Senate Bill Threatens Greenhouse Gas Limits

Congress’s push to kneecap greenhouse gas regulation got a little stronger today when Sen. John Rockefeller (D- coal WV) introduced a bill that would delay for two additional years any EPA regulation of stationary sources like power plants and oil refineries.

The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin reports some of Rockefeller’s quotes, not worth repeating here, and points out that the bill is “one of several recent congressional efforts to curb the EPA's authority to address climate change under the Clean Air Act.”

Rockefeller’s move comes one day after EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that she plans to modify the agency’s 2009 proposal for stationary sources in order to sweep in fewer facilities. “At [a Senate subcommittee] appropriations hearing, Jackson said state regulatory agencies have informed EPA that the 25,000-ton threshold would affect too many small sources not currently subject to Clean Air Act requirements,” according to BNA news service (subscription). Jackson said EPA will likely raise the threshold to 75,000.

So while EPA is trying to be flexible, the Senate continues to play games. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R- oil AK) is sponsoring a resolution of disapproval for EPA’s endangerment finding. The endangerment finding is not regulation in and of itself. It is a formal statement that says, based on scientific study, greenhouse gases pose a threat to human health, welfare, and the environment. If the resolution of disapproval becomes law (which it won’t), EPA would be prohibited from making any similar findings, now and in the future. An identical resolution has been introduced in the House.

Rockefeller’s bill isn’t quite as bad as Murkowski’s resolution. The Rockefeller bill would only stall regulation for two years, whereas Murkowski’s measure could kill regulation outright. Also, the Rockefeller bill only takes aim at stationary sources; it would still allow EPA to regulate tailpipes. Perhaps most importantly, Rockefeller’s bill targets an EPA policy decision – the decision to regulate stationary sources at a certain threshold. It does not subvert the underlying science that serves as the foundation for climate change policy and debate, as Murkowski's resolution of disapproval does.

Of course, the easiest way for Sens. Rockefeller and Murkowsi and their colleagues to take the bite out of EPA regulation would be to pass comprehensive climate change legislation, à la cap and trade. But why waste time writing real, substantive legislation when you can just slap your name on the legislative equivalent of the National Enquirer…

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