Congress Considers Measures to Restrict EPA’s Ability to Regulate Greenhouse Gases Using the Clean Air Act


Source: SOCMA
Related Topics: Climate Change

With EPA expected to finalize a series of rules by the end of March which would enable the agency to regulate greenhouse gases (GHG) under the Clean Air Act for the first time, members of Congress have drafted legislation to at least temporarily preempt EPA’s authority to do so.  Most recently, on March 4, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced a bill  which would delay first-time EPA greenhouse gas permits and new source performance standards (NSPS) until at least 2012.  (Representatives Nick Rahall (D-WV), Alan Mollohan (D-WV) and Rick Boucher (D-VA) introduced a House version of the bill the same day.) 

Specifically, the legislation calls for a two-year delay (beginning on its enactment) before EPA can implement any first-time greenhouse gas permitting requirements for stationary sources.  (A pending EPA rule would trigger permit limits for sources emitting more than 25,000 tons per year of GHGs.)  The same delay would also apply to any rule to cut GHG emissions issued under section 111 of the Clean Air Act.  (Section 111 gives EPA the authority to establish pollution control requirements known as new source performance standards.)  The legislation would, however, allow EPA’s motor vehicle greenhouse gas rule (which is expected to be finalized at the end of March) and greenhouse gas reporting registry to proceed without delay. 

The bill is the latest effort by members of Congress to weigh in on this subject.  Previously, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) offered a resolution would undo EPA’s endangerment finding, and effectively prevent the agency from issuing its motor vehicle greenhouse gas rules.  Other proposals would likely be stalled as well.  Murkowski’s resolution has some bipartisan support, including the backing of Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

While EPA has come out against the Murkowski proposal, noting that it would prevent EPA climate action and overturn EPA’s scientific finding that unregulated greenhouse gas emissions would be harmful, EPA has reacted cautiously to the Rockefeller measure.  Some observers believe that the Rockefeller bill may attract more Democratic support than the Murkowski proposal since it would only delay – and not permanently ban – EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.  However critics of the Rockefeller bill argue that it would really delay regulations for 4 years rather than two, since it would prohibit EPA from doing the research and outreach needed to be able to set appropriate emission limits during the initial two year phase.

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