The GOP’s War on the EPA

February 4th, 2011 at 2:15 pm | 8 Comments |

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The right to pollute is getting a big push from pals of the fossil fuel industries, most of them aiming at curtailing the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

West Virginia’s senior Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller would call a two-year timeout on EPA regulations.

House and Senate committee leaders Fred Upton (R-MI) and James Inhofe (R-OK) would strip EPA’s authority to limit CO2 and methane under the Clean Air Act.

Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso would hurl Congress off the deep end. His legislation would forbid federal greenhouse gas limits under the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Barrasso also would bar federal courts from hearing nuisance litigation against greenhouse gas emissions. And, leaving the states’ rights slogans to the Tea Party rallies, it would strip the states of some of their authority to enact their own limits.

Barrasso’s bill doesn’t include language repealing the laws of physics, but it might as well have.

Then, there’s Newt Gingrich, for whom pursuit of the presidency is a lodestar and everything else is negotiable. Gingrich understands climate quite well, especially the direction of prevailing political winds.

His latest shift with the gusts was a proposal to abolish EPA and replace it with something called an Environmental Solutions Agency – which would be little more than an “Ask Newt” advice column – authorized to dispense helpful hints and little else. Breathtaking, in so many ways.

Drilling down, what are the motives driving this outbreak of congressional EPA-bashing?

Upton is a question mark. Until recently, he acknowledged that climate change is a problem. That was before he secured the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee, to the chagrin of anti-government purists who suspect that Upton lacks a fondness for tinfoil hats. Teacup and gavel in hand, Upton might still be trying too hard to show frowning activists that he’s not an agent of the light bulb police.

There’s no mystery with Inhofe. He’s developed a brand identity labeling climate change a hoax – masterminded by who knows what omnipotent conspiracy for God knows what reason.

Barrasso doesn’t play in the climate-change-is-a-hoax pool with anything like Inhofe’s panache. His focus is protecting Wyoming’s carbonucopia of fossil fuels. The provision reining in the states is aimed at keeping them from getting uppity like California, which in 2007 barred new contracts for purchase of coal-generated electricity from out of state.

Rockefeller is trying to paddle down the middle of this turbulent stream, arguing that he isn’t up for killing off EPA, but that limiting greenhouse gas emissions should be left to Congress.

It’s not a bad argument. Except that Rockefeller did next to nothing in the last Congress to push such legislation, on which he could have applied useful leverage to crank up federal support for carbon sequestration as a way to clean up coal and keep it in the game.

There’s another crack in Rocky’s argument. Legislated enforcement delays have a habit of sticking around for a long time, because they turn into entitlements for the industries and interest groups that they benefit.

Look at the long congressional freeze on updating motor vehicle fuel economy standards. It took painfully high oil prices and the near-destruction of the U.S. auto industry to end the freeze and adjust standards to catch up with new technology.

Let’s hope Congress, in a shortsighted venture into EPA-bashing, doesn’t behave similarly with carbon pollution – stubbornly letting it build up, like the national debt, until a crisis forces action more drastic than anyone would like.

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8 Comments so far ↓

  • Arms Merchant

    DiPeso, you need to stop breathing. You’re exhaling “pollutants” into the atmosphere.

    Need to stop cows from farting, too.

    The Clean Air Act was written and passed to regulate air pollution, not climate change. If Congress wants to have an honest debate about the costs and benefits of regulating CO2, by all means, let them have at it. But the EPA calling CO2 and methane pollutants is a stealth way to use a law that was passed for entirely different purposes. And just because some bureaucrat says so doesn’t make it so.

    Way to obfuscate the issues (as you usually do).

    • Arms Merchant

      Oh hell, there I go again, crossing the civility line. Disclaimer: Any statement by the commenter directing the author to stop polluting is neither an express nor an implied desire on the commenter’s part for the asphyxiation of the author or any other bodily harm to come thereto.

      • Emanuelle

        And you are in no way obfuscating the issue when resorting to the childish “stop breathing” and “stop farting” line of argument.

        • balconesfault

          [b]DiPeso, you need to stop breathing. You’re exhaling “pollutants” into the atmosphere.

          Need to stop cows from farting, too.[/b]

          Ahh – still embracing the stupidity, I see.

          For that matter, all that oil that BP released into the Gulf of Mexico last summer wasn’t a “pollutant”. After all, it was simply gushing from the earth – BP didn’t create it – God did. How can it be a pollutant?

  • Rewena

    They had their chance to pass legislation last year and they thought it would be more fun to just say no. Well “no” had consequences.

    I say let the EPA do what it must till these children in the federal government learn to act as grown ups and get to work on legislation that addresses the actual problems. Until then they can stay in their rooms and pout all they want, but they had their chance. Maybe next time they will take it more seriously.

  • First health care, then abortion, then the EPA, and…jobs, sometime, maybe? | Library Grape

    [...] Good post by Jim DePiso on the Republicans’ war on the EPA. I’ll say this: the Koch brothers and their compatriots in the oil and gas industry were stunningly effective in turning what was the mainstream Republican position (McCain’s, Gingrich’s and Romney’s in 2008, among others) into radioactive anathema for Republicans in 2010. Inevitable Republican overreach against the EPA might help spark a backlash and turn the tide the other way again. Let’s hope so since, given the state of global warming, sooner is better than later. { 0 comments } var addthis_config = {"data_track_clickback":true}; Lev filed this under: Climate Change, Environment, Fear, Republicans  [...]

  • adrianflores

    You can’t possibly convince me that demolishing the EPA has no goal outside allowing big business to retain their large profit share by polluting the atmosphere. I’m not against big business, I’m against what big business’ feels that it is alright to do. Global warming isn’t a hoax as Inhofe would like you to believe without any facts. The fact, that some areas of the country are having the worst freezes of all time doesn’t disprove global warming because that’s not at all what global warming states.

  • valkayec

    Several months ago, Chief Justice Roberts scolded the EPA for not setting regulations which it was unable to do because the department did not have a department head. Now that it does and is following Supreme Court dictates, Congress is throwing temper tantrums in order to protect their funders.

    Pass the DISCLOSE Act now and work to get money out of politics!