The new Republican majority in the House is making moves in its plan to hamstring EPA regulations, particularly of greenhouse gases. EPA is currently moving forward with GHG regulations for fossil fuel-based power plants and petroleum refineries, with proposed standards to be released starting in mid-2011 and final standards in 2012. The GOP is pursuing multiple lines of attack in its attempt to stall EPA action, with strategies taking shape under a new crop of climate ‘skeptic’ committee chairmen to de-fund implementation of regulations, conduct aggressive oversight, and overturn rules through the Congressional Review Act. Here’s a look at the new chairmen and their roles in the Republican attack on EPA.
Hal Rogers (R-Kentucky) will lead the powerful House Appropriations Committee in the new Congress. He will undoubtedly assume the mantle of Republican posturing on cutting spending, and has pledged to increase oversight of federal agencies.
The appropriations process could be used as a tool to hinder EPA regulation of GHGs and other pollutants, simply by stipulating that funds won’t be allocated for a given program. If Rep. Rogers decides to crusade against climate regulation and research, the U.S. Global Change Research Program and renewable energy spending could also come under fire.
Rep. Rogers has previously railed against the EPA, insisting that GHG regulation would devastate Kentucky’s coal industry.
The Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, which has first-crack jurisdiction over the Environmental Protection Agency budget before the full committee takes it up, will be chaired by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). Simpson promises to be an anti-EPA attack dog as subcommittee chair. His website has this:
“As Chairman, Congressman Simpson will be tasked with reducing spending levels that have grown out of control in recent years under Democrat control. In particular, he has his eyes set on the EPA, which has seen exponential growth in its budget since President Obama came into office. ‘The EPA is the scariest agency in the federal government, an agency run amok,’ Simpson said. ‘Its bloated budget has allowed it to drastically expand its regulatory authority in a way that is hurting our economy and pushing an unwelcomed government further into the lives of Idahoans. As Chairman of this subcommittee, I look forward to bringing some common sense to the EPA and some certainty for our nation’s job creators.’”
Science, Space, and Technology
The incoming chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee is Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas), an 87-year-old former Democrat, a proponent of further investigation into ‘Climategate,’ and a major recipient of oil money.
Politico noted: “Hall told POLITICO in a recent interview he’s not a climate skeptic…But he said he does want to question all sides of the issue, including the scientists at the center of the so-called ‘Climategate’ controversy…He said at a hearing last month that the documents exposed a ‘dishonest undercurrent’ within the scientific community.”
Hall has received a zero-percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters every year since 2005.
Hall is less vocal about his ‘skepticism’ than other Republican members of the committee, including Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (California), Jim Sensenbrenner (Wisconsin) , and Paul Broun (Georgia).
Rep. Broun will be Chairman of the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee. Broun is a right-wing ideologue who, during debate on the Waxman-Markey climate legislation in 2009, declared that climate change is nothing but a “hoax” that has been “perpetrated out of the scientific community.”
House Oversight & Government Reform
Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has made a name for himself heckling the Obama administration. He’ll now have his own staging ground for hassling
In a September 22, 2010, staff report from the then-minority on the Committee, Issa complained that the Democratic committee leadership failed to properly investigate ‘Climategate’ and EPA’s alleged suppression of dissent in pushing through its Endangerment Finding for greenhouse gases. Although several outlets reported recently on his eagerness to subpoena climate scientists, he subsequently downplayed the prospect. The Hill quoted Issa on dealing with climate science overall: “A lot of it will, rightfully so, fall to the Science Committee…We are not a committee of jurisdiction on the science of it. We are about waste, fraud and abuse, and organization and cost…We haven’t made any plans on climate change because, quite frankly, the lead committee will look at what part they will take.”
However, he will likely focus on reviewing the impacts of regulations on industry. Last month, Issa sent letters to more than 150 business groups requesting “a list of existing and proposed regulations that would harm job growth” to determine what the corporate sector would like Congress to do to cut back on government regulation.
House Energy & Commerce
Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the incoming chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, has a reputation as a comparatively moderate Republican in the context of a very conservative party caucus, and faced fierce competition for the position from more hard-line colleagues. In his bid for the chairmanship, Upton sought to bolster his anti-regulatory credentials, and he has now fallen in line with the party position by pledging to challenge EPA regulation of GHGs under the Clean Air Act. Upton told Fox News Sunday “we are not going to let this administration regulate what they’ve been unable to legislate,” and referred to potential use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows Congress to take an up or down, filibuster proof vote on an administrative rule within sixty legislative days from the publishing date.
However, as Environment & Energy Daily reported (subs. required), because “the core EPA findings and rules related to carbon mitigation were published more than 60 continuous legislative days ago,” it’s not possible to overturn them under the CRA. However, other rules published after July 30, 2010, could still be vulnerable.
Upton has chosen to split the Energy and Environment Subcommittee into two panels. John Shimkus of Illinois will chair Environment and Economy, and Ed Whitfield of Kentucky will chair Energy and Power. According to E&E News PM (subs. required), “the environment panel will have jurisdiction over waste and recycling, the Clean Water Act, Superfund, nuclear waste and chemical issues,” and the energy panel “will cover energy issues as well as the Clean Air Act.”
Rep. Shimkus is solidly in the global warming denier camp, once citing Genesis to support his belief that humans can’t influence the climate system.
On the first day of the new Congress, House Republicans put three bills on the table that would block different aspects of EPA greenhouse gas regulation. The most extreme is a bill from Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee that would reverse the 2007 Supreme Court ruling that GHGs are subject to the Clean Air Act. If such a bill were to pass the House, it would face much more difficulty in the Democrat-controlled Senate and a likely veto from President Obama.
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