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla), ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, has said at least 11of these are “endangered” Democrats, who could well vote with Republicans in the 112th Congress to thwart a rush of Obama EPA regulations that are expected.
A minority report from the Environment and Public Works Committee in September said new EPA standards for commercial and industrial boilers would put up to 798,000 jobs at risk, would risk the shutting down of 16 Portland cement plants, threatening another roughly 10,000 jobs. Higher energy costs, the report said, would have “severe economic impact on the poor, the elderly, minorities, and those on fixed incomes.”
“The irony of EPA’s agency,” said the report, “is that, along with higher costs, it will fail to provide the American people with meaningful environmental benefits. In some case, it will actually impose environmental harm, as EPA’s ever-increasing mandates shift production to China, where technology and standards don’t measure up to our own.”
In early December, the EPA demonstrated its unbounded power when it issued a final rule that the permits for air pollutants were not adequate in 13 states. In a letter to resistant Texas, the EPA told the state environmental authority it would take over in issuing permits for Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) of the air.
Congressional Quarterly reported that in the new Congress energy and environmental issues will take a back seat to jobs and budget issues. Not if Obama has his way. He said the day after the November election that he would be looking for ways to controls on what he insists, in continuing blindness, is global warming. “Cap and trade was just one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way,” he said with customary arrogance. “I’m going to be looking for other means to address this problem.”
But as Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who will head a panel on EPA’s budget, has said, “I think we should start with a two-year pause in upcoming regulations.” Last June, a challenge to the EPA lost in a close Senate vote (53-47). It would have denied the EPA the authority to move ahead with its regulations. Six Democrats stood with the Republicans to move forward a “resolution of disapproval.” A similar resolution was supported in the House with 140 co-sponsors. In the new Congress, such a vote would win passage.
The Republicans just may be able to block the EPA and keep some taxpayers’ dollars from going down an Obama-EPA green rabbit hole.