A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee Thursday voted out legislation that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Clean Air Act (CAA).

The bill (HR 910) was favorably reported out of Subcommittee on Energy and Power to the full committee, with support for the Republican-sponsored measure clearly divided along party lines.

The measure also would repeal EPA's endangerment finding, which held that CO2 and other GHG emissions pose a danger to the public's health and welfare (see Daily GPI, Dec. 8, 2009). This laid the groundwork for the EPA to more stringently regulate emissions from power plants, refineries, factories and vehicles -- even if Congress failed to enact climate change legislation.

The Republican bill would prevent "back-door attempts by unelected bureaucrats to implement the highly unpopular cap and trade legislation that was rejected [by Congress] just last year," said Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and one of the sponsors of the bill. Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) also is an author of the measure.

"We agree that the EPA should not be regulating greenhouse gas emissions without authority from Congress," said Martin Edwards, vice president of legislative affairs for the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, which represents natural gas pipelines. If the EPA is allowed to regulate GHG emissions under the CAA, "it would have a major impact on pipeline operations."

Industrial energy customers, many of which use natural gas, also would be "impacted significantly" by EPA's regulation of GHG emissions under the CAA, Edwards said.

In a letter Wednesday to Upton and Whitfield, four trade groups representing major energy consumers urged Congress to stop the EPA's "harmful regulations." Absent action by Congress, "EPA's regulations will make it difficult to attract new manufacturing capacity and jobs to the United States," wrote the American Chemistry Council, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, American Forest & Paper Association and the American Iron and Steel Institute.

As the ranking member of the House subcommittee, Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) called the bill "radical [and] regressive," and claimed that it would gut the EPA's authority under the CAA.

The legislation "bows down to the [nation's] largest polluters," said Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-NY). It calls on the public to "crawl under our bed and ignore this looming threat to our health," added Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA).

After sending this legislation to the House floor, "this committee and others will soon turn our attention to removing other Obama administration roadblocks to domestic energy production," Upton said.

"Congress [rather than regulators] should be making decisions on carbon-control legislation," said Rep. Gene Green (D-TX), who appeared to be the only Democrat on the subcommittee to support the bill. "I do think the Congress needs to be the leader on this [rather] than the EPA." Natural gas and nuclear energy should be promoted to control emissions, he said.

"This bill will live in the House, while being simultaneously dead in the Senate," predicted Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), a chief critic of the measure.

Similar measures seeking to tie the EPA's hands have been introduced in the Senate. A bill unveiled by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) would strip away the EPA's authority to limit carbon emissions from power plants, refineries and other stationary sources. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) has proposed to block the Obama administration's regulation of GHG emissions from stationary sources without specific authorization from Congress (see Daily GPI, Feb. 1).

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