House Republican Representatives Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Michael Conaway of Texas hope to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act – come hell or high water.
In the spring of 2007 the Supreme Court ruled the Clean Air Act provides the authority for the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas pollution. The ruling cleared the way for the EPA to consider scientific evidence to determine if greenhouse gas emissions pose a danger to public health, and if so, should be regulated. Despite that decision, little headway was made under the Bush Administration and then-EPA administrator Stephen Johnson.
The stage was set for change when the Obama administration took office, and the GOP immediately set out to block the EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions in anticipation of action from the EPA finally moving forward and acting on the court’s ruling. Here’s how it has played out:
In April of this year the EPA, under new leadership from administrator Lisa Jackson, released a proposed endangerment finding that greenhouse gases pose a public health risk and should be regulated under the Clean Air Act as allowed by the 2007 Supreme Court ruling. The 60-day public comment period for the finding ended on June 23rd.
But before any of that happened, Blackburn and Conaway introduced House bill H.R.391 (pdf) in January seeking to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. The bill was co-sponsored by 60 like-minded GOP representative, and the bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where it has since languished.
Forcing a vote
On Friday Blackburn and Conaway filed a discharge petition that would force House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, provided a majority of House member sign the petition. Blackburn and Conaway sent a letter to their colleagues urging them to sign the petition and vote in favor of H.R.391 – something that seems a bit unlikely given the current makeup of the House (256 Democrats, 178 Republicans).
Obstruction to progress or “saving the economy”?
In the letter, Blackburn and Conaway say that passage of their bill will block the EPA from issuing regulations that “effectively shut down economic growth and expansion in America and pre-empt Congress’s consideration of Cap and Trade legislation.”
A letter Blackburn and Conaway may not have read is one sent to Congress and the President last month signed by leaders from some of America’s biggest companies. The letter urged politicians to help put America in a leadership role and move forward with climate and energy legislation, saying, in part, that “…putting a price on carbon will drive investment into cost-saving, energy-saving technologies, and will create the next wave of jobs in the new energy economy.”
And in regard to the EPA “preempting” climate legislation, it may be the very opposite is true. The version of the Waxman-Markey bill that passed the House has some Senators concerned that the bill strips the EPA its necessary authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired plants.
Blackburn and Conaway may wish to dress up their proposed bill as “saving the economy,” but it could very well be “lipstick on a pig,” preventing the U.S. from prospering as a leader in a new economy.
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