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EPA Chief Takes the Hot Seat As Fight to Block Climate Rules Intensifies

Legislators intent on blocking the EPA from controlling CO2 emissions are fishing around for a coalition-building bill that can gain traction

By Elizabeth McGowan

Feb 9, 2011

WASHINGTON—Thus far, Republicans and coal state Democrats intent on barring the from regulating carbon pollution have served up at least half a dozen flavors of legislation.

And the conservation community eagle-eyeing this 112th Congress has declared all six of them equally odious.

One of the measures — a Feb. 2 by Republicans Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan in the House and Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma in the Senate — is undergoing its initial public airing this morning before a House subpanel.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is the first of the 15 witnesses scheduled to testify at the chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power. What’s called the "" will be in the spotlight.

Upton, the newly named chair of the , and Inhofe, ranking member of the , have designs on permanently halting Jackson's agency from reining in heat-trapping gases from large stationary sources such as power plants and industrial facilities.

Right now, legislators intent on blocking the EPA from using the to control carbon dioxide emissions are fishing around for a coalition-building bill that can gain traction.

Two other possibilities floating around now are separate proposals from Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and John Barrasso, R-Wyo. Both senators introduced their bills Jan. 31.

Rockefeller is again backing a less-harsh effort to halt EPA action for two years, while Barrasso is bullish on what's considered the most draconian measure. His "" would block the EPA and any other part of the federal government from using any existing environmental statute — such as the Clean Water Act or the Endangered Species Act — to control carbon.   

"All these bills are based on a pair of big lies," said David Doniger, policy director of the climate center at the .

"The first is that EPA is engaged in an unconstitutional power grab trying to regulate that which it has been unable to legislate. No, EPA is doing its job under the Clean Air Act, a law enacted by Congress, which — as the Supreme Court has found — directs EPA to act when science demonstrates that pollutants endanger our health and welfare.

"The second big lie is that EPA's modest plan for curbing dangerous carbon pollution will kill millions of jobs and poses a significant threat to job creation and economic recovery," he continued. "EPA is legally prohibited from making businesses take steps that are too costly or would hurt the economy. Clean Air Act safeguards have to be both achievable and affordable.".

What's Up with Upton and Barrasso?

Granted, Capitol Hill veterans are aware that some of these bills are theater with the intent of making Rockefeller's two-year delay somewhat enticing.

And nobody appears fazed by Inhofe's hyperbole. The vocal climate denier, after all, has labeled global warming "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."

However, observers profess to being somewhat shocked that Upton and Barrasso — generally categorized as moderate Republicans — are playing such leading roles on the EPA-loathing stage.

Close to two years ago, Upton praised wind energy as an economic engine for southwest Michigan.

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