Republicans in the Congress on Tuesday pushed forward with legislation that would kill the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to regulate greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, on a mostly partisan vote, approved the bill that would halt EPA regulations that began this year to control emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants linked to climate change. A House subcommittee had approved this measure last week.
In the Senate, Republican leader Mitch McConnell (right) moved to attach identical legislation to an unrelated small business bill being debated in the chamber.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (left) is working in tandem with Senator James Inhofe, a leading skeptic of human-induced climate change and a critic of government attempts to control carbon dioxide pollution.
Environmentalists denounced the House panel's action.
"Passage of this bill puts polluters ahead of the public and stops the EPA from protecting the health of every American," said Franz Matzner of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Inhofe (left) has been instrumental in blocking climate control legislation over the last decade, and he and other Republicans are now moving to squelch more narrow EPA regulations.
"Imposing a backdoor national energy tax through the EPA is a strange way to respond to rising gas prices," McConnell said.
It was unclear when a vote on the climate-related amendment would be called in the Senate. McConnell predicted "bipartisan support" for the legislation, but stopped short of saying there would be the 60 votes of support likely to be needed in the 100-member Senate.
The measure would stop EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions from large factories, oil refineries and electric utilities.
In January, EPA went ahead with regulations aimed at large polluters by requiring them to obtain permits for emitting carbon and other greenhouse gases. Still to come this year are proposed rules that would limit emissions from power plants and oil refineries.
EPA is moving ahead with the regulations after efforts to pass climate control legislation collapsed in the Senate last year. The House passed a comprehensive bill in 2009.
Inhofe, speaking on the Senate floor, said new controls on carbon pollution would cost families in his home state of Oklahoma about $3,000 annually in higher energy prices.
But Democrats and environmentalists have challenged such estimates as scare tactics and say the high cost figures were based on outdated or faulty research.
Under legislation in Congress last year, consumers would have been compensated for some of the higher energy costs associated with moving the U.S. economy toward using more alternative fuels such as wind and solar power.
States seek right to sue over greenhouse gases
While the House and Senate Republicans try to strip the EPA of its regulatory abilities, six states are urging the U.S. Supreme Court (right) to let them sue power companies whose plants emit greenhouse gases, saying legal action is needed as a backup for the Obama administration's embattled efforts to curb pollution that contributes to global warming.
The Republican legislation would eliminate EPA authority over greenhouse gases and repeal California's controls on carbon emissions from cars and trucks. The bill would allow the federal government to restrict tailpipe emissions (left) but would leave greenhouse gases from power plants unregulated.
The six states - California, New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Rhode Island and Vermont, along with New York City - want the Supreme Court to uphold their right to sue five major power companies and then return the case to a federal judge in New York.
The judge would suspend proceedings while the EPA tried to enact its regulations in May of 2012. However, if Congress blocks the agency from acting, the states would then proceed with their suit.
California and the other states are seeking court orders requiring the power companies to reduce carbon emissions by 3 percent a year for 10 years.
The companies operate 174 plants in 20 states. None is in California, but the suit says they produce 2.5 percent of the world's emissions, thereby warming the planet and melting the Sierra snowpack (left) earlier. That affects the state's drinking water supply, the suit says.
Higher temperatures also increase smog-related illnesses and deaths and contribute to beach erosion in California and elsewhere, the states said.
The companies and the Obama administration argue that the states have no tangible interests at stake, that courts are ill-equipped to set emission levels, and that power plant regulation is a political question.
The states contend that until the EPA acts, they can rely on their long-standing legal authority to protect their residents from harm inflicted across state lines.
"States have frequently relied on this doctrine to address emerging threats to their citizens' health and safety," such as interstate air and water pollution, state lawyers told the court. They said they were not asking the courts to "resolve the worldwide problem of global warming" but only to diminish one source of the problem.
The case is American Electric Power Co. vs. Connecticut, 10-174.
Reuters,"Republicans move to stop EPA CO2 rules", accessed March 15, 2011
San Francisco Chronicle, "Calif. seeks right to sue over greenhouse gases", by Bob Egelko, accessed March 15, 2011