With GOP in charge of House, environmental policy will shift

McClatchy NewspapersNovember 3, 2010 

WASHINGTON — With Republicans in control of the House of Representatives next year, Obama administration officials are likely to be grilled often on environmental decisions such from the deepwater drilling moratorium to restrictions on protected Western lands.

A special House panel on global warming probably will be axed. Efforts to block the Environmental Protection Agency from reducing air and carbon pollution are likely. There's no chance for a grand scheme to require cuts in emissions of heat-trapping gases, something President Barack Obama acknowledged in a press conference on Wednesday.

Still, polls have shown that Americans by a large majority favor clean energy to produce jobs and reduce pollution. While the likely new chairmen haven't given many specifics yet about their plans, Obama and others see possibilities for some action on clean energy.

For example, there's some Republican support for ideas like a renewable electricity standard, which would require a percentage of electricity to be generated from renewable sources such as solar and wind. There also could be support for electric vehicles as a way to boost energy independence, or for efficiency measures that reduce costly energy waste.

Republicans in their energy plan supported making tax credits permanent for solar, wind and other renewable energy, something that renewable energy developers say is crucial for building up these energy sources.

Anna Aurelio of Environment America, an advocacy group, said Congress is likely to protect federal subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy. At a news conference, she brought out a pair of green plastic scissors and said that's where the budget cuts should be.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., is expected to become the new chairman of the Natural Resources Committee. The League of Conservation Voters gives him a lifetime score of 2 percent.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee leadership could go to Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, or to Fred Upton of Michigan or Cliff Stearns of Florida.

Barton has said he wants the EPA to reconsider its plans to reduce mercury, smog and other pollution from power plants and other sources.

Congress could also see bipartisan efforts to block the EPA, at least temporarily, from reducing carbon emissions from large sources.

President Barack Obama would be able to veto such legislation, and it's not expected that there'd be enough votes to override him. Obama Wednesday indicated he continued to support EPA climate action.

"The EPA is under a court order that says greenhouse gases are a pollutant that fall under their jurisdiction," he said. "And I think one of the things that's very important for me is not to have us ignore the science, but rather to find ways that we can solve these problems that don't hurt the economy (and) that encourage the development of clean energy" in a way that creates jobs.

ON THE WEB

A guide for all ages by U.S. scientists: "Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Science"

National Research Council (science adviser to the government since 1916) report on the science of climate change

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