House panel plans to overturn EPA's finding on climate change

McClatchy NewspapersFebruary 9, 2011 

WASHINGTON — Republicans on the House of Representatives energy committee on Wednesday aired their proposal to block the Environmental Protection Agency from reducing greenhouse gases and to reverse the agency's scientific finding that climate change is dangerous.

While the plan might be blocked in the Senate or vetoed by President Barack Obama, the comments during Wednesday's hearing were a fresh indication of the depth of opposition in Congress to action on reducing U.S. carbon pollution. Supporters of the measure to revise the Clean Air Act to take away the EPA's authority to regulate this type of pollution said that curbing emissions would be too costly.

The EPA's planned regulations "would boost the cost of energy, not just for homeowners and car owners, but for businesses both large and small," said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the author of the legislation. "EPA may be starting by regulating only the largest power plants and factories, but we will all feel the impact of higher prices and fewer jobs."

The EPA's main plan so far is to write regulations that would set standards for heat-trapping gases emitted by new or upgraded power plants and refineries. The standards would be met mainly through efficiency improvements.

Congressional opponents of EPA action haven't offered an alternative plan to cut emissions.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson testified that the agency would estimate the costs after it wrote the regulations. The Clean Air Act requires the agency to show that its plans are cost-effective and technologically feasible.

Jackson said Congress would be wrong to overturn the EPA's 2009 "endangerment finding" that greenhouse gases are a threat to American health and welfare.

"Politicians overruling scientists on a scientific question — that would become part of this committee's legacy," she said.

She cited the National Academy of Sciences, the government's chief science advisory body, which has reported that "there is a strong, credible body of evidence, based on multiple lines of research, documenting that the climate is changing and that these changes are in large part caused by human activities."

Scientific organizations have said in recent years that global temperatures are rising as a result of the accumulation of heat-trapping gases, mostly from fossil fuel use, and that the risks to the planet will increase if these emissions aren't cut.

Upton has said that global temperatures may be rising but he's not convinced that human actions are the cause.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the EPA must regulate greenhouse gases under the law if it found they endangered human health and welfare.

Then-EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson recommended in a letter to President George W. Bush in 2008 that the administration impose curbs similar to the ones the agency now plans.

"The latest science of climate change requires the agency to propose a positive endangerment finding," Johnson wrote. Committee Democrats released his letter Tuesday.

The Bush administration in the end rejected greenhouse gas regulations and didn't allow the EPA to make its endangerment finding public.

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., predicted that Obama would veto the bill if it cleared Congress and that he and other opponents of the legislation would have enough votes to sustain the veto.

The American Lung Association on Wednesday released a letter to Obama and Congress from more than 1,800 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals urging them to reject Upton's bill.

Committee Republicans pressed Jackson for more information about the costs of greenhouse gas curbs.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, challenged her to refute his assertion that millions of jobs and hundreds of billions of dollars per year would be lost. "This regulation is going to skyrocket electricity costs," said Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill.

Barton and other Republicans cut off Jackson repeatedly, speaking over her attempts to reply. She told the panel the benefits of Clean Air Act regulations historically outweighed the costs by large amounts.

At a briefing before the hearing, Dick Munson of Recycled Energy Development said greater efficiency could cut emissions profitably. Recycled Energy Development installs equipment to capture waste heat in order to make power without additional fuel. Munson said the EPA's rule would "drive the installation of proven technologies that will enhance American competitiveness."

ON THE WEB

Draft of Upton's legislation

Johnson's 2008 letter to President Bush

National Academy of Sciences reports on climate change

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