House Votes to Stay Uninformed about Greenhouse Gases

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) new program tracking the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution spewing from big facilities is among the victims of a long list of environmental programs attacked in the House this week. The House voted to slash funding for the EPA's new greenhouse gas registry, which requires the biggest GHG emitters to disclose how much planet-warming gas they spew every year, starting with 2010. The registry places no regulations on emissions, but it does collect vital information needed to take any meaningful steps toward reducing GHG pollution. The House clearly wants all of us to remain in the dark about where the pollution is coming from.

The bipartisan vote (228 Republicans and 11 Democrats voted in favor) cuts EPA's budget for the registry by an additional $8.5 million, on top of $5 million already cut by House Republicans. This new cut further guts the program down to $3.2 million for the rest of fiscal year 2011.

Although Congress has failed repeatedly to do anything about mitigating catastrophic climate change, the refusal to even figure out who is polluting and how much is salt in the wound. The registry tracks greenhouse gas emissions only from the largest of industrial facilities emitting more than 25,000 tons per year. Without an understanding of which facilities are emitting and how much, there is no way to efficiently design programs to reduce these emissions.

Obviously, to deal with climate change, a lawmaker first must a) believe that the Earth is being dangerously warmed by the burning of fossil fuels; and b) care. Both of these prerequisites are missing from a large number of representatives, especially House leadership.

The cut appeared as one of hundreds of amendments to legislation to fund the federal government through the end of the current fiscal year. The amendment's sponsor, Mike Pompeo (R-KS) attacked the congressionally mandated EPA registry as "the very foundation of the EPA's effort to pursue its radical anti-jobs agenda." Upon introducing his amendment, Pompeo fumed: "I can attest to you that this Greenhouse Gas Registry, an attempt to implement cap-and-tax, will destroy jobs in Kansas; it will increase the cost of manufacturing for every Kansas airplane manufacturer; it will increase the cost of energy for every Kansas farmer, and it will increase the cost of energy for every Kansas family." Not surprisingly, neither Rep. Pompeo nor his funders, Koch Industries, provided any evidence to support his claims.

One of the few Republicans to vote against the budget cut, Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH), rightly pointed out that cutting the funding would not eliminate the legal requirement for businesses to report their emissions; rather it will just make it a lot harder for EPA to help industries report. EPA has been working extensively with affected industries, providing them with all manner of technical assistance and training to correctly monitor their pollution and report it. That assistance will likely cease if the budget is cut.

Congress has previously succeeded in keeping GHG pollution information secret, voting to block funding for EPA to require factory farms to report the pollution spewing from their massive piles of manure. It is now up to the Senate to restore funding for the registry. Hopefully the proponents of ignorance in that chamber will not again dominate.

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