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Court Order Could Cause EPA Feud with GOP Congress to Boil Over

A recent court decision ordering EPA to speed up industrial boiler regulations could set the agency and the U.S. House on 'a real collision course.'

By Elizabeth McGowan

Jan 25, 2011

WASHINGTON—Tension between a Republican-led House and the EPA is already palpable enough during this nascent 112th Congress. And an order from a federal judge issued late last week has likely exacerbated the pending friction festival.

Washington-based District Court Judge Paul Friedman told officials Thursday that the makes it indisputably clear they need to speed up a final rule setting standards for toxic emissions from industrial boilers by meeting a new Feb. 21 deadline.

Back in early December, the EPA mollified the manufacturing sector and disappointed conservationists by saying it needed more time — 15 months — to review the science to establish long-awaited limits on such large-scale heating equipment. The EPA's original, court-ordered deadline was Jan. 16.

Agency authorities wanted to extend that to April 2012 partially because they were concerned some factories wouldn’t be ready to adapt to updated regulations. But Friedman said that wasn't a valid argument.

"The policy arguments EPA raises have no place in a case where Congress has mandated expedition, and its statutorily-mandated deadlines have long since passed," Friedman wrote in his . "While EPA’s view on the importance of its rules and the preferable course of conduct may have merit, at this stage EPA's … remedy lies with Congress, not the courts."

Environmentalists who challenged EPA's plea for more time on both the industrial boiler regulations and separate and unrelated regulations on national smog limits suspected the requested delays were an attempt by the Obama administration to placate an incoming Congress cantankerous toward environmental regulation.

Now, they are curious to see if the timing on Friedman’s decision sparks a showdown in March when EPA is supposed to propose standards for mercury and other toxic pollutants for the utility sector. A legal agreement requires final standards on power plants by November.

"I think it means we are going to be on a real collision course between the demonstrated need to clean up dangerous pollution and the politics of the House of Representatives," Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, told SolveClimate News in an interview. "Where all the pieces will be after the collision I can't tell you yet."

Upton Maps EPA Challenges

Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton, the new head of the , has already laid out for challenging EPA’s authority during this legislative session.

For one, he has rearranged subcommittees so they are divided between energy and environment. Evidently, the rationale is to broach domestic energy matters on one side and environmental regulation on the other.

A issued by Upton’s committee and newspaper shows how Republican legislators plan on opposing Obama administration initiatives on numerous fronts. Two of the document’s six pages are devoted to "key issues" labeled as the "Energy and Power Agenda" and the "Environment and Economy Agenda."

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